Mindful parenting is cherishing ordinary moments.
By choosing to be present in them.
No matter how mundane they are.
Bringing your full attention to the present moment, what is it like?
Imagine watching your baby independently play in your living room floor.
While looking at this ordinary scene, you notice that she's able to place a toy inside a basket, a skill she didn't have yesterday.
Seeing her new ability makes you feel joy. Then, you notice feeling joy. Being present in the moment is precisely this.
Another example: imagine your toddler going through big emotions, disappointed by his best friend not being able to stay overnight.
You've had a quite few big emotion moments for the past couple of months. The outrage is likely to ruin the entire evening for your family. It's easy to lose your calm and react to your son for fussing over something that, to you, is "no big deal".
Instead of worrying about the immediate future, you choose to be present in the moment.
You watch your son with curiosity, noticing the emotional cues he's transmitting.
You hold him in your arms and say "I see how disappointed you are."
You then notice your own thoughts and emotions. You watch them come, reveal themselves and go.
You know very clearly that your emotions do not define you, and his emotions do not define him.
This scene feels hard to achieve, right? Most of the time, being present in parenthood moments is easier said than done.
Let's discover some obstacles that stand in our way to being fully present as a parent.
1) Messy future
Being present in the moment with your child requires that you do not worry about a possible mess that's going to be produced in the very near future.
An example: imagine inviting your toddler to play alongside you while you clean your backyard.
The soil that's still wet from this morning's rain creates a mess. His arms are covered with mud and his clothes are already very dirty.
But you also realize that those moments are the exact moments he has spotted a worm for the first time. He carefully placed it over the wall and watched it crawl away. And you watched him as this happened.
Thousands of moments like these are easily lost without even being given a chance to happen in the first place.
What a loss. Because when they do happen, they redefine the parent-child relationship in a magical way. And after all, a shower and a full laundry basket is a small fee to pay in return.
2) Too much to-do
Multi-tasking is the enemy of mindful parenting.
Our highly complex world is filled with hefty to-do lists. Without multi-tasking skills, it is particularly hard to get through the day either as working parents or stay-at-home ones.
Constantly focusing on what needs to be done detaches us from living in the present moment.
Parenting is a full time job. But we also hold other full time jobs in life. After too many daily responsibilities we end up looking forward to the end of "tasks" involving our children as well.
An example: After a busy day it's finally bed time for the kids. You are caught up in the idea that the day is almost finished.
You cannot help but think: after they have a bath and after they go to bed and after they go to sleep, you will finally have some free time.
Having a quiet evening is important. But the aspiration of a quiet evening during bath and bed time makes us fast forward the whole relational experience, turning it into a chore. Precious opportunities to connect with our children are missed.
3) Electronic escapes
Our lives are surrounded, if not governed, by electronic devices. The top of the electronic device list belongs to our smart phone.
Sometimes, as we bear through a long feeding session with our baby, it becomes tempting to connect with the external world. Perhaps this is an opportunity to escape into other people's lives, opinions or problems.
I remember reading in an article that having a smartphone (especially with social media in it) is like having access to a slot machine 24/7. Escaping into the infinite content stream multiple times a day is like pulling the handle over and over again.
The challenges of parenting is seemingly alleviated by this readily available satisfaction machine.
We finally lift our heads only when we feel overwhelmed by the rush of satisfaction. In the mean time, sensations of feeding a baby in our arms are left unnoticed.
4) Milestones to meet
Most parents get anxious about the milestones their children are supposed to catch.
A lingering worry that they might be lagging behind in terms of physical development, social skills or school performance pushes our minds to a far future. This pessimistic future may never arrive. According to research, our worries rarely become reality.
What happens instead, is we miss a very special moment our kid tasted a sour apple for the first time and spitted it out with a hilarious face, while we were busy worrying that she never eats enough fruit.
There are thousands of moments in a day. We are blessed with a new moment every time we miss one. If we get to catch even a single moment, I call it a win.