By Kelly Brooke
As working mothers, we can tend to have popcorn minds, with thoughts of everything we need to do constantly popping in our heads. It can sound a little like this: pick kids up at 3 p.m., finalize work presentation, help son with his math homework, prepare marketing strategy, book daughter’s swimming classes, buy fish for dinner, clean the house before the in-laws arrive, pay electricity bill, etc.
As a result, we tend to have faulty off-switches that make it challenging to be in the present moment. I have definitely fallen into the trap of mentally revising my to-do list while playing with my son or sneaking in a work email while we’re at the park.
I’d love to say I was zen by nature, but that would be a lie. I’m an over-doer with a crazy monkey mind. They’re not bad characteristics for some work success, but that’s not my priority. My family is. I believe moments of our undivided attention are some of the greatest gifts we can give our loved ones and I want that for my family.
I’ve practiced different types of meditation, but most of them don’t suit my current lifestyle. Let’s be realistic, as a working mom who has time for that? I can’t recite a mantra for 30 minutes twice a day or sit crossed legged in silence for an hour. Silence and uninterrupted time to myself are rare commodities these days.
That’s exactly why I love mindfulness meditation. You can do it at any moment and bring a glimmer of peace to the craziest day. Your children can be your best teacher. It is also a gift to them, as you’re learning to put your to-do list to the background and focus your attention on the current moment you’re sharing with them.
Mindfulness also helps us be less reactive with our kids, husbands, co-workers and ourselves. If you think of your thoughts and feelings like a raging river, mindfulness allows you to get to the bank where you can observe your thoughts going by rather than getting caught up in them and swept away. In other words, when your kids are throwing a tantrum or refusing to get out of bed you can observe the anger and frustration bubbling up inside of you rather than reacting automatically.
The famous teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness most succinctly when he said:
Mindfulness is nonjudgmental moment-to-moment awareness.
The lack of judgement about our thoughts and feelings is the key. How often do you get really annoyed by your kids or partner and then get frustrated at yourself for being so “impatient” or “intolerant”? As soon as we judge our thoughts, we actually amplify them and give them a greater hold over us.
So, how does a busy, overwhelmed working mom make the journey to being more mindful?
Practice sitting at the river bank and taking a pause before you react to a situation that is making you angry or upset.
Let’s say your kids are throwing a tantrum or your husband is saying that thing that really annoys you. Before reacting, pause and don’t do or say anything. Check in with yourself and ask the following questions:
- What am I thinking and feeling in this moment? Don’t judge the answer.
- Where am I feeling that emotion in my body? Notice your shoulders, stomach, back, where are you holding tension? This brings you out of your head and into your body.
- Notice your breath and bring your attention to it without trying to change it.
That might sound too simple. But one small pause can be the difference between a stressed or calm reaction. The good news: As a busy mom, you’ll probably have lots of opportunities to practice this, so don’t worry if you forget or fail to do it. Just keep trying.
Connect with your breath.
This is one of the easiest, fastest ways to return to the present. Simply focus on the feeling of your stomach and chest rising and falling or the breath on your nostrils as you exhale. You don’t need anything fancy and don’t try to change your breath, just observe. You can do this for a minute each morning or any time you feel frazzled.
Practice a beginner’s mindset.
This means approaching experiences with interest and curiosity, almost as if they were happening for the first time. We tend to live large parts of our lives on autopilot. That’s when we start to think about our to-do list.
But, recall when you travelled to a place for the first time or you were newly in love. You were probably vibrantly alive, aware, and excited about the people and places around you. Imagine if you could bring a tiny bit of that to your everyday experiences.
Go to the park with your kids as if you were exploring an exciting new place. Leave your iPhone at home and explore and play with your children. Really get into their world and let yourself be totally present, even fascinated by whatever they’re doing.
Maybe try dinner with your husband like it was a first date. Turn off the television and your phone and flirt. Notice the things about him that used to excite you.
If you have young kids, they will be a great inspiration, as they can be absolutely fascinated with the most basic things. If you try to incorporate this mindset more into your life every moment can be an opportunity to practice mindfulness and to relish the small joys.
I hope these simple steps will help quiet your mind, bring a few moments of peace, and help you feel more present and connected with your families. I’d love to hear in the comments below what you’re inspired to try or if you have any questions on how to apply these to your life.
Kelly Brooke grew up on a boat in the South Pacific because her parents had the guts to follow their dreams. She wants to help all moms follow theirs. She is a coach, writer and strategist and creator of the program More Time, Less Guilt. She helps busy moms get out of their comfort zone and boldly pursue their dreams. To start with she helps them nail the fundamentals, like productivity, mindfulness and creating success habits. When not juggling motherhood, work and a business, she can be found dancing (sadly these days usually in her PJs before the family wakes up), hanging out in nature and making a mess in the kitchen with her son. She offers lots of free and valuable resources and articles for busy working moms on her website: www.mumsdreamsignite.com