The trials and tribulations of step parenting and how meditation can guide you through

As I sat yesterday on a sunny spot overlooking the ocean doing an interview with the lovely ladies from OK magazine, I shared with them some nuggets of gold I had discovered on helping children find some peace through yoga and meditation. They eagerly wrote up some notes and it sparked me to reflect on the last year of my life with fresh eyes...

Just over eighteen months ago I met a truly wonderful man; loving, caring, supportive, kind, funny and generous. I felt like all my dreams had come true. He came with a ready made family of four children, this didn't scare me off, which was a surprise due to my free spirited nature! Instead I was incredibly grateful that the universe had responded in its own unique way of fulfilling my dream of having children in my life. This is perfect I thought, I get to be a step mum and still have my freedom to do what I want, when I want! Well that is true, but it did not prepare me for the last turbulent year of my life...

We moved in together one year ago and wow, it has been a roller coaster of emotion and challenging on every level I could imagine. I have been stressed, stretched, physically ill, torn apart, put back together again, in limbo, learning every day but also loved in a way I never knew possible. I am so grateful for this magical journey, but I am not going to lie, there are many times when I just wanted to run away and escape!!

Firstly, I think it is right to say I never wanted to fill the shoes of mum, the children already have a wonderful mum who they love very much. Before I moved in with my partner, I invited her for tea to reassure her that I didn't want to tread on her toes. But I did have a big job to do, I had to suddenly forget the life I once knew of having peaceful alone time on tap and be catapulted into a noisy busy household with endless washing, cleaning, rambunctious children and someone else's view on parenting which didn't match my own. I felt I had no say on the rules and no right to implement my own in the beginning. The children, who are young, are demanding of time, energy, patience, enthusiasm, motivation and love as all children are, and nothing could have prepared me for that. I suddenly cultivated a new found respect for all parents!

The last year has been tough; I have navigated my way through cultivating new relationships, learning healthy boundaries, patience, tolerance, selflessness and resilience on a whole new level and all on fast track. Not to mention the complex of emotion living in the shadow of a partners ex and their chaotic communication. When you become a parent, you are part of the growing and mental preparation process of what it entails. When babies are born, you instinctively love them with a deep unbreakable unconditional love that enables you to act selflessly without question. Now I struggled to find this for myself, let alone for four new children in my life that forced me completely out of my comfort zone and frequently into meltdown!! Step parenting has got to be one of the hardest jobs, as you pick up the slack wherever you have entered their lives with zero prep time or thanks for the most part! During this difficult time, I have been forced to look at my own childhood and the trauma that lay there blocking my way forward to allowing love to flow and resilience to bolting for the hills (which is what I normally did when the going got tough!). It has forced me to let go of the shackles of hurt and blame and realise the kind of person I want to be for the children, myself and my partner; one that isn't constricted by the past.

However, one year on (which now I think about it, really isn't very long at all!) I have broken through many boundaries, I have opened my heart in ways I never felt possible, I have had to face the dark parts of myself I have been avoiding and face up to my unskillful behaviours and insecurities. My deeply sensitive and emotional self that has lived very close to the edge of fight or flight for the most part of my life has been challenged by a depth of love for a family that has opened and captured my heart.

I honestly don't think this would have been possible had I not have done a lot of work with meditation. Vipassana has led me to understand myself more fully, to break down my own judgements and self berating, stop giving myself such a hard time and cultivate compassion which has cracked open the bondage's of my heart and enabled unconditional love to seep out. Meditation is not just a stress reliever, it is a tool for illumination, for self discovery and the discovery of all others with open hearted awareness.

The best thing of all, is that this wonderful tool that has helped me so much through my life, is something I now able to share with the children, and they adore these sessions just as much as I do. It has drawn us together to bond and brought many happy times for us all. The children love to come and meditate together and we make it a ritual by choosing mats and blankets, a special crystal to hold and then the best bit - taking it in turns to ring the Tibetan singing bowl. When this happens we all have to be still, silent and listen intently for the end of the ringing. I have never known anything so powerful to give the children an opportunity for stillness! I make up little meditations, mostly stories to send them to sleep with sleep fairies and magical sleep journeys with unicorns and puppies - they love it! And I love sharing this sacred practice with them.

So I guess what inspired me to share this story is to say that if you are step parenting (or parenting), then stop, breath and take time out when you need to. Don't give yourself such a hard time as you are learning on the job so mistakes will happen. Do consider working on yourself before blaming others for your discomfort (which is so easy to do). Meditate to open your heart and then share this practice with your loved ones. It can be the foundation and the fabric of the love you cultivate together. Hang on in there, it all takes time, its a journey with no set end date and no set outcome, so you're going to have to let go of expectations and buckle up for the long haul! But what you can take from it is unconditional love that breaks down the walls of fear, life lessons that build a stronger you and an understanding of yourself that you didn't know was possible. I am far from perfect and definitely work in progress, but I am striving to do better for the good of everyone around me and that's the best I can do right now. If you have read all this way then thank you, good luck on your own journey and know that you are incredible and doing a great job wherever you're at!

With metta xx