As a young woman growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I didn’t contemplate any other occupation than motherhood. Not many women did. It was so much a part of what I expected to do that I didn’t give it much thought. It never occurred to me I wouldn’t know what to do and how to manage. But it was more complicated than I expected!
As I work with parents today I see that the job of being a parent isn’t any easier. If anything it’s more complicated.
Recently I heard from a young mother who is an entrepreneur and works from home. She was feeling a bit desperate about how to juggle being a mom, a wife, manage a home and build a business.
Every parent I work with wants to give their kids more time, more engagement, more of themselves! But there’s just no more time to give. So what can be done?
I have given that a great deal of thought and I have also experimented with hundreds of families to find an answer for this parenting dilemma, and I have. In fact, I have written about how to accomplish the goal of being Present and connecting with our children despite the business of life in the book – Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting with your Children in Five Minutes or Less.
HOW CAN WE CONNECT WHEN LIFE IS SO BUSY?
You are probably asking yourself what being Present is, what does it look like in real life with real kids and real family schedules. Being Present is the gift of our full attention, our whole self, nothing left on the table, even if only for a few minutes.
Becoming a Present Parent is about how to connect within the time you’re already giving your kids. It’s about how to see little moments as big opportunities.
We have all heard how wonderful it would be to give each child some one on one time every day or take them on a date weekly. Can I tell you that in all the hundreds of families I have worked with not one parent has ever been able to manage this consistently. Not one! So how do we solve the dilemma of being Present right where we stand?
It’s much simpler than you may think. It’s doable. We just have to have a mental shift about the time we are already giving our children every day and utilize that time to create stronger more connected relationships and not just get tasks accomplished.
We need to see mealtime, bedtime, car time, transitions and family work/chores as opportunities to build relationships. I call these everyday moments touchpoints and in the book, I talk about eight of them. The touchpoint moments are times you already have to give so why not make them count more. Why not learn to use them to make deposits in your children’s relationship banks?
It’s also helpful to learn some simple skills that increase our ability to connect with our children in the time we already spend with them. We need to listen differently, we need to touch more often, we need to learn to engage in mini-conversations, and so forth. I teach six skills that anyone can learn just by practicing them as they go through ordinary days doing ordinary things as a family.
We’re more able to be Present as we know what we want, do simple things, work on our story, adjust our approach to family management, remember that less is more, recognize the difference between adults and kids and watch our motives. It helps to have strategies to turn away from technology more often and to nurture ourselves right where we are. I have helped hundreds of parents learn to do these things consistently over time and they have become more Present. You can learn to do them too.
Remember that entrepreneurial mom I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Here is the review she wrote after reading the book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting with your Children in Five Minutes or Less: Mary Ann uses real life stories to help us know how to be present. I have struggled with this since I started my home based business. Since reading this book I am now doing little things like looking in my children’s eyes when they talk and touching them when I walk by them. It is the little things that matter and make such a big difference in the atmosphere in our home.”
Looking in our children’s eyes and touching them – everyone knows to do that, right? Well, that’s what you would think. But the truth is we are not very good at doing the small and simple things consistently that send the powerful message to our kids that they matter, that we see them, hear them and love them. We want to send these positive messages. Often we think we are. But statistically, that isn’t the message kids are hearing.
WE ARE SENDING POOR MESSAGES TO OUR KIDS
In Highlights magazine’s annual State of the Kid Survey, a nationally representative sample of 6- to 12-year-olds were asked, “Are your parents ever distracted when you’re trying to talk to them?” Sixty-two percent of children said yes (Highlights, 2014). That’s a lot of kids who feel unheard by parents who probably think they’re sending the message that their kids matter.
Recently my thirty-eight-year-old daughter said, “When I was a kid I didn’t get any one-on-one time and it has impacted my life.” Now, I had seven children. One-on-one time was a luxury that I could ill afford. But had I known about touchpoints, had I had a few more skills, I could have been present anyway and I could have sent Jenny and my other six children the clear message that they were heard, seen, loved and that they mattered.
Every parent regardless of their circumstances, how many children they have, whether they work outside of the home or in the home, whether they are ill or well can be Present. I have worked with moms who have long-term illnesses. I have worked with dads who are out of the country for weeks at a time. I have worked with stay at home moms and dads and entrepreneurs. They have all been able to become more Present parents and you can too.
ANYONE CAN BE A MORE PRESENT PARENT
My favorite saying is this: Small and simple things done consistently over time bring the greatest results. It’s true! I have seen it. I have lived it.
Being Present with your children is a way to overcome distractions and weld firm, satisfying, and lasting relationships despite being busy. Using touchpoints and a few good skills daily, for small amounts of time consistently, can and will make all the difference.
Our homes are the perfect place to practice the art of being Present. When we’re Present with our children, we send the clear and important message: I hear you. I see you. I love you. You matter to me.
Whatever the depth of love we have for our children, if we fail to be Present, consistently over time, they will often fail to feel they matter as deeply as we want them to feel it.
Regularly I pick a verse of scripture to think on and memorize. Recently I chose Matthew 13:16: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears for they hear.”
This verse is about seeing and hearing things that cannot be seen with our physical eyes or heard with our physical ears. I submit that when we’re Present, even if it’s only a few times a week, a few minutes at a time, we will be blessed to see and hear our children in an extraordinary way.
Know what you want. Do the simple things. Change your story. Adjust your approach to family management. Remember that less is more. Recognize the difference between adults and kids. Watch your motives. Turn away from your technology more often. Nurture yourself right where you are. Learn to see and utilize touchpoints. Acquire some skills. Get Present.
May we all be blessed in our relationships as we practice the art of being Present.
Mary Ann Johnson was born into a large and boisterous family of nine children and survived to become the mother of seven equally boisterous and busy children. She has been happily married to her husband, Don, for 46 years and has 13 grandchildren aged 2 to 29. She started college at nineteen and finally finished, with a masters degree, in her forties.
Mary Ann has helped thousands of individuals and families to build better relationships. She is the founder of Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, an online community reaching thousands of people each week. She is the creator and president of Family Connection Mentoring—a service of one-on-one mentoring for parents and their families. She is also well known in the homeschool community as The Home School Coach.
Becoming a Present Parent is her first book on what she knows and does best – helping children and parents connect. Mary Ann has been presenting her Presence concepts across the country in workshops and webinars for over seven years.
Mary Ann is a Montana transplant to Salt Lake City, Utah where she lives with her husband, Don. Her favorite pastime is reading and learning.
You can get a FREE chapter of her new book at becomingapresentparent.com
Visit her and learn more about being a Present Parent at her website http://www.maryannjohnsoncoach.com/