I've definitely been feeling the pull of three kids this week. Monday afternoon was one of the most challenging afternoons in while due to a very clingy baby and the boys with their mounds of homework. I couldn't sit with them at the table without holding Rowan. I couldn't hold Rowan at the table because she kept trying to eat their papers. I couldn't stand by the table holding Rowan because she kept trying to launch herself onto the table from a few feet above. I lost my patience multiple times. With the boys, with Rowan, and with myself. There was no amount of breathing, no amount of telling myself that this is a wonderful moment that would work to focus me, to help me to be present in that moment and smile.
The pull continued as bedtime ensued. Rowan wanted to nurse for 40 minutes or more, and every time I thought she was asleep and tried to put her down, she woke up screaming. I thought of my sweet boys who were upstairs, watching TV, waiting for me to come and tuck them in. Guilt creeped in and I struggled not to feel frustrated with Rowan, struggled not to yell out, "You're not the only kid I have!" I know it isn't her fault, and I know that as she approaches the one year mark, she is starting to settle in to things so much better. But the reality is that parenting a high-needs baby is exhausting, and I never feel like I have enough of myself to go around. I gave the screaming girl to Hubby, and I went upstairs and rushed through storytime with the boys. The rushing through part weighed on my conscience for the rest of the night. Afterwards, I realized that I was not present with them, that I could only hear the screaming cries from downstairs, and that I really missed out on that special time we share. It's what my Momfulness book calls absent presence:
The state of being present in the body but not in mind or heart is called absent presense and is actually the state that most of us live in much of the time. It's as if we are walking ghosts. Our children know that we're not really there. They don't feel truly seen or heard by us. Love is a body-to-body experience; when we don't make real contact, our loved ones don't experience the fullness of love. And neither do we.
This passage perfectly describes where I was on Monday night during the boy-os' bedtime routine. I was not really there with them. I was struggling internally with my guilt, my frustrations, and I'd wager they could tell.
This is not how I want to parent them. And it isn't the reality all the time; the breathing meditation helps keep me present quite a bit. More importantly, I'm learning to forgive myself when it isn't enough, when I can't find my smile like I couldn't during homework time.
In moments like the rushed bedtime and really any interaction with them, this is another practice that I think will help. Now that the breathing meditation has started to become second nature, I'm going to add this to the mix.
Eye Contact Meditation
from Momfulness (I'm summarizing/paraphrasing. She describes it much more eloquently!)