Rule 34: Observe the Peace

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Melanie Bertrand is a single mom working full time as a research assistant in a molecular genetics/microbial evolution lab. Her two-year-old son spends week days in daycare and plays all weekend with Mommy.

Every night the last thing I do before I go to bed is quietly go into my son's room. There, beside his bed, I take a couple deep breaths, and listen in the darkness. At first I can't see anything, but as I quiet myself, I can hear his breathing. Then slowly as my eyes adjust, I can make out the stripes of his blanket. I can see him sleeping. I watch and more details resolve themselves. He's relaxed. Bunny's ear lies casually across his wrist; his other hand is flung out and away.

No matter what has been going on, I calm down. This is what matters, this little person sleeping peacefully in his crib. Not the fights I've had with his father, not the stresses at work, not the airline that has lost my luggage, found it, then lost it again. My son is sleeping and is at peace, and that is what is important in my life. I tell this most important little package of life how much I love him, make sure his blanket is tucked around him, and go to bed for what I need: a good night's sleep.

I have memories of my mother doing the same thing. Every night before bed she would come and "tuck me in". She even did it when I was in high school; I think I asked her to continue. The memories are vague, more of knowing I was loved than what she looked like or what she did. Now I think I understand why.

Research has clearly shown that people who meditate are happier than those who do not. Teach someone basic meditation skills, have them practice them for a month, and you can see measurable changes in brain activity patterns relating to happiness using MRIs.

"Yeah, right," you scoff. "What working mother has time to meditate?" Meditation is not limited to sitting in uncomfortable positions, saying "Ooommmm" while listening to a gong. It doesn't need to take hours. Meditation is simply achieving a state of observation, or noticing. When we observe and recognize the good things in life, find gratitude in ourselves, see the positives, we open ourselves to the possibility that just maybe things aren't so bad. Writing in a journal, saying grace at dinner, and watching your sleeping baby can all be meditation.

It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity, the stress, the rush of working life. Work has deadlines and petty people. You rush to pick up the kids at daycare, get supper into them, get them bathed and into bed, then steal an hour or so for yourself. You go to sleep thinking about tomorrow's work. The alarm goes off, you rush to get the kids out the door, you kiss a booboo, find your bag, oops forgot your lunch, off to work!

Break the cycle. End it tonight. Go and watch your child sleep for a couple of minutes. Observe your child. Really listen to those breaths. They might falter, or speed up, for a moment. But notice that they return to their rhythm. Notice how your son or daughter sleeps. And hear your own breathing. Recognize the stress you're feeling and tell it to take a hike because you're watching your child sleep. Remind yourself that this is what is important in life. You'll be happier for doing this.

And then go get the sleep you need to conquer another day.

As excerpted from "42 Rules (tm) for Working Moms" Super Star Press, 2008.
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