I think about being mindful and present with my baby pretty much constantly while I am awake. That is far from saying I am fully present with my baby constantly while I’m awake, but I am pretty much always thinking about it– wondering if I am finding the right balance between interacting with him and doing other things I need or want to do.
I imagine other parents have figured it out. I hear about them setting their baby up in a swing in the bathroom while they shower and I think, “Oh, so that is ok,” or I read that someone’s baby is playing quietly at their feet as they write in their blogs. I go back and forth between feeling like I should be talking to and looking at him constantly, even while doing things like putting away the dishes and thinking things like “you need some time to yourself! Let him fuss for a minute, finish responding to that facebook message from three days ago!”
It was when I realized that I felt guilty for going to the bathroom and for sitting down to eat lunch, but still also felt like I was spending the time I WAS playing, and should have been, a little too distracted, that I decided I needed to come up with some rules for myself. I don’t really want to call them rules, though, I want to call them practices– the way meditation is a practice, because I don’t think you can ever really perfect the balance.
The first thing I want to remember is a lesson from the show Parks and Recreation. In the sitcom, Ron, the bristly but good hearted father figure tells Chris, a soon-to-be dad who is concerned about the safety of the crib they planned to buy something along the lines of “It’s not the crib that matters. If you are the kind of person who is worrying THIS much about which crib to get, you are going to be a great parent.” I think that applies here too. If I am thinking so much about how to best be present with my baby, and you are thinking about it enough to read this (if he weren’t sleeping I’m sure I’d be worried about taking the time to write it, and if your child isn’t sleeping you’re probably worried about taking the time to read it), then really, we are probably already doing just fine.
That being said, this is what I would like to try:
Don’t be attached to my phone and laptop. Check email and facebook a couple times a day, either when the baby is sleeping or when he is happily playing.
Turn off notifications on my phone–stop getting “Dings” for emails, texts, and facebook messages. Tell my family if something is an emergency, to call. Otherwise, actively check notifications during the times I set aside to do so.
If the baby NEEDS something, go to him. If he is fussing a lot (not just for a minute) and definitely if he is crying, that time is for him, even if it is just that he wants me to be there or to hold him.
Alternate what to do with happy, awake times. If there is one of these times in the morning and one in the afternoon, spend one playing with him and one doing something I want or need to do. Alternate the “me” times between chores, work, and real “me” time. The me time is the one I tend to forget. I am working from home and trying to keep the house manageably unfilthy, but sometimes I need to just spend half an hour reading a book. I have a feeling this will be difficult to actually put into practice, as I am already feeling guilty just typing it. “You mean, let the baby play with blocks and I sit there and read a book??” I’m thinking.Yes, sometimes I should do that. I need to remind myself that it is good for him to see me engage in acts of self-care as well, because it shows him I am my own person, that I deserve self-care, and ultimately that HE deserves self-care.
In addition to alternating within a day, alternate on days. If I have a busy Monday out and about, try to have a relaxed, fun, Tuesday.
Alternate what to do with sleeping baby times. Sometimes take a nap with him. Other times, do something I want or need to do. Sleep is another thing that is suffering right now. I need to remember that I need to sleep, even if it is just to better care for Jonas.
And here’s a big one: Ditch the distraction and the guilt! If nothing else, I want to focus on this. When I am playing with or talking to Jonas, I want to try as hard as I can not to think about the other things I need or want to do. I don’t want to compose emails in my mind or plan what chores I’ll do during his next nap. On the other side of things, when I am doing laundry or writing a blog entry or taking a shower (remember, these things only happen if he isn’t expressing needs) I want to try not to spend that time feeling bad when my baby is happily playing.