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Are you occasionally guilty of brushing off your kids while mindlessly scrolling Facebook? Or yelling at them when they’re underfoot while you’re trying to get dinner on the table? Do you sometimes feel entirely overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands of your kids?
It’s hard being a mom. You have a ton of responsibilities, all of which add up to MORE than a full-time job. And some of you even HAVE a full-time job on top of it all!
So it’s really easy to be distracted when all of these amazing moments and experiences of parenting are happening.
There have certainly been times throughout my journey where I go through the motions of motherhood, constantly putting out the fires of temper tantrums and sibling squabbles, distracted and disengaged. The role that once fulfilled me and gave me joy sometimes starts to feel like an overwhelming obligation that I can’t keep up with.
But, over time, I’ve learned to rein it in when I start to feel disconnected, and I’m more easily able to shift my attention to where I am.
And I want the same for you.
If you’d like to be more present with your kids, there are a few habits and practices that you can implement to help bring your full attention to what’s in front of you.
What is “Present Parenting”?
Present parenting involves making a conscious effort to be physically and emotionally available to your children when you’re together. It means having a willingness to connect with them AND being fully engaged during the quality time you spend together.
Being present in this way shows your children that they are loved and valued. It shows them that they matter to you.
It’s a fairly simple concept, but it can be super challenging to put into practice.
In today’s world, moms are pulled in a million different directions. We take it upon ourselves to be all the things to all the people, and juggling all of our various roles can come at the expense of our relationships with our kids and our spouses.
What makes it challenging is also one of the biggest reasons we need to practice present parenting.
Those million different directions, while they probably don’t cause you to neglect your children outright, do occasionally cause you to not always be “there” when you’re there. And your kids need you to be where your feet are.
Being a present mom is so valuable because we’re modeling for our children how to treat others when they’re together. If we want them to respect others’ time and be good listeners, we need to show them how it’s done.
Benefits of Being Present
The benefits are many. When we’re present, involved, and engaged with our children, they are healthier, get better grades, and have better social and communication skills.
Our families are happier and have solid relationships and strong communication abilities. Our children feel safe and valued.
Your kids become joyful and fulfilled simply from having your attention.
How to Be A More Present Mom
When I get into those cycles where I feel disengaged and distracted, guilty at the end of the day because I spent too much time in the task-oriented side of my brain, I step back and refocus my attention where it matters most – on my kids. Here are some ways to do this.
#1 – Wake Up Before Your Kids
Spend some time with yourself and for yourself. Get up before your kids and prepare yourself for the day.
You can do something you love or you can get a head start on some chores. Either way, it’s so nice to do it in peace, and it gets you in the right frame of mind before you’re launched into the madness of a day with kids.
My mornings involve a 5:00 a.m. alarm, a shower, and hot coffee in the peace and quiet before everyone gets up. While I have my coffee, I usually read or write. I prefer to take this quiet time for myself instead of using it to do housework.
If you’re a mom with a baby who keeps you up all night, I know that this may not seem like a possibility, and that’s fine. At the very least, you can try to stay in bed for a few minutes to read, pray, or meditate.
When your kids wake up, you’ll be more clear-headed and able to be present with them.
#2 – Take Care of Yourself First
Put on your own oxygen mask before you help your kids get theirs on. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy food, and moving your body.
I like yoga because it’s super effective at bringing about peace and mindfulness – plus the kids can do it with me!
If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be equipped to take care of your kids. A tired, poorly fueled mom is a cranky mom. And a cranky mom often doesn’t want to be engaged – it’s so much easier to zone out on the couch with the phone.
A mom who does practice proper self-care will find it easier to be present.
#3 – Put Your Kids to Bed Early
Even if you’re exhausted at the end of their day and want to get straight into bed, try to create some sort of calming nighttime routine after your kids are in bed.
My kids go up to bed at 8:00 p.m., but the bedtime routine is still such a process that it’s not usually over until 9-ish, and then I’m DONE and ready for bed. My nighttime routine involves nothing more than getting ready for bed and then reading for a while. It’s still a winding-down, calming practice, so it’s enough.
Just like waking up before your kids, putting them to bed early creates a peaceful, calming end to your days, and, in my experience, feeling calm leads to a greater ability to be present.
#4 – Put Away Your Phone
This is the most obvious tip on the list, but it’s probably the most effective as well. Technology, especially social media, sucks us into its world and detaches us from the people around us.
I’ve noticed that when I’m interrupted in the middle of using technology, I’m much grumpier than I am if I’m interrupted while reading a book or doing a chore.
Also, when your child is trying to communicate with you, and you’re looking down at your phone, it sends him the message that whatever is on the phone is more important than him. If this happens continuously, your relationship will suffer.
The best way that I’ve found to make this easier on me is to schedule a few hours of phone-free time during my day. If it’s a struggle for you, start with just an hour per day. And put the phone in another room if possible. For me, grabbing it has become such a habit that I need it out of my reach entirely!
Besides scheduling phone-free time, there are other things you can do to reduce your phone time. Stop using your phone as an alarm clock. Charge it in another room so it’s out of sight. Find what works best for you – just make up some rules that make you phone-free.
It’s not enough just to be around your kids. You have to actually be there to be present.
#5 – Look for the Good
Boost your kids’ self-esteem and confidence by catching them doing kind things. Pay them compliments about who they are. This lets them know that you’re paying attention and noticing their accomplishments.
When big brother helps little sister clean up or get a book from a high shelf, compliment him. When your child helps another get a glass of water or a snack, pay a compliment. When your kids help you unload the dishwasher or fill the dog’s water bowl, give them some positive, affirming words.
You can also just take the time to tell them you love them and are grateful to have them in your life.
By noticing the positive actions and good behaviors of your children, you’re being present.
#6 – Adjust Your Expectations
When I’m most overwhelmed by day-to-day mom life, it’s usually when I feel like I’m not getting enough done or checking enough items off of my to-do list. When I’m constantly interrupted when I’m doing the tasks that I feel like I need to complete that day, I get irritated.
I’m learning to lower my productivity expectations. I put less on my to-do list by creating a “top 3” for every day. I’ve learned that productivity can be a nap, a snuggle on the couch, or playing four-square in the driveway with the kids.
When your expectation of how your day is supposed to go becomes more important than being present, you miss a thousand tiny little chances for connection throughout each day. If you can give up or lower your expectations, you’ll find joy in the small, insignificant moments.
Being a present mom is productive.
#7 – Be Intentional With Your Time
When you’re planning out your week, be sure to add in some family time. During this time, make it your mission to be fully present.
Eat dinner together. Connect by sharing the best or funniest things about your day. Have a weekly board game night, and order pizza so that you’re not too tired after cooking to play. Start a monthly family outing to the zoo, a special playground, or a children’s museum.
You’ll be showing your family that you care because you’re prioritizing them rather than fitting them in last, after you’ve done everything else that you think you NEED to do during the week.
A present mom takes control of her schedule, designing her life around her family.
#8 – Remember That Your Time With Them is Short
I hate to say it, but your kids won’t always need you. They’ll likely even go through a phase where they don’t even want to be around you.
When you look back on how you spent the years that they did need and want you, you will never regret spending more time with your children.
Getting myself into this mindset usually makes me a bit teary, but it’s effective at reminding me to spend some quality time with those kiddos!
#9 – Make Some Time for Fun Every Day
I see all kinds of recommendations out there to spend daily one-on-one time with each of your children. To me, this feels overwhelming, and I simply can’t make it happen with four kids – I’m sure a lot of you feel that way too.
What I can do every day, and what doesn’t overwhelm me, is to make time for fun. Yes, EVERY day.
It doesn’t have to be some fancy, expensive, completely planned outing – it can be as simple as an impromptu playground trip, some sidewalk chalk in the driveway, or a board game.
This simple commitment will do wonders for your children’s happiness and behavior, and it will help create a strong bond that will last forever.
#10 – Be Where You Are
This is pretty much a literal translation of “be present,” but I’ve found it to be a good mantra when I’m struggling with staying in the now. Pay attention to your thoughts – when you start to worry about the past or be afraid of the future, remind yourself to be where you are.
You can’t do anything to change the past. And the only way you can change the future is by the actions you take NOW. So focus on those actions that you can take now, and practice keeping your mind where your body is.
#11 – Model Positive Behavior
In the beginning, you are your child’s entire world. Eventually their worlds expand to include other family members, friends, interests, etc., but you are still the source of so many things.
This means that they are watching you and the way you interact with the world around you in order to figure out what they’re supposed to do.
What behaviors and mindsets do you want to pass onto them? What bad habits would you prefer that they didn’t pick up?
Model behaviors that you want them to practice. Explain your emotions to your children so that they learn how to express their own emotions. Make time for things that you love to show them that it’s okay to take breaks to do fun things. Show kindness to others so that they pick up on that, too.
Being present allows you to teach presence.
#12 – Remember That Every Moment is A Gift
THIS moment, right now, is a gift. It may not feel like it. Maybe you have a colicky baby or a screaming toddler or a hormonal tween, and it all feels difficult.
But these moments are still better than not having them at all, right?
Being a mom isn’t only about the big events in life – births, birthdays, holidays, graduations… It’s about the small, seemingly insignificant moments in between. These are the real-life moments that make up a life.
Folding their tiny clothes, and marveling as the clothes get bigger. Reveling in the quiet of the early morning before they wake up. Taking away their tablets because their attitudes have been terrible.
It’s all part of the job, and it’s all a gift. Learn to appreciate moments for what they are, not what you wish they were.
Be grateful for the time that you have with them, which is NOW.
If your life is anything like mine, it’s full of distractions, which will provide you with plenty of opportunities to practice these tips.
We need to model the behaviors that we want instilled in our children – if we want them to be present in their own lives, we need to be that kind of parent to them.
There’s also a lot you can learn just by watching your kids, as children, unlike adults, are almost always present in what they’re doing.
Present parenting is not easy, but it’s so so worth it. Years from now, you’ll be grateful for all of the time and effort you poured into your beautiful babies. They grow up too fast – create connections that will last forever!
What’s the first tip you’re going to try in becoming a more present parent? Let me know in the comments!