At one month old, my baby is a lot more wakeful, and much more alert, now than she was before. She’s awesome, and I love watching her discover the world. The flip side, though, is that hanging out with her can get a little monotonous. Don’t get me wrong, being with her is amazing and every flail of her tiny arms is miraculous, but watching her flail for an hour straight when she doesn’t feel like sleeping? Even as I hold her and rock her and talk and sing to her, I keep finding my mind drifting. When will she nod off so I can wash those dishes? I just got the schedule for the monthly lecture series I went to all last year – will I be able to go to any this year with a baby at home? I half-wrote this post in my head at least three times before I was actually able to get to the keyboard. And the baby knows she doesn’t have my full attention. When I one-handedly check my phone, she fusses, even though I’m still holding her and rocking her. I catch myself getting distracted and it bothers me – this is likely to be the only period in my or her life when I have uninterrupted time to devote to nothing but her, and I don’t want to cheat either of us of that. Yes, laundry and dishes are important, and so are my other projects, and I can do those things while the baby sleeps, but when she’s not sleeping? Other stuff should fall by the wayside and she should get priority.
But that’s easy to say and harder to put into practice. I know every mom must get distracted from time to time – moms have a lot of things to juggle – and I’m not going to beat myself up about that, but I do genuinely want to enjoy this time with her. And it occurred to me: I can treat spending time with my baby as a meditation practice. I have the perfect object to center my attention in the present moment. I can’t sit in a traditional meditation position, since I have to follow the baby’s lead and shift positions or walk around as I hold her, but I can still focus my attention and try to avoid distractions.
Yesterday I tried it. The baby had slept all morning, and by the afternoon, it wasn’t doing either of us any good trying to get her to nap because she wanted to be awake. I decided that, rather than forcing her to sleep so I could follow my distractions and do something else, it might be better just to do what she wanted, so that’s what I did. I challenged myself to stay focused only on her for half an hour. I kept catching myself trying to do other things, wanting to check email, worrying about the future, even just reaching for my water glass or wanting a snack. It was incredibly difficult to sit and pay attention only to her. But it was also pretty awesome. She was calm for that entire 30 minutes, no crying or even fussing really. She looked at me and gurgled and flailed and kicked, and I looked back. By the end, I was counting down the minutes, but putting in the effort to be truly present with her was something we both enjoyed. I don’t know if Zen masters would recognize it as meditation, but it was excellent practice at focusing my attention in the present moment.