Have you ever had one of those days, where you wake up, manage to get yourself, and all the little ones in your house dressed and ready, fed, and sent off to school, then you head to work, walk into your office, and have no idea of how you got there? Me too. How many times are we captives to our routine, so much so that we forget that sometimes pausing, and breathing in the experience, is necessary?
As moms, we are often juggling many things. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not operating on a ‘to-do list’ or running down the day’s schedule in my head. Sometimes, when I’m just resting, I have a sudden urge of panic and think, “What have I forgotten? I shouldn’t have time to relax!” I often feel as though every minute of every day should be filled with some productive task, and if it isn’t, I feel lazy, inept, like I’ve wasted an hour. Sustaining this pace can have tremendous impacts on our mental and physical health. Also, it can heighten our anxiety and stress.
As a therapist, I often talk about the importance of mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It is merely the act of paying attention on purpose. Mindfulness is a proven method to address stress, anxiety, and depression. When done consistently over time, it has shown to improve productivity as well. Increasing our ‘mindful stance’ can be done even through menial tasks like making dinner. Instead of rushing through the meal, mindfulness asks us to fully plug into the experience. It asks us to connect to all of our senses. Being mindful means we will experience every part of that moment. What are the colors that I see as I’m cooking? What are the fragrances I smell? What do I hear? What are the textures of the food I’m cooking? What do the ingredients taste like? In increasing our mindful stance, we, in turn, cause our brains to take a much-needed break. So instead of rushing through dinner preparation while thinking about the laundry that needs to be done, and the homework assignments that they’ll need help with, and the permission slips that need to be signed, we can actually just enjoy the moment of preparing a meal for the people we love the most.
We can transfer these same skills to motherhood. How? By being intentional about being fully present with our children. I know that we’ve been hard-wired to multitask. We’re given badges of honor for being able to cook while reading emails, and periodically checking with our kids about homework. I totally get that sometimes multitasking is a necessary evil, but sometimes we should challenge ourselves to just be. What a breath of fresh air it would be to sit and watch our children play, and not think about 29 other things we should be doing instead. What would happen if we just sat and really became aware of the experience? We would notice that their laugh has changed. It doesn’t sound quite like it did when they were 2. We would see how much taller they’ve gotten. When did that happen? We would notice their face, and how much it looks just like ours, or their dads. We would hear that their voices have dropped an octave or two. We would experience all the little things, that as the years pass, seem so monumental.
Mindfulness is simply the act of paying attention on purpose. It is the intentional practice of drinking in the experiences around us. It calls us to be non-judging, accepting, and patient. It asks us to let go of what was, and to live in what is. It requires us to strive to just be. As mothers, we can make this our mission as well. We can learn to be the mom that isn’t always requiring our kids to be perfect. We can accept that sometimes they will be messy, rude, or disorganized. We can be patient as it may take several reminders before they get it right. As moms, we can learn to accept that sometimes we make bad decisions, but that’s ok, and more importantly, we can learn to let it go. Perhaps most important of all, being a mindful mom encourages us to live in the moment. It will cause us to take a deep breath and just be.