Parents have it hard. There’s no denying that. Everyone has a better idea of how you should be parenting and most of them are fully capable (and eager!) to describe their ideas to you in detail. But no matter their advice and fantastic ideas, parenting continues to be hard, and one of the hardest things about it is this: remaining present (1).
The Difficulty Of Being Present
According to Amanda Foust, published author and professional “mama,” “With our attention swinging from one thing to the next thing like a person playing whack-a-mole, it’s hard to be fully present. In the moment, we often think about what we should be doing instead” (1). Foust explains that during potty training sessions, she often thinks of the laundry pile growing bigger and bigger; she says that adult conversations get interrupted by small hands pulling on her shirt and interpreting questions (1). “By the time we do fit in those one-on-one moments with each of our kids, we are so far behind in all the other things we were supposed to do that the stress we feel inside acts as a barrier to quality time,” Foust writes (1).
As a parent, you’re often constantly pulled in seven different directions with an endless to-do list accumulating in your wake. It’s important to understand, however, that your child notices the struggles.
According to Samantha Boardman, M.D., when someone is struggling to remain present in the moment, then, “Family time is especially vulnerable. When children see their parents constantly on the phone, it sends a message about priorities” (2). Children understand that a lack of attention, prioritization, or effective quality time from their parent means that something else is far more important than they are. A lack of presence from a parent is detrimental on a child, teaching them exactly how low on the to-do list they are (1).
Becoming Present Is Incredibly Beneficial
But practicing ways to remain more present has benefits on more people than just your children; it also helps you out personally! Elyssa Barbash, Ph. D., has helped her patients for years to learn how to be more mindful, which ultimately means learning and practicing how to be more present in their own lives (3). Barbash says, “The benefits of this type of mental lifestyle are plentiful. Those who live in the moment tend to be happier, calmer and more relaxed, and appreciative. Mindfulness can also increase your ability to be in tune with your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, which allows you to work with these human factors and communicate how you are thinking and feeling to both yourself and others” (3).
While being an in-the-moment person might not be naturally for you, it presents an untold number of benefits to your own health, as well as the health of your family (3). In cases where it is impossible to be physically present as much as we, and our loved ones, want, it’s incredibly important to make it clear where your heart is (4). Being present in mind and body not only helps your family thrive, but it also helps you as a parent lead a healthier, more fulfilling life (3).
Don’t let the future steal your present.