I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m spending time with my children, my mind is often somewhere else.
Whether I’m helping them with homework, playing games, listening to their stories, or putting them to bed, my mind is racing with all of the things that need to get done that day. It’s always been a problem of mine, living so deeply in my own thoughts. I’m regularly distracted by memories or regrets of the past (“I shouldn’t have yelled last night at bedtime”) or anticipations of the future (“I have so much on my plate this week, how will I get it all done?”).
When it comes to my day-to-day life, I’ve come to the sad realization that I’m just going through the motions. I’m on a never-ending carousel of parenting tasks and duties, and I’m not fully enjoying the ride. I’m often reminded of this quote from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things.”
I know that childhood is fleeting, and one day this carousel ride will end, leaving me with an empty nest and nostalgic memories. In order to truly savor these fleeting moments with my children, I decided I must make significant changes in how I tackle my days. I’ve found that these five simple changes have significantly allowed me to be fully present and be fully all-in on motherhood.
1. Limit social media and screen time
Do I really need to be scrolling through Instagram five times an hour? Do I really need to keep up with what’s trending on Twitter? The answer is a big, fat NO. When I’m keeping up with someone else’s life on social media, I become disengaged from my own life. I compare myself to someone else’s highlight reel and become distracted from living my own wonderful life.
I’ve allowed myself to check in on my social media feeds three times a day – morning, noon, and night for 20-minutes each. I never realized how addicted I was to the scroll until I gave myself set time limits. I’m also showing my children that being glued to the phone is not an ideal way to live a healthy and mindful life.
2. Block time in my schedule
Instead of making an endless to-do list, I block off chunks of my day in my Google calendar to devote to the things that need to get done. This has really helped me focus on the present moment. For example, during breakfast, I’m always thinking about how the dishes need to get done or how I need to tackle certain errands before the end of the day. I miss out on being present with my children.
With block-timing my schedule, I know that I’ve already set aside thirty minutes early evening and before bed to deal with the dirty dishes, and emails will be answered during the hour time-block that I have set. Knowing that certain tasks have already been scheduled in the day has helped me to be fully present in the moment.
3. Write it down
I’ve replaced scrolling through social media before falling asleep at night with journaling. I do a mind-dump of everything that’s overtaking my thoughts that day and write down three things that I’m grateful for and how I’d like to improve the following day. It’s a great way to recap the day and to reflect on what went well and what needs changing. I use a hardcover Moleskine to jot my thoughts down. It fits perfectly in my bag, and I carry it around with me wherever I go, in case I need to write something down in that moment.
I’ve significantly cut back on my kid’s weekly activities. Instead of an after-school activity each day and traveling to lessons or practice on the weekends, I’ve made sure that we have multiple days during the week where there is no set schedule to allow for free-play. You don’t get a trophy for being busy; it’s not a badge of accomplishment. I’ve found that our home life is calmer now that we’ve simplified our activities and loosened up the schedule a bit.
5. Embrace my non-mom identity
Making time during the week that is solely devoted to nurturing my inner-self has been a game-changer. It’s all too easy to be swept away by marriage and motherhood. I’m not complaining as I love my family immensely, but I do need to recharge my batteries every now and then and bask in alone time in order to be the best version of myself I can be.
Each and every day I try my best not to dwell in the past nor dream of the future and instead concentrate on the present moment. By slowing down, literally and figuratively, I’ve become a much calmer parent who’s more attuned to the needs of my family. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am 100 percent a fully present mother, and I’m confident that when my nest is empty I’ll have no regrets. I’m learning to enjoy my carousel ride, bumps and all.