One of my favorite books is “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. It is one of the few books that made a lasting impression on me and continues to affect the way I live my life.
There are many great parts to the book, but the one that was most influential for me was a section that discussed the challenges of raising children. She describes the relentless demands, exhausting schedules and never ending days of parenting. She also offers the following insight, “The days are long but the years are short”. I think about this statement often and I’ll tell you why.
I struggled for several years to get pregnant. I prayed, I cried. I underwent several procedures and had countless ultrasounds, blood draws and injections. And then finally, my prayers were answered and I became pregnant. I was thrilled. I did not dare complain throughout my pregnancy for fear that it would jinx my good fortune. Finally, on Valentine’s Day 2006, my eldest son was born.
We brought him home, set the car seat down and didn’t know what to do with him. We didn’t have any family support and we had no idea what to expect. My son was a difficult baby. He slept little. He fussed a lot. And that combination left me exhausted and low on milk. The Naturopath in me refused to yield. I insisted on nursing him, at all costs-probably a mistake in hindsight. He woke often and we often started the day at 5:30am. We sat in a rocking chair on the porch. While I drank a large coffee, he watched the people on the street starting their days. And from there, the day went on. It was long. He didn’t sleep. I couldn’t take him anywhere. He cried in the car. He cried in the stroller. I could take him as far as I could carry him. We realize now that he suffers from motion sickness. I would watch the hours until my husband came home and then quickly hand him over so I could get a break. I felt terribly guilty that I wanted to get away from the baby that I had cried for, yearned for and prayed for. Then, 2 years later came my younger son. Another blessing. Another miracle. And from there it all became a blur. Feedings, bedtimes, diaper changes and teething. Like most parents, I was exhausted and weary.
Those days were so very long.
And now, they are 5 and 7. My eldest is smart and funny. He tells tales and loves school. He plays the violin. There are times when I look at him and see my husband staring back at me and it never ceases to astonish me. My youngest loves soccer and skips everywhere. He plays the cello because violin requires too much standing for his liking. I look at him and I am amazed at how he can be all sweetness and fire wrapped up into one little bundle of giggles and energy.
The years have flown by.
How does this all relate to my habits and changing my life? Well, the first thing I wanted to work on was the amount of time I spent on my smartphone. I knew I used it too much and I knew it was a problem but I didn’t really understand how big an impact it was having on my life until I stopped using it so much.
My goals were to stop using the phone in the car and in the evenings before the boys’ bedtime. Over the past 3-4 weeks, I have completely stopped using my phone in the car, except for calls on my Bluetooth. So instead of constantly having my head down at the traffic lights or stop signs, I look around or I look in my rearview. I am more aware of my surroundings. I glance at my children. Sometimes, they are staring out the window. Sometimes they are having a silly conversation. But regardless of what they are doing, I see them. I see their animated faces or their eyes staring off into space. I appreciate their beauty and innocence. Other times, if I am lucky, one of them catches my eye in the mirror and flashes me a smile. Those moments are golden. We also talk more in the car since I am less distracted. I learn more about their friends and what they did at school.
I also stopped using my phone as much in the evenings. I have gotten better at this, but have to admit that I have my slip-ups. But putting down my phone in the evenings has meant that I can truly focus on the task at hand-the task of mothering. There are more conversations at the dinner table. More giggles when brushing teeth and more stories before bed. I am more patient and involved because I am not trying to send a text or email while getting a 5-year old to floss. I am simply being mommy and what I have found is that when I am focused on this one task, the task of being mommy, I am better at it. I go to bed feeling more connected with my children and my children go to bed feeling more connected to me.
Generally, putting down my phone has given me a sense of calm, a grounding that I was missing. It’s reduced the chaos in my brain and allowed me to be more present in my day-to-day activities.
Now, there is a downside to all of this. Many people have asked me why I haven’t responded to their emails or texts. A few are annoyed. But you know what? They’ll get over it. I let them know that I am trying to distance myself from my phone. They will know for next time that it might take me a little longer to get back to them and it will soon become the new normal.
This has been a tremendous journey for me. Being a good mother is the single most important thing to me. I consider it a privilege to be a mother. I never want to forget what a blessing my children are and I want my children to think back and remember a mother that listened to them and was interested in them. Equally important, I want to be able to look back and know that I was there for my children to my fullest capacity.
The years may be short, but that’s all the more reason to make the most of them.