We all need a philosophy. I’m not talking about a massive belief system or a set of intricate logical precepts that takes decades to build; nor do I necessarily mean religious beliefs. I’m referring to a basic approach to the world, to the phenomena we experience day to day, to the burdens and joys of life as we know it.
That’s why everyone needs a philosophy. To handle our lives in the real world.
And moms—and dads—need this in spades. That is because we are not only responsible for ourselves, but for many years we are in charge of others’ lives. Not just the changing diapers part or the getting dinner on the table part or the driving to piano lessons part. I’m thinking much bigger than that.
It’s up to use what we teach and model for our children. That means extra pressure on us, both because of our added work (and rewards) as parents, but also because of the way we teach our children to live.
I’ve been pretty worried about that over the years. And worry does not help! I wonder: Does my anxiety as a mother rub off on my daughters? Are they learning to be fearful from me? Are they learning to be judgmental or put-upon? To be overly focused on material things? To be considerate to other people? Am I demonstrating how to have the confidence to speak their minds? The list goes on and on. It’s easy enough to just focus on the rat race of school, activities, and achievements, rather than our moral and emotional lives.
It’s only now, when my children are 8 and just-turned-11, that I’ve felt able to come up for air and really examine this moral and emotional side of parenting.
I started this journey towards a philosophy to help myself. I was finding myself increasingly irritable and frustrated, wondering how I’d get through the day and the week ahead when I was so filled with self-doubt, resentment, and fear. I dreaded basic and simple things.
And I could see that my daughters were suffering for it. It’s when they began looking at me and saying, “Mom, are you OK?” out of the blue that I knew something was wrong. My emotions were affecting them. And I didn’t want them to feel responsible for the burdens I felt. It was when I witnessed myself yelling at everyone in my household for leaving the house 10 minutes late for an appointment, how angry I was, how unnerved I became over a miniscule thing. And how responsible I felt for the mistakes my children made—and the frustration and upset that came with that. How could I be placing so much of a burden on myself and those around me? How could I quiet this state of hyper-reaction?
That’s when I began to investigate mindfulness. At the university where I work, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a class about applying mindfulness-based techniques to our emotional lives. It wasn’t a research or academic course, but rather a practicum on how to become more mindful through meditation, exercises, and discussions. I’ll always be thankful for the way this set me on my path to mindfulness, and now to Stoicism.
The class taught me to recognize the difference between what happens, and my reaction to what happens. To understand that things out there in the world do not have to affect me in the way they always had. That I could change my relationship to the events and people around me—for the better.
After beginning this journey, I’ve found that it’s a long one—life-long. But I’m very excited to be on the right path. And I’d like to share that with you, to help you benefit from what I’ve learned along the way.
In this blog, I’ll write about mindfulness. I’ll delve into the way it led me to Stoic philosophy. And in the process, I will explore how both of these things can make a tremendous difference for you, me, and everyone else you’ve ever met, if we just could stop and invest a little time in finding our own philosophies.
About The Stoic Mom
I'm a writer, editor, and mom to two daughters in Northern California on a journey to discover how Stoic philosophy and mindful approaches can change a parent's - or any person's - life.