We have tons going on. Yes, I’m moving. Yes, Emily my business partner is doing a million and one things. Yes, we’re still doing all of our normal life stuff and birth work stuff. Yes, yes, yes.
But you know what? Busyness always seems the same to me.
But you know what is different? Our kids. Holy smokes. No. One. Tells. You.
Kids growing up is amazing and yet, at the same time, sucks.
Jericho, my son, was laying across my chest, dream nursing and it dawned on me. Not so long ago this kid fit nicely nestled into my bosom, barely as long as my chest is wide. Today, his head and torso barely fit on my chest, his long legs are sprawled on the bed beside me. He’s really not a baby anymore.
No, this isn’t the first time I’m realizing he’s growing up, but more often I’m finding myself in these quiet moments, watching and realizing that it’s all going too fast, it feels like it’s slipping away too quickly. Just in the last week he’s learned to count to 3, he can say so many more words like turtle, kitty and tittie. He can feed himself with a spoon with very little help, lifts his bum for a diaper change and helps pick things up and put them away. All grown up things for a little kid of only 15 months.
But the thing I find most surprising in this parenthood gig is the grief that comes along with these changes. They’re so fun to watch at this age, constantly learning new things. So many fun moments. Hard moments. Helpful moments. Tender moments. But best of all, present moments. I feel grief often for present moments that I miss but I honestly don’t miss many. And then I realized, I’m more fortunate than most moms at my age and stage with my little guy. Most moms have already gone back to work, are caring for households, juggling more plates than I can count. And although I’m busy with a ton of things myself, I can easily shuffle things to accommodate being present with Jericho where most moms can’t. So I thought, if I feel a sense of struggle when I think about the few times I miss out on being present, likely other moms do too.
So while I sat around thinking about the beauty of moms, struggling together and how we each go through so much of the same stuff I remembered how isolating it can be too and thought hey, I’m kinda good at this being present thing, maybe I can come up with some easy to integrate tips for other moms too.
So here’s my 5 tips for being present – start implementing today and all the year through. We all know the saying, the days are long but the years are short.
- Delay the housework. Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me personally, I like things in their place. I’m a tad obsessive about it. But if preparing to move has taught me anything it’s that a clean house really DOESNT MATTER. I was stressing for a few days, trying to be present for Jericho, trying to cook, trying to clean the house, trying to make time to see my parents more and meet for coffee with my friends. I can feel my blood boiling at the littlest thing. Frustration is rising with Jericho for just being a silly little kid, wanting my attention. And I realized, something has to go here. I can’t do it all, all of the time. And out of the things I need to do, cleaning is last on my list. So you know what? I lowered my expectations. Is my floor unswept? Yep. Is my bathroom mirror full of toothpaste splatter? Yep. My sink full of dishes? Yep. My second sink full of clean dishes that haven’t been put away? Yep. Is last weekends laundry still waiting to be done? Yep. But you know what? It will all get done eventually. But when it comes to people vs cleaning I will always choose people and you should too! I promise you won’t regret it.
- Make a list of chores, both you and your partner do ONE per day.
- Mentally lower your expectations, give yourself permission to have a little mess in exchange for more present time with your child, partner, friends and family
- Create little habits that will help you keep on top of the chores for example get into the habit of always putting things back where they belong. It may take a second or two longer but it’ll be less work later.
2.Take ordinary moments and make them into quality time. I easily get caught up in doing the day to day and have found that being purposeful about making the ordinary a chance for quality has given me so much more present time.
- Driving in the car? Instead of listening to music or letting the kids watch a DVD try talking or playing a game like count the trucks or sing a song with your little ones, they love it!
- Making dinner, folding laundry? Find fun ways to involve the kids, sing songs about cleaning up and get involved together. Kids love counting and learning so don’t be afraid to involve them.
3.Put down the phone. I know this is a hard one for all of us but really kids just want to connect with us so put down your phone and enjoy them. Get a landline if you have to so people can still get a hold of you without you having to be attached to your handheld device.
- Put your phone on “do not disturb” for at least 1hr a day and take that time to really just be with your littles
- Try creating boundaries such as only checking fb while the kids are napping or after they have gone to bed
- Commit to choosing your child’s needs over your phone every time. Their emotions are big when they’re little so even the little things to us are big things to them, it’s important they know we’ll respond to them genuinely every time instead of finishing whatever we’re doing on our phone first.
4. Stop using the TV as a substitute. I’m not much of a tv watcher myself but my husband loves to watch tv. He finds it difficult to know what to do with Jericho the whole 3 or 4hrs I’m at work so they often end up watching tv. Recently my husband said he wishes that they spent more quality time together but he wasn’t sure how to do that. I suggested making the tv less of an option.
- When you’re unsure what to do next or how to entertain your little person just decide the tv won’t be a substitute for your attention. Instead be inventive!
- Again, kids aren’t hard to impress. Get down on the floor, be silly, bark like a dog, wag your fake tail. They love that kind of stuff! Changes start from small choices, limiting tv can be one of them.
5. Limit useless busyness. Our generation is OBSESSED with being busy even when we all say we’d like to be less busy. We seem to have trouble with just staying home. And I totally get it, it’s fun to get out and it can seem boring to be at home. But kids don’t care too much where they are as long as they’re with you.
- If you do go out endeavour to make it about you being with your kids. Even if you’re going out for coffee for your own sanity or groceries even, engage them. Play games. Ask questions. Hold their hand. Hug them. Talk to them in a way that makes them feel like they’re the only person(s) in your world at the moment.
- Learn to enjoy being home. This is a hard one. But if you learn to see the simple enjoyment in being with your kids you’ll start to enjoy just being at home. Playing, being silly and just being together.
Being present can seem like a lot of work but it’s really about implementing things day by day, moment by moment. The more you do it the easier it becomes. Present parenting is a lifestyle. It’s not just something you do, it’s something you live. Here’s to all of us practicing living presently and to growing kids who are kind, secure and independent.
Jenny Stewart RPN, Doula
Jenny Summerfield RPN is owner of and a certified labour doula at The Pathway Doula Services located in Kitchener – Waterloo. Jenny has 8 years of experience in the nursing field including continuing education in natural pain management. Jenny is also a breastfeeding educator and currently working toward her aromatherapy certification. Jenny has a passion for supporting woman, gentle parenting and is the mother of a 15 month old.