This morning my phone popped up with an alert informing me of my screen time usage the week prior. I had averaged 5 hours per day.
Roughly one-third of my time spent awake on this planet was staring at my phone, probably answering an email, commenting on someone’s cute social media post or ordering something on Amazon for a school project. Some of that time was for pleasure, and some was for work or running the household. But regardless, it’s time I’m not actively engaged in what’s happening right before my eyes.
“Being Present” to me is a multi-faceted idea. On the one hand it does take some screen time, checking in on friends and family via text or maybe researching something that may help one of my kids. On the other, it means stopping what I’m doing to play a round of air hockey or Legos. It’s meaningful discussions on the drive to school and going around the table at dinner to check in and find out what matters to my people.
During my embarrassing amount of screen time, I’ve googled ways to be present in my life countless times, but as a mom of four young boys, majority of the lists are not realistic. So, I’ve formed my own ways to make connections and reserve a front row seat in my screenplay of a life.
1. Set Your Alarm 15 Minutes Earlier – The mornings in our house are crazy. Trying to get four boys dressed, fed and in the car with all their school gear by 7:28 a.m. is a sprint. Waking 15 minutes earlier allows me a moment to think and reflect before the madness begins. I read the news, or just sit with my thoughts while my coffee brews. It’s a moment to be present with myself, gaining some clarity before the hustling of the day begins.
2. Set Kiddo Office Hours – Find a certain time of the day that you can carve out a few hours to put your phone down completely and interact with your kids. It’s not easily done in today’s world. People can get ahold of us any hour of the day and expect to, with a prompt reply. At the end of the day, anything can wait two hours. For me, this time is often between dinner and bed. My little guys beg for me to snuggle, and with four, it takes a lot to give each one of them the individual attention they deserve. By starting our bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier, we have more time for books and hugs and less time of the witching hours. And regardless of how our day played out, it always ends on a good, snuggly note.
3. Make it a Point to Say I Love You – My husband is a rock star, who works countless hours making a great life for our family. At this point, we are a well-oiled machine. His long hours have become the norm for our family, and we manage it by making the most out of every second he’s home. Often we’re passing ships in the night, but every morning and every night, we tell each other, “I Love You.” It’s a simple reminder each day as we enter the grind and as we reflect on it, we have a cheerleader in our corner.
4. Check in on Friends – set aside 30 minutes a few times a week to shoot a quick text to close friends to check in. Facebook and Instagram are great for us all staying connected. But an individual message letting someone know you’re thinking of them and truly interested in what’s happening in their lives is much more meaningful than a quick “like” or emoji.
5. Tune Into Your Intuition – In today’s world we all move quickly, because we have to. What is expected of us today as mothers far exceeds that of generations before us. Finding the ability to tune into your intuition, looking for guidance in your everyday actions helps you be more present. As a mom of four, I’m constantly looking ahead, setting up doctor’s appointments, packing sports equipment for practices and making sure uniforms are pressed. I get so bogged down in the daily routine, I often miss the universe’s subtle messages to slow down and appreciate the now, like the cardinals that sit beautifully in my bird feeder while I wash dishes. They remind me to slow down.
6. Turn Up the Music – Whether you have the good fortune of sitting down to dinner as a family, or you’re rushing from one activity to another eating in the car (absolutely no judgement from me), finding a post dinner song to rock out to with your kids is a great way to connect and create a lasting memory. Three to four minutes of your life, singing at the top of your lungs can relieve a lot of end of day stress, and your kids will have a blast making fun of your dance moves.
7. Soak Up Your Parents and Grandparents – If you’re one of the blessed who still have parents or grandparents alive, appreciate every moment you can with them. Ask them stories from the past, learn from their mistakes and accomplishments. Our time here on earth is fleeting. Spending quality time with them also gives them a sense of purpose and allows them to be present.
8. Stop Giving a Rip – Seriously, at this point in your life it’s time to put your big girl pants on and truly stop carrying about the opinions of others. If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t give it five minutes. Freeing your mind from these worries will allow it to be more focused on what’s right in front of it.
9. Give Back – This doesn’t have to be some huge gesture, but the act of doing something for someone else brings you into the present without even knowing it. Whether it’s packing a few extra brown bagged lunches to drop with the homeless people pass along the way to school, or simply baking some cookies and dropping them off for an elderly neighbor, the act itself invigorates your spirit. You will feel renewed, and you will be know that this particular day, in the present, you added some good into the world.
10. Do You – Everyone talks about self-care and making time for ourselves. When we can get that precious time for a pedicure or simply walking around Target aimlessly, it’s magical. But the reality is it won’t happen every day. Set an alarm on your phone each day to remind you to find a moment. Whether that’s closing your eyes in the school pick up line and doing some deep breathing, or hiding in the wine cellar while the kids watch cartoons (again, no judgement), you need these few moments where no one is relying on you. You’ll thank me later.