This post is sponsored by Musselman’s new BIG CUP applesauce.
I remember the moment so clearly. It was a warm night in July, and the Husband and I were just settling down on the couch to watch TV. The baby monitor crackled to life, and I heard Henry call out. I peeked at the monitor and say that he was sitting up in bed, babbling sleepily. Any other night, I would’ve let him put himself back to sleep, but I felt pulled to his room. In the darkness, I picked him up, cuddled him against me, and sat down in the rocking chair.
My baby boy groggily looked up at me, gave me a quick smile, and closed his eyes peacefully. I remember rocking back and forth, back and forth, smelling the top of his little head and feeling the weight of his 22-pound body in my arms. In just over a year, 6.5 pounds to 22! It’s hard to describe the intense love – a strong emotional and physical reaction – that I felt for my son at that moment. I felt so happy that I had come into his room to cuddle him; he’d been getting squirmier and squirmier lately, and cuddling his momma for long stretches – especially during daylight hours! – no longer held quite the same appeal. And then cliché popped into my head: The days are long, but the years are short.
Like many new moms, I was incredibly anxious during Henry’s first year. I’m sure this was apparent on the blog! I’d hold him in my arms and worry. Is he eating enough? Sleeping enough? Is he hitting developmental milestones? I Googled a lot. I even tracked his poops via a iPhone app! I think about to how incredibly emotionally wrapped up I was in breastfeeding and pumping, and it makes me feel a bit… sad. Hell, I had to schedule an emergency therapy appointment just to be okay with stopping breastfeeding. Don’t get me wrong – keeping a newborn happy is challenging (and that says nothing about parenting babies with health issues!). It is worth noting, of course, that most of this worry came from a deep, intense place of love. But I look back on his first year and remember feeling a disproportionate amount of stress, and 90% of it was self-created.
Back then, I thought that being a new mother meant worry. And that’s not even counting the worry I felt from all other aspects of life. How’s work going? Did I finish that proposal? Oh, I need to call so-and-so back. When is my next deadline? Is the house clean? How strong is my marriage? Am I seeing my friends enough? Worry. Worry. Worry.
So, on that night in July, I added up all this worry and realized one thing: it had accomplished nothing! I had spent hours – maybe days! – with my mind far, far away. At that moment, with the seriously intoxicating smell of baby hair in my nose (it’s a real thing!), I decided that I needed to get a grip. Life is fleeting. Nothing made me more aware of that fact more than having a child. You blink your eyes and POOF! Your baby is a toddler. It happens way faster than you could’ve ever imagined. While there’s room in life for analyzing and planning, I think it’s so important to corral those thoughts to the right times. And don’t even get me started on the time that I’ve ‘lost’ mindlessly browsing on my phone.
Over the past half a year, I’ve been attempting what can only be described as a personality tweak. I’m slowly but surely taking myself from an always-plan-ahead person to a here-and-now person. My goal isn’t to morph into Super Zen Caitlin – I just don’t think I have that in me!
My goal is simply to be 50% more mindful – to take at least half of the moments that I’m mentally and emotionally somewhere else and focus instead of what’s actually happening.
‘Mindfulness’ is definitely a buzz word, but the practice of being more mindful in my daily life has had serious and profound effects. It’s not only made me a happier person, but I believe it’s made me a more engaged and present parent. I’ve sprinkled talk of some of my changes and new habits throughout random blog posts, but I thought it was time to compile them all in one list.
The basic principle behind mindfulness is observing. Instead of being consumed by thoughts of what could be, you try and focus on what is. Many mindful practitioners will recommend that you practice mindfulness when doing routine things, like eating lunch. You try to focus on the taste of the food, the feel of the sandwich in your hands, the quiet stillness of your house. So, being mindful is not about loving every single moment of life, which I think is especially important to recognize if you’re trying to be a more mindful parent. You don’t have to love the tantrums! No one does. It’s just about being present and focused on the now, not the later.
I’m new to the practice of mindfulness, but here are five ways that I integrate it into my daily life.
Take a Pause: Especially when I’m interacting with Henry, I take a moment to remind myself to focus on what I’m doing – even if it’s a mundane parenting tasks. Again, mindfulness isn’t necessarily about enjoying every moment; it’s just about living in it. I take deep breaths and try to memorize the scene. I focus on what we’re wearing, talking about, and how Henry’s little face looks.
Wear a Watch: I would check my phone to know the time, and then I’d slip into a wormhole of emails, Instagrams, and tweets. By wearing a watch, I automatically picked up my phone less. And speaking of my phone, I really had to re-adjust the way I used it. I mentioned a while back that I decided to stop instantly replying to non-urgent work emails, which was a huge relief. Emails were a huge source of stress for me, but over time, I realized that I was creating this stress. I also stopped carrying my phone from room-to-room (that text could wait!), putting my purse in the backseat so I wouldn’t be tempted to use my phone at redlights (unsafe anyway!), and almost totally eliminated the use of my phone in bed.
Practice Mindfulness in Bed: I started off with a 10-minute meditation session before going to sleep, but I’ve added a shorter session in the morning when I first wake up. I’ll admit that I’m not great at clearing my mind of stress and worry, but I try to think of just my breathing – and NOT my To Do List. I love practicing meditation in bed because it makes me sleepy at night and puts me in a good mood in the morning.
Respond, Don’t React: I read this article on mindful parenting and it really struck a chord in me. One of the primary philosophies was that you should respond (positively), not react (negatively). This is extremely challenging for me because I’m a rush-rush-rush kind of person. When I want to get out of the house, I want to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Get your shoes! Get in the car! Let’s go! I react to situations because I’m rushing. I’ve been taking inventory of the moments that I feel rushed and trying to dial it back. How can I respond to this situation in a more positive way? Is there really a need to hurry up? What am I missing out by pushing everyone out the door? Basically – chill out.
Get Organized: I realize this item doesn’t relate directly to mindfulness, but getting organized has been a huge part of helping me focus on the now. Part of why I worried so much before was I felt disorganized; I had to keep all my To Do’s in my head or else I would forget them. Getting a paper planner has improved this tremendously. I’m also working on organizing and de-cluttering our house because I firmly believe that a calm house creates a calm mind.
I leave you with this thought:
Have you made the decision to live more mindfully? What changes have you made to your daily life?
This post was sponsored by Musselman’s BIG CUP applesauce, which contains six ounces of delicious applesauce. When Musselman emailed to ask if I’d share the news about their new BIG CUP applesauce, I was so excited to read their writing prompt, which was “50 More.” I feel like I’ve been trying to subtract the negative and add the proverbial 50% more into a lot of areas of my life, including being more present. Also – you should see Henry scoop up their unsweetened applesauce; it’s one of his favorite snacks. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own. Thanks for the support of HTP.