Every working mom has battled a wandering mind one too many times. When the anxiety and worries start bouncing around in your brain, it’s impossible to stop them from spiraling out of control. Did I agree to drive carpool on the morning of a big presentation? Can I hit this deadline, meet with my boss and arrive at preschool orientation with more than five minutes to spare? How on earth will dinner ever get made when it’s still, you know, dinner time?
Suzy Welch, author and reporter for CNBC, felt similarly frazzled when she was working 50 hours a week and raising four children under the age of six. “When I was in the office, my mind was moving the kids from school to play dates,” she told CNBC Make It. “I was texting the babysitter. I was sneaking in a call to the math tutor.”
And, she wasn’t fully present for her family when at home. She found herself distracted over work and making mental edits instead of fully engaging with her kids during bedtime.
Something had to change. Little did Suzy know, that change would be initiated by four simple words of advice from her boss. Those words were “be where you are” and they changed Suzy’s mindset forever. It struck such a chord that Suzy credits it as “the best work-life advice I’ve ever heard.” As straightforward as it sounds, Suzy explains that implementing that mantra into her life required a lot of work. “Suddenly, I had a radical new discipline—and it is a discipline—of being present in the moment, of living one life at a time, each one fully.”
Staying present, or at least mindful of the present, is a time-honored technique rooted in Buddhist and Zen tradition. Suzy is right to call her boss’s advice a discipline; there are many people who devote their lives to achieving the highest states of mindfulness. For those who want to remain present in their day jobs, and with their children, the advice can be highly transformative.
Suzy said putting the mantra into practice alleviated some of the guilt she felt as a working parent. While raising kids, “chaos is your constant companion,” she said. “But worse than that is the guilt.” She admitted the guilt never goes away entirely, even though her children are now adults. “There are constant tradeoffs, and few are easy,” she said. “But this simple technique is the single best way I know to get through the period in your life when your kids and your work seem to need you in equal measure. Even when that period ends—and thank God, it does—’be where you are’ is advice that never gets old, even if your kids do.”
Suzy passed the mantra along to her family and coworkers and they greatly benefitted from it too. It helped put them more at ease. “Everyone around me exhaled,” she explained, “because I could exhale.”