I used to be one of the most organized (read: inflexible) people you’d ever meet. Each and every item on my to-do list needed to be done each day. I’d stay up until all hours to the detriment of romantic relationships and friendships to complete my “responsibilities”. I couldn’t handle a single deviation to my routine. Happy hour after work? Can’t, sorry. I was already planning to go to the gym.
Thank goodness I let go of those neurotic habits out before becoming a mother. Or at least I thought I had.
One day just after I’d returned to work from maternity leave, I was lamenting to my husband about how little time I had to play with my daughter between picking her up from daycare and when she was falling asleep. He pointed out to me, quite diplomatically, that I spent my first 25 minutes in the house freezing my pumped breastmilk from the day, cleaning all the pump parts and bottles, labeling her empty bottles for daycare the next day.. you get the idea.
After I had a (very hormonally charged) meltdown (“Do you know how many hours I spend pumping this milk every day? sob “You think I’m a terrible mother who doesn’t spend time with her baby!” sob) I had a moment of clarity – he was right. The milk needed to be frozen right away, but the pump parts didn’t necessarily have to be cleaned then. The prep of bottles could wait until after she was asleep. 25 minutes may not seem like alot, but at the time there was only an hour between getting her home and the moment she’d begin rubbing her eyes. I realized I had yet again let myself get into a routine so mindless that I didn’t even see the other option. Duh – baby now. Chores later.
I certainly don’t think any parent, whether they work or stay home, should be spending every second engaged with their kids, putting off all tasks until after their bedtime. But if we never question our routines, can we be sure that we are consciously choosing to spend our time in the best way possible?
The mantra I’ve been working with is “Does this really need to be done right now?” Do I remember to ask myself this with each and every evening or weekend chore? Of course not. But I am getting better – and the times I have been able to set something aside and join in I’ve been rewarded a thousand-fold.
Hearing my daughter say “bubbles” for the first time. Watching the sun set over the Colorado mountains from the front steps with my husband. Extra hugs and sloppy kisses.
The first time your pre-teen daughter asks you to drop her off at a different entrance at the mall than the one her friends are at, will you be wishing you’d said yes to at least one more of her childhood tea parties where you were the most important guest? When your teenage son leaves for his first semester of college, will you be wishing you’d actually looked up from your book all the times he yelled “Look at me!” before doing a cannon-ball into the pool?
These are moments of connection we will never get back. Mindful parenting requires that we continually ask ourselves “What’s really important here?”, and these opportunities are the important ones. These are the moments we’ll regret missing, not the times we chose to leave laundry unfolded, or skipped a day of dusting.
I challenge you each day to say “yes” to just 1 thing NOT on your to-do list.
- Can you start dinner 10 minutes later to enjoy those last bits of sunlight in the yard with your kids?
- Can you stop at the park on the way home for 5 minutes of surprise time on the swings? (Already thinking you wouldn’t be able to get them to leave? Give them a chance.. )
- How about having an impromptu dance party? (even if it lasts for only one song!)
- Is there something your child has been begging you to do with them, but you’ve been too “busy”?
What can you say “yes” to today? Please share in the comments below what you find in those spontaneous moments of mindful connection!
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