Last week while playing with my daughter I suddenly found myself completely immersed in a string of my own random thoughts…what to make the kids for dinner, when to change the bedsheets, what to reply to that work email, when I’d make time to wash my hair…
The thoughts had crept in unexpectedly, without warning and without permission.
I had no idea how long I’d been distracted for, or what I’d missed. But I’d definitely checked out of what was happening right in front of me and allowed myself to drift away from this moment of connection with my child, who was now repeatedly chanting ‘Mummy’ to bring me back!
And that absent episode left me burdened with a combination of emotions. Irritation and impatience that my flow of thoughts had been interrupted. Guilt about what I’d missed. And overwhelm about how full my head was with thoughts, jobs, worries and ideas…
Sounds familiar? If you are a Mum, I imagine this incident might strike a chord. This certainly wasn’t the first time it had happened for me.
Because being in the moment with our kids and staying present amidst the juggle of life as a Mum is no mean feat!
It can feel like our mental ‘to-do list’ is always tapping us on the shoulder in the background, and compartmentalising time to tackle it in isolation can feel like Mission Impossible when we are spinning all the plates.
We can be left feeling like we can’t keep up with ourselves, always looking to what’s next rather than truly engaging with the more subtle or precious moments of joy and connection right in front of us.
Since this particular episode, I’ve committed to experimenting with a few strategies to help me park the distractions and build more mindful and meaningful connections with my kids and myself.
Here are some of my favourites….
1. Make Time For You Every Day
I’ve definitely found that when my own needs have not been met, my ability to stay present and patient with my kids really takes a hit. Creating some space every day to prioritise yourself really helps alleviate the all-consuming nature of Motherhood. Even 10 minutes a day to focus inwards will allow you to recharge your mental energy and stay in tune with yourself as someone beyond your role of ‘Mum’. Taking a moment to ground yourself first thing in the morning can be especially effective, so that you approach the day with a clearer, calmer and more present head on your shoulders.
2. Create Phone Boundaries
Mobile phones alone can be such a huge source of distraction with our kids and in life generally. A quick notification check can suddenly send you down a social media rabbit hole, and before you know it you’ve been mindlessly scrolling rather than focussing your attention on the people and things right in front of you in REAL life. Creating physical boundaries with your mobile phone by leaving it in another room or only checking it at certain intervals of the day will help you to stay present and in the moment.
3. De-clutter Your Diary!
On days when you plan to be with your kids, simplify and declutter your day so that you have as little to mentally and physically juggle as possible. Prioritise your ‘to do list’, simplify your schedule and find ways to mentally ‘park’ the things bogging you down so that you can tackle them when you have more headspace.
4. (Less) Great Expectations
Rather than piling pressure onto yourself to be fully present and engaged the time, start by choosing one fun activity that you can do with your kids each day, and commit to doing it mindfully and habitually. Book it in like an appointment if it helps! That way you will be reassured that you have made time to truly connect and have fun with your kids, without distraction or guilt.
It’s also useful to remind yourself that it’s ok for your kids to entertain themselves and be independent. When you feel the guilt creeping in, try to shake off the ‘shoulds’ and focus on what you are doing with your kids rather than what you aren’t doing. You are likely to be showing up for them way more than you give yourself credit for!
5. The Beauty of Bedtime
At the end of a hectic day, kids’ bedtime can feel intense and exhausting, and we can just want to rush it done! But it is also an opportune moment to create a calm and intimate moment of connection with your kids. They will be tired (hopefully!) and contained – ideal conditions to enjoy a calm chat together, read stories and have a cuddle without distraction. Knowing that you’ll be able to end the day being truly present and focussed on your kids can be hugely reassuring, especially when you feel that your attention is hard to pin down. Knowing that kids’ bedtime marks the start of some uninterrupted time for yourself can also provide extra incentive to make this final milestone of the day count.
What about you? Do you have any favourite strategies you would like to share?
The Parenthood Coach