Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Distracted Mother

The only picture I could find of myself 'distracted'!
Have to smile at this - I was reading 'Good Wives'!

'Mum you will never believe what he just did!' The excitement was evident in her voice as my daughter went onto to tell me how her baby brother at just fourteen months old, had been playing with his wooden farm set and had sorted and set out all the animals in groups - the cows in one corner, pigs in another, the horses, ducks and cows. Wanting to witness this for myself, I raced over to where my mini mathematician had been playing at being a farmer but by the time I arrived he had mixed the farm animals up again and no matter how many times I pleaded with him, he simply would not repeat this feat for my benefit! I had missed a very special moment and was so annoyed at myself for being so distracted.

What had kept me so preoccupied? I was in the same room for goodness sake! I had been shining my sink. Yes, shining my sink. That fly lady has a lot to answer for and I really need to ignore that ad with the housewife who states so emphatically 'I don't just want my kitchen to be clean, I want it to shine!' Perhaps I had been looking at one too many blog posts on kitchen sinks that week which showed off sinks that were not just clean and clear, they were positively sparkling and reflecting the glow from the candle set out next to a snowy white cloth and the cute little wooden brush that had obviously never been used by a child to scrub out a bowl of cake batter. I hadn't quite reached the stage of trying to transfer my washing up liquid into a crystal decanter as I once read Martha Stewart does (not such a good idea with wet hands and/or children doing dishes!) but here I was with dishes washed, dried and put away but still irritated by the dullness of the stainless steel and on my quest to make it shine - so preoccupied by a homemaking task, I had allowed myself to become the distracted mother.

You see, you don't have to be absent from the home to miss out on the moments. I shared in my previous post how I missed out on so many moments in the early years of my first born child's life by working outside of the home but I was to learn and I am still finding out that there are many things within the home that demand our time and attention as mothers. They may be good things, worthwhile things, even wholesome things but if we are not careful they can be the very things that steal our moments and pull us away from the people that matter most.

This is my distracted mother list - the following in no particular order, are the distractions that I am aware of in my own life. The activities that have the potential to draw me away both outside and inside the home. Some I have dealt with, others are new distractions courtesy of the technological age which promised an easier life but entice us to escape for even longer periods. This post is all about recognizing the distractions - I'm sure you will identify with some of these!

1. Housekeeping and homemaking
Keeping a home clean and orderly is a worthwhile occupation and I am not for one moment suggesting that we let things go and become slovenly in our housekeeping habits. However, if we are prone to perfectionist tendencies and long for that 'home beautiful' look we see in magazines and on some blogs we need to be careful that we do not strive to replicate the 'look'. Even the romantic Victorian paintings and vintage images of 50's housewives that beautify blogs can tempt me to over allocate time to my home rather than the people that live there. I'm aware of it and have to be so careful and remind myself that it just an image and purely for admiration and inspiration. We compare our own home and sigh at our apparent shortcomings and then race off to unclutter every closet, deep clean every room, rearrange the furniture and reorganize the pantry yet again. We raise our own bar from clean to immaculate and find ourselves immersed in a housekeeping task as a child tugs at our skirt and asks for a story and we find ourselves saying 'Later Mummy's busy right now.'

2. Homesteading/Gardening/Self sufficiency
Another worthwhile occupation that can, if we are not careful consume us. I've included it here because it is something which is growing in popularity - if you go by the number of blogs that cover these subjects there are many mothers, myself included, who want to make everything from scratch. I am excited about this, I am in love with the idea of growing our own food and making my own soap, cheese, clothes, honey and half a hundred other products but know that there are not enough hours in the day to master all the different skills. I want to learn them all but I also want to spend time in the garden with my children just being with them and watching them play - not always weeding and working. But the weeds are calling my name and very soon I am distracted and have forgotten that we actually came out to harvest beans and then watch them tumble on the trampoline. A promise broken for the sake of a few weeds that needed to be removed but not right now.

3. Hobbies/Interests/ Books
First of all let me say I believe every mother should have at least one hobby or pursuit that allows her to express her God given creativity. I have a few hobbies myself and if you follow my blog you know it involves a certain time of the year. If I am not careful though, I can become a very distracted mother as Christmas draws near and the glue gun and the decorations come out of storage.

If you are a reader of novels you will know that they offer escape and it is very hard to concentrate on what is going on around you. I'm all for losing yourself in a good book from time to time but if reading is a bit of an addiction for you, be on your guard and choose your reading time carefully - don't sacrifice your real life story for works of fiction. I'm not a reader of Christian romance/fiction and prefer to immerse myself in a good memoir, biography or cook book but even my non-fiction books can become a distraction. I check out less books from the library these days and don't put pressure on myself to finish books if they need to be returned.

If your hobbies take you away from the home and you cannot take your children with you keep a check on how much time you devote. Are you using daycare or babysitting services on too many occasions? Or leaving the husband with the kids as you take off to yet another craft night? The monthly book club starts meeting weekly, two gym sessions turn into five. Sometimes our hobbies and interests can take on lives of their own. If our children are older this may be less of an issue but let's not forget our husbands too. Are you pursuing your hobbies in the evening and leaving him to sit alone on the sofa?

4. Church Ministry
This used to be a major distraction for me and I had put my involvement in various ministries ahead of my family. Please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that we should withdraw from serving in the church but as a mother of young children I had said yes to too many requests to be involved in ministries and activities outside of the home and I was over committed. I had taken on leadership responsibilities and with that came numerous meetings. I rarely had a free evening at home - my calendar was packed. The other distraction which came hand in hand with this were phone calls. I was compassionate and a good listener and I had allowed women with deep seated emotional issues to call me. I didn't know how to turn them away - one woman in particular would ring me and talk for hours about her problems. My housework suffered, meals were not being served on time and I was robbed of many moments with my young children until she misinterpreted something I had said, took offense and stopped calling. A burden was immediately lifted from my shoulders. When she stopped calling I realized just how much of my precious time I had allowed her to take from me.

5. Hospitality/preparations for guests and events

If my list was not random and in order of 'distractedness' this would be near the top for me. It says in the Bible about Martha that she was 'distracted with much serving'. This tells me that she was going to a lot of trouble. I guess that details mattered to Martha. Everything would have to look right, taste right, be right for Jesus. It reflected on her. And Jesus recognized that her effort to take care of all the details would cause her anxiety, for he says 'Martha you are worried and troubled about many things.' I imagine Martha worrying about not just the meal she would serve but about everything in her house and its appearance. Hospitality is a wonderful thing - we are commanded to do it, I'm all for it but know that before guests arrive I become very, very distracted. The more guests, the more distracted we can become - more people that might look up and notice those cobwebs in the rafters! And if it is an important event such as a wedding or special birthday the possibility for preoccupation with the preparations is huge!

6. Studying/ home businesses

I've seen young mothers take on studies at home who thought they could work around their children. ' I'll study when the baby sleeps' one mother once told me. In reality it didn't work out like that and she put herself under enormous pressure to get assignments completed. If this is an area we are venturing into - tread carefully even with a home based business. It has the potential to become a major preoccupation, particularly if our business and customer base grows. More hours at the sewing machine once the children are in bed or decorating cakes into the wee small hours may not steal moments with our children but will rob us of sleep. Guard your sleep dear mothers - it is vital and what refreshes you for the day that lies ahead. I don't want to be a weary, irritated mother, so for now my plans for my little business are on hold. There will be plenty of time for such a venture when my children are older and begin to leave the nest.

7. Television and Technology

This distraction is massive! I do have great admiration for those who have chosen not to have a television in their homes but as I have a husband who enjoys watching sport (usually only on one evening a week during rugby league season) that is not a reality for this household. Once upon a time we would say there is so much rubbish on television it is not worth watching. However, if you sift through the trash you will be aware that there are quite a number of lifestyle programmes which hold great appeal to the homemaker. Cooking shows, home renovation shows, gardening shows and my goodness how many we have to choose from! Masterchef took Australia by storm and encouraged people to get back into the kitchen and start cooking real food for their families. A good thing indeed but even the good shows can distract us. We may all be watching a show together but not communicating. If you have seen the movie 'The Blindside' you may recall the scene where the mother played by Sandra Bullock sees her family sitting around the television eating and watching sport - on Thanksgiving! The young man she has taken under her wing and into her home is sitting alone at the table eating his meal. A moment of realization hits. She turns off the television and beckons her family to gather around the table. That scene spoke volumes to me.

Once upon a time Godly women authors counseled us to be careful about how much time we spent talking on the telephone. I remember reading Emilie Barne's advice to have a phone with a long cord that you could take into the kitchen! Then came cordless phones - I wonder how many mothers had stiff necks from cradling phones as they prepared dinner! How many times I discovered my children getting into mischief because I had been distracted by a telephone call. I was careful not to make too many calls but people tended to call me. It was easy to cut short a salesperson or survey, much harder a friend. Thankfully, we had no major mishaps but if there is any one distraction which causes us to neglect our post and take our attention away from our children I would say communications is it. We run the risk of mishaps and accidents but also the risk of missing the moments. The computer beckons us away - we escape into blogland, facebook, emails, twitter or whatever it is that you give your attention to. If you are reading this right now can I safely assume it is blogs and blogging that is your distraction? I know it is mine.

Which is why I must draw this post to a close and leave the steps I have taken to remove, reduce and rectify the distractions in my life for another post. This is still a work in progress. The first step though I believe is recognizing the distractions - those activities which draw you away for longer than you intended and make you miss out on too many moments. This is why I have written out my list - your list may be similar or different to mine. Some may be less of an issue for you because you are at a different season in your life - you don't have to worry about little ones getting into mischief as you sit at your sewing machine and stitch that quilt!

But for me right now with my children around me all at different ages and stages, I want to stitch memories. Homemade and pieced together together with love. The unfinished quilt made of cotton squares sits in the cupboard and waits for a day when it will not cause me to be a distracted mother and give up my most important work. The patchwork I'm working on right now is of people's lives. Lives that have been entrusted to me by God - their character and their destiny is in my hands and it will all come together to be something beautiful for all eternity.


Farming On Faith said...

Beautiful post~
Today I am at McDonalds having a Diet Coke. I have a day alone and more time on my hands than I know what to do with. Cherish those moments for sure.

I am praying that God reveals what I am to be doing next. Surely He has a plan. Hannah will be getting married in the Spring and working two jobs just now~ so she is gone so much. Caleb is working too. He has two years left of school and it seems I have worked myself out of a job. I have so much time now for all those distractions but it don't seem so important now that the kids are leaving~funny how that turns out. :(

Have a good day and enjoy your journey.

Natalie at Maple Leaf Circle said...

What a wonderful post! We mothers have so many "good" things clamoring for our attention - we must choose the best things, the things God places His priorities on. I have a long list of distractions as well. Thank you for sharing your list. Have a blessed day!

Camille said...

Wonderful post Ann...thank you for sharing your heart and for being honest with us. I'm sure your next post will be a blessing when it's completed. Of course, take your time in producing are right...time is precious and it is so important what we do with it!!

Many blessings,

Kristen, pajama mama said...

exactly. that's why i'm taking a short blogging break this summer...should probably do it more often, too...glad to hear I'm not the only one who struggles with missing what's right next to her!

Finding Joy said...

These are very good points and you have shown all the things that take women away from what is really the most important task we have. Now that my children are grown up i have far more free time on my hands and I have to make sure it is used wisely and not just sitting in front of the TV or reading (I think we read similar things !). I have to admit that my sink doesn't always sparkle, so that is one task I don't get carried away with!!!

Pam said...

So true Anne. It is a nonstop battle to keep things in perspective isn't it? Weariness is another distraction... caused by all those others.
I like your resolutions, and think it is something we all need to attempt. I have found it difficult to keep up with blogging this summer, but have decided to take the pressure off and do it when it works. The same with getting involved outside of home... its just too hard to keep up. Loved this post and its reminders. Hope your all well.

Many Blessing,

Anonymous said...

About Christian romance novels. I used to think reading one once in a while was ok but I read where it is really not much different than any worldly romance novel. If it makes you dissatisfied in any way with your life and your marriage as it is it is not good. If you come away from the book wishing your husband was like the man in the story and such it is not good. This opened up my thinking on the subject. This whole article of yours is very good and thought provoking. thank you for writing this. Sarah

Katy said...

Love this Ann!! :) How right you are! And no, I hadn't read your previous post before writing my post! How funny that you and I were thinking along the *same* lines at the *same* time! :o) I am off to read that post of yours, now!


Camille said...

Just stopping in for a *hello* all is well? Have a wonderful day Ann!


Renata said...

Oh Ann
What a wonderful & applicable post. I could check almost everything on your list as a distraction I've had at one time or another. Thank you for the challenge to notice the distractions & by noticing then we can do something about them. I hope you are going well - I've been busy, but going well (we went to the snow for a few days over the holidays & that was fun!)
Love to you


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