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A Therapist Shares Why Being Mindful and Present in Motherhood Can Be Challenging

If you struggle to stay present and engaged in the presence of your children, you certainly aren’t alone. A therapist shares more on this topic below.

Motherhood is challenging; by now, we all tend to agree. Though the challenges of motherhood are universal, the specific obstacles we face may differ and come to awareness at different times on this journey.

The truth is there isn’t a period of parenting that is the “hardest.” The “hard” manifests and shows itself differently in different seasons.

To the mom battling sleep deprivation and regulating her milk supply, that is hard! And don’t tell her otherwise.

The mom who’s consoling her teenage daughter after a breakup, that role is challenging too!

The challenges of mindfulness in motherhood

One of the challenges I have been grappling with recently, and I know it is a standard test for other mothers, is being present. It may be that you can relate.

Perhaps you recognize yourself elbows deep in chores and answering your child’s questions without listening. Your child is describing a game she played at school, and 17 minutes later, you have entirely lost the story’s premise and are making a mental grocery list.

Your son asks to play with farm animals, and you don’t feel enthralled by the idea of pretending to be a pig, so you put it off by suggesting you join the farm shortly. Many a mother before me stated things like, “You will miss those moments one day” or “Soon you won’t need to get them dressed or hold their hand.”

Now it feels as though those statements hold. I have found myself looking at photos of my children as infants and wondering, “Was I present in that moment; did I take it all in and enjoy those moments enough?”.

Why is it so tough to be present as a mom?

Why is being present a struggle? Is it unique to motherhood, or has our difficulty being present only been exasperated in motherhood?

Being focused and engaged in the here and now without being distracted or absent in a society that glorifies busyness feels perplexing.

We are constantly around visual or auditory distractions, and the more roles we play (mother, wife, employee, colleague, home keeper, etc.), the more responsibilities that require mental and physical attention.

So, there is more “stuff” taking up our time.

Let’s turn our attention inwards and look at emotions or psychological experiences such as anxiety, stress, depression, fear, guilt, or shame. These, too, can take up a considerable slice of our attention pizza.

If you have ever experienced a pervasive troubling emotion, you will know how hard it is to focus on anything else when grappling with that. Motherhood is a collective experience of a multitude of emotions all wrapped together.

As mothers to young children, our responsibility extends from ourselves to another human. To love unconditionally means to be concerned for their well-being too. The mind is now consumed with our past, present, and future experiences and that of our children.

Can we be present and attentive to our children 24/7? I would argue not. There are responsibilities to be prioritized and our needs met as moms. The anxiety and stress of dropping all our children’s tasks may be counterproductive.

The bills need to be paid, and the meals need to be cooked, but can we plan our days better to make room for more engaged and present moments with our kids?

How to become more present in motherhood

  1. Get to know yourself (and your emotions)
  2. Carve out distraction-free time
  3. Focus on mono-tasking (not multi-tasking!)
  4. Regain control of your thoughts
  5. Create family traditions
  6. Practice meditation and mindful breathing

1. Get to know yourself better

If finding it challenging to be present in motherhood resonates with you, one of the first things we can do is: take the time to get to know ourselves better. Identifying some of our patterns and how we deal with distraction.

Identifying our emotions and which ones we are comfortable with and which we try to avoid. The better we understand ourselves, the more likely we are to make changes.

Take the time to acknowledge moments when you identify you are not being present and those moments you observe that you are being present. How do these moments feel?

2. Carve out “present time”

We can begin by implementing practical strategies to carve out “present” time with our children. Maybe that looks like putting away our phones for an allotted time in the day or removing other distractions for a short period where we can focus on the here and now.

Taking 30 minutes to play the game or having a conversation distraction-free will likely feel more connected for you and your child than two hours of repeatedly distracted engagement.  

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3. Focus on mono-tasking

Frustration and overwhelm are frequent when we feel unable to complete a task or are disrupted repeatedly trying to multitask.

Sometimes mono-tasking can be helpful. We are trying to focus and complete one task before tackling the next.

4. Regain control of your thoughts

Being more present doesn’t mean turning the “noise” off. It does not mean ignoring the thoughts of the past or future but trying to manage when we focus on them. While spending time with our children, we could find ourselves lost in our thoughts or working through our mental to-do lists. That’s okay!

However, it is an excellent opportunity to take some control over our thoughts and acknowledge them but choose not to give them any more attention until you have finished the interaction. Journaling can be a great way to collate some of those thoughts.

5. Create family traditions

Creating family traditions can be another way to bring more concerted effort to being more present. This looks different to different families but essentially blocks out time for a family activity in which you make an effort to prioritize full engagement.

Whether this is pizza and games night or maybe baking or craft activities on a Thursday afternoon, it could be a family walk on a Sunday. The whole family knows this is when all other responsibilities are paused during the activity.

6. Practice meditation and mindful breathing

Lastly, meditation and mindful breathing, though they might feel intimidating, can be an excellent opportunities to practice being more present. This can be five minutes during the day to recollect and self-soothe, or for some; the practice could be a more significant part of your daily schedule.

Final thoughts on mindfulness in motherhood

Being present isn’t a task we do once and then it is done. It is something to practice one step at a time. I think remembering to be present is the most challenging part of trying to be more present.

Hopefully, mindfulness and a concerted effort to be more present is something you practice and share with your children. Depending on their ages, this would look different, but some fun exercises, such as encouraging to massage their own hands and bringing awareness to the physical sensations they feel through their palms and fingers.

Another fun, child-friendly mindfulness activity could be placing a raisin in their mouths and encouraging them to identify what it feels like using all their senses.

No matter how you decide to increase your mindfulness in motherhood, know that every effort counts and makes a difference.

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