I bought my first iPhone the day before my eldest was born, six years ago. I loved the fact that I could take photos of my newborn the following day and thousands more over the next few years. The phone became my companion, during those dark long evenings breastfeeding and being up at night with the baby (and then babies). I would text and email my fellow baby friends to compare notes on sleep deprivation. Slowly, slowly, the phone became more prominent in my life.
I used Facebook, I’d search on Google for things wherever I was, rather than waiting until later to find out the answer. The phone has become my navigation system, my camera, my personal shopping portal and my daily news provider. In my career as a social media manager, I couldn’t do my job without it, BUT… how much have I missed over the last six years?
Those moments, I’ve been reading a text, laughing about a funny photo. Were the boys smiling up at me? “Mummy, watch this.” “In a minute, kids, let me just finish this.” The view out of the train, rather than on my screen, the people around me, what have they been doing? Mainly, looking on their phones (certainly on the train where I am writing this, 9/10 people are looking down, me included).
My phone has been one of the main boundaries, preventing me from being a more mindful mum around the boys. To be fair, there have been times when life has got so in the way, that being mindful was pretty much impossible. When my father was ill and later when things got more acute, everything and everyone had to come second to his needs. I gave 100% of myself to care for my Dad and I’ll always know that I did everything I possibly could for him, however, I spent no time looking after myself at that point. Perhaps then was the time I needed to be more mindful than ever.
Three boys wake up, they press their ignition buttons and the noise and speed at which they travel continues until they eventually fall asleep at the end of the day, with nothing left in the tank. I tend to rush around, dealing with one task after another, mainly telling them to lower their voices and breaking up arguments. I tidy, they mess it up five minutes later; I cook, they either love it or loathe it.
Our best times are being outdoors together. When we went to the Isle of Wight recently for a few days, our hotel had no phone reception or wifi. I realised that I have missed a fair few moment over the years. I read books and magazines in the evenings, rather than looking on social media at the same time, or replying to work emails, they could wait. I sat in the sunshine at the park and watched the kids playing, seeing the joy in their faces, their pride at reaching the top of the climbing wall, being there to share their achievements.
I recently went to a Mothers Meeting event at Shoreditch House to listen to a talk all about mama. The panel was made up of the hilarious, Mother Pukka (vlogger), Clemmie, aka Mother of Daughters (the most well known midwife on Instagram), lovely radio DJ (and fellow Mum to boys), Edith Bowman and Jenny Scott, founder of Mothers Meetings. I bumped into the lovely Emily Gray Photography who was official event photographer. She recently took some headshot photos of me for work and lots of people have been asking who took them.
We were taken through a guided mindfulness session by Tess Watt, a mindfulness teacher and consultant who has been practising meditation for over 20 years, and is an experienced instructor at the London Shambhala Meditation Centre. I was seriously impressed that her calming voice and words quietened an entire room of women, most of whom had enjoyed an Aperol spritz or two before the talk started. You could have heard a penny drop.
Everyone on the panel agreed that we are all guilty of not taking time to look after ourselves and take time out to simply stop and breathe. A few simple changes in your life can make all the difference, as a parent and as an individual. I am calmer and less shouty (sometimes) at bedtime, because I am working more efficiently in the day. I put my work person away when it’s the kids time and start being a mum, and likewise when I am working or have time to myself, I switch off my mum role to enable me to be more efficient with my time.
There are times when I work at night and rush the kids off to bed, but I pick them up from school almost everyday and spend time engaging with them (now mainly with my phone in the other room). I have been listening to the Quility App at night a few times a week and I’m going on a yoga retreat next week to have forty eight hour reminding myself how to be calmer and slow down a little more.
The main change that I have made to be a more mindful Mum is to leave my phone in the other room when I am with the kids. I want to set an example to them, not to be bound to their screens (at their age they don’t really have any but it’s only a matter of time). I am also planning on saving up for a good camera so that I can go for days out with the kids, and take photos, whilst leaving my phone at home. Small changes are good and with three boys, ages six and under having a little time for me is more important than ever.