As a stay-at-home mom, I yearn for tangible accomplishments to feel like I have something to show for my day. Because I can’t seem to accomplish anything big in this season at home with young children, I use every window I can find to accomplish something small.
I tell my toddler over and again “just one more minute” so I can shift one more piece of mail off the counter, clean one more dish, file one more email, or respond to one more text. This tactic gets things done in small doses throughout the day and gives me a fleeting high of achievement.
But this multi-tasking has trained my brain to be incapable of sticking with anything for very long – a conversation, an activity with my kids, a household task – without my mind wandering or seeking the next checkbox or smartphone distraction.
And it ultimately steals the joy from both the sense of accomplishment and the precious time with my children. Feelings of frustration, resentment and defeat are soon to follow.
The antidote is mindfulness: living in the present and paying attention to your five senses in your daily activities.
My toddler is showing me the ropes.
This spring, when we were begrudgingly going about the task of pulling weeds, he admired each one before he excitedly helped us pull it. He delighted at the bloom of every flower in our yard, running from one to the next to announce its arrival and literally stopping to smell the roses.
On a rainy day, I decided to forego another episode of Daniel Tiger and a mindless smartphone scroll so we could eat our afternoon snack on the floor in front of the French door windows. A game of I Spy challenged me to call out and appreciate the green leaves, falling raindrops, skittering squirrels, purple blooms, and tweeting birds that were previously just background noise.
When he hears an airplane, he tilts his head toward the sky and excitedly asks me to find it. I stop what I’m doing to either locate the plane with him or find the words to explain a concept I take for granted: we can hear it but not see it because it is flying behind the clouds. I can see the gears turning in his fledgling brain as he grasps how this works.
Now, even when I’m not with him, I breathe deeper when passing by a blooming tree, I listen to the pouring rain, and I look up whenever I hear an airplane overhead.
Being mindful in these moments and separating play and work helps me to more fully appreciate both. It also brings out my creativity: I can create some wicked Duplo towers and shadow puppets when I allow my mind to focus on one thing for a change.
As I begin to “single-task,” I find a little more peace in my soul, clarity in my thoughts, and depth in my interactions.
This doesn’t always fill my craving for tangible results, but I know I’m building into two growing minds and taking a moment to feel a little more whole myself.