All I want is a cup of coffee. Hot, dark coffee to start the day. But the baby is crying, the toddler is whining and, even though I’m doing my best, I still I can’t seem to make anyone happy in this moment.
This morning, I went to change the little one’s diaper and the poop came spewing at me, faster than I could react. It shot into my hair, it got all over the sheets of my bed, it somehow ended up on all the clean diapers I had placed next to her. It was everywhere. Like a bomb of mustard popcorn had exploded. It was disgusting. At least it smelled like popcorn, but it was still disgusting.
Now we’re in the kitchen and I must have turned the stove up too high because those eggs cooked way too fast and they are looking a little charred. “Yuck. Those eggs are not fresh,” says my big girl. “I would like peanut butter and jelly, not THAT.” Tears, a whole three-year-old body flailed to the ground out of protest. The plate almost crashes before I can lunge for it.
I take a mental step back. Out. Away. What do I actually have to accomplish right now? Breakfast for a three-year–old. Yes. Breastmilk for a four-month-old. Yes. Coffee for myself. Yes. Beyond that, the world is our oyster today. I get myself out of my own bubble, I look in on myself, half-dressed with baby vomit on my sweatshirt, hair kinked and messy, a house strewn with toys (that I swear I just picked up last night – how on earth did they get all over the house again so soon?) and I have to laugh. It’s either that or cry at my desperation for caffeine in a moment like this.
Deep breath in. Here we are. Let the edges of my vision get fuzzy where dust bunnies and piled laundry and a few stacked dishes lay waiting. I’ll get to them. Exhale out. The worry of bills and work and sleep-deprivation. Deep sigh. No one really needs me on social media right now. Set my phone aside. Turn on music. Focus on where I am right now.
In a year, my baby will be big, my toddler will be bigger, this messy moment will not matter. Not in the way I feel like it does right now. Can I make the choice to just breath, focus on what is right in front of me and not worry about the next day or hour? And to chuckle, at myself, at this brief instant in my life?
Yogis and psychologists call this meditating – I call it, “Out of the Bubble.” It’s just a concrete metaphor for removing yourself emotionally from the situation – even just for a moment – so you can get a little perspective.
Imagine yourself sitting on top of a huge glass bubble and you’re inside it with your child, having your moment. You can see what’s going on but you’re not a part of it, instead you’re an observer. You notice what’s going on before your eyes but it’s going on in front of you, not to you, like you’re watching yourself in a movie. Suddenly, as you breathe and observe, you’re not so caught up in how horrible everything is right then. You have emotional distance and gain some objectivity.
Of course, breathing in and out and while using imagery is not going to solve every problem you ever have as a parent, and you may not be able to even use this strategy every time you have a crazy day. When you can use it, though, you’ll feel yourself relax and develop mindfulness. You’ll build resilience in yourself and your kids as they watch you learn how to cope in stressful situations.
Using breathing and mindfulness is an amazing trip for reducing stress in new parents specifically, since those early “dog days” of parenting seem to sometimes be never-ending.
You’ve heard the cliché speeches from those who have already lived it: “It’ll be over before you know it. That time is so precious, don’t wish it away.” Of course, they’re right. But until you make it over that steep, dry mountain of early parenting, over to the lush green (in some ways easier) valley that’s waiting for you, it doesn’t feel brief, or precious or wistful. It feels, literally, like poop and eggs and spit-up all over your hair.
Oh, sweet new (or seasoned) parent standing in the kitchen just trying to get a cup of coffee, just laugh and breath. It’s all you can do.