On March 22 I attended Inspired Family: A Mindful Parenting Conference. According to the website, “Inspired Family aims to give parents the space to dialogue with experts and each other on the topics that matter to you, from your pre-natal experiences through infancy and toddlerhood.” It was billed as, “48 workshops, 40+ vendors and resources, swag bags and giveaways.” And in full disclosure, as a blogger I received free admission.
The morning’s keynote speaker was Carla Naumburg, PhD, a clinical social worker, mother and writer. Her book, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Connected, Sane, and Focused on What Really Matters will be released this fall. Although “mindful parenting” was part of the conference title, I have to admit that until I heard the keynote, I wasn’t familiar with mindfulness as a practice. I mean, I knew mindfulness in the dictionary-definition sense: “aware of something that may be important.” I thought it was about being present in the moment and about making parenting choices with purpose. I didn’t understand that mindfulness is a meditative practice and you can take trainings and study it with experts. In fact, after further research following the conference, I learned Philadelphia has a Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, the region’s leading provider of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs. The following is a description from their website:
Mindfulness is about paying attention. It’s about living your life in the richness of right now, not being lost in memories of the past or overwhelmed by the worries or projections of the future. It’s a simple practice that strengthens the mind’s ability to stay focused on what is happening right now and to be open to experience — meeting the present moment with kindness and nonreactivity.
Reading that was an “a-ha” moment for me. I’m actually dumbfounded that I hadn’t discovered this practice before. A mindfulness-based stress reduction program sounds like something I could really benefit from. And learning how to overcome the worries or projections of the future and not let them overwhelm me is something that could have been helpful during the last six months as I’ve grieved my miscarriages. As I’m sure is true for many people, it’s hard for me to let go of things that are out of my control. Staying focused on the present is something I’ve been trying to do, but I didn’t have a name for it.
This discovery was my big takeaway from the conference. I attended many of the workshop sessions and tried to absorb as much as I could. I left feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information I was given. I still have my swag bag filled with papers I want to go through and notes I want to review. But, I left feeling extremely positive and thankful that my husband watched my daughter and allowed me to have an entire day dedicated to self-care and learning.
The day’s workshops were split into five categories: Prenatal, Infancy, Toddlerhood, Self-Care, and Family. I spent most of the day in the Self Care and Family rooms. I was interested in some of the Prenatal workshops, but since I’m not actually pregnant yet, I only attended one of those sessions.
“Five Legal Documents Every Parent Needs to Feel Secure” was the first session I attended. I was looking for coffee so I got there a little late. Still, it rightfully scared me and I now feel the necessity to create a will and other legal documents. The lawyer running the session didn’t mention cost. I know expense is what would be prohibitive for me setting up the documents, but his examples convinced me of their importance.
I had a tough time deciding between “Taming the Toxins: Creating Better Health through Simple Changes around Your Home” and “Pregnancy after Loss: A Creative Arts Based Model for Loss and Life.” I chose the later because it was the only session that mentioned pregnancy loss. It was lead by Heidi Lengel from Interlude Music Therapy Services. Heidi is also a Certified Birth and Bereavement Doula (I didn’t even know Bereavement Doulas were a thing!). Only a small group attended the session and it was just perfect. I have to say that I was moved to tears by the song Heidi shared. I was glad to sit in the back of the room by myself, and I felt touched by her understanding and hopeful words.
Since I missed Xandra O’Neill’s toxins workshop, I attended her second session titled, “Taming the Myth of the Super Mom for the Mom You Want to Be.” I think the toxins workshop would have been a better fit for me, but I still enjoyed her inspiring words and she was kind enough to give me the handout from her previous workshop. I was already familiar with Xandra and her Womb to World Wellness business because we are both members of Philadelphia Social Media Moms. Since the conference, I’ve participated in Xandra’s Creating Fertile Ground Virtual Conference, and I don’t know that I would have joined in without having met her in person at Inspired Family.
I also attended a session on natural oils (something I know nothing about and am now intrigued to learn more), a work-life balance session, and one on mindfulness titled, “Anchored Parents: Creating Positive, Mindful and Happy Families.”
As a first-year conference, there were a few kinks that need to be ironed out. I was hoping for coffee and maybe bagels or some kind of light breakfast in the morning. Nothing was provided. The 45-minute sessions didn’t have built-in breaks in between. There was also no break for lunch. I would have loved maybe 10 minutes between sessions to run to the bathroom and get settled, and an hour for lunch. I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions, so running out to get lunch at the nearby food trucks was a bit of a chore. I ate during my session and felt rude. Plus, a lunch break might have allowed more time for the Marketplace. The room of vendors seemed to have a lot to offer, but I didn’t want to miss the sessions. I’m glad the Marketplace was open for an hour prior to the keynote, but I could have used more time.
The conference tried to be inclusive of the entire family and although it was heavily attended by women, I did see several dads or dads-to-be. The only session I wish was broken up by gender was “Wanna do it?… Not ever?! Having Sex after Baby–Will It Ever Be the Same?” For me, it was awkward to discuss such an intimate subject in a group full of strangers. It would have been fine for a presentation, but for an interactive workshop I just felt uncomfortable and left to check out a different session after the first 15 minutes.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience. The organizers were two moms with young children, and I was really impressed by the variety of offerings and all the work that clearly went into making the day a success. I feel lucky to live in a city with so many family-focused businesses. The conference was a great way for me to get a lot of information up front. Now I just have to take the seeds that were planted and follow-up with research of my own.