Sitting on the couch, computer in lap, I’m working feverishly toward a fast-approaching deadline. The sound of siblings squabbling and the ever-present toddler fighting for that coveted spot in my lap makes my brain feel like it’s the object of a fierce game of tug-of-war at an elementary school field day. The desperate desire to escape the chaos and work in a quiet, kid-free environment is real, but it comes with a real boatload of mom-guilt.
All I ever wanted to be was a mom. True story. As a teenager, I dreamed of having a baby. And when I was first married and wanted to have kids right that minute, the fact that my husband wanted to wait a while devastated me. Luckily, God was on my side. #surprise
Fast forward 14 years and three kids later. Being a mom is the best, hardest job in. the. world. Can I get a witness? It’s something that I so desperately want to get right. With three kids in three different stages, it’s really tough to get it all right with all the kids all the time. And by “tough,” I mean “impossible.” In this stage of life as a work-at-home mom, I’m finding it most difficult to be fully present in the midst of all the busyness.
I’m going to go out on a limb and presume that you can relate. Whether you’re a work-at-home mom, work-outside-the-home mom, a stay-at-home mom, or some combination of all of three, I bet you get it. Every day I purpose to be more intentional and more present in each moment. I often have to let things go in order to find an acceptable balance for my blessed tug-of-war brain in my sweet, busy life.
When I feel most present, I’ve eliminated the distractions that can be eliminated for that time. When I realize I’m fighting to be present, I stop whatever else I’m doing that’s taking my attention away from them. Trying to work while they’re swarming around me is so inefficient it’s not even worth it. Listening to a podcast that I have to keep pausing every time they walk into the room is downright frustrating. I can get to that another time. If I’ve failed to prepare or plan dinner ahead of time and I’m stressed about it now, I can let it go and pick up Subway sandwiches instead (and cookies…I’m not gon’ lie).
Of course there are times that I have to steal away to fulfill my obligations, but it’s far more acceptable to them (and to me) when this is the exception, not the rule. This means very early mornings and sometimes late nights (although I have a serious inability to stay awake after a long day! I’ve fallen asleep at my computer more times than I can count.). What can wait, can wait. And I’ve come to realize that most things can if I’ve planned my week halfway decently. When something can’t wait, everyone is more understanding when they know I’m usually present with them.
When I feel most present, I’m talking to them often. I talk to them about stuff that matters to them. Their favorite athletes, the latest news on their chosen teams, their video game accomplishments, their friends, their successes, their failures, their grades, their hopes and dreams. Connecting with them in this way ensures our relationship is a top priority. They know I’m always there to lend an ear and a word of encouragement.
When I feel most present, I’m spending quality time with them. Putting aside my own agenda to step into their world helps me connect with them in a way I couldn’t otherwise. While it’s important to be at the games, recitals, and school plays, I’m talking about quality time together just because you want to be with your child. Playing catch, watching a movie or YouTube videos together, taking them to a ball game, watching them play their latest favorite video game, or playing a game of cards or a board game together shows love in a unique and essential way. Where we spend our time is evidence of what’s most important, and our kids know that.
When I feel most present, we’re eating together as a family. If you haven’t read my post on the importance of family dinners, you’ll want to check it out. This is an invaluable habit that has unending, proven benefits for the kids and family as a whole. It’s a great time to slow down, look each other in the eyes, laugh, and talk about our days, our plans, and our highs and lows. (Insert paper plates, messes, half-dressed kids, loud voices, and sometimes parental threats, but we are at the table and we’re all going to enjoy it, dadgummit!).
When I feel most present, I sit or lay in bed with them for a few minutes at bedtime. I don’t know why, but this is a big one (and maybe the hardest, because at this point I’m so tired myself!). Bedtime is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the day. The kids get especially chatty. This is probably just a stall tactic, but who cares? They open up big time at bedtime! I sometimes read a chapter of a novel to my boys at bedtime. This is special because it gives us a connection we can refer back to in the days, weeks, and years to come.
I try to keep at the forefront of my mind just how fleeting these years are. They’re a whirlwind, really. Heaven forbid I realize my nest is almost empty before deciding to slow down, soak it in, and be present.