While I practice my 30-day retreat for self-discipline from the book Making a Chance for Good, I am taking some time to slow down and evaluate how to do life with four kids. The commitments I’ve chosen to use while I evaluate my self-discipline are doing yoga everyday for 40 days, doing two nursing mediations a day and being more present by doing one thing at time.
For example, I’m trying to be better about making eye contact when talking to my children. Versus hollering across the house from the bathroom while holding a baby, fielding homework questions, being the piano practicing police and tripping on dirty laundry.
Trying to be “more present” is a universal goal for moms and kind of a trashcan term for not ignoring our kids. Pre-teen years are here so being more present for me means having the emotional understanding to be more empathetic, and to know where the tears are coming from even when it’s over silly string sprayed on a wall.
Sometimes I feel like my necessary multitasking – physically and mentally – leaves me pirouetting while balancing on nothing but a big toenail. But is it really necessary? And it is really getting me anywhere?
No. I think doing one thing at a time is better. One yoga pose at a time, one nursing session at a time, and keeping two feet on the ground at the same time. By practicing mindfulness I become more aware which makes me a more present parent. Is it always realistic? No. But the point of practicing self-discipline is that we keep trying. Even after we stumble.
For the first two months after Esther Kate was born I walked her to sleep, while babywearing, outside several times a day. She was a fussy newborn and the fresh air calmed her down. It was grounding for me.
Now I can get her to sleep quickly with the white noise of the stove hood and some bouncing while being tied to me. And then I keep multitasking around the house while she sleeps all tied up on my chest. But really, how much am I getting done except making piles of stuff and moving them around? Nothing. So I should just do one thing at a time, mindfully and joyfully. I will walk more. Even in the cold. I love winter walks. She is warm next to me and I kiss her head a billion times so thankful she is here. And it makes me more present.
“I can’t wait to just nurse a baby,” I said when I was 39 weeks pregnant trying to get three kids ready for their first day of school. I was waiting for the chance to sit and have one task: nurse a baby.
With technology at our fingertips I can do SO much on my phone while nursing a baby that my mind goes all over the place. From coordinating sleepovers, grocery lists, returning emails, texting (brexting is the term I love) and researching recipes for dinner along with lots of nonsense reading material that just fogs my brain. I forgot how to just nurse the baby. So twice a day I leave me phone in the other room and I just nurse the baby.
Part of the self-discipline awareness process comes from how we deal with our commitments, rather than the commitments themselves.
I learned I do better following through on something if it involves a commitment to someone else. I don’t want to let them down. I’ve told you my commitments and therefore I will do them. I feel more accountable when there is someone else involved. And that is okay. My kids will never go hungry. My job is to make sure they get fed so I’ll do it. But I may not feed myself.
When it comes to navigating the four-kid world, I’ve learned I have too keep things manageable and measurable. Those are two buzz words in the 30 days to self-discipline. Making sure my commitments are manageable and measurable prevents me from feeling overwhelmed and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I check something off my mental list. Even if it’s just nurse the baby. That is important. She has to eat.
Keeping things manageable and feeling like I accomplished something in a day is a great challenge for all new moms no mater how many kids you have. There is a new normal to get used to. There is a new level of what is manageable in a day.
How much de cluttering can I expect to happen in the New Year? Or just in one day? If it’s one closet a week, I can measure that and then feel good when it happens. Some days I’m happy to just have one small space free of kid toys, books and trinkets. Some days just making my bed or taking a bath with my baby feels like a measurable win. Some days emptying one laundry bin of clean clothes makes me feel like I’ve climbed Mt. Everest.
Can I say yes to that sleepover of will I regret it if everyone is cranky the next day?
I must keep the tasks, plans, calendars and ideas manageable and measurable so I have the mental space to be mindful and present. Along with time to do yoga, go for a walk and keep both feet firmly on the ground.