Did you resolve to be more mindful this year? To be more fully present in each moment? To be aware and engaged in even the most mundane tasks? Of course you did. It seems that in the glorious holiday haze, everyone looked around and thought, “You know what I need? More of this. I need to just pay attention and enjoy what I’m doing, right in the moment I’m doing it.”
Ahem. Have you really thought this through, though?
Personally, when it comes to day-to-day routines, I’m all about the opposite of mindfulness. Distraction is the key to surviving parenthood. If you think about it (And go ahead, by the way, let your mind wander all over the place while you read this. No need to concentrate and savor every word. It’s not like there’s going to be a test at the end) … you already know it.
Take laundry as an example. Is the best way to survive folding your next hundred loads going to be total and un-interrupted focus?
I am picking up a washcloth. I am noticing the nubby texture. Now I am noticing a bleach stain and a crunchy area. I acknowledge you, bleach stain and crunchy area, and now I will push the thought of you away while I am fully present in the folding of this washcloth. Corner to corner. Again, corner to corner. Now I am picking up another washcloth …
You guys. No.
A much better way to survive laundry is to pretend you’re not folding it at all. Be as un-present in the laundry moment as humanly possible. The goal here is to let your arms fold the laundry without your brain even noticing you’re doing it.
Put your headphones on and jam out. Drag that basket in front of the biggest screen in the house and cue up Netflix. Tune into a political pundit who makes your blood boil. Do whatever it takes to distract yourself from the fact that you have heaps and heaps of the stuff to wash, fluff, and fold and that a certain someone in this house never appreciates how his ancient Beastie Boys t-shirt magically appears in his drawer every single time he feels like wearing it — even though you’ve been secretly wanting to throw it in the trash for the last five years. Nope, not one bit.
OK, maybe that last part is just me. But the fact is, laundry is a mind-numbing task and you need to numb your mind to the laundry before the laundry numbs you.
What if you resolved to be more present in the moment for your kids? Surely, that’s a different story, right? Wrong.
Listen, I’m not saying that we need to hit the Valium hard and start mixing cocktails at 4 p.m., Mad Men-style. I’m just saying that you do not need to bring the full force of your consciousness to Candyland. Or Play-Doh. Or a daily, hour-long dissertation on Minecraft.
The thing is, you don’t have to like the same things your kids like. You are a full grown woman! If you came across a full grown woman fascinated and engaged by every tap-tap-tap on the board to Gum Drop Mountain, what would you think? “Bless her heart,” is what. Full grown women are interested in other things — raising brave and kind children, the state of our country, Channing Tatum, wondering whether to re-upholster the sofa or if the cat just scratch it to bits every time (again, maybe just me).
My point is — and gold star, by the way, if you actually paid attention this long — sometimes you just simply need to get through it: A weekend with your in-laws, ballet recitals, your kid’s millionth soccer practice.
(And a special note about soccer, while we’re on the subject: It’s totally fine to say, “YES, I SAW THAT HANNAH!” even if you were really looking at a magazine, clouds, or that new coach’s butt. That last one is not just me, and you know it.)
So if you too find that all this mindfulness stuff requires you to acknowledge such thoughts as “I feel that I am going to scream right now,” give distraction a try. And if that doesn’t work, come back and ask me about my plan for better living through self-bribery using the advanced chocolate technique.More On