Dealing with the Fear of Never Being Enough: The “Asteya” of Motherhood

Dealing with the Fear of Never Being Enough: The Asteya of Motherhood

Hello, Village… so, as I walked over to my computer to start this post, these are the things I passed that could have used my attention:

  • Overflowing laundry hamper (OK, if we’re being honest, it’s actually hamperS, plural)
  • Dog, looking at me hopefully for a walk (don’t worry, he’ll get one… later)
  • 926 pieces of Lego needing to be picked up
  • My camera’s SD card, waiting to be downloaded and organized into folder
  • Related to previous, Juniper’s first year photo book, waiting to be started
  • Dog hair cyclones, building up the more I don’t vacuum
  • My yoga mat, which will wait patiently for at least a few minutes before I do a little writing
  • Expense receipts, that my bank account is screaming at me to please send in for reimbursement

And that’s just the things on my way from the bathroom to the kitchen; Eric is out with the two kidlings at a local dad’s group: if I had to pass the three of them on my way to this GoogleDoc, the list would extend longer than your attention span.

Yogic practice is far, far more than the bendy bodies you see on Instagram. One of the foundational teachings from Patanjali’s ancient foundational text “The Yoga Sutra’s” is the integration of the “yamas” and “niyamas”- these are, to put it crudely, things we would do well to avoid in our lives, and things we are invited to embrace in order to reduce suffering. In my yoga teacher training on Thursday, we talked about the concept of “asteya”; this  is generally translated from Sanskrit as “non-stealing”. Asteya is one of the “yamas”-we have a better chance at finding the calm at the centre of the hurricane that is human experience if we avoid stealing from others.

Sure, this sounds straightforward. I haven’t stolen anything since my high school days in the aisles of the Lawrence Park Shopper’s Drug Mart (my brain was still developing! I’m sorry! The mascara wasn’t even that nice!). I’m good! Roll out the red yoga mat and let me strut it!

But the essence of Asteya is far more important than not taking crappy cosmetics from a drug store. Some questions we can ask ourselves around this concept are:

  • Are my intentions generous? Do I give others the benefit of the doubt?
  • Do I manipulate situations or those around me so I come out ahead at their expense?  
  • Are my actions creating a lack for others?
  • Does how I live negatively affect future generations?

These are big questions! My brain is tired just thinking about them… and of course, I want to answer NO, OF COURSE NOT, YOGA MAT*!!!! (*probably an effect of sleep deprivation but I do at times envision my mat talking to me)

And I recognize: practicing Asteya is EXHAUSTING. Because even the most intentional human being on Earth creates ripples of change through everything else around them. I really think it’s impossible to live in such a way that we never steal time, joy, possibilities, money, or well-being from another. If we’re going to dig deep, living in a developed country like Canada, being privileged by skin colour, economic class, gender identity, and able-bodiedness puts me on the receiving side of so many benefits I don’t deserve. And this is a WAY longer blog post for another time (I think the idea of creating lack for future generations was in part addressed in this blog post from a few months back, interestingly).

Motherhood has really put the concept of Asteya under the microscope for me. Especially since having my second kid 8 months ago, I am acutely aware that everything I do for anyone in my family- my husband, the baby, the preschooler, my dog, and myself- is taking time or possibilities away from someone else. This obviously applies to parenthood in general, but I am just speaking from my experience as a mother, and as the caregiver who stays at home with the kids and often has to actually make decisions like, “Which crying child do I comfort first?”

Every action I commit to seems to bring a question: “Who am I creating a lack for this time?”

I never feel like I am enough, or that I HAVE enough to give everyone what they need.

Self-care comes at the expense of my family. Time with my son creates lack of attention towards my daughter. Cleaning the kitchen comes at the expense of reading books to both children. Date night with my husband (we’ve had two dinners out alone since Juni was born) comes because my parents-in-law are sacrificing their Friday night. Right now, I’m feeling really sensitive to the fact that having a family with two young kids has put distance between some old and dear friends without kids.

Seeing as some lack is created by every action in the universe, my best advice to myself is this:

“Find the GIVING in each action and create the intention for that to outweigh the TAKING”

  • My self-care makes me into a calmer, more generous mother, partner, and friend
  • Date night with my husband strengthens our bond and we thereby give to one another
  • My parents-in-law’s babysitting of our children allows them to create generous and nurturing bonds
  • We may be drifting from some friends in this young-kid family era, but we are building a village around us, and this takes time- those loved ones who feel drawn to be part of our community will always be welcome
  • When I spend time with one child over the other, I seek to grow the attachment that each child has with me and thereby make my whole family more harmonious… eventually… RIGHT??? Even though my son protests anything less than 100% attention on him by throwing wooden blocks or whatever is close, I know with intention and care, he will eventually grow more resilient and form his own bond with his sister. RIGHT.
  • I might not be enough for everyone in this moment, but with care, love, and intentional living, on balance, I think it’s possible to give everyone in my family and community  a beautiful life in the long run.

I used this photo of my wearing Juni on my back in my yoga teacher training as the featured Blog image because I feel like this was a moment I got right. I was doing some beautiful self-care in the form of a therapeutic yoga pose, my daughter was napping in a way that I felt connected to her, I was committing to a community of learners in my YTT, my son was with the grandparents having a blast, my hubby was at a job he loved, and I felt peace in balance, just for a moment. It’s important for me to find  those bits of balance, where everyone has what they need… and live there, just for a little while before shifting the balance again.

Does this resonate with you, as a mom, dad, caregiver, or human being? Do you think it’s possible to act in such a way as to never take from others? How do you manage your feelings of never having enough for everyone?

In the words of my tiny dragon,
“Namaste to everyone, let the light shine through”.

Dealing with the fear of never being enough: The yoga of motherhood

1 Comment

  1. Samantha Bernstein
    December 12, 2017

    This is a great post, Bri. Right now, I’m stealing this time from the marking I’m supposed to be doing, and which I will do by stealing time from my sleep. It often feels perfectly impossible, and I think lately, the feeling has been coming out as near-despair at my inability to participate productively in the world – by which I mean in a way that addresses some of the structural inequalities from which I benefit and which I do almost nothing to redress. But I love your evocation of the balanced moment. Because yes, I have those, and they are sustaining. And in them I recognise that if I feel I’m incurring a debt now, then it is my responsibility to pay it back later, when I can. I’m borrowing on my privilege to finish my dissertation, to hang out with my kid while she’s small. And then those things won’t be the same, and I can pay up, I hope.

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