87. Why it is hard to be a present parent, and what to do about it

One thing I hear moms tell me they want is to be MORE PRESENT. We know that in our daily life we have a lot of distractions pulling our attention away. And this is a problem when we are being pulled away from the tasks and people that are meaningful to us. 

Being a present parent allows us to engage, pour into and ENJOY our kids – and this has been a struggle of mine over the years – and a struggle I coach other moms through 

I polled my Facebook community on what keeps them from slowing down and being present – and the feedback was a resounding ‘the mental to-do list!’.  That streaming list in the back of our minds of ‘what we SHOULD be doing RIGHT NOW!’. I call this the mental chatter.  I also call this a thought trap – an autopilot thought keeping us stuck in a pattern that isn’t serving us and making our lives better. 

Why do we want to be more present in our parenting and life?

  • To nurture/improve our relationships
  • To become more aware of what is available for us to enjoy in the here and now
  • To be more relaxed rather than ruminating on the past or spinning with anxiety about the future
  • To be more mindful and proactive rather than on autopilot and reactive

You might want more presence if you feel like:

  • Your phone gets more attention than the people in your life
  • You feel disconnected from others or your life
  • You are often mentally distracted
  • You really aren’t enjoying what is happening, you kinda just numb and coast right through it 

The number on reason being present is hard is because of the MENTAL CHATTER. I want you to harness the power of the CBT model to see that your thoughts create your feelings and your feeling create your behaviour. 

I have an example of how I made a MINDSET shift that changed how I showed up during quarantine in a way that made me feel OPEN rather than made me feel constant rushed. 

Tips for slowing down and showing up to be more present as a mom, and in your life:

  1. Brain dump – declutter your brain
  2. Prioritize – this is a list of OPTIONS, now it is time to MAKE CHOICES
  3. Scheduling what NEEDS to be done – scheduling it in brings you freedom because you know there is time for what needs to get done
  4. Removing the distractions – from the phone to your time to your space
  5. Be proactive with what you will show up for – plan out specific activities/time frames that you will commit to showing up for


Helpful links

Listen to Are you stuck in the hustle for happiness

Listen to Why you are too busy (by enneagram type) 

Blog post on Do Life Better with a Brain Dump

Join the  Simple on Purpose Community Facebook group 

Sign up for the Simple Saturdays bi-weekly (FUN/HELPFUL) email


Full episode transcript 

Welcome to the Simple on Purpose podcast. This is a place for you, Mama, to come and feel refreshed. Because if you are going through your life, feeling resentful, feeling frustration, this is a sign you’ve been on autopilot letting life just happen to you instead of living it on purpose. And I say that because I’ve been there. I have been there – when I realized I was living my life on autopilot just building up this life of stuff and reactions and relationships that I didn’t really want.

I wanted something different.

I wanted a life of action and purpose. I wanted to parent with presence and peace.

I wanted to enjoy my husband, my kids myself.

This all took me on a journey to simplify, slow down and show up for my life on purpose.

So today we’re going to talk about presence. And do you ever have those weekends where you kind of like solo parenting? For me, my husband works a week on a week off. So for that one week, I am just all in momming so hard. And the weekends feel extra long. This past weekend, my daughter and my son, my oldest son, both had the opportunity to be what we call king or queen for the day. So we’ve been doing this sticker chart thing for over a year. And they really like it. They love feeling like they can earn rewards such as iPad time, or for my daughter, it’s usually some kind of candy or baking. But they just love that seeing themselves like Check, check check. and I know there’s a lot of debate on using rewards. And maybe we won’t keep it forever. But for right now, it seems to be working.

And when they fill up a sticker sheet, a whole sheet, they get to be queen or king for the day, they get to choose what we eat for all the meals, they get to choose what we watch, they get to choose what we do. They can’t bossnother people around I had to you know, put a ban on that pretty early into the game. But they get to call the shots, which I think is especially a luxury for the younger two- my middle and my youngest, who don’t often get that opportunity.

So we spent the weekend eating dairy queen watching a lot more TV then I wanted to. And it’s a tough situation to look to my kids to let them set the activities and the agenda. And so I had to practice a lot of presence where I was actually kind of be around and not until to beg to be around.

And so I really think that presence is something we’re constantly working on. And it’s worth it, I really think it’s worth it.

So what is presence?

I think people might have different definitions when they say I want to be more present in my life. I think if you’re a parent, it means like, I want to give my kids my attention, I want to look in their eyeballs get down to their level, and just not be caught up in whatever’s going on in my mind, be with them, whether it means playing with them or talking to them, or huddling them and not trying to just rush out of it.

So the people who are saying I have trouble being present are probably the people who want to be more present. If you don’t want to be more present, this is not a problem. But many of us do.

Why do we want to be more present? The first one that’s obvious to us, especially in parenting is that our relations see our relationships seem to be better they seem to flourish when we can be with one another, listening, paying attention responding, when we can enjoy them. All of this is work that goes into building a stronger, more connected relationship. And that’s true with our kids, our partner, our friends.

Another benefit of presence is that we become more aware. And maybe this is a reason why some of us don’t do it because we don’t want to become more aware. But we can become more aware of what’s in front of us. And hopefully, we can appreciate what’s in front of us, we can see what’s available in front of us to enjoy. And we can see life for what it is rather than race off with some story in our head about what it should be in what it isn’t.

When I think of presence, I think of being relaxed, not being stuck in this past kind of mindset where I’m ruminating about what went wrong and what I did wrong. And likewise, not being stuck in my mindset in the future, where I’ve got a lot of anxiety and worry and this has to get done. But I can just be right here I can be mindful, I can slow down I can get present. I can look at me and others around me and I can just stop and pay attention to what’s happening. I can slow down.

Being present means I can slow down that autopilot thinking I don’t have to just run off with my thoughts. Let them run the show that I can stop and tap into that more conscious part of my brain. That really proactive part of my brain that makes good decisions, rather than being led by my autopilot part of my brain. And just feeling like I am operating in a flurry of coffee and protein bars, and reactiveness.

When I think about presence, I also think about how I’m showing up now. And there were many years where I felt like I was half on my phone, half listening. And when we’re in a situation where we’re on our phones as parents, and we get interrupted, how we handle that interruption, probably makes us feel worse, and like we’re doing presence of wrong.

And I think this big mental battle we fight is how we handle things when we’re interrupted. Specifically, when we’re interrupted on our phone because we kind of feel guilty about being on our phone, we feel guilty that we snapped at our kids or tune them out.

That’s a whole other episode. But I just want you to give yourself some grace. And think about the relationship you want to have with your phone, rather than just letting it happen on autopilot.

When I’m not showing up, when I’m not being present, I feel disconnected. I feel like I’m not paying attention. It doesn’t help my relationships feel any stronger or more intimate. I feel mentally distracted, I feel overwhelmed. And what I’ve noticed over the years is when I’m not present, I’m not enjoying what’s happening. I just kind of numb through it numb through the day. And then I’m like, why don’t I enjoy my life? Why don’t I enjoy my kids?

So what’s happening is we’re missing opportunities for connection, we’re not actively getting more connected, we’re missing opportunities for enjoyment. And when that happens, when we’re not enjoying our actual life, we think something’s wrong with us or wrong with our life, then we might be stuck in the hustle for happiness. If you wanna hear more about that go to Episode 66.

Another part about not being present is that we just stay spinning in this mental overwhelm that life is too busy and too much and we aren’t enough. And speaking of busy, there is an episode right before this about being busy, which I felt like was a primer to this topic. So go back and check that out when you’re done here.

I asked women, why is it hard for you to be present, I asked women in my facebook group. And the number one reason they said is because there’s this mental chatter of what we should be doing this mental to do list, I should be doing something else. I’m feeling idle.

And like I said, in that episode on busy, we’re raised in a culture that idolizes busy. And we go through our daily life, under the assumption that we should be using our time properly, we should be productive, we should be constantly doing. These are the mindsets that are running in the background, they are running, subconsciously, they’re running the show.

And I use this to outline it using the CBT model, the cognitive behavioral therapy model, I’ve talked about it before, you might hear it just called the model, which was coined by Brooke Castillo.

And what it outlines the framework for it is we have a scenario we’re in, a circumstance we’re in. And then we have thoughts, we think about that. Those thoughts are going to generate certain emotions in us, we act based on how we’re feeling from those emotions. And in the end, our actions give us a certain result. So let’s play it out.

The scenario is, my kid asked me to play with them, I’m sitting down beside them. If I have this thought, this isn’t a good use of my time. And I’m thinking about all of the other things I should be doing the work I haven’t done, I could go and pull meat out of the freezer right now I could go put a load of laundry through, like all of the other things, Oh, I should maybe go check my email. If I’m thinking these thoughts, how do I feel? How do we feel? When we’re in the state of mind? I feel rushed. And when I feel rushed, how am I acting in this situation with my kids, I’m having it not paying attention. I treat this as a process to get through rather than another building block into our relationship. And my result is I don’t use my time well.

So I had to shift this mindset in quarantine. I had to be with my kids putting work everything on the back burner, because I don’t pandemic school and whatever and make like lists and charts and schedules and just be all in. It was overwhelming. And I had to tell myself instead of all of the other things I should be doing. I had to tell myself, I’m exactly where I need to be right now.

I’m exactly where I need to be when I could think that How did I feel? I felt more open. And I wasn’t quite relaxed. That took some practice, but I was open. So I didn’t rush my kids. I didn’t rush myself. I let myself pay attention to what was there to what was great to what was hard to what I wanted to change. I stayed present it felt good.

The takeaway I want you to take from this is it doesn’t so much matter what you’re doing with your time, so much as the mindset you go into it with and it is hard. It really is hard to say I am feeling overwhelmed or busy or rushed right now because of what I’m thinking about. The situation so what am I thinking?

This is how we start, we pay attention to what we’re telling ourselves about it to what thought trap we might be in. And a thought trap is that thought that is an autopilot. And it keeps us stuck. It keeps us in the cycle. It’s not helping make our life better, but we believe it, we don’t challenge it. So what thought trap point might we be in? Ask yourself how it’s affecting you? How are you showing up? When you feel like this? How are you showing up when you think this because the work is to show up in a new way to be present in a new way.

And I outlined this some strategies in the last episode on busy, and I’m going to reiterate them here because they are worth repeating again, and again, I need to hear them again. And again, too.

So what’s happening when we’re feeling overwhelmed, there is just so much for our brain to process that it almost doesn’t want to do the work, it doesn’t want to do the work, right? It’s just too much energy to work through all of these things that are just swirling around in our mind. And the best way to override that is to do a brain dump getting that all out onto paper, laying it all out, what errands do, you have to run, what projects need to be done? What are all of the little things that are just nagging you that I should do and this should be done. And you know, your brain is just so full of all these things. So get them out onto paper.

And then you’re going to look at this list. And I said before, this is not a list of everything you should be doing. This is not a checklist of your value and your worth, and how you need to spend your time. This is a list that shows you your options. This is a list of everything you could do.

And we are supposed to make choices about how we use our resources, our time, our energy, our space, our money, we’re supposed to make choices about those things. Because when we make choices, we say this is what matters. That’s what choices are for, for choosing what matters. And if everything is important, nothing is important.

So prioritize what is my priority for the day, for the week for the month.

Now the next step is to set aside the time you need for these things to get done. And I know if you’re like me, the idea of a plan just feels restrictive. And I don’t want any piece of paper telling me what to do. But a plan is also freeing because when you put it in, when you schedule it for yourself, and you show up for yourself, and you stick with it, you’re going to start believing that you are someone who does what you say you’re going to do. And when you set aside time for the things that need to be done, you can show up and enjoy being present. Otherwise, you’re not just running and racing from one thing to another, trying to just get everything done.

The next thing is to remove the distractions, we talked a little bit about the phone. And I know that the phone is something that a lot of people feel pulls their presence away, the phone is a huge distraction. I mean, just look at your screentime app, see how many times you pick it up, see how long you spend on it. I’ve even started using that screentime app on the iPhone to set time limits on different apps like Instagram, I set myself a time limit. And I give myself phone free days. So I try for the most part to really have the phone away on a Sunday, at least social media put away I mean, I’ll probably be listening to podcasts and texting my family and friends. But removing the idea of social media as being something I need to keep going and checking.

Removing distractions isn’t just about phone, it’s maybe removing your self physically from your house getting outside, maybe it’s turning off the TV, maybe it’s removing all of the dues and the demands on your time today. So removing the distractions.

And then a way to be a bit proactive with being present is to pick what you want to show up for. So especially when it comes to parenting and kids, plan something with your kids, that is going to be an activity or a timeframe. So hey, guys, let’s watch a movie together. Let’s play a board game together. Let’s hang out on Saturday morning for an hour you pick what we want to do. setting that aside. That’s telling your brain okay brain, this is my job right now. This is the job I need to be doing.

And all of this is going to take practice. It’s going to take practice, to be mindful of that chatter in your brain of quieting it down and redirecting it and coming back into the moment to show up. It’s not just going to happen the first time it’s not just going to happen overnight. So give yourself time to practice being present. It takes work.

If you want support on that. Why don’t you come into the Facebook group the similar purpose community, share what you’re struggling with? Share your questions, share your wins, I’d love to hear them all there.

And this is the place to hang out guys this coming year. I want to help you be more purposeful and passionate about your life. I want to help you get unstuck know what you want, and take action to live your life on purpose.

And at the beginning of January. I’m going to Do a special live training that’s going to teach you three steps to get unstuck from the autopilot, living and take action to live your life on purpose. That’s what I want for you. Because I know how great it feels. I know how great it feels when you don’t feel anymore. Like your day is just out of control and you’re overwhelmed and you’re reactive, and you’re not showing up and what do you even show up for and can I even get the life that I crave when I’m stuck with babies and dishes and snacks and more snacks and sweeping the floor one more time. But it is possible and I want to hold your hand and take you through all of the small steps that you can take that are gonna get you on that road.

As always, it’s a pleasure to share this time with you. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend and have a great week.



why it is hard to be a present parent and what to do about it

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