Our work is essentially about teaching others, (and constantly learning ourselves) how to live a more 'present' life. Easy to write about. Easy to teach. Yes. Easy to do? Nope. We struggle. We do. We are normal, working mums who juggle childcare, careers and chocolate and in between organising and running retreats, workshops and seeing private clients, there are moments where we find ourselves placing more urgency on checking the work emails than checking on the kids. #presentmum wasn't born from hours of morning meditations or deliberating about the quality of our parenting in downward dog, it was in the throws of launching Inspiration Space, that co-founder, Aimee was (well, thought she was) playing football in the park with her 2 year old son, when he hollered at her: "GET OFF YOUR PHONE, MUM". She lifted her eyes up from her emails, saw her son looking at her with that deep disappointment, only wise toddlers can express, and she suddenly realised that she hadn't spent any 'real time' with him for a while.
So, from that day forth, we made a pact to try and become a more #presentmum, without letting the work slip. Drawing on our experience as yoga teachers and breath-workers and most importantly Mums, we shared and practiced new ways of living more in the moment. Over the last few months of practicing, a few of our new #presentmum ways, we've all noticed the kids are happier, and so are we. The emails still get read and replied, just without a little one slamming the laptop shut while typing mid-sentence. Here are our top 'tried and tested' 10 tips on learning, step by step, to stay more present with the kids.
1. BREATHE: Breathing together is the number 1 way you can guarantee you will feel totally present with your child.
#presentmum tip: Sit comfortably with your child on your lap or lie side by side. Get them to place their hands on their bellies, place one hand on top of theirs and one hand on yours. Ask them to imagine their belly is like a balloon, as they breathe in through the nose feel the belly rise - balloon inflates and as they breathe out through the nose the belly softens and balloon empties. Do this for at least a minute, noticing and watching. This will encourage healthy diaphragmatic breathing which can help your child feel calm and relaxed. If the children are old enough, ask them if they can notice the difference in themselves, before and after breathing in this way. When they understand all the benefits deep breathing can bring, they will be more interested in trying it again. It’s great to do at bedtime to help them unwind and feel relaxed before sleep!
2. NO COOKING: Young children love playing with their food and no better way for them to enjoy this pastime than when making snacks for themselves. To encourage healthy eating habits, you can make energy balls together, and they will learn about how healthy food can also be delicious.
#presentmum tip:. There are lots of healthy snack recipes online and we love energy balls (click here for our retreat recipe) which are really quick and fun to make (although, sometimes it takes us 2 weeks to find and buy the complete list of ingredients). We’ve found that they love squashing all the ingredients into balls and rolling them through desiccated coconut and cacao nibs - sometimes the temptation to eat the balls there and then proves to be too strong for them at this point!
3. PRACTICE WHAT WE TEACH. We need to remember that we can learn so much from our children but in their early years, they learn almost everything from us. We often encourage our children not to spend so much time on their computers, but we are not setting a good example when they witness their parents absorbed with social media themselves.
#presentmum tip: Set aside times where you switch off completely, no laptops or TV, switch your phone to airplane mode for an hour or two, and devote time to be soley with your child, and likewise make it clear to them when you need time to work. Making the boundaries clear will encourage focused playtime and work will be more productive too.
4. NO PHONE FRIDAY. On average, research shows, we look at our phones over 100 times a day. Checking emails, Facebook, texting, tweeting, has become so habitual it’s hard to think back to before we had mobile phones. To some it’s an addiction, to others a necessity, to most a habit that’s tricky to break.
#presentmum tip: One day a week - leave your phone at home (you will survive, we promise!). We have found we are so much more relaxed on the days we have no phones on us and our children are happier to have more real time with us.
5. FIVE SENSES: Our mind can be our biggest distractor, often leading us into tomorrow or dragging us into the past. Drawing on our Five Senses can help us bring our attention to the present moment in less than a minute. Children are often drawn to using all their senses to fully engage in life – copy them.
#presentmum tip: Running through the 5 senses, simply ask your child what they can see right now, what sounds they can hear, any flavours they can taste or scents in the air and what they are feeling both emotionally and through physical touch during a short walk or as a fun game at home you can get them to block off some of their senses to help them zone into others. Do this together and follow their senses to help you come back to their present moment. A short walk or moment, through the eyes, ears, nose and feelings of a young one can be a magical one and often humorous.
6. PLANTING SEEDS: Planting veggies and flowers with your children is a great way to connect to the wonders of nature. Let them play with the soil, put the seeds in the dirt and water them. Your children's curiosity will grow in leaps and bounds.
#presentmum tip: Ask your children how their plants are coming along and you will see their sense of pride and curiosity. They will learn how the soil, weather and insects affect their plants.
7. YOU TWO TIME: Choose something you love doing that is also easy to do together. Taking a walk, running together, yoga, swimming, drawing or reading. If you are enjoying yourself you will naturally be more present and your children will sense this and they will be happier too.
#presentmum tip: Not all of the things you enjoy doing are going to translate as fun with a toddler or child, swimming can be a battle and doing yoga with them near impossible at times but try and find something you both enjoy. If you haven’t been on a swing for a while, hop on! If you like being outdoors and they love games, choose a place you love and play their favourite game.
8. SLOW WILDTIME: Nature draws upon all our senses and is probably the easiest place to be present. Slow down to your child’s pace. We are often telling them to ‘hurry up’, but if we join their pace, even for a short time, we will learn so much. We will see what they see, ask them what they hear and notice how they move in nature.
#presentmum tip: Asking your children some simple questions about the birds and the land along any given trail you will open your children's eyes and make them curious. They will soon be asking questions that even you will have to research to answer!
9. YOGA FOR YOU BOTH. Children love yoga and SuperHero pose (if you are feeling energetic) is a great one you can enjoy together. Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor with your legs hip width apart. Get your little one to stand in between your legs. Hold your arms out stretched and hold your child’s hands. Now place your feet on their hips so you are supporting them fully with the whole base of your feet. Very carefully lift your child to the sky by straightening your legs and hold onto their hands with both of your arms strong and supported. Hold for a few breaths and then gently lower your child back to the floor.
#presentmum tip: If you need a calmer approach, ask your child to rest in the aptly named child’s pose, sitting on their heels, forehead on the floor and hands resting by the heels, palms to the sky and place your hand on their lower back. Ask them to breathe with the belly inflating like a balloon and ask them to feel both the belly raise into their thighs and their lower back gently rise into your hands. This will bring them to the awareness that their whole body breathes and will be instantly calming, maybe you can even join them too!
10. SELF COMPASSION. Ultimately, the more relaxed you are as an individual, the calmer and happier you will be as a parent and you will be more present with your child. Looking after number one should be the first port of call here but realistically our individual needs as busy parents often slip down the forever growing to-do-list.
#presentmum tip: Schedule in time off and stick to it. Take some ‘time out’ and do what you know will make you return home feeling better than when you left. Take yourself off to a yoga class, meet your friends, have a massage, go for a walk, go dancing, have a night away on your own, go date yourself. This is the one of the best presents you can give yourself. See below for a chance to win your #presentmum gift!
Alex Manson-Smith, Mum of two, Journalist and Author of You're So Mummy www.youresomummy.com:
‘My six-year-old son Emilio is always busting me for not being present. I’m the worst hypocrite - telling him screens are bad and that he can’t play computer games, then sneaking on Twitter when I think he’s not looking. I’ve also been known to be that parent who stands there pushing a swing while scrolling Facebook. But it would depress me so much to look back on their childhood and realise I spent more time looking at photos of my friend’s cycling trip round the Chilterns than I did hanging out with my kids. So I think set screen hours and digital detoxes are the way forward…’
Katrina Repka, Mum of One, Yoga Teacher, www.katrinarepka.com:
"I am accused of being on the phone on a regular basis! But I think that the biggest learning curve for me has been to view motherhood as part of my yoga practice. So it continually requires abhyasa vairagya - to do my best (51%) and then surrender to the results (49%)"
Olivia, Mum of Three:
I’m sure we are all so guilty of not being ‘present’ in the moment as much as we should. I am always caught out when testing Ava on her spellings, which is normally whilst i’m cooking dinner and attempting to stop Jake and Leo from wrestling each other to tears - she sometimes has to tell me the spelling 3 - 4 times before i can actually register whether its right or not!! I figure going over them so many times is all good in the end as she normally gets top marks in her test!"
Jess Horn, Mum of One, co-founder at Inspiration Space:
"I got to the point with Sam, where i regularly used to try and pretend I was listening whilst planning my day or mentally juggling tasks but he's cottoned on now and tests me all the time! There are no flies on children and we can learn a lot from them!"
Sam also moans that I'm always on the computer and he can't wait to be an adult so he can go on the computer whenever he likes. I try to explain that I would much rather NOT be on the laptop but I guess he doesn't quite understand yet. For me the computer is a chore and for him its both a forbidden and limited joy! I asked my mother about the troubles of staying present and she just looked at me like I was completely mad and said "what's the problem?" In her day of course there were no computers and no phones..... I think I'd like to have had kids back then".
Aimee Hartley, Mum of One, co-founder at Inspiration Space
"Shortly after the dawn of #presentmum, I was running late and pushing 'H' at high speed to nursery. We were blessed with a walk in horizontal rain that morning and H refused to put the pushchair 'roof' up so I had to use a huge golfing umbrella to cover us. Then the iPhone rang, and I thought 'I HAVE to answer this, it's 8.45am..it just can't wait, the day will be over soon' so I used my elbows to push the 'trolley', as we call it, and had the phone tucked between cheek, chin and shoulder and took the call like a true 'multi-tasking working-mother' would do. I don't recollect exactly how I was controlling the umbrella but let's just say it was being wielded at such an angle, we couldn't see where we were going. The phone call ended very abruptly as I crashed the 'trolley, child and my pride' straight into a lamp post." #presentmum Tip 4 was born.
Granny Annie, Mum of three, Granny of Two.
"Don't beat yourself up as Mums too much - don't forget kids sometimes aren't present for their mums too at times. I remember asking you to put some of your toys away for about the 10th time one evening and I said, "Aims, can you hear what I'm asking you to do and you said "I can hear you Mum, but I'm not listening!"
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