Above: Janet with her eldest daughter, who just turned 13.
Internationally recognized yoga teacher and mother of two Janet Stone, who will lead our upcoming Yoga for Moms online course (enroll now and be the first to know when this mom-inspired course launches), is offering YJ readers a series of weekly "mom-asanas" for serenity, strength, and grounding. This week's practice: being more present with your kids.
One expectation we might feel from society (or even from ourselves) is the idea that we should offer our endless, complete presence for our children. As practitioners of yoga, we may be even harder on ourselves in the moments where we feel less present.
How do we manage the pull of life and the seemingly limitless desires/demands/needs of our children? Is it possible to create a life for your children where they feel attended to in their every need? How do we manage our own need to feel relevant in the bigger world and in our own body, and yet hold the primary role of caregiver for small children and a pivotal role for older kids?
I can say that I have failed at this presence more than I would care to admit. Somehow, I have been convinced at times that a text, call, email, or preparing a meal was more important than a call for attention from my children. I’ve also spent a good amount of time feeling guilty about this (see my blog on Mom Guilt) and I probably wasn’t fully present with my girls because I was more consumed by my guilt.
We’re expected to keep a fresh and loving relationship, friendships, some semblance of personal hygiene, a connection to our previous profession/life, and a home as we stay up to date on parenting studies and "must-avoids" for our kids. We also carry around unrealistic expectations about how we’re going to be present for our children 100 percent of the time, whenever they need us. After feeling the weight of this impossible notion, I checked in with many family advisers. Each of them said something similar -- that dedicated periods of time toward complete presence with children is deeply nourishing. This concentrated, full, undivided attention is worth more than years of partial attention.
5 Ways to Be More Present With Your Kids
Here are some solutions I've personally come up with for being less distracted and more present with my kids:
1. Set aside concentrated time for your children, with no phones, computers, screens, or to-do lists tempting you to multi-task. Clear wide open time for them. During this time, look them directly in the eye (yes, even teenagers).
2. With infants, it can be more difficult to schedule anything. At this stage, find support for concentrated time for yourself. This time is crucial, because it allows you to be more present when your baby wants or needs you ... which can be any time of day.
3. However old your children are, create a set, consistent time for you, and train everyone in the house to allow you this time without interrupting. It doesn’t have to be long. You can practice yoga, take a bath, be on the phone—whatever you want to do—but be consistent and firm about it. You are modeling self-care and loving boundaries during this window of personal time. As parents, we want our kids to feel centered and loving toward their own selves, so we have to show them how this is done. After your personal time, you can spend 5 minutes individually with each child as a reward for all of you.
4. Be kind and realistic with yourself and your expectations for all that you, as one person, can do.
5. Make a list of the top 5 most important things to you and schedule your time accordingly. Keep it near, because it’s so easy to get pulled away from what matters most. There is nothing more valuable than the deep presence we share with those most dear to us.
Mom-asana of the Week: Poses for Presence
ABOUT JANET STONE
San Francisco-based yoga teacher Janet Stone started her practice at age 17. A student of Max Strom and meditation teacher Prem Rawat, Stone teaches vinyasa flow at events around the world. Her new kirtan album with DJ Drez, Echoes of Devotion, hit number 1 on iTunes’s World Music chart this year. Stone has two daughters and offers this advice to moms: “Motherhood offers infinite lessons in the realms of surrender, empowerment, grace, mistakes, and patience, and then some more patience—as well as the endless unfurling of transitions and change. Practicing yoga amidst this adventure can support us in myriad ways to find our center.” Learn more about her upcoming course, Yoga for Moms.