How do I become more productive at work and more present at home? It’s the quintessential question of work-life balance. And the answer is simple, yet definitely not EASY. While there is no magic formula, the sure way to do focused work and be fully present with your family is mindfulness.
I found this definition online for mindfulness that I really like:
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy and mumbling “ain’t nobody got time for dat.” And I get it. Pausing, slowing down, and embracing the moment is way outside our mommy comfort zone. Would you humor me and read as I go through the definition and break it apart for understanding? Here we go!
Mindfulness is a state of mind. ~
Thankfully, mindfulness doesn’t require a super power. However, if we are truly serious about being present, intentional, and conscious as a parent, I truly recommend cultivating a mindful mental attitude. It doesn’t really need to take a lot of time… 5 minutes can make a difference. Here are some ideas:
- Tune into the sounds, smells, and sights around you; engage all your senses.
- Take a time to breathe and feel grateful as you notice your effortless breaths.
- Enjoy the silence and stillness and become aware of your thoughts, visualizing scenes in which you’re living your Top 5 Passions.
[Tweet “Feeling drained, depressed, and depleted? Take a 5-minute vacation! #motivationformoms”]
When I was a single mom and was juggling a full time job and two toddlers, I used to do this for 5 minutes when they both *finally* fell asleep. I used to call it my “5 minute vacation” because most of the time, I visualized being in my hometown with my dad, with my family, enjoying the island life. It sure re-energized me even when I was feeling drained, depressed, and depleted before I did it. Have you ever done anything like this?
Mindfulness is achieved by focusing. ~
I used to be so proud about my ability to multi-task… and t hat was truly an illusion. When I do one thing at a time (I call it mono-task), I am able to be more effective, whether I am working or having dinner with my family. Who am I kidding? When I bring the phone and the laptop – or even two laptops! – to the table, I’m not really engaging in meaningful interaction with my family, and when I’m writing and stop at every “look, mami!” or each “hey, mom!” I hear (and I hear those words, a lot!), I’m not really writing groundbreaking content… or not as it could be. No one is capable of multitasking successfully. Yep, I did say “no one,” and I mean it, too
[Tweet “No one can multi-task successfully, learn to #monotask and be present. #motivationformoms”]
My family is out shopping while I write this, and I am so excited about that. I wanted to publish this post earlier today and I just knew it would be a lot better if I was home alone. I enjoy my alone time a lot – it provides me with much needed serenity.
Mindfulness is about “one’s awareness.” ~
Here’s the trick. I am not able to be mindful for anyone and no one is able to be mindful for me. It requires my mind. I can delegate organizing books (which I finally did this week) or going to the store (which I do every week – thank you, Taylor Bare), but I can never delegate mindfulness. Do you know what that means? Yeah, you do. I make myself do it. Not that it’s boring or anything, in fact, it’s amazing… Doing amazing things for myself just doesn’t come natural. Yet, I know it’s in everyone’s best interest that I take care of myself, that I slow down, that I gain awareness of each step I’m taking, and that I am deliberate in what I do and say. I find that I get more hugs, enjoy them more, and give better ones, too. Win-win.
Mindfulness happens in the present moment. ~
This one is probably the hardest and the best fact ever all into one. Many of the adults I grew up around were mostly dwelling on their pasts or worrying about their future. These are two practices that became very annoying for me at a young age and that I’ve had to learn to be more tolerant of… or maybe I should say “compassionate.” I believe we create our lives with our choices and, if that’s true, then we must own the past and do what is in our control to create a better future. Moment by moment, and day by day.
[Tweet “Learn from the past, even if it hurts! #motivationformoms”]
There’s this moment in The Lion King that is probably my favorite (because it involves Rafiki AKA my boyfriend lol):
Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Simba: Ow! What was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past. [laughs]
Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it. [swings his stick again at Simba, who ducks out of the way]
Rafiki: Ha. You see? So what are you going to do?
I love that scene because it’s so deep and yet so simple. It’s easier said than done, but I know it is possible. There are issues from my childhood and some recent events involving my in-laws that I’m still working through. The point is, really, that we’re going to get hurt, disrespected, dismissed, wrongly accused, abused, and discriminated against, and that doesn’t need to prevent us from enjoying our life NOW, TODAY.
[Tweet “Don’t waste your NOW worrying about the future. #motivationformoms”]
The future, well, I have a feeling it will work itself out. I have some cloth diapers I need to wash and I don’t think I’ll get around it tonight, so they will still be dirty tomorrow. If I’m alive, I’ll do the laundry. Seriously, I’d rather enjoy tonight than worry about it.
Mindfulness happens when you are calm. ~
I don’t know about you, but I need my peace and calm. When I’m feel rushed, pressured, or pulled to do something, I go insane. I’m such a better mom when things are quiet, and by quiet I mean there aren’t any OTHER noises adding to the craziness of life with kids.
And what about things that constantly scream at you?
Is it just me? I hear dishes and laundry saying “wash me,” and books yelling “organize me,” as well as furniture begging “dust me“… and the list goes on. I have learned to calm the voices in my head, too. It can wait. I love a clean house and a clean everything, and I do get around to cleaning up the mess… just not at my sanity’s expense… or of my kids’ happiness.
Being calm takes a pause. And for me, a silent prayer. Or a few.
Mindfulness requires personal responsibility. ~
This business of acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations is not an easy process. A typical conversation in my past went like this:
Are you mad?
No I’m not.
Is there something wrong?
No, there isn’t.
Are you okay?
Yes, I’m fine!
Translation: “yes, I’m mad. There is A LOT wrong, and no, I’m not okay and I’m not fine, and you should know that, and you should know why, and you should apologize, and fix it without asking all these inconsiderate questions.”
Well, these days, I’m owning it. And it isn’t easy to let your not-so-pretty-side out, especially because most of the time you’re really vulnerable and you notice things don’t really make all the logical sense you thought they did. Your words just don’t sound as intelligent as they sounded in your head.
However, I feel so much better after I get it out. It helps the people in my life to know the real minutes of the committee meeting in my head, too. And I’m able to move on and feel empowered. Personal responsibility is empowerment.
[Tweet “Personal responsibility is the secret to empowerment. #motivationformoms”]
Mindfulness is therapy. ~
The definition I found says that mindfulness is “used as a therapeutic technique.” I don’t know how, really, and I don’t particularly subscribe to counseling. What I know to be true for me is that healing happens when I decide to heal and work and work through steps to make it happen.
Can I do it alone? Yes.
Do I have to? No.
I love having a mentor, a trusted friend, or church leader that is available when I need guidance, support, and the occasional hack. I also believe in feeding my mind and my spirit with quality nourishment so I can be better equipped to go the journey.
I realize I’ve written a lot, and I feel so much better when I am able to be productive without distractions. When my family comes home, I can truly enjoy them.
I can be there for my children.
I can really listen and understand how each of them is feeling.
I can ask what they are thinking and observe their body language and cues.
I can offer love, support, and encouragement… and deliver on the promise.
I can turn the laptop off and hug and be hugged.
I can focus on my family and be aware of how I’m responding and how we’re connecting. Connection is, after all, my #1 Top Passion Top Passion.
And in this process, I understand that mind will often wander and want to do its own thing, and that just means that i’ll need to bring it back to the present moment, to what is happening right now, right here. That’s the only thing that is true.
It’s your turn now. I have spilled so many thoughts of my own and now I want to hear yours. How do you feel about mindfulness? Are you practicing or willing to practice mindful parenting? Please do share!