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How to practice mindfulness when your to-do list feels too full, mama

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The word mindful often conjures up an image of a person sitting in a serene space, calm revealed in their expression. On the other hand, the word parenting can create the opposite picture. Parenting is an honor, and for many, pure joy. Yet in the spaces between bliss, it can feel challenging and draining.

Continuous caring, constant concern, all in the midst of (what can feel like) unceasing chaos is far from tranquil. Peace can seem untouchable to the mom, dad or guardian in the trenches of a moment in parenting. Add it to the list of things-I'll-do-in-18-years.

But, what if mindfulness wasn't really that at all? What if it was something you could do right now, even as you are reading these words?

Being consciously aware of your experience, even while commotion circles around you, is possible. Children are expressive, energetic and excited. We want to flourish that and be inspired by it, however, the energy can often move toward unkindness. As guides, we can catch the moment and change the message before our reactions can become our children's actions. We can be the eye-of-the-storm with the capacity to quiet the squall.

So what is mindfulness?

I have come to know mindfulness as purposefully paying attention imperfectly. In being mindful, we welcome our experiences as they are, and ourselves as we are, in the imperfections that form us all.

Frequently, our mind does not match our moment. Mindfulness brings our attention fully on an experience, we learn to be with sensations long enough to allow them to move through us toward the change that greets every experience. We are stretched, strengthened and supported, and see that we are where we are supposed to be, simply because it is where we are.

Why a mama needs it

Through mindfulness, we can strive less for unattainable perfection and arrive in purposeful presence. We release the hold that expectations have on us and open to acceptance of what is, imaginably even gratitude for being in what we need while not reaching for what we want.

We can quiet enough to hear the whisper of our intuition, wiser than the pressure of judging voices.

We can move through toddler tantrums and teen trials knowing that nothing lasts forever as it is.

We may even slow down enough to see a struggling child, rather than bad behavior, and respond lovingly to a person that is acting as imperfectly human as we are.

We give us all a little space to mistake.

How to practice it

We construct our own barriers of I can't when we crave to create perfection. We can build a wall of reasons why this practice won't work for us. We place one brick because we think we don't have the right clothes for sitting, another for our too busy lifestyle, one because we think our mind never stops racing, and perhaps another because we are afraid. This wall blocks our experiences, it keeps us from seeing and feeling our life unfolding in its greatest capacity.

Perfection is unattainable, but presence is right here. This practice is about choosing to focus on what is happening instead of fixing on what could be or should be happening. We see beauty in a moment, believe in purpose for circumstance, and trust our greatest potential.

Here's the R.E.A.L. of parenting in mindfulness:

Rest

Pause what you are doing and notice what is happening. Observe sensations and see the situation. This does not require special clothing, serene space or specific props.

Pay attention to what you are feeling, then check your intention before you keep going. Ask yourself if you are acting from a place of love, doing what you need or from a place a fear, afraid of the judgment that you are not doing enough?

Exhale

Slow, deep breathing calms the body and mind by activating the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system. When you feel anxious or angry, practice a pause, stopping for a moment and take a deep breath. This may allow you to respond sensibly, not react senselessly. Take three slow deep breaths then notice and receive.

You may also want to try still sitting. Set aside one minute each day to just sit and breathe. This can be at home, in bed, stopped in the car, most anywhere.

Turn the phone off, put the list away and give yourself 60 seconds to take deep breaths and notice what it feels like. Increase from one minute to two, then three, maybe eventually sitting still for 20 minutes.

Let the goal be the journey, being less concerned with how long you sit and more aware that you are sitting. Understand that it is a practice of drifting away and drawing back. The mind will wander; it is alive and wondrous. Your breath is happening right now, let it be your path to the present.

Acknowledge

Staying present can be challenging because we have a tendency to run toward what is enjoyable and flee from what feels unpleasant. Full presence requires that we sit in it, all of it, comfort and discomfort.

Allow feelings, thoughts and sensations to move through you, release them through tears, yelling into a pillow or talking with a friend. Name your emotions with the intention to feel them towards freedom. Know that you are not your thoughts, you are much more extraordinary.

Live

Live your life the best you can and believe others are doing the same. We are all simply doing the best we can in the moment we are in. Don't waste precious time judging others. Instead, take responsibility for your happiness, choosing to move through what doesn't serve you and setting your attention on what stretches and strengthens you. Your best life is unfolding right now.

Practice a present parenting pause in these ways:

  • In conversation, choose to make eye contact and really listen to the words being shared. Pause and then respond.
  • While eating, choose to actually taste the food and enjoy the meal. Chew, pause, taste. Maybe even converse before the next bite.
  • While holding a sleeping baby or sitting beside a crib or bed, instead of reading or scrolling, pause, close your eyes and notice what your breath feels like.
  • While a young child explores the inside of the car before (finally) sitting down, pause, and take a few deep breaths becoming aware of frustration. If you are in a rush, the brief pause may help you realize that it takes about 30 seconds to take three deep breaths. That might be the difference between a calm moment of connected conversation or the chaos of an upset child that was yelled at and a parent feeling guilty for yelling.

Tips for inviting mindfulness into family life:

  • See: Play the classic game "I Spy" with your child as you are walking or in the car. Simply stop, see, and share what you notice.
  • Sense: Feel the sensations of a belly breath. Ask your child to sit with hands on belly and fill it up, then watch it fall.
  • Show: Show and support a calm breath. When you are frustrated, take a deep breath and share with your child that you are taking a calm breath. Let them see you doing what you ask of them.
  • Say: Teach a fun phrase or affirmation to say when they breathe. Ask them to breathe in and say "I am" and to breath out and say a word that describes a way they want to be. Breathing in: "I am," breathing out: "kind."

Invite a present parenting pause into everyday life and experience the peace that sits within and around us all. Even when you feel overwhelmed and have a to-do list a mile long, taking that moment for yourself can make all the difference.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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One hour.

That's all this summer goal requires. It requires pretty much no planning or bucket list-making or thought, other than keeping your eyes open for opportunity. This hour will find you.

I figured out the impact of this hour when we spent last weekend at a water park while my son played lacrosse. Going back and forth from game to hotel water park all weekend left us feeling disjointed and exhausted. It was lots of fun, but I was just tired at the end of it. Every bone in my body couldn't wait to get home.

My kids, however, who can run all day and still not be tired, really wanted just one more hour in the water park. This meant I'd have to put on my bathing suit. We had to check out of our room, so if we stayed, we'd have to change in the damp, icky changing area. My hair would be wet. The water park was so loud. Not one thing about the idea of staying sounded appealing to me.

But still, they wanted to stay. They looked at us with hopeful eyes, begging for the fun to continue. Pretty much every other family was headed home. But we made a decision that changed how I am looking at my whole summer – and, really, how I'm looking at how my role as a parent.

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We stayed the extra hour. I am not exaggerating when I say it made all the difference.

I dug deep and decided I was going to be Fun Mom for an hour. I could have been Sit-in-a-chair-and-half-heartedly-watch-their-antics Mom for an hour, but I decided that would be a waste. If I wasn't going home, I was going to really be there for an hour. I was going to get my hair wet and not complain. For one hour, I was basically going to be a kid.

And it was So. Much. Fun.

I realized how important this hour was about 10 minutes in, when I found myself racing up the steps of the kiddie water slide area, chasing after Sam, plotting how I could adjust my way of sliding to finally beat him in our water slide race. I was ALL IN at that moment.

When I said I would slide with him, Sam's eyes lit right up and his little arms shot up in the air with a giant “YES!" He wanted to have fun with me. In that moment, I was not just Fun Mom. I was Fun Amy.

Having fun with your kids allows you to see them in a whole new light. I watched Sam use his God-given giant load of energy to run and run and run and embrace that hour, so much that I think he may be a fun genius.

I watched Kate fearlessly whip down water slides that made me scream like a baby. She held my hand. She was the one who was brave. She had no fear, and her fierce independence and determination made me feel lucky to be her friend for an hour.

I watched Thomas take Sam under his wing when it was his turn for slide races. I watched him teach Sam new water tricks and happily play in the kiddie area with reckless abandon, being kind and awesome to his brother at every turn.

I watched Ellie and Lily with their arms around each other, best friends for this sacred hour. I went down sides with each of them and floated through the lazy river as we all chatted, without a care in the world.

I held Todd's hand and rode down a slide with him in a double tube, just like in our dating days, our kids watching from behind, rolling their eyes with huge grins on their faces, hopefully seeing that marriage is more than making lunches and carting them around – that marriage is having actual fun with each other.

Spend the hour, my friends.

This hour reminded me how awesome it is to be the fun mom, to just be human with your kids. It reminded me how amazing it can be to say yes.

Sure, I could have used that hour to start on the massive pile of laundry we brought home. And full disclosure: We pushed ourselves to the point that there was plenty of super tired whining and complaining when we drove home. That hour could have saved us from having to stop for a little treat on the way home because now dinner was too far away. The house might have been cleaner and my people fed on time and in bed earlier had we not spent the hour.

But the laundry and the whining and the feeding of the people will always be there. That hour of fun was not only priceless. It was fleeting, like a feather in the wind we could catch if we tried. And we did.

Your hour may not be water park fun. This may sound like sheer torture to you. But your hour can be anything. And seriously, it's just an hour. We can do anything for an hour.

Thinking back, I remember my parents taking this same hour with us. My dad raced from roller coaster to roller coaster with my more adventurous siblings. My mom became more fun than any teenage shopping buddy we had. They spent the time. They took the hour. And we have amazing family memories because of it.

Life tries to drum that hour out of us. It tries to make us believe that getting stuff done is the ultimate prize. I am all for folded laundry and an empty sink and kids who are asleep at bedtime. But don't let life keep you from taking an hour here and there.

Find what you love, share it with your kids, say yes even when every bone in your old and weary body says no. Let your kids hear you scream like a kid going down a water slide. Get your hair wet. Eat ice cream for dinner. Play a family game of tag at the park as the sun goes down.

Show your kids you are more than a task master who cares too much about beds being made. Show them that you are not just the adult who wants them to entertain themselves at the water park while you sit in a hot tub (although I did that this weekend, too, and it was amazing).

Show them that family is fun, and that fun can actually come first. Show them the kid in you. It will bond you together in a whole new way.

Make it your goal this summer to take the hour. Those moments will make all the difference. And it's the moments that will change your family forever.

This post was originally published on Hiding in the Closet with Coffee.

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Breastfeeding is not easy. But neither is weaning. That's why this powerful photo from Brazilian mama Maya Vorderstrasse is going viral. Her husband captured the first time she ever breastfed their second daughter and next to it, almost two years later, the last time she fed their daughter from her breast.

And it's not just the photo that is powerful. In her caption Maya shares her emotional struggles with weaning and the tricks they used to make this transition easier for their youngest daughter. The caption reads:

"The first and last time my precious daughter ever nursed.

I didn't know that one person could feel so proud and so broken at the same time, right now I am a hormonal, emotional, and mental mess.

Raising my arm in this picture was very difficult for me as I had to fight through uncontrollable tears: this picture meant that I would never breastfeed my daughter ever again. I have been nursing for so long, that I don't know what it's like to not nurse anymore.



As I looked behind the camera, my husband is crying like I had never seen him cry before, like seriously, a deep gut cry. I was her comfort, her safe place, and I hope she still finds me that way. A month shy of 2 years old, she finally has a bed in a shared bedroom with her sister. We bought her her first bed, used any distraction we could come up with, snacks and new toys to keep her mind off of it.

My husband has taken over bedtime completely, including all nighttime wakings. We are on our third day, and every day gets a little bit easier. The guilt I feel for not putting her to bed is so intense and I can't wait to go back to it once she doesn't ask to nurse anymore. Closing a chapter is painful, but I am hopeful that this new season of our lives will also be special in its own way.

Through this maturation step she will not only grow more independent, but I will get a much needed break. She unlatched for the last time and sobbingly I said to my husband: "I did my best". He hugged me and responded with: "No. You did THE best, because you gave her your all". I love my family and am so thankful for such special and unforgettable moments like these. 💛

*my lazy boob has no clue about what's going on, but thoughts and prayers are accepted for my good one, I really think it might explode🤱🏻

**thank you to my husband, for insisting on filming this, I will treasure this forever.🤳🏼👩"

You've got this mama!

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If you're looking for basics for the kids for summer, you're in luck, mama. Primary clothes don't have logos or sparkles—they're classic prints and colors that can easily transition from one kid to the next. And this week, Primary is celebrating the new season with a major summer sale.

Items, like swimsuits, dresses, polos and more, are over 50% off. Most pieces are under $10 so you can stock up on an entire new wardrobe without breaking the budget.

Here's what we're adding to our carts—shop the entire sale here:

1. Baby rainbow stripe rash guard

With UPF 50, you can rest easy knowing baby has extra protection outdoors.

$14.50

SHOP

2. The track short

The easy pull-on waist will make outfit changes a breeze.

$10.50

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3. Rainbow stripe one-piece

Cute? Check. Will stay in place? Check. UPF 50? Check.

$18.00

SHOP

4. The short sleeve twirly dress

Made of 100% cotton jersey, this one will be a staple all summer long.

$10.00

SHOP

5. The polo babysuit

Perfect to dress up or down.

$8.00

SHOP

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Being an adult is no joke. Beyond dressing ourselves and our kids and, ya know, feeding and bathing the family, there are so many other things that life throws at us. And because we're adults, we have to take care of these myriad to-dos. Welcome to: Adulting!

I'm not just talking about laundry, filling up the gas tank and stocking the fridge with groceries, but those tasks that always get pushed back. Getting life insurance. Refinancing your loan debt. (Students loans? Us, too.) Signing up for marriage counseling.

But guess what? These seemingly heavy-lift tasks are now a whole lot easier and faster to tackle. Here's how to check off your most tedious adulting chores.

The life insurance

When you're single with no descendants, life insurance might not seem like a top priority. But when you suddenly have a kid (or three), setting your family up for financial success is a must. And thanks to Ladder, obtaining a policy isn't the taxing, cringe-inducing process it used to be! It's modern and easy to use—seriously, you can even sign up for a policy from your phone or tablet. Ladder makes it possible to obtain a policy in under five minutes. Yes, really. See? No need to procrastinate!

LEARN MORE

The student loan redux

You have the degree and the career and you also have the debt. And like us, you're likely just paying your monthly minimums without considering refinancing your student loans—because that sounds hard and complicated. Laurel Road simplifies the process. You can check your rates in only a few minutes (and don't worry, doing so won't impact to your credit score!).

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The marriage counselor

Did you know that 66% of couples report a drop in marital satisfaction when baby arrives? It's not surprising that an infant can cause stress for mama, but all that pressure can affect your relationship, too. Taking the time to really invest in marriage counseling often falls to the bottom of the to-do lists because of the many hurdles—finding a therapist, traveling to appointments, the cost of copays or out-of-pocket fees, the stigma around it all. With Lasting, however, you and your partner pair your apps and can begin working on your relationship together on your own timeline.

LEARN MORE

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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