I was so excited to share a post with you all today about taking care of yourself in the new year without focusing on changing your body (yes, it is possible!).
But Jack got sick, Leigh quickly followed and I had no time to get anything done. (#momlife, right?)
Given the amount of time I spent snuggling sick toddlers the last couple of days, it really took me back to the early stages of parenthood. It reminded me of this post I shared almost a year-and-a-half ago on my blog.
As I re-read this post with a sick child laying in my lap, I once again have to remind myself how important it is to be present with our children, as this is really all they need from us. So I am going to take my own advice, close my laptop, snuggle up with my kids and hopefully will be back next week with the post I intended.
My Vow to Always be Present with My Children
The other night, I was putting my daughter Leigh to bed. She is approaching eight months old and, unfortunately for us, is not the best sleeper.
In these short eight months, I have clocked more hours than I can count sitting with her in the rocker in her nursery. Sometimes she is fussing and requires my attention, but often times she is simply asleep in my arms.
During this time, I am habitually on my phone. Checking emails, scrolling through social media, basic online shopping. Things that are fairly easy to do with a cellphone in one hand and a baby in the other.
That night, the two of us were in this same position as we have been countless times before. I looked at my daughter, who I thought was asleep, and with the glare of my cellphone I could see her staring wide-eyed at me.
As soon as our eyes locked, she smiled! That sweet, still-toothless smile that melts your heart in an instant. And in that moment, I made a vow to put down the phone, shut the outside world out just for a few minutes and be there with my daughter.
They say the days are long, but the years are short. No statement has held more truth to me as a mother than this one.
As a part-time working mom and part-time stay-at-home mom, I often feel as though I am falling behind with everything. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get done the laundry list (and the actual laundry) that I always seem to have to do. I try to keep the house clean and respond to work emails in a timely manner. On the days I work, it is easier to focus on the tasks at hand, but when I am home I am also caring for two small children. And as most moms know, multi-tasking is often what gets us through our days.
But as I am thinking about this concept of being present, I am also thinking about what multi-tasking has taken away from me. Yes, I can get the dishes done while my daughter is secure in her highchair. But then I miss out on the chance to interact with her while she is trying new foods.
Sure, I can check social media uninterrupted while my son is watching the latest episode of “Paw Patrol.” But then I don’t get to take in the feeling of his head resting on my shoulder the way it only does when he is focused on the TV but still wants to be close to me.
The moments we have with our children are fleeting. I already see my eight-month-old developing more independence from me. It won’t be long before I will be dropping her off at school with her older brother and returning home by myself. I will have time to clean the house and catch up on social media, but I will also not have my babies anymore. I will have children who are able to do more without me.
I will be granted the time and space I need to do more of the things that I struggle to get done now. As much as I am looking forward to some of that freedom, I am also dreading the hole I know will be in my heart when these moments are gone.
As a mother, my to-do list seems to grow longer with each thing I check off. There are always things I can be doing. Dishes that need cleaning. Phone calls and emails to return. Clothes to fold and put away.
And while I feel really great when those things are done, I have vowed not to do them at the expense of spending time with my children. As the days pass and the years are behind us, my memories should not be of how clean my house was or how up-to-date I was on Instagram. I want to remember playing with my son and snuggling with my daughter. I want to be able to remember what it felt like to look into her eyes as she slowly closed them and drifted off to sleep.
The email I would otherwise be reading will still be there once she is asleep, but that moment I could have had with her will not be. So as my children grow up, just like I did that one night in my daughter’s room, I vow to be present.
Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/. She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.
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