A few months ago my daughter, Maddie, asked if I could help her with her homework. I took a screenshot of our text message conversation because it was a painful (but important) truth for me about how she perceived my attentiveness toward her:
Maddie is my brutally honest child. And I love her for it. She felt the need to highlight my history of “un-devoted” or “distracted” homework helping skills in the past. And she was completely right in asking for my complete attention.
See, I am a distracted mom. Ask anyone in my family. I am usually thinking of or trying to do five things at once, because I think I can. But I really can’t, at least not well.
This need to be power productive at all times causes me to forget things my family has said to me because I was half-listening to them in the first place. They often talk to my back as I whisk around the house with an armload of laundry or watering the plants out back or picking up shredded toilet paper rolls off the floor (thanks to our new puppy). Often I am on my computer, responding to emails or blogging–and it’s effort to peel my eyes off the screen and shift my thoughts from what I am writing to what they are saying. I rarely stop and look them in the eye, bend down to their level, put down what I am doing….why? Because I think I can multi-task and meet their needs while meeting mine.
The truth is, I shouldn’t “multi-task” my children. When I do, I am not fully present with them–they only get a slice of me, and the world gets all the other slices. And that sends a powerful message to them about their priority in my life.
I remember through my childhood years and even into college when I would call my dad at work, he would always, always take my call. And he was the president of the company he owned. He had important things to do and important meetings to have. But whenever his secretary let him know I was on the phone, he stopped what he was doing and talked to me. It’s not that I needed to feel loved…I knew he loved me. I think it meant so much because it showed me I was more important to him than all the other important things in his life.
That’s what our kids want. They want to know that when they ask for homework, we think that time together is worth a king’s ransom. They want to know that when they are talking to us, we have eyes for them only, and their words and thoughts they are sharing are more important to us than our phone or computer screen, or the pile of mail to sort through.
It’s not always easy. There are times when our kids just can’t be our center of attention. Maybe we have an important work project due or need to get the dinner in the oven. It’s okay, we need to have grace for ourselves, because it is not good for our kids to be the center of attention all the time.
My point is more this…the reality that for many of us our kids are rarely the center of our attention. At least for me. My tasking, productive, technology-wooed life is a distracted one. I am often not a fully present mom to them.
How about you?
The good news is that change is not that hard. It’s being intentional with some new habits like looking our children in the eye, shutting the computer when they are around or just sitting still and being available. We CAN push past the shiny objects in our day that beg for our attention, and instead give it to our flesh and blood standing right beside us.
I have created a “Distracted Mom Quiz” to help clarify our areas of most distracted behavior and where we are doing a great job. At the end are some practical tips and encouraging thoughts to help us regroup and find our way back to where I believe we all want to be as moms…present and engaged.
So, are you a distracted mom? Maybe ask your kids. Have a conversation with them and listen to their perspective.
Technology and busyness are our greatest barriers to being fully connected with our kids.
How are these getting in the way of your best parenting goals?
I’ve created a quiz to help us figure out exactly where we struggle. I’ve included some tips on how we can start being less distracted moms right now:
And please, don’t be discouraged! This is a tough one friends, but it’s never too late to make changes.