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Lessons with the Yogi Lama: Mindful Mother’s Day Tips!

Mindful Mother's Day Tips

To begin with, I want to thank my family and friends (new and elder) around the world for such an incredible response to my first blog, “Being a team with biomom. If you missed it, you can find it under the “OMG Help Me!” – “Savvy Stepmom” tab here.

The poignant comments on Social Stepmom’s Instagram page and those you sent me privately, made it clear my article & action plan resonated with so many. What happily surprised me most was how people were deeply affected despite not being a stepmom themselves.

I hope that my words and experiences continue to be a source of inspiration for blended families or any soul searching for balance.

My intention is always to share a piece of peace.

Now, let’s dive into this month's blog.

A quick Google search on “Mother’s Day” and almost every definition describes it as a holiday for people to show their appreciation towards mothers and mother figures worldwide.  Sounds like a lovely way to celebrate the maternal bonds and the important influence of mothers in society.

And yet Mother’s Day, designed to honor, can cause controversy, sadness, and stress.

So much so that a few years ago, a school in British Columbia, Canada decided not to celebrate Mother’s or Father’s Day in class.

Teachers wrote a letter stating, “…In an effort to celebrate diversity, inclusivity and also nurture our students who are part of non-traditional families, we have decided to encourage those celebrations to take place at home”.  The school effectively took a giant step back meaning no cards, no gifts – nada!

The decision to put the onus on individual families certainly sparked discussion and if you are interested (INSPO ALERT!) you can watch a YouTube video of Sarah Paterson, founder of this wonderful platform, discussing it on Breakfast Television back in May 2017, here.

No one wants to offend or be offended especially when the objective is a special day.

Thus, I humbly offer 3 tips with a Yogi-spin to navigate through a potential Mother’s Day minefield:
1) Slow is Cool!

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning to join, to unite.

A stepfamily is a new and different union from the original. It is imperative to remember that relationships take time to develop.

You would not jump on a yoga mat for the first time and expect to do a headstand. In a similar vein, take time to grow into the role of step-motherhood.

You and your partner may be a blissful couple but that does not automatically mean that you get along seamlessly with the stepkids.

I have been with BB (BioDad) for close to five years now, married for almost three. To be honest, we only celebrated our first Mother’s Day last year because it was time. It made sense.

Our situation may be unconventional in that I am childless by choice and yet happily a stepmom to our two Little Lamas. My sweet husband could feel that I needed recognition. I was no longer his girlfriend or fiancée but his wife and my role with the kids had changed along with our vows.

Over the years, we bought a house, moved in, decorated the children’s room, taken vacations with the kiddos and had weathered quite a few behavioural storms.

BB knew that last year I would have been offended had Mother’s Day passed and nothing been done to acknowledge my contributions to our pretty patchwork family because we had spent countless conversations covering the topic.

That is one of the reasons I am a guest contributor writing this very blog. I reached out for support and had difficult conversations that helped me embrace and feel empowered by my novel position.

Action Plan:

Think about your position within the family and talk with your partner. Communication is key. Your mate is not a mind reader and it is best to be honest and clear about your thoughts, worries, ideas – everything.

If this is not the year you feel comfortable celebrating as your part is still progressing or there is a high-conflict situation that is causing you stress then speak up and express what would make you feel good and valued.  No need to wait for Mother’s Day to roll around. Open communication is good practice for all the seasons.

2) Appreciate the small stuff!

Try not to get swept into the hype of Hallmark holidays. There is no use in becoming disenchanted if your beloved do not deck the halls with tulip petals, buy you an expensive new bracelet with charms representing the unique hobby of each child, or bake gluten-free brownies and deliver them to your bedroom door with a big bouquet of designer flowers at the crack of dawn.

Those grand and over-the-top gestures are the stuff of movie legends.

Last year, BB had the children give me a small, thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day.

He helped them write me a note, provided them with crayons and stickers to decorate the letter, and took them to pick out the prezzie they had brainstormed.

I remember sitting in our hallway as the three of them presented me with the reused gift bag from our drawer stacked full of them. It was so sweet, thoughtful and those tiny gestures made me feel so full.

What made it EXTRA?

BB knows that the environment and climate change is a concern for me and I take small actions in my daily life to make a difference. We compost; use recycled bags at the grocery store, take the kids shopping at the local package free Bio shop, and use jars to buy laundry soap, pasta, and cereal.

The fact that BB remembered that I have a reused stash of gift bags and actually opened the drawer and picked one from the assortment (don't judge but I categorize the bags according to occasion e.g. Christmas, birthdays, spring vs. fall themed and then by size – ok you can lol 😉 - means so much to me.

BB is modeling for the kid is something I value and is honouring my core beliefs in front of them. Wow. See why I married him.

Truly, a gift takes on more meaning when an incredibly considerate detail is embedded within it.

Action Plan:

What is something real, practical and genuine the stepmom in your life will appreciate? BioDad, if it is you reading this article, depending on the age, try to include the child(ren).

It really is those homemade, heartfelt touches that make all the difference

Fun, Simple & Resourceful Gift Ideas:
  • Creative poem - for example, spelling out stepmom’s name and an adjective describing each letter. This gift becomes a treasured fridge ornament or is perfect for a scrapbook.
  • Homemade flower arrangement - walk through your backyard snipping foliage and buds. Bonus points for using a cool recycled glass bottle as a vase & gently used ribbon to decorate.
  • A carpet picnic – switch things up and swap the typical table and chairs for the floor. Kids love it! Keep the menu simple. Tapas are a wide variety of hot or cold appetizers and snacks that make for great finger food. Choose a washable blanket and reusable napkins from the linen cabinet and spread it on the living room floor. For a Moroccan feel add some throw pillows and if the weather is cooperating take it outdoors. The fresh air adds a wellness touch.
  • Draw a bath – you would be hard-pressed to find a woman who would not appreciate this gesture and the gem of alone time. Blend a bath bomb from the pharmacy coupled with a scented-candle and a few drops from a bottle of organic essential oils.
Bonus Tip:

Remember how in my first blog I said Yoga was not a competition? Well, Mother’s Day does not have to be one either.  Honour all the woman who mean something special. Write two poems. One for stepmom and biomom. Go to the bakery and buy each lovely lady a chocolate croissant.

Perhaps, there is a special aunt, a great grandmother or an amazing neighbour that the child(ren) have an exceptional kinship with. Go outside the box and honour those who merit it.

3) Practice acts of kindness

Ahimsa or non-violence, is one of the five Yamas or paths to enlightenment in ancient yoga texts. This Yama does not only mean not doing harm to others in thought and in deed, but also to practice acts of kindness to other creatures and to one’s own self.

Action Plan:

If Mother’s Day does not go exactly as you had hoped or expected (and this article, unfortunately, did not make it into BioDad’s vision in time), breathe and let it go. Be gentle with those around you and consider that they are doing their best.

No one drew you that perfect, soothing bath? Draw your own. Step back, excuse yourself politely and say you need some time to rejuvenate. Close the door and enjoy. Self-care is a gift to you definitely worth prioritizing.

Go for a walk. Read a book. Take yourself out for a really, really good cup of Joe.

If someone or multiples did not make you feel appreciated – appreciate yourself and once you have, take that gratitude and shine it on others. Keep the cycle of appreciation going forward.

Truth Bomb:

Last year’s festivities that I referenced had one little hiccup. As I was opening my present and BB was wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day” – our little boy Lama blurted out, “But Lara’s not our Mom.”

Thud. There it was. He had said it and with no ill will.

He was simply a six-year-old who had made a literal connection between the word “Mother’s” Day and my husband’s lack of the prefix {step}.

I could have been agitated by this awkward outburst but instead, I chose to exercise compassion and understanding.

“It is true,” I said. “_____________ is your mother. She gave birth to you. I did not give you the gift of life but life gave me the gift of you”.

Honestly, I do not remember the rest of the conversation. I just know that both our Little Lamas hugged me and gave me “bussis” (Bavarian for kisses) and I hung that note on our kitchen bulletin board with pride.

It is incredible how this sliver of a conversation points to the importance of a community like Social Stepmom.

I am so thankful that our little guy was not being malicious when he matter-of-factly stated, “You are not my mom”. I pray those words never leave my stepchildren’s mouth in a vindictive way.

But should they or if you have experienced this type of issue then I suggest you turn to Karma yoga and the wisdom it shares. The key is to practice selfless actions without any self-expectations and thereby opening one’s heart to grace.

Our boy’s comment actually led to great conversations with the kids that we are still having to this day. It even compelled me to write a letter, which morphed into a Children’s Book to help explain my unique role to the little ones.

I cannot always expect that the children will appreciate my actions but I can do my best to lead by example and always demonstrate kindness and respect.

Mother's Day is around the corner...

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I hope this blog inspires you to start thinking about imaginative and resourceful ways that you can honour the mother(s) in your life.

Let’s also remember to be mindful of all those who have lost a mother, lost a child(ren) or have never had the opportunity to be a parent despite the desire.

A caring smile and a genuine “how are you?” followed by listening with your whole heart goes a long way on this and all days.

Looking forward to your thoughts on this article & to our next Blog date in May.

Your comments are stirring such wonderful vibes so please keep them coming…

Sending bright light & love your way.

Namaste,

Lara x

About Lara Alsen-Armgart

Lara Alsen-Armgart is an Inclusion Expert. Canadian-born Educator and Yogi, Lara has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and specializes in promoting mindful, culturally rich lifestyles full of movement and flowing with wellness. Lara has taught at International Schools in Canada, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates and travelled extensively, losing count at 60 countries! J

Lara is a Co-Founding Member of the Dubai Inclusion Network [IG: @dubai_inclusion] established as a platform to provide expert knowledge and advice, share best practice and trainings to colleagues and families to support the learning of children with a range of needs and has been a member of the Ontario College of Teachers since 2000.

In addition to being a Social Stepmom Exclusive Guest Contributor & International Ambassador, Lara is a Brand Ambassador for ThinkLoveLive, [IG: @think.love.live] an ethical clothing brand that makes sustainable active and yoga wear in plant fabric and swimwear made from plastic.

A Yoga Teacher, RYT® 200, registered with Yoga Alliance, Lara teaches a variety of styles: Vinyasa, Aqua, Swing and SlowFlow.

Follow Lara's Yoga Journey

From May-September 2019, Lara is leading “Yoga in the Park” (for the 2nd Season!) with the Bad Gögging Tourism Board [@badgoegging] who is celebrating their 100th Anniversary in Bavaria, Germany. This collaboration provides free Yoga in a beautiful outdoor setting to the local community. Visitors welcome!

Lara is also teaching “Yoga im Schlossgarten” which literally translates into “Yoga in the Castle Garden”. That’s European living! This collaboration with VHS Abensberg [IG: @VHSAbensberg] is a new and free event and aims to be inclusive for all ages and abilities. Spring/Summer season (May/Sept 2019) #yogazusammen

After years of crisscrossing the globe, Lara is a recent newlywed and has rooted; now living in Germany with her Bavarian Husband and their two beautiful {step} children. Having earned her B1 Certificate in German, Lara is (conversationally) Bilingual and is teaching The Little Lamas her native language - English.

Follow Lara’s Yoga journey, Advocacy work and be the first to know about upcoming Retreats//Workshops//Special Events on Instagram [@The.Yogi.Lama] or connect on LinkedIn.

Special Hashtags: #LessonsWithTheYogiLama #FlowmitLara #BadGoeggingMeetsYoga #YogaimSchlossgarten