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Tag Archives: motherhood
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.
As school ends and summer gently drops its bags inside our front door for a good long stay, I picture myself sitting on our back patio sipping a cool drink, writing in my planner, reading a great book or paging through the my most recent Good Housekeeping magazine. This relaxing would happen while my children are happily entertaining themselves with something educational or productive after making their beds and cleaning up after breakfast. We would rest, play, and I would still accomplish the daily list that I had when they were in school all day.
Why do I picture that which never occurs?
In reality, the transition from school to summer feels more like being dunked into a basin of shockingly cold water. One week our three teen-aged children are gone for 8 eight hours a day, busy with tests and school and end of year activities, and the next week they are sleeping until ten…ish, and then needing forty-two rides around town, and eating all the food in the house. It’s normal, and I am happy to stock up on extra food and increase my gas budget, it just happens so suddenly and every year it throws me for a loop.
Now that I have walked through 13 summer transitions (starting when our oldest was in Kindergarten), I have learned some things. Things that I would like to share for those of you who are starting to feel a little panicky right about this time. These “things” are not magic, you will still feel like you are dunked, but the water won’t be so shockingly cold:
RELAX for the first two weeks. On everything. On schedules, on eating, on how everyone should be getting along, on expectations. Throw them all out the window. I used to, in my panicky state, structure much of our kids’ lives from the first day of break–bible studies, chore charts, even asking them to set their alarm so they didn’t sleep the day away (I know, not fun mom). I was just terrified of NO STRUCTURE. If I kept my kids busy, they wouldn’t be bored or argue or completely shrink their brains with screens–all things I feared. But I noticed after a couple years of this that it made everything worse. They fought more, they were stressed with my expectations and I was just plain frustrated.
So one year I decided to not to have any structure for the first two weeks. Let them sleep, be totally unproductive, and watch TV longer than I preferred. And they were okay! In fact, they worked out their sibling issues with in a week or so, they got bored watching TV and started getting outside and being creative, and they slept–and that is so good for their growth and development. So give it two weeks and see what happens.
LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES I listened to an audio recently of Gary Smalley and his wife being interviewed about how they managed their family summer. They shared how each family member should find both REST and LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES in their summer structure. Sometime in those first two weeks, sit down as a family and ask each person what their ideal summer would entail. What would make each person excited? More sleeping? A great vacation? Time with friends? Reading a novel or two? Try to honor everyone’s wishes within reason, and then remember when your teenage son is still sleeping at 11:00AM, that this is life giving to him.
BE INTENTIONAL Now be intentional about making your family’s hopes happen. Put them on the calendar. Make them a priority. If your husband really wants to take the family camping, honor that and find the time. If your daughter would like to learn how to do pottery, sign her up for a class. And figure out what YOU would like, and honor yourself enough to make it a reality. If in the family meeting you and your spouse valued doing something together as a family each week, then you will need to say no to certain things, and move others around to make that a priority.
SET ASIDE YOUR AGENDA–or slow it down. For me, this is the hardest part of summer. I have a design business, love to write for my blog, errands, housekeeping and exercise when I can. I am full steam ahead with these activities while the kids are in school and I find that when I forget to make the shift to kids being home I just feel frustrated that I am not getting things done.
MOMS, WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE DO LIFE IN THE SUMMER. If we want to be engaged and present with our kids, we need to rework what our days normally look like the rest of the year. For me it’s rising early to get a couple of hours of work in before the kids wake up. Then I try to be available to them and enjoy the chauffeuring and sitting at activities. I slow my workload WAY down, and if you are not able to do that, consider hiring someone to take care of your kids while you work so you can be present with them the rest of the time. I also shift my expectations of how clean my house will be–I will be vacuuming and picking up more, and that’s okay because it means there are lots of little people around enjoying their summer.
ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO BE BORED. For some reason as a mom of young children, boredom scared me to death. It meant whining and fussing and I was often tempted to never allow boredom to happen by over-scheduling our days. Yet boredom forces our kids to be creative. It causes them to engage a part of their brains that is not used when we are constantly entertaining them. Put up with the whining for however long it takes–an hour, a day? And then watch what your children begin come up with to creatively fill their time.
As a mom of a child heading off to college this fall, I know the blessing and gift of summer for our family. It is where we treasure some of our best memories, and it is also a time that has caused me stress over the years. I was truly that mom that had bible studies ordered and chore charts made and alarm clocks set. And our sweet kids tried to accomplish all the “goals” I asked of them. While some structure and contribution is so good for our kids, my hindsight perspective is that I wish I would have relaxed more, let there be more unstructured time, and investigated each family member’s desires for their summer and made sure they happened–including mine which would land me back on the patio with a Diet Pepsi and a magazine!
Summer MOM Challenge: Spend some time thinking and praying about what your summer stressors are. What is frustrating to you? What are your fears? Ask God to give you clarity and then come up with some ideas about how to change things up this summer to relieve those issues.
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, kids, managing summer, motherhood, parenting in summer, stress, summer
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, kids, managing summer, motherhood, parenting in summer, stress, summer