Here is an article from Hanna Rosin and I like her approach to life quite a bit.. and I always want to agree with what she is saying because of that, but like her anti-breastfeeding article I don’t agree with this latest one either. Here she is in Salon with“Crap, I forgot to be mindful again: How the mindful parenting movement is setting parents up to fail”.
At its core, mindfulness could be a pretty radical challenge to the parenting ills Senior diagnoses. A mindful parent would not buy into any preconceived notion of success. She would react to the child she has, not the one she wishes she had. And yet in practice the prescriptions given by the new mindful parenting gurus seem suspiciously to be all about molding a very particular kind of child—one who eats vegetables, doesn’t watch TV, shares his feelings, and loves the Earth. Just as you might want a more French or more Asian child, you might want one who is more mindful.
And here is a reply from Carla Naumburg over at her Mindful Parenting column.
Mindful parenting sounds like a fad, in the same vein as attachment parenting, tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, and whatever else parenting is coming next. Hot today, gathering dust on an over-tired parent’s bookshelf tomorrow. One of the problems with this sort of passing attention to something like mindfulness or mindful parenting is that people (myself included) write brief blog posts or even briefer status updates or tweets about it, and inevitably, we are misunderstood. The concept is misunderstood.
It’s happened once again, this time by Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic, and founder of Slate’s DoubleX Blog. In her most recent piece on the blog, Rosin essentially endorses of the concepts of mindful parenting (including a description of this blog as “often smart and knowing” – thanks, Hanna!) while simultaneously dissing the whole idea. I suspect that she is having a similar reaction to mindful parenting that I have to most parenting theories, something along the lines of “Great. Just great. Another thing I’m not doing, another way in which I am colossally screwing up this whole parenting gig. I’m too tired for this sh*t.”
I want to say a couple of things about this. First of all, I love the whole idea of mindful parenting or slow parenting or whatever you want to call it. I’ve been interested in it for several years as you can see from the numerous times I’ve referenced it here on the blog. Here, here, here, here etc. I have also written an article about it.
Even if I am not often practicing mindfulness I certainly think about it a lot. And I’ve read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book several times in a dark night of the soul kind of way, I love the incorporation of mindfulness into cognitive behavioural therapy, I go walking and taking photographs to slow myself down and blah blah blah I’m a cliche. So, when I see someone like Rosin criticising the mindful parenting material for being rather prescriptive I think… she’s kinda right. It can be read that way.
I also think parenting can sound prescriptive when people are exploring their approach and the approach is very different to how we were raised so you’re spelling it all out and testing it in your head as you write. Like feminist parenting, you don’t necessarily have role models for this stuff, you’re carving out a new direction and when you’re thinking aloud and trying to construct a framework for yourself it can read as prescriptive ..but it isn’t necessarily intended that way. And we would do well to examine the baggage we bring with us as readers to new and difficult concepts and not put all of that on the authors. (Feeling judged by other’s decisions is an ego-centric way to live etc). I also think it is way too easy to criticise liberal parents in a fairly nonconstructive way. Look for bigger targets; mind own business; make sure there is a point to all this.
This is something that applies across the board when it comes to how we criticise or self-examine in the left. Because, I am no expert on mindfulness but I have read enough to know that if you think mindfulness is one more task to add to your To Do List, as Rosin does, then you really don’t get mindfulness. There’s a lot more to this process. You need to engage before you criticise. Naumburg is right about all of that in her reply.
By the way, there’s no good ending to this post.. I have to get to a playdate with my child.