In my 20’s I was proudly addicted to experiencing this definition of flow as often as I could:
“Flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.
I had numerous flow state experiences then; I prided myself in the fact that I had a college degree that supported me in nurturing my hedonistic self.
Dancing on my skis, climbing a hill on my mountain bike, swimming fluidly in a body of water, strolling along a trail while nature refueled me, reading leisurely for hours, and allowing the sun to rise or set without taking my eyes off of the changing horizon, were all considered tools for enhancing ones quality of life, and therefore general well-being.
Recreational Therapy was not only my degree emphasis, it quickly became my philosophy for living life fully.
As I applied the concepts of Recreational Therapy to my life in those years hours would pass without me noticing. I was so available to myself, so present, so engaged, so fluid, so embodied, so alive. I devoured the streams of consciousness that would flow freely and uninterrupted as the whole of me was able to connect, deeply, to myself, the Universe, and what I was doing.
I experienced flow, often and regularly, while falling in love with my husband, as well. I miss the days where he and I were able to focus on one another while doing what we love (together) for hours upon hours. My two most recent extended states of flow were the natural births of our two daughters. They were just shy of 7 and 2.5 years ago. They were incredible and at the top of my list for experiencing rapture (in retrospect).
If I am completely honest, I have to admit that I have experienced very few (maybe none because I can’t recall them) extended states (3+ hours)of flow since.
Flow is what I miss most about my pre-motherhood life, and unfortunately in my first few years of motherhood I was determined that it was a role not meant for me because it did not allow for much spontaneous joy let alone an uninterrupted flow of consciousness.
In those years I wondered why no mother had been completely honest with me regarding what it means to be a mother. It is damn hard (any way you look at it), and in the throws of it I feel one could easily loose their connection with self.
Of course I love my children more than anything and would not choose differently regarding bringing them into the world. This, however, does not change the fact that motherhood is the most challenging role I have ever attempted to fulfill.
When I boil down the reasons why I am not experiencing extended states of flow currently, I find it is because I am not allowing myself to due to the limited definition I have given it and also because:
Making life happen while being bombarded with questions, whining, nagging, fixing food, cleaning up food, changing diapers, potty training, teaching manners, providing educational stimulation, trying to play and be present, magically making a nap happen, managing a temper tantrum without having one myself, picking-up or dropping someone off, doing homework, mediating, and somehow getting myself ready to go to work (yay!) is NOT “a single minded immersion” and it is extremely taxing on my nervous system, and recovery time does not really happen when kids are in the mix. You don’t recover, you just keep going.
And, finally, because allowing myself to have an opportunity for an extended state of flow requires, pre planning, coordination, creativity, and time……. And, well, sometimes having days and days of what I described above simply takes the effort of creating opportunity right out of me. And to be really honest, I don’t have 3+ uninterrupted hours to allow extended states of flow to occur naturally on a regular basis.
Life is so busy. Too busy. And I have allowed the multitasking that I do daily to become a scapegoat; raising children, working, building my business, and making life happen all get in the way of me experiencing flow.
Or, maybe, I need to redefine flow within motherhood.
When did I determine that I can’t experience flow within motherhood? Is it hardwired in me because I rarely (possibly never) witnessed my mother and grandmothers immersed in states of flow that produced spontaneous joy?
Is it because motherhood does not come with a ‘how-to’ manual of any kind let a lone one that focuses on enjoying the very role that challenges my personal joy on every level?
The best way I can honestly answer this is, I have been too busy proving myself (to myself and others, if they notice or not), and enjoying motherhood has not come naturally for me.
Simply put, the only flow I have experienced in mothering is trying to maintain a state of mind that allows me to relax into the chaos of it. And maintaining this state of mind requires a lot of tools, dedication, and perseverance.
If flow is truly “a single minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning”, then how has it taken me this long to relate this to motherhood?!
Harnessing the emotions of motherhood while learning and performing the role…
Maybe my struggle has been because there are SO MANY emotions involved.
I want to be a great mother.
I want to be a great career woman.
I want to be a great wife.
I want to be available to my children and husband.
I want to accomplish, a lot, within my career.
And I want to stay sane, happy, and content.
The emotions that come with this multitasking are plentiful.
For me, flow within motherhood is not a single minded immersion.
Flow within motherhood is finding and allowing joy to occur as often as possible while multitasking.
And this requires enhancing a state of mind that is not easily flustered, and letting go of a lot of expectation.
Flow within motherhood is complete presence, absolute embodiment, a playful and curious mind, the ability to self sooth & regulate, awareness, empathy, and a whole lot of patience.
All of this, while also being a care provider, a house manager, a cook, a loving partner, a financial analysis, a problem solver, a playmate, a nurse, a teacher, a list maker, shopper and task doer, an attractive and fit woman, and a individually ambitious person.
It requires one to move through life as a champion, warrior, or hero. Never broken, always learning, striving to be their best, and persevering.
Flow within motherhood is discovering that the daily grind of it can be fluid, and being gentle with oneself as we realize how extremely challenging striving for flow, within motherhood, can be.
Flow within motherhood might just be the ultimate goal in my life. If I can get to a point where I can honestly say that I experience flow regularly within motherhood I will feel like a warrior-mother-flow-goddess. I will feel like I have fulfilled my life purpose.
As I write these words I am determined to tightly weave ‘seek pleasure and ease’ (aka flow) into my legacy by becoming an example of what motherhood looks like when the concept of flow is applied to the foundational layers of child-rearing and being a mother, as well as it being a personal (spiritual) practice of mine.
This will take a lot of determination, creativity, neural network rewiring, and a new definition of flow for me.
I am going to learn to play, relax, and find ease with my children and in the daily grind of life.
I will privilege the here-and-there minutes throughout the day of being fully present, embodied, and playful with them.
I am going to find spontaneous joy within the daily grind of motherhood by renewing my sense of humor, and allowing myself to not be so damn busy.
I am going to seek personal pleasure as often as I can, I will make time for flow to occur, with and without my children, and if it is not a 3+ hour experience I will be deeply grateful for the minutes that it is.
My girls will become women who play hard and work hard, and if they choose to become mothers they will have a solid example of the value in prioritizing the quality of their life by seeking pleasure and joy.
And they will also see that the daily grind of motherhood can be a form of flow when one nurtures a state of mind that keeps them calm, collected, and grounded while fulfilling the relentless duties of motherhood.
~ Because, let’s face it, the role is all consuming ~
And if I am going to do it, I am determined to do it well.
I will become a warrior-mother-flow-goddess.