“You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift.” — Jen Hatmaker
Have you ever noticed a mom brushing off her children while staring at her phone? Or who seemed constantly overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands of her kids?
It was probably me.
One day, I realized how bad it had gotten. I was going through the motions of motherhood, and it felt like I was on an exhausting, dizzying carousel of meeting little people’s big needs. The role that once gave me joy and fulfillment started to feel like an overwhelming chore I couldn’t keep up with.
But for me, there was more to it than the natural demands of motherhood.
I realized I was distracted and disengaged. Distracted by social media, by expectations outside of my family that didn’t really matter, and by all the things I had piled onto my plate to stay busy and “relevant.” I was engaged in other people and things instead of my own little babies.
I thought of them, older, and much more interested in their phones, their friends, and their obligations outside of our family than in spending time with and connecting with me—which is exactly what I was doing.
How to Be a More Present Parent
I decided to take control of my time and invest it where it mattered. Now, instead of feeling disconnected and racked with guilt at the end of the day, I focus on filling their cups and mine in meaningful ways.
A the end of the day, although there’s always room for improvement, I feel peace. Here are some things that help me be present with my children:
1. Wake up before your kids.
Or at least, if you can get away with it, stay in bed for a few minutes to read, think or meditate before you’re launched into the madness. That quiet time to center yourself before the day begins works wonders.
I know firsthand that this is not always possible depending on your stage in motherhood. If it’s not, plan a time during the day, even if it’s 15 minutes, when you can be alone: Maybe during a nap time, quiet time, while your kids are at school, or when your husband is home.
Instead of using that time to frantically get something done, choose something slow, relaxing, and that you enjoy. For me, it’s yoga, reading or writing.
2. Exercise as often as you can.
I’m especially a fan of yoga because of how effectively it can bring about peace and mindfulness. However you choose to move, that time on your own is invaluable, and the endorphins will give you a happy start to your day.
3. Put the kids to bed early.
Establish an early bedtime, or at least lights-out time. Creating a peaceful end to your days will help break them up instead of feeling like you’re in a never-ending cycle of need-meeting.
Also, take advantage of bedtime time to talk to your children and ask them about their day. Every night before bed, my kids tell me one thing about the day that they liked, one thing they didn’t like, and something they feel grateful for. This little ritual creates an easy opportunity for my children to open up about what’s on their mind.
4. Put your phone away.
Technology (especially social media) has an uncanny ability to suck us into its world and detach us from the people who are actually around us.
This is a huge one for me. I’ve noticed when my kids or I are interrupted in the middle of using technology, our reactions are more volatile and grumpy than they would be if we were not having to jolt ourselves out of the technology zone. Log less minutes on your devices and more moments with the people you love.
5. Remember how fleeting childhood is.
You won’t always be this needed or wanted by your children. When you look back on how you spent these years, you will never regret spending more time with your children. Time spent with family is always a positive investment.
6. Have daily one-on-one time.
When I had my first child, we had a lot of mommy-daughter time together. But when our second and third children came, that changed. I made a goal early on to spend five minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time with each child every day. It’s amazing how much this simple commitment does for my children’s happiness, behavior, and our relationships.
7. Adjust your agenda.
When I’m most overwhelmed by motherhood, it’s often when I’m falling short of my agenda for that day. When I’m constantly interrupted from completing the things I expected to that day, I get frustrated.
I’m learning to change my expectations of what I consider a productive day. One day, when I ripped myself away from my to-do list and spent some time playing with my son in the backyard, I heard his sweet laugh. It was so joyful and pure. It hit me that I didn’t hear it nearly often enough.
It may sound cheesy, but in that moment, I decided that making him laugh was at the top of my daily to-do list. It’s really changed my (and his) life.
*Note — This article was originally published at Talking Wordy.