Single Moms, We Out Here – Irene Atkins, New Mindfulness

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Irene from New Mindfulness, is a single mom of one, to her son Ilo. She explains to us how New Mindfulness came about, her single mom journey, as well as her traveling to Asia with her son to study with Buddhist monks and the importance of not rushing in airports with kids.

What’s Your Single Mom Story in a Nutshell?

My son’s father and I intentionally conceived my son. We were planning to start our family together, however when I was pregnant, we both fell into a financial storm, and I made the decision to move back home to California for four months to live with my family. In our distance, we both faced our own traumas, separately, which impacted our ability to work as a team. When I moved back to have the baby, and get our lives settled, my son’s father became unwell and distanced himself from the situation. I have been a single mom (and single mom-to-be) since I was 7 months pregnant. I have been the sole supporter and caretaker for our son ever since.

Before becoming a mom, were you passionate about travel?

Yes. I have been traveling on airplanes alone since I was four years old. I vividly remember clutching my suitcase, and strolling through dozens of airport terminals, mesmerized by all the white space, and the energetic pace ..of the travelers. Going somewhere I’ve never been before gave me such an odd comfort, even as a child. And I’ve always thrived off my privilege to explore the earth and open my mind.

How have things changed since you started taking your son on the road?

I definitely travel less than I used to, as other parents can probably attest to as well. But it’s so rewarding to see him light up when he sees something new and wonderful for the first time. I love seeing his reaction to experiencing a different side of nature for the first time too. As a traveler now, I guide our movements based upon what I want Ilo to be exposed to, and what I think would enhance his development. Traveling truly elevates our bond to a higher level! Through travel, and everyday extraordinary experiences, we create memories together that only he and I share, and we’ve learned how to trust each other through it all.

What inspired you to start New Mindfulness?

I desperately needed mindfulness, for my own healing, and for the maintenance of my own wellness. But I couldn’t find any spaces that I could afford where I could learn. I couldn’t find a mindfulness instructor that really resonated with me at the time, so I decided to be my own. And I decided to facilitate a mindfulness course for other like-minded people in my community. The course was an 8-week experience that turned into 11-weeks, and unintentionally transformed our lives in the most radical of ways! I was then encouraged to turn this hobby and passion project of mine into a full-time career. After a few years of working with individuals as a mindfulness consultant, I decided it was time to expand my impact, so I started my mindfulness consulting firm, New Mindfulness Inc. It’s certainly been a journey, and it’s exciting to know that it’s far from over!

What are your top three travel tips for parents traveling with children?

If your child is under two years of age, a carrier is the best way to travel through airports, crowded places, dangerous nature environments, and everything in between. My favorite carrier has been the Lille Baby all seasons carrier. I would literally be their spokeswoman for free if they asked me to! That’s how much that carrier has helped me navigate this world. Being hands free as a single parent is literally a gift from the gods! People are starting to laugh at me now for wearing such a huge baby, but I don’t care. Hell, I laugh with them, and still get the job done while doing so!

Secondly, packing light is crucial. We think that bringing everything with us is the safest thing to do, but in actuality, traveling with a heavy load can not only slow you down, but can be a danger to your health. I almost threw my back out traveling with a heavy load. And as a single parent, there were times where I was the only one to do the heavy lifting, in addition to carrying the baby. So if I got injured, I wouldn’t be able to do anything for us both, and that is a scary reality when traveling solo.

And my last tip is avoid rushing as much as possible. Rushing with a child, and all of your things, generates so much anxiety. Not only for you, but for the child as well. I learned to always give myself enough time, and to let go of the small things, like when I miss a train or something. I don’t want my son to associate traveling and navigating through the world as being an anxiety heightening experience.

What has been the most emotionally challenging about lone-travel with your son?

Great question! I think knowing that I don’t have another person to share all the responsibilities of travel and care tasks with, gets emotional. Especially since I am not a single mother by choice. I oftentimes put off some of our desired destinations because I know it would be easier (and safer) to travel with a partner. In the meantime, while I am not in a relationship, I am looking for travel groups to join, and cultivating close relationships with friends and family who can serve as great travel partners too.

And finally, what is your dream destination with your son?

Palawan, Philippines. Hawaii. A beautiful lake somewhere in Canada!

Anything coming up that you want to tell us about?

We are planning a family trip to Japan and Thailand for 2018! I will be seeking out Buddhist monks to study with, and other incredible experiences to deepen my personal mindfulness practice.