This post was originally created on 1/30/2020
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The idea of being a present mom seems like a no brainer…until you become a mom!
Then it becomes distraction after distraction! If you are anything like me, it can be hard to be engaged in play and family time when your mind is constantly thinking of the next thing to do. Unless you are a mom, it can hard to understand how an intense game of Lego building with your toddler may not seem as engaging of an activity when you’re also trying to plan dinners, carpools, chores, social engagements, and self care! When your mind is bogged down with the next thing to do, anyone would have a hard time being present.
According to a study done by Farm Rich, the number 1 characteristic that parents said would make them feel like a good parent was being more present. With life becoming more busy, and life commanding our attention more and more, being present is a struggle for anyone! Here are 3 things I have done to help me be a more present mom.
1- Chill out on your social media presence (at least for a little bit)
Have you ever looked at how much screen time you actually have in the day?
I remember one day when I was home in the summer with my son, and I opened up my phone to a notification from the Apple Screen Time app…I almost fell over when I saw how much screen time I had that week….
My screen time averaged FOUR HOURS A DAY!!!!!
“surely that is NOT accurate”. But seeing how much time I spent on my phone made me painfully aware that my phone was not lying. I was spending almost 4 whole hours a day scrolling through the same Facebook posts I already read 24 times that day.
The other sobering thought that came to me was, “that was 4 hours I could have spent with my son”. That was the thought that changed the way I view my phone.
So I began to make it a point that at varying times of the day, I put my phone away. Now I am not tempted to hide in my phone as a coping mechanism to destress from the day.
How can you lessen your screen time without going back to the stone age?
For my iPhone users, did you know you can set screen time limits on your phone? If you feel like you need additional help being away from your screen, this may be the solution for you!
for Apple users, just go into your settings, scroll down to “Screen Time”, then scroll down to the other options:
“Downtime” allows you to set a time of the day when you want your apps to be temporarily closed. For example, if you want to ensure that you (or your kids for that matter) are not on their phones for dinner time, then set your Downtime limits for whenever you usually eat dinner.
You can also set app limits and communication limits as well! They basically work like Downtime does, but it’s more specific. This would be great if you only want to limit social media or group chats.
2- Make gratitude a daily practice
Hearing some stranger on the internet tell you to “be grateful” can feel so invalidating! Yet here am I, a stranger on the internet telling you the value of gratitude!
I get it though, it can be incredibly hard to feel grateful when your life is overwhelming. Oftentimes when we are feeling distracted and not present, it is because of an external factor outside of our control. Those external factors, most of the time, are not very happy ones. When you allow yourself to stay more present on the negative external factors, you miss out on the positive right in front of you. This is why the difficult art of gratitude is something we can all benefit from.
Gratitude is so simple, right?
Sure, it should be…until you have to actually deal with life!
I completely understand that finding something to be grateful is hard for when your house looks like “Dawn of the Dead,” your children are climbing on you, your spouse forgot to clean the dishes, and you haven’t had two seconds to do anything for yourself since…well, ever.
When you put it like that, of COURSE anyone would find it completely invalidating when someone like me says “be grateful.”
But hear me out, gratitude doesn’t nullify the real struggles of life. I can’t even begin to imagine the struggles you might be dealing with that make you feel like you’re not a present mom. If something is distracting your mind to the point where you don’t feel present, then obviously it must be difficult to deal with. When we allow our mind to live in that struggle, day in and day out, we open up the door for us to be bitter. Bitterness is always a recipe for disaster.
When you cook, the solution for a bitter recipe is adding in something sweet. The Bible says in Romans to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Scientists say that when we practice gratitude, our body produces feel-good chemicals (such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin), which all contribute to the feeling of closeness and connection. But how do we transform our mind from dwelling on the bad to dwelling on what is good?
Gratitude made simple
Incorporating gratitude into your day when you’re already distracted by everything else can be hard, but honestly it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it may only require a couple minutes out of your day!
Gratitude journals are a wonderful tool to help you jog your brain. When we feel distracted and not present, it can be hard to think of things we’re grateful for. Gratitude journals will give you prompts that help jog your memory.
Another easy way to incorporate gratitude into your day is to make it a family activity! While sitting around the dinner table (or wherever your family gathers) have everyone list one thing they were grateful for that day. Don’t worry if you or your family struggle to think of anything the first time you try this. Gratitude is tough for anyone to practice, and they may not have an answer right away. What matters is they’re thinking about it, and that alone can be powerful.
3- Stop guilt tripping yourself
There have been moments in my motherhood journey where I’ve intentionally put my phone aside, ignored other distractions, and made it a point to be completely present with my family. For about 10 seconds I felt great, and then…
Immediately I’d go back and remember all the times I wasn’t present, and I’d feel horrible. Naturally, it would put a huge damper on the current moment when that evil little voice in the back of my head reminds me of all the times I paid more attention to my phone than my child.
Mom guilt is such a beast, and it can put a huge damper on those incredible moments with our families. When you spend more time remembering all the times you weren’t enough, you’ll never pay attention to the times that you were.
So how do we stop guilt tripping ourselves? By validating how we feel, and forgiving ourselves.
Guilt in general is that feeling you get in your gut that says, “I did something wrong.” That feeling is natural. In fact, some would argue that you should be more worried when you don’t feel guilt than when you do. But when you put way too much focus on your guilt, you run the risk of turning it into shame.
Shame, on the other hand, is that feeling you get in your gut that says, “I am wrong.” Shame changes the narrative so that it’s no longer about your actions, but about who you are. Anyone can change their actions, but it’s much harder to change your whole self. This is why it is so important that we stop guilt tripping, so that we don’t fall down the rabbit hole of shaming ourselves.
Next time you hear that little voice reminding yourself of all those times you weren’t enough, here’s what I want you to do:
- Validate how you feel. For example, tell yourself “I’m feeling really guilty about ___________. It’s ok that I feel guilty right now. That doesn’t make me a bad person, or a bad mom. It makes me a person, and that’s ok.”
- Forgive yourself. If you’re not sure what that may sound like, try this: “I forgive myself for those times that I fell short of my personal expectations. I am a human being, and humans make mistakes.”
From overwhelmed to more present parenting
The feeling of not being present can feel overwhelming for many parents. If you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed by those feelings, sign up for the “Calm Down Checklist for the Overwhelmed Mom.” This is a totally free checklist designed for all those times when you are feeling totally overwhelmed and you need to find some calm and find it quick! Feel free to sign up below for a totally free copy.
Emily is the voice behind The Overcoming Mom. This music teacher turned stay at home mom has made it her mission to give moms practical and Biblical solutions for overcoming what overwhelms them. After a long battle with postpartum depression, she has learned many tips and solutions along the way to help moms through the tough realities of motherhood. She shares her life with her husband, son, and two cats.