There’s a viral video out there about motherhood and how quickly our children grow up, and it’s taken over my Facebook feed in recent weeks. If you’re a mom reading this, I suspect someone has shared Slow Down with you along with the tagline “guaranteed to make you ugly cry.” That rather unappealing promise aside, it’s a beautiful song, and I adore Nichole Nordeman. She’s one of my all-time favorite singers, and the story behind her latest album, The Unmaking, is inspiring. Meanwhile, there’s a super popular post on Scary Mommy right now which is also popping up on my social media feeds with increasing frequency entitled Someday I’ll Wish I Could Go Back. Slow Down and the Someday I’ll Wish article have touched the same nerve with mommies of the Internet world – namely that our babies’ childhoods seem to pass too quickly, like a blur; that we want to savor every moment but life and the worries of every day distract us from truly enjoying each precious moment we have with our children. And we know that someday we’ll regret it.
Given its popularity, chances are you’ve watched the Slow Down video several times by now and boohoo cried over it too. But, if you haven’t read the Someday I’ll Wish article, I encourage you to check it out now. It’s a quick but impactful read. I’ve read it like 10 times at this point and still cry every single time I read these lines: “She was longing to nurture. To pick up a crying baby and be everything that he needs. To hold that warm, soft body and feel the weight of his head resting on her chest.” What a powerful image! As I read those words, I can literally feel my daughter nestled against my chest, her warm breath against my neck and my arms wrapped around her back and bottom. That’s a rare occurrence for me now.
My only child is just 7 and ½ months old, but I can already attest to that all too rapid flight of time. My daughter’s first months are just a hazy memory now. Seems whenever I hold her these days, she just struggles out of my arms. I end up wrestling with her most of the time as she fights to gain ever-increasing mobility and independence. Perfectly developmentally-appropriate of course, but frustrating for me because now I really want to cuddle her close. I find myself staring longingly at pictures from her very earliest days in the hospital, when she gladly snuggled up to me and fell asleep on my chest. Pictures like this one:
I wasn’t paying attention at the time. I was too busy reeling from my emergency C-Section; too worried about my milk supply and too preoccupied with fears that I’d never lose the 50 pounds I gained during pregnancy, that I’d never feel like myself again. And now I find myself regretting the time I wasted, the moments I missed and wishing I could go back and hold my placid, tiny little newborn again; longing to recapture and savor those precious snuggly moments I failed to cherish at the time. N.B. I long to relive the cuddles and snuggles with my sweet little newborn NOT the sleepless nights, projectile poops and 3 AM battles with nipple shields. And I definitely do not miss the hours and hours I spent fellowshipping with my breast pump. But those are the things – those nagging nuisances, those pressing have-to-do tasks that go along with parenthood – those are the things that capture our attention and cause us to miss out on the sublime everyday moments with our children we might otherwise embrace. So each night when my husband and I sing our daughter to sleep my voice cracks because I know another day of her childhood has passed. I get tearful because I realize again that a little bit more of our time with her has slipped away.
I recognize that in order to truly enjoy the precious (and all-too brief) time I have with her, I need to live in the moment and stop being so distracted by all the other things that worry and distract me from what I truly value. And I am reminded of the following pre-game speech I once heard from former University of Florida (and current Oklahoma City Thunder) men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan.
He gave this speech just prior to the national championship game, which they won (Go Gators BTW). I love what he says! And it must have been effective because not only did this team win the national championship that night, they went on to win a second (e.g. back-to-back) national championship the following year. Coach Donovan challenges the players to anticipate adversity but still remain focused on the goal – to live in the moment. That same message – living in the moment despite the (very real) daily challenges that distract us from the truly important things like cherishing our children and family – is the key. As parents, we will always remember our children’s various stages fondly. But living in the moment, cherishing each moment is key to avoiding the pain of regret that comes from realizing (after the fact) you missed those precious moments because you were too worried about other, less important things. But again, the question is, how can we remind ourselves throughout the day to “live in the moment” when our minds often wander to other things?
First, understand it’s “normal” for your mind to wander. In 2015, Microsoft released a study (1) which stated, among other things that an adult’s attention span is only 8 seconds long. Basically, our minds wander every 8 seconds. Understand that some of us have an even harder time. For example, I have ADHD. And recent studies (2) have found adults with ADHD suffer from “excessive mind wandering,” (file that research finding in the ‘duh’ category). So, obviously my mind wanders more often than every 8 seconds. The point is, for all mothers, it’s hard to remain present with our children, and for some of us (i.e. me and others with ADHD), it’s REALLY hard. I often find myself feeling antsy or bored, reaching for my phone or the TV remote just while feeding my daughter. It’s tempting to multi-task, even when with our children in the name of “productivity.” But that kind of multi-tasking does not produce meaningful results, and it communicates to our children that they are less important than the phone, laptop, tablet etc. Which brings us to the next point: understand the role technology plays in distraction. That same Microsoft Study (1) found that average adult’s attention span decreased by 33% in just 13 years – decreasing from 12 to 8 seconds when measured in 2000 versus 2013, respectively. Those dates of course correspond to the boom in internet, hand-held technology and social media which now inundate us all, constantly. So it’s important to disconnect from the phone, laptop and TV as often as possible (at least a couple of times per day for at least 15-30 minutes at a time) and just be present with our children, spouse and family.
Here are 2 techniques that can help you tune into the present moment. Before trying either technique, disconnect from all electronic devices (obviously, you’ll need to read through how to practice these tricks first). Simply disconnecting from electronic devices will help tremendously with your present moment focus.
Technique #1 Balanced Breathing – think of your inhale (breathing in) as an arrow pointing upward. Now imagine your exhale as an arrow pointing down. Balanced breathing is when the “up” and “down” arrows are of equal sizes. Your inhale matches your exhale. Another way to think of it is to count silently as you breathe in (say inhale for 4 counts). Then count at the same pace as you breathe out, and match your exhale to the inhale (4 counts). When you first begin practicing Balanced Breathing, you may need to start with shorter breaths, only 3 counts in/out so you don’t get too tired or light-headed, especially if you have any breathing conditions (asthma, COPD, etc.) or allergies. You will soon be able to stretch out your breaths. But always make sure your inhales and exhales are equal or “balanced.” Practice Balanced Breathing at least 5 minutes each day. And soon you’ll be able to use this technique to focus yourself whenever you need to pay better attention. It can also help you feel more energized during the afternoon doldrums and can help you calm down after an argument with your spouse.
Technique #2 Grounding – Grounding uses your senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, smell) to help you return your focus to the present moment by directing your attention to your immediate surroundings. The easiest and quickest way to do this is by using your sense of touch but any of your 5 senses will work. The next time your find your mind wandering, reach out and touch your child’s foot or hand or touch the chair or sofa your sitting in. Feel the texture of the table next to you or pet your dog or cat. As your doing this, really pay attention to how it feels in your hand. Try to describe the sensation in your mind. Is it rough, smooth, furry, cold, warm or coarse? Simple touch is very effective for bringing us back into the present moment, but other sensations work too. Try pouring yourself (and your child/children if applicable) something to drink. Then slowly take a few sips, being mindful to notice how it tastes and feels in your mouth and as you swallow. Next, describe it to your child. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be simple, like “oh that is cold on my tongue and throat.” Ask your child to do the same. Try being very still and quiet for a few seconds and notice what you hear. Can you describe it? Maybe you hear the whirring sound of the refrigerator, or your dog snoring (that’s our house). Pausing for a few minutes to tap into one or more senses is a great way to bring yourself into the present moment, and it’s a useful skill to teach your children too. Try it today and practice it with your kids a few times a week. It will become second nature.
There will always be distractions. As Coach Donovan said, “there’s gonna be adversity and challenges.” We know that in advance. But as moms we know that we don’t want to miss these precious moments. I want to embrace these moments now, not later or after the fact. I want to really live in these “Mommy Moments” each precious day.
Wisdom for the Day:
Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
~Matthew 6:34 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Read more here.
Resources of the Day:
1. Check out this article entitled Rush to Press from the brilliant Functional Dad. Yes, it’s true I’m massively biased. But do remember Functional Dad is PhD with tons experience helping folks perform better and improve their daily lives by applying these very same mindfulness and balanced living skills.
2. This self-help worksheet for anxiety from the wonderful online site Anxiety BC contains more info on relaxation and grounding as well as additional links for skills such as progressive relaxation and tips on healthy living.