mindfulness · motherhood · parenting

The Joy of Living in the Present

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This is Luna’s friend “Don Francisco.” He is a funny little puppet who likes to talk to her in a very silly voice that just came out of my mouth one day as I brought him to life. She gets a kick out of him every time he comes out to play with her. It is pretty much the best thing ever.

Seeing how delighted Luna is by this puppet reminds me how excited babies get by the simplest things. It can be a straw, a cup, a new friendly face. It doesn’t really matter. They don’t care what time it is or what needs to be done or what is happening next. They enjoy the here and now and they don’t need much to have fun.

Luna is delighted by the simplest things: learning something new, sitting with a bunch of play balls, visiting the grocery store, going on the swing, and the list goes on. She finds joy in simple things…

I can’t help but notice how different I am from my daughter at this stage in her life. I move at a quick pace both physically and mentally. My mind is always on the go and it tends to dwell quite consistently in the future or the past, but rarely in the present. I know I am not the only one like this. Our society glorifies the idea of being busy. We feel the pressure to multi-task at all times. Of course it is wonderful and important to have occupations and activities but sometimes I think we take it too far. We feel the need to get so much done in one day and are proud when we go above and beyond. Women especially feel the pressure to “do it all.” There’s always more to do and not enough time. And it becomes pretty much impossible to keep up with this hectic pace and also be peaceful. And most importantly, when we rush around, we miss the little joys that are right in front of us. I’ll admit that I struggle with this on a daily basis.

My Relentless Need to Stay Busy

Slowing down is hard for me. Even if I manage to sit still, my mind is always on the move. I am always thinking about the next thing I want to accomplish or plan. It is both a gift and a curse. Seeing what is right in front of me and being truly in that moment is something that does not come easily to me.

My need to be busy worked to my advantage when I had a full-time job. There were meetings to plan and attend, notes to take, research to conduct, reports to write, and problems to solve. The decision to quit my job and stay home with Luna was an incredibly agonizing one for me. I loved my job and my co-workers but my commute was exhausting and finding affordable, high quality childcare was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I also was nowhere near ready to leave my brand new baby. After weighing all the options, seeking advice, and looking at our finances, my husband and I decided it would simplify our lives a great deal if I were to stay home with our little one for at least her first year.

Adjusting to Life in the Slow Lane

The thought of staying home with her both comforted me and terrified me. I was so glad I would not have to drop her off to anyone and miss her all day long. But what exactly would I do at home? What would I accomplish each day? Who would I interact with? After all, Luna would not be talking for quite some time. I started off by making play dates and meeting up with other mom groups. I went a little crazy trying to fill up my whole day with activities and found myself completely exhausted. Now I’m not saying going out was a mistake. I needed to get out of the house. But I had no routine. I just wanted to fill my days. I went from having a predictable task-oriented work schedule filled with meetings, adult interaction, and ongoing projects to a quieter, unpredictable, much more isolated lifestyle dictated by my baby’s needs. No one was telling me where to go or what to do. The structure I was so used to had vanished into thin air so abruptly and I didn’t know how to fill the extra time.

I was busy caring for my baby but not the kind of busy I was at all used to. Physically I was exhausted but mentally, I was wide awake. I really struggled trying to figure out how to do this whole stay at home mom thing. It’s definitely not for everyone! It’s so hard to dramatically shift your entire lifestyle.

Over time, I realized I was going about it all the wrong way. I had to confront the fact that my life was different now.

Things had slowed down and that was OK.

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I had to tell myself that it is okay to pause and laugh. It is okay to leave the to-do list for a while and just get on the floor and play with my little one and make silly faces. It’s okay to cuddle and giggle and breathe. Accepting that things had slowed down was the biggest step I took towards regaining a sense of contentment. I began seeing things in a whole new way. Like my very wise mom once said, “When you have a child, the best thing to do to help yourself adjust is to accept that this is how it is now. Things are different.”

Being Present

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I am learning more and more now that taking a few moments throughout the day to really be present with Luna helps both of us to stay calm and happy. Instead of always trying to accomplish something, I am learning to enjoy the little things again. Obviously, things need to get done: groceries need to be bought, food needs to be prepared, the apartment needs to be cleaned, I need to exercise and take care of myself. But I am learning that in between the essential tasks, I can stop and take a moment to live in the present with my daughter, even if that means I don’t do much else that day.

I never realized until I quit my job how daunting and uncomfortable it would be to slow down. It can be scary to just be. It can be scary to stop what you know. It’s a shock to the system. It can bring a sense of anxiety as you ask yourself, “what now?” But in these moments we need to take a breath and be thankful for what we have. Life will always keep moving. Our to-do list will always be there. But life is much to short to miss a beautiful sunset or a warm healing hug. Be with those you love and be present with them as much as you can. Everything else can wait.

Seeing Luna’s eyes light up at something as simple as a puppet makes me realize how much I take for granted. I have the privilege and blessing of seeing her explore the world and grow (much too quickly!) right before my very eyes.

It is a beautiful gift. And I don’t want to miss a single moment.

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5 thoughts on “The Joy of Living in the Present

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