As I hung up the phone and pushed my computer aside, I noticed that my daughter was trying to show me that she had put one of her stuffed animals to sleep on the couch. She was sweetly saying "shhh" as she looked at her cream-and-brown stuffed cat. I found myself breezing past this adorable moment and thinking to myself, "If I could just finish this up quickly, I could play with her without any more distractions."
That's not really how it goes, though. I finish one task and there's always something else that needs to get done. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I work part time as a remote writer, so I feel as if I am constantly seeking out this somewhat mythical work-life balance. I know it's impossible to give your child your attention all of the time, but one thing I know for certain is that my preoccupation with being the perfect parent, while also focusing on advancing my career, has made me less present — and that's something that I am going to change moving forward. Pre-baby, I was a marriage and family therapist and I worked extensively with parents on connecting with their children, giving themselves breaks from technology, and creating work-life boundaries. I wasn't taking my own advice. With the intensity that accompanied becoming a first-time parent, I felt overwhelmed with my child's ever-changing schedule and wasn't pausing enough to take in this magical time.
Because every day is different with my little one, I have made it my 2020 goal to completely embrace the time we have together and not focus too heavily on when I will get my work done. I've been working on shifting my thought process and reminding myself that she will eventually nap and that I can always finish up in the evening. When I push my to-do list aside, I'm beginning to realize that this simple act not only makes my time with my daughter more enjoyable, but I am able to actually get my work done much more quickly as I am no longer trying to hurry it along in these small windows. Whenever I feel tempted to check something off of my list that I know can wait, I now remind myself that everything that needs to get done will, and that I can give myself permission to be fully present with my child. I will continue to set more stringent work boundaries and am consciously choosing not to have my phone with me while my daughter wants to play with me. It can be so easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of social media, and while I see the value in technology, for me it is something that can wait until later to spend time on.
Next year my little one will start preschool and will enter into an exciting new phase of her life. I know my time with her at home is fleeting and keeping that in mind has completely changed my perspective and philosophy when it comes to parenting. I now can fully feel myself embracing tiny moments of learning, laughter, and exploration together as I know this small period where we are both with each other nearly all the time will soon be gone.
Being a parent has forced me to grow and adapt in ways that I thought I couldn't. Never in my life have I felt so challenged and at times stretched so thin. I know that I can't always be present for my child whenever she wants, but I am certainly going to try my hardest to do so. Now when my little one looks up at me with her lovely hazel eyes and wants to engage with me, I am there with the goal to be fully present, soaking in these incredibly joyful and beautiful moments together while we still can. And I plan to push myself even further as we enter into the new year. I'll continue to practice these small steps towards being present next year and my hope is that by 2020, I won't have to give myself permission to be present . . . I just will be.