3 Things I Learned About Mindfulness While Doing Chores with My Kid

3 Things I Learned About Mindfulness While Doing Chores with My Kid

It’s hard to find time (and quiet!) for meditation, but this is one way to make it happen.

By Susie Ochs

One thing I'm finding every day that I'm a mom is that I'm not as patient or as present as I'd like to think I am. I mean, that is some hard stuff! Listening to a rambling story about his favorite cartoon instead of checking social media on my phone is hard. Watching an entire T-ball practice instead of staring at an e-reader is hard.

Maybe I just have my own screen-time issue, but one thing that's helped is including my 5-year-old son in more of the chores we have to do. The house isn't really getting all that much cleaner, but it's some of the best mindfulness training I've had. Here's what I've learned so far.

Slow down
When it's just me, I set a timer for 20 minutes and clean as fast as I can. With my son, there is no rush. If we're folding towels, he lays each one out, then lines up the corners, stacks them just so, refolds any that get mussed by the stacking. And it just seems like a more pleasant task for him as a result. He's literally stopping to smell the fabric softener.

Maybe this is a remnant of little-boy earnestness that will fade away in another couple of years, but for now I'll take it as a reminder that the point here is that we're doing this chore together right now, not that we're getting it done in record time to speed on to the next thing. The towels are warm and smell good and can be stacked in size order by colors—and if I slow down just a little, I'll realize that.

Notice how you're feeling
I'm still a mediation rookie, but one thing guided meditation apps are always reminding me is to notice physical sensations like my feet on the floor, the way the chair feels underneath me, that kind of thing. It's a way to get me out of my head, I guess, and focused on my breathing.

It's also something little kids are naturally amazing at—I can tell my son is in touch with his body because he complains about, or at least mentions, every little thing. His sock is twisted. His earlobe itches. His stomach feels "bubbly." He also likes to show off what he can do, you know, "Look how high I can jump! I'm the fastest runner in the world!" So working alongside him is a good reminder to check in with my physical self, and take pride in what my own body can accomplish.

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Enjoy the process
If I'm folding laundry or sweeping up by myself, it's not a smell-the-roses moment. I'm just trying to get it done, and I'm probably already thinking of the next task, the next deadline, all the other stuff I have to do. My son is much better at getting in the zone and actually having fun doing what he's doing in the moment. He'll sing a cleanup song from preschool, or he'll start asking a hundred questions, but he's always into it, because he really does like to help.

So I'm trying to learn from that enthusiasm too, and subtly adjust my attitude to be more like his. If there's a ton of laundry, I can give thanks we've had fun outside getting all dirty, and enjoy the smell of fabric softener. If the sink is full of dishes, I can relish the satisfaction of turning that disgusting mess into an orderly dish rack of squeaky clean plates and glasses, and all the bubbles I get to squish between my fingers in the process.

And if all of that still doesn't work, I just smile and tell the boy, "Someday this will be your job!"

What helps you stay in the moment with your children?

Susie Ochs writes about technology and parenting, and lives in Oakland with her husband and son. You can follow her on

Image ©iStock.com/SelectStock

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