“Wherever you are, be all there.” –Jim Elliot
One of the hardest things I have found about motherhood is being present. I’ve had dozens of jobs, but being a mom requires harder work than probably all my jobs combined. The essential work responsibilities are similar, but when you’re a mama, you have children interrupting with constant questions, hanging on your every limb, and distracting you from any and all efforts. It’s almost as if their goal is to steal 100% of your attention 100% of the time.
With our attention swinging from one thing to the next like a person playing whack-a-mole, it’s hard to be fully present. In the moment, we often think about what we should be doing instead. While we are potty training, we watch the laundry pile up higher and higher along with our impatience. During playdates, while we are trying to sneak in an adult conversation, we feel a pull on our shirts and hear interrupting questions. By the time we do fit in those one-on-one moments with each of our kids, we are so far behind in all the other things we were supposed to do that the stress we feel inside acts as a barrier to quality time.
Enough is enough. The only way we can learn to be present is to jump in and try it. We must be consciously aware of our environment and choose better for ourselves and our children. Some people may challenge you to put all your responsibilities aside and be present with your kids from morning until night, but that is not realistic! Neglecting important tasks will increase your stress and create resentment toward the amount of time and energy your children require. By setting boundaries, you will find yourself becoming naturally present whether it be with your family, other mamas, or completing your to-do list.
One way I have chosen to set boundaries is to try to live a slower paced life. I have said a lot more “no’s.” I also have tried to prepare as many things in advance so that I’m only really busy a day or two during the week. I have learned to meal prep (lunch and dinner), knock out all the laundry in one day, run all errands at the beginning of the week rather than in short spurts across seven days, etc. When my kids can grab pre-made lunches out of the fridge and clean clothes from their drawers, my time is saved and allows me to quickly get them dressed and have some quality time before school or to sit across from them at lunch rather than scrambling in the kitchen looking for something to eat.
I’ve also learned that kids need time and space to explore and play. Those times DON’T include me. It is during those times that I get my work done and am completely present for my job or clean my house to prepare for another day.
Another part of being present and living a slower paced life is not to allow the difficult or unexpected parts of parenting to control you. Your child WILL throw tantrums, cry out, or be hurt by others. These things should not make us run in the other direction or shut down. These unexpected events should be expected along with an understanding that they are temporary. With an unexpected event, look for something in your day you can “undo” and use that time to be present instead.
Finally, one of the biggest things that separate us from our children is the use of technology. This is a hard one to navigate because technology is such a huge part of our lives! One tip a friend gave me recently was that she schedules cell phone time. Only a few times a day does she allow herself to look at and respond to emails and texts or to scroll through social media. Otherwise, we receive notifications almost constantly and feel the need to respond immediately. To be present as mothers, wives, friends, or even for ourselves, we must limit the stronghold technology has on our lives.
We don’t get to relive a single day of our lives, so we must make sure we are enjoying each day and are leaving an impact because we have chosen to be present as mothers. Thankfully, we get a fresh start each day!
Tell us in the comments, how do YOU stay present?