This is Your Actual Life thumbnail

This is Your Actual Life

3 Things by Catherine Newman, Real Simple magazine

3 Things by Catherine Newman, Real Simple magazine


If you wait to get past the hard parts, the busy parts, the stressful parts, your whole life will pass and you’ll have just been waiting the whole time.

I know! I sound like Thic Nhat Hanh or the Dalai Lama or something. But you know it’s true. Try to stay present, even through the most challenging moments. This is especially true with parenting: a scared child in your lap at the doctor’s office; a toddler crying and crying about a dead fly on the window sill; a relentlessly pooping baby and you’re so tired you’re practically sleep-walking.

Remind yourself that this is your actual life, your time with this person, a moment to experience and then move on from. A bonus of cultivating this habit is that then you’ll remember to be even more present for the laughter and great meals and easy, fun stuff.



It’s related: make as much of your home life as you can a tech-free zone.

I’m talking about time and also space. Make hard and fast rules: Turn your gadgets all the way off during meals; leave them in a basket by the door until morning; never bring them into your bedrooms; go back to using a real camera so that you don’t have the extra excuse of “needing” your phone. Then you can pay attention to your partner, friends, and kids during the time you have with them, without being constantly distracted by the possibility of incoming missives. The MacArthur Genius Grant alert or “I’ve never gotten over you” ex-boyfriend email will still be there when you turn your phone back on, I promise.


Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith is our go-to birthday present for kids of all ages—from 5-year-olds to teenagers. It’s an interactive, crazy creative book that encourages you to tear, draw on, shower with, drag around by a string, dirty, and otherwise destroy it. We like to give it wrapped up in brown craft paper, with a super-sharp black Ticonderoga pencil tied to it with kitchen twine.


Contributor: Catherine, Modern Manners columnist for Real Simple magazine
Enjoy her personal blog.
Check out her memoir: Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family