I hear it constantly: “It goes by so fast.”
“Babies don’t keep.”
“You’ll blink and she’ll be in college.”
“I would do anything to hold my kids when they were babies again.”
“I regret being too busy when my kids were babies.”
Quite honestly, I find these statements terrifying. I know how quickly it goes. I remember like it was yesterday hearing my oldest niece’s husky cry minutes after she was born. She’ll be picking out colleges this year. The little nephew I used to nanny is a sophomore in high school now and a million miles tall. Kids I used to babysit are married now. Former campers have their own babies.
I realize I’ve only been a mother for seven months, but I felt like I needed to learn to enjoy her now before her babyhood slipped past me. So, how do I slow down and soak it all in while balancing the constant tasks that life on the road and renovating an RV require? Here are three ways I try to stay present in the middle of a busy life.
1. Put the phone down
There’s a tightrope you have to walk when you’re a stay-at-home mom. Social media gives you a (sometimes false) sense of connectedness to the outside world. There’s a sense that if you aren’t constantly staying in touch with others that you’re going to drown in loneliness. But the more time I spend staring at my screen, the more time with my baby slips through my fingers and I instantly think of that scene in Hook when Peter’s wife throws his cell phone out the window and chides him for ignoring his children to focus on business. “You are missing it.”
I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be a distracted mom, pouring my mental energy out into something meaningless. I want to be mentally present with my baby. I want to soak up her little wrist rolls and half giggles, not debating politics on Facebook or drooling over someone else’s house on Instagram.
2. Save the chores for bedtime/nap time.
I realize some chores are better saved for when baby’s awake because it’s noisy and putting baby down takes work (I’m currently paused half-way through making baby food. The next step requires putting tiny steamed beet pieces in a blender and I’m not about to ruin this nap with all that racket). And emergencies come up. You have to do that whatever-it-is right now for your husband who is busy at work and the baby is crying. I realize sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the thing now. But if there’s a choice between doing the dishes now while my baby is giggling at something inane or doing it while she’s asleep, I want to wait until she’s asleep. I want her to know, “I’m here for you. I want to laugh with you NOW. I want to hold you NOW while you’re crying from teething pain. I want to see you as a gift from God to soak in and enjoy, not some bother I have to deal with. You are so loved.”
Motherhood has forced me to deal with my perfectionism. I have a choice to make: do I want my (tiny) home to be picture perfect all the time at the expense of spending meaningful time with my child, or do I accept a bit of chaos and soak in the moment? I’m learning to accept a little chaos. (Not too much chaos or I really will lose my mind! Hear me on this: I also want to set a good example to my daughter of responsibility and hard work. But balance, people, balance!)
3. Enjoy the enjoyable.
What’s that feeling you’re feeling? Is it joy? Joy from watching your spouse and your baby play and laugh together? Soak in the joy. Enjoy the joy! Put off the mental load and the “what do I need to do next?” list for later. It’ll still be there after this moment is gone.
Is it love? Is your little one trying to give you a slobbery wet kiss on the cheek to give affection? Does your toddler want to cuddle? Soak in this love. Receive this love as love from God. Don’t rush off to the next task. Be mindful of these fleeting moments. Stop and soak them in. Let your gratitude to God for these moments wash over your soul. They will be food for when times are hard and tempers run thin and the to-do list seems endless.
Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. I have a feeling being a working mom is even harder. All the more reason to slow down and enjoy.
Life is too short to miss the gifts at the expense of the unimportant.