Like it or not, motherhood requires multitasking. Whether you work outside your home, inside it or solely for it, multitasking is just part of the job. It is so unusual for us to have only one thing to do that, on the rare occasion that little is required of us, we don’t know what to do with our hands. It’s the nature of this season and, though I complain about it, I am well suited for it.
It is a challenge for me to be still, to focus only on the thing in front of me and truly be here. About raising children I’ve often heard it said, “the days are long but the years are short.” It’s a time where many of us have essentially pushed ourselves and some of our goals aside for the sake of the greater good of our families. So our minds are often two steps or six months ahead, to the next job, the next baby, the next phase, the next house, the next season. For this reason, I can distill my heart’s cry, my guiding phrase, my life’s goal to these three words:
Be here now.
A quirky college professor proclaimed the merits of this outlook on life when I was 17, and somehow my younger self actually latched onto it. I didn’t know then it would be one of the only pieces of advice I would reflect on almost daily through so many phases of life.
It reminded me to embrace my carefree years, before career and love and children.
In happiness and sorrow, it calls me to be in the moment. It helped me slow my wedding day down. It reminded me that my pregnancies with my two daughters were filled with wonder and so much more than inconveniences.
In darkness it has reminded me to be present in the stillness when all I wanted was answers; it has called me to settle into the emptiness, into the pain of lost jobs and multiple miscarriages and the fear of the unknown. Listen, it whispers. Let the disappointment in, learn from it.
As I’ve grown older, and my life more crowded, this phrase reminds me to use my precious time wisely. That sometimes means reading a stack of library books on the couch is more important than keeping up with the laundry, that going out for milkshakes in our pajamas is more valuable than honoring bed time, that being here through the often monotonous every day of my children’s waning childhoods is more pressing than the career I had and wanted but have chosen to put aside for now.
This precious phrase reminds me
what might be one day, when things are brighter. It has sometimes meant settling into the dim light, the silence, the sadness, the loss. Holding off on offering possible redemption stories ahead of their time.
Sometimes it means carrying the heavy burden of the sorrow of those suffering around us because we don’t know what else to do. It means letting all of it take as long as it takes, and feeling every emotion along the way. Necessarily, mercilessly, life still goes on around us. In our families, in our homes.
Being here now doesn’t mean getting stuck, and it doesn’t negate our faith. On hard days it has meant mothering with my hands when my heart wasn’t in it. It means showing up for our loved ones the best we can, even as we allow our souls to ache, to heal. And in time, it means allowing our hearts to feel happiness, to be light.
I think being here now, being fully present—all the time—may be the lesson of my life. The hardest one, the one I’ll never really master. I think of it every day. I never would have believed something so simple would take so much consistent effort. But I don’t think there’s another way. We can’t wish away the pain, the uncertainty, the doubt or the fear without missing out on the joy. And there’s too much of the former for us to miss even one second of the joy.
Do you struggle with being present? Do the countless things that beg for your attention keep you from being “here”? What ways have you found to overcome this tendency to “be here now”?