Mindful Parenting

Letters From Renee: In Pursuit of Deep Work, Deep Parenting, and the Deep Life – January Edition

ABOUT renee

I have spent the last decade dedicated to understanding the rich science of parent-child psychology. I combine my unique combination of clinical and academic expertise to bring progressive and evidence-based information directly to parents in a practical, step-by-step way.

@reneecachiaphd

A concept inspired and borrowed from author of Deep Work, Cal Newport, has me both nostalgic about the depth of my last decade and inspired to go even deeper in the forthcoming one. Newport has explored the idea of deep work for years now and more recently has turned his lens to the deep life; a life that is focussed on what really matters from community, craft, and constitution to contemplation. As it aligns with the values-based approach to cultivating a meaningful life, I instantly took to his work. Let me explain why.

Personally, I have always thrived when my external life is the reflection of my rich internal world. I suspect we all do, but as an introvert that often passes as an extrovert, it is very much the case. My craft and contemplation, or my work in psychology and ‘matters of the soul’ as Newport describes, are among the greatest joys of my life. I have come to believe that such richness is largely cultivated through integrating practices of stillness, quiet and a form of focussed work or art – which is likely why I practice and teach mindfulness-based practices and therapy.

An antidote to our overly distracted world with an increasingly short attention span, Newport defines Deep Work as “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” Productive, focussed, and high value, a welcomed trio in the modern world.

Well-known for his modelling and advocacy to stay off social media, Newport warns that if we are not intentional about our time and focus, our days will be filled with Shallow Work, that he defines as “non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.” In other words, shallow work is low value and a time-sucker.

If I dare be so bold, I feel that in a way, my approach to Parenting Freedom as described in my book, describes one of creating a deep parenting life. A focus on the parent-child relationship and what is most important, while turning down the noise, as a navigation guide. Becoming a parent myself has added new depths of love and meaning to my family life as a deep approach to parenting has become the focus of my days.

Given we are multi-dimensional beings with different levels of needs to survive and certainly to thrive, I am unsurprisingly fumbling my way through re-integrating some deep work into my life as a parent in this new chapter. I guess this helps to articulate why I cringe and feel a bit icky at the surface level, or shallow approach, to discussing being a ‘working mother’ or a ‘stay-at-home’ mother. Regardless of how we split our time, we have layers of needs as parents and our children (and partners) benefit when we meet them.

I need quality time with my daughter and husband, I need to exercise and be active each day, I need connection to my community (family, friends, local community), I need some time to explore new or old ideas (think, read, listen, or write), I need some uninterrupted time produce deep work, and I need a flexibly consistent contemplation practice (bring on those longer naps).

Sometimes meeting my needs can be combined, for example, walking and podcasting, writing, and contemplating, practicing yoga (alone time, contemplation, exercise) etc. It’s not complex nor expensive, so why is it so hard to do as a mother?

I have noticed that it has very little to do with my daughter, and everything to do with me: valuing and reprioritising my needs at times, modelling fierce mothering of myself, and getting distance from the conditioned stories that good mothers blah blah blah, and the uncomfortable emotions (guilt and shame) that arise from a historically wildly independent person learning to accept help.

Self-Reflection Prompts:

So, please tell me that I have inspired you to consider how deep your work, parenting and life is. Let me know on Instagram (sorry Cal, I have not fully worked out its current place in my deep work/life, but I’m making progress), but most importantly, at least acknowledge it to yourself:

Do I protect any time for distraction-free concentration to sustain my focus and achieve cognitive demand?

Do I produce any meaningful, high-value work? (This can be cooking, journaling, or a craft of your choice not just paid work)

What shallow tasks (email) and activities (scrolling socials, tv) are eating my time and focus?

What makes me feel as if I am ‘shallow parenting’ (distracted, mundane, tuned out, on autopilot, going through the motions etc)?

When and what makes me feel as though I am ‘deep parenting’ (engaged, focussed, connected, present, mindful)?

In what ways is my life/work/parenting deep?

What changes do I need to make in my current life phase to deepen them? Do I have unmet needs?

Parenting Strategy of the Month:

Create an environment for your children to engage in deep, uninterrupted play. After all, we require a lot of intention to save our kids attention.

Ideas I’m Exploring:

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World and the Deep Life Podcast, obviously. *Apologies to Cal Newport for potentially butchering his ideas.


Start your journey towards parenting freedom now.

Want to reduce your parenting stress and rebuild your inner resources? Renee has designed these original guided meditations and a step-by-step guide to help you to get started on your journey to find inner parenting freedom.

FREE AUDIO MEDITATIONS & PDF GUIDE

A STEP-BY-STEP PDF GUIDE + AUDIO FOR BUSY PARENTS 

10 DAILY INNER PRACTICES guide

For parents who want to thrive.

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