It seems almost impossible at the moment, but one day, this period of time in our lives will be a memory—admittedly, a fuzzy, blurry, whirlwind of a memory, but a memory nonetheless. Our kids will get older, we’ll settle back into the daily grind of shuttling them from one thing to the next, and we’ll look back on this strange and stressful time with a complicated mix of emotions. Depending on our children’s ages now, they may remember some, little, or none of this crazy time. Mine will remember exactly none.
In many ways, that’s for the best, but within these long, sometimes scary, and always chaotic days, I’ve sought to find glimmers of goodness to see me through, to propel me forward, and to remind myself that within the darkness, I can still find the light. Learning to be more present and mindful is one way I’m doing that.
In the high-speed chase of getting two kids under age 3 and myself out the door before 8am every morning in our regular life, I often forget to pause to enjoy the small stuff. The morning drill of wake up, breastfeed, exercise, get dressed, breakfast, daycare drop off, commute to work—it’s almost robotic.
Commuting home, daycare pickup, cooking dinner, bath, and bedtime—it’s a routine we have almost down to a science. Sometimes, I worry we’re spending so much time mastering the scientific calculations that we’re forgetting to enjoy the art in these every day, seemingly mundane, routine moments, like the bubbles on my son’s chin in the bathtub or the avocado turning my daughter into a baby Grinch as she learns to feed herself. She’s going to stain her clothes, I worry. But one day, these moments will be gone, and all I’ll have left to remember it by is the stains on their onesies.
If there’s any silver lining within this stormy time, for me, it’s learning to be more mindful in my day-to-day life, so that one day when I look back, I won’t be consumed with “what ifs” and “if onlys.”
No, I’m not savoring every minute. I spend plenty of minutes hiding out in some small corner of my home to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet to myself. No, I’m not meditating daily or finding joy in every item I own, while purging the rest. I’m not writing a daily gratitude journal. I’m not practicing yoga.
I’m simply being.
Without the usual time constraints of the weekdays and packed schedules of the weekends, I’m relishing in the slower, simpler pace of my life. I fully realize that I am among the lucky ones for whom this time is slower, that I’m among the lucky ones being asked to stay home instead of being called to the frontlines. It is a privilege to be able to spend this time soaking in moments with my kids, reevaluating what I want my life to look like once this is behind us, and where I want to spend our time and our energy in the future. I am fortunate, I know.
Being mindful, I’m learning, is not about achieving ultimate peace. It’s about embracing the chaos. Working from home with a 10-month-old and a 3-year-old, there’s no shortage of chaos at my house. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you about the other day when my toddler pooped behind a tree in our front yard “because the dog does it.”
If there’s any silver lining within this stormy time, for me, it’s learning to be more mindful in my day-to-day life, so that one day when I look back, I won’t be consumed with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys.’
But the chaos will be behind us someday … both that of the pandemic and that of raising small humans. My newfound mindfulness is helping me to pause long enough to savor the little things in the meantime. Before this experience, I thought of mindfulness as a buzzword, and one I didn’t have time for. I thought it meant adding another thing to my never-ending to-do list.
Now I know that it can be as simple as slowing down. It can be as simple as accepting imperfection. It can be as simple as letting go of guilt. It can be as simple as giving yourself permission to cry. Or to laugh. As some parts of the country start to open back up, I hope I remember to take what I’ve learned with me into whatever our new normal becomes.
I hope to remember the extra cuddles in the morning when we weren’t rushed out the door–and to make time for them in the future.
I hope to remember the family movie nights where we didn’t feel guilty about the screen time–and to ease up on the self-induced mom-guilt going forward.
I hope to remember the leisurely walks through the empty parks when we had nowhere else to be–and to “schedule” this free time when other activities resume.
I hope to remember the grace I gave myself … that my house wasn’t clean, that the laundry wasn’t done, that the toys overtook the living room, that I didn’t wash my hair, that I skipped my workout, that I overindulged in comfort food, that I poured that extra glass of wine–and to go a little easier on myself in the future.
I hope to remember how my husband and I picked up the slack for each other–and to make a habit out of it.
Being mindful, I’m learning, is not about achieving ultimate peace. It’s about embracing the chaos.
I hope to remember that all the things we rush around to do don’t really matter all that much after all. I hope to remember that what matters is the time we spend together–not how much time (something I grapple with as a working mom), but the quality of the time, the traditions we make, the memories we share, the laughs we have.
I know someday we’ll be back to normal. We’ll be back to the grind of the everyday hustle and bustle to get up, get fed, get out the door and get back, get fed, get into bed. I know I’ll get caught up in the mundane routine. I’ll get stressed about the stain on the rug or the crayon on the walls.
I hope I remember that one day I’ll look back on these things, and they won’t matter much at all. That the ruined rug and colorful wall are only a moment in time. I’ll put a fresh coat of paint on the wall and swap out the rug, but that the memories will stay forever.
I hope I remember to keep making them when life goes back to normal.