Much is made of the importance of being “present”. For a long time, I thought it was total bullshit.
Here’s why I thought it was such a crummy concept:
At the end of the day, I prep for the next morning. Backpack by the door. Diaper bag refilled. Present? No. I’m busy making sure tomorrow gets off to a smooth start.
In the morning, the kids eat breakfast as I do the dishes. I spend the morning cleaning up yesterday. Present? No. I’m somewhere between last night and this morning, kicking myself for not planning better for today, eyes on the clock because we need to be ready in time for the school day / work day to begin.
Somewhere around 5 pm, it seems like all hell breaks loose, so I need to start thinking about dinner by 4. I plan our meals ahead of time. I’m planning ahead, always, to avoid the tiny version of the apocalypse that happens in this house when my kids are hungry.
Nothing happens without me. I have no business babysitters.
With this mindset, I found myself bending, twisting, folding myself over to fit what needed to be done to make life “easier”, to cross everything off the to-do list, to feel like I had everything under control– which meant I never felt truly in the moment. I was always planning ahead, thinking about what needed to be accomplished.
The more “present” I am, I used to think, the longer the to-do list grows. How can I “be here now” when my whole life requires that I be five steps ahead? Presence really would be a disadvantage.
There was no slowing down for me, no reprieve from endless tasks. The solution it seemed, was always for me to do more. To be more.
I thought it was this stage of life, of young motherhood and entrepreneurship, that was stealing my ability to be anywhere that I actually was.
It is very true that thinking ahead serves my family and my business well. But the story I created in my head, the one that said I could never be present because I had too much to do? That was the bullshit part.
When my son says “Cars, Mama?,” he wants to play with me. He is overjoyed by zooming Hot Wheels around a track together. I want to experience that.
When my daughter grabs a book off the shelf, she wants to snuggle and read together. She loves books, just like her mama. I want to nurture that.
So how did I become present? I deliberately choose to be. I set aside the to-do list, because the to-do list doesn’t get accomplished by me worrying about it, and because I have realized that I am more willing to have a rug that needs vacuuming than a life that I’ve failed to live.
It still keeps our family running smoothly. But now I also deliberately choose: do I want to be in this moment, or do I want to spend this time thinking about all the other things I “should” be doing? I choose: is something else actually more important, or am I telling stories again?
I choose Hot Wheels. I choose Rosie Revere, Engineer. I choose presence.
And with this choice I started to realize that many of the things that were on that never-ending to-do list? They didn’t really matter that much. There were bigger, more important things that rose to the top and smaller, more insignificant things that fell away, or could float along on my to-do list for weeks.
I have stopped contorting myself to fit it all in, and nothing has fallen apart. In fact, things have started getting better than ever.
Don’t get me wrong, mamas. I know it’s hard, and that there are real burdens that often rest on our shoulders. We can’t always say “yes” to play, or to ripping up our to-do lists. But we can say yes more often than we realize, and we can be present when we do say yes.
It’s the joy that comes when you truly notice your life, when you really look your loved ones in the eye, when you feel yourself living the life you so lovingly designed.
MotherHustle panelist Stacy Firth is a writer and content strategist who helps moms who are small business owners and solopreneurs create online content that keeps it real. She also leads workshops that help mamas lead a lit-up life, and is mama to two. You can find her on her website or on Instagram at @stacyrfirth.
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