Before I had a child, I ran on the absent-minded side. I was notorious for leaving my purse on the back of a restaurant chair, locking my keys in the car, leaving the house four times before I had everything i needed. I was always calculating something important — thinking about the past, dreaming or making a list for the future – but my mind’s resting spot, its home base, was very often not in the present.
That changed when I had my son. Not suddenly, as we pulled into our driveway with him in a little blue hospital hat. But gradually, over the last three years, like you’d expect when you work out a set of mental muscles every day.
Here’s how being a parent has made me more mindfully aware:
First of all, since my son was born I am more aware of how I spend my time, what my priorities are, how I really feel about work, family, friends — everything is more precious. That’s in part because having a child for me was like a big fat punctuation mark — this is really your life, right now, not a preparation for something.
But also, feeling heart-bursting love for a little person is like a great measuring stick for the rest of life. It’s made me re-evaluate aspects of career, deepened friendships, and forced me to decide on the pastimes that really mean the most to me. He puts everything in perspective.
My son has made me slow down. Not in the physical sense, of course (picture me sweating as I run up and down the stairs with laundry bags, a phone in the crook of my neck, and a 30 lb kid on my hip). It’s a state of mind. I appreciate the small stuff: sipping coffee on the rug while building a Lego tower, buying basil at the farmers market and making pesto, having a dance party in the living room. He is fascinated by new things, however tiny, and now I am too.
And just by the very nature of him being an insatiable little scientist — his three-year-old question-machine operating on all cylinders around the clock, I can’t be in the past or present as much as I used to (otherwise, how would I answer in excruciating detail why a bug lives outside but we live inside!). He doesn’t really let me slip back into my head, and I’m happy about it. I’d rather be with him in the present.
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