Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dealing with Distractions Where to From Here?

The Challenge - You may know where you are at but which direction will you take now?

In my previous post I shared my 'Distracted Mother List' - the activities that for me can so easily become preoccupations and cause me to miss out on the precious moments of motherhood. Each person is different and different people have different distractions - the first step is to recognize your distractions - some are glaringly obvious to us but others - especially some of those beneficial activities may be more subtle or sneaky time thieves. Just how do you find the right way to go and deal with all those distractions? I hope this post will offer you some direction.

It may be useful to work out just how much time you spend undertaking various tasks during a typical week at home and create a basic graph or pie chart. You may be surprised at the size of some of those portions of the pie! You may be very productive but find your day is so filled up with activities that there is little time for rest and relaxation and very little time to observe or enjoy simple moments of motherhood.

Have you written out your list? Are you aware of the impact activities and busyness is having on your life? Are you ready to begin to take the steps towards dealing with all the distractions? This is my 4Rs action plan - each method beginning with R is a different way of dealing with distractions. You may want to employ just one or all 4 for certain activities such as computer time.

1. Remove

Sometimes drastic action is required. If a hobby has taken over our life or an activity has become an addiction (one we cannot function without) we may have to actually take it away. This is probably one of the hardest steps to take as it may affect others and even bring us criticism. It could involve resigning from a position in the church or community - giving up your place on that committee that so valued your input. When I began homeschooling I gave up all of my weekday church commitments. Some people were concerned for me. I knew to expect this as I had been present when others talked of another homeschooling mother in the church. 'She's at home all week and never gets any time to herself.' And yes, I once heard someone say of a mother who stayed home with her children. 'She doesn't have a life'! So be prepared for some opposition when you begin to take some of the more radical steps of removing activities that are distractions for you, that others perceive as necessary in order to have a 'life'.

Other ways we might employ the remove method

1. Cancelling a gym or sports club membership.

2.De-cluttering the home and getting rid of stuff - less stuff to watch, read, wash, clean, paint, organize! A word of warning from one who loves her garage sales! Clutter sometimes has a means of sneaking back into the home and the actual process of de-cluttering becomes the distraction! Be ruthless - don't let this happen. Do you know how many books and educational games I left behind at one recent garage sale? They were in excellent condition and super cheap and it was so tempting to buy the lot but I chose to be very selective - thank the Lord for my patient husband on that day!

3. Cancelling subscriptions to satellite television and online DVD clubs - they may be good value and save you on late fees at the local store but they keep on coming and you feel obliged to watch them all - this was our experience recently with a free trial period we took up for DVDS ordered online and sent out to your home. Convenient? Yes - a distraction? Most definitely.

4.Getting rid of Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts. Not just deciding not to use your account but removing it all together. I am not signing up for a Twitter account and use Facebook mainly for quick communications with friends and relatives. Some mothers decide to stop writing their blogs for various reasons but I'm sure for many it was for the distraction it had become in their life. I'm not going to stop writing my blog but will be using step 2 in my quest to be a less distracted mother.

Sometimes distractions are taken from us - the television blows itself up, the phone line is down or you move to the country and cannot get fast speed Internet! If this happens, rather than complain - enjoy the time this technology fast affords you and decide to make the most of the time you now have on your hands. Some may choose not to return!

The family computer is a hard distraction to remove - we have come to depend on technology for so many everyday activities. Some online technologies save us time - no waiting in queues at the bank, no traipsing around the malls to shop for outfits for the family but add up all of the activities which require us to tap those keyboards or move our fingers across screens and we have a huge distraction and it is usually right in front of us. The very wise and sensible measure of having a computer with Internet access in a central area of the family home means it is always there and always accessible. You may not be able to physically remove the distraction so an alternative measure may be needed. Which brings us to the second 'R'...

2. Reduce

This is simply cutting back the time we spend on individual activities and the number of activities we participate in. Begin with those that take you out of the home and involve longer distances to travel. It might mean curtailing the number of extra-curricular activities you or your children are involved in. Consider the times these activities take place at and the interruption they create. Do they interfere with your family meal times and prevent you from being together at your table? I am so glad that we chose to give up the late in the day sports classes and found an activity that all of my children enjoyed and could participate in on the same day, at the same time and in the same place - a Saturday morning 'Skate School' at the ice rink.

A love of ice skating is shared by my children!

Reducing may involve cutting back on your number of interests and hobbies and choosing to pursue excellence in just one area rather than trying to be a 'Jill of all trades.'

Setting up the gift ideas table at a Christmas seminar last year

Reducing can also work well for community/ church activities that you are involved in. Consider the distraction factor. Offering to do the accounts for a group may allow you to work from home but may be a greater distraction than a monthly meeting. When I gave up my weekday church meetings I did not give up ministry to other people. God showed me how I could reach out and bless others each Christmas season by opening up my home to groups of women to share my love of Christmas decorating. It was so much easier for me to run my seminars out of home than transport all my supplies to the church building. I was decorating my home anyway and what happened was just amazing. Because the evening was taking place in a home setting, women invited their friends from outside the church. They felt more relaxed and returned the next year with more friends. One year I was asked by a garden circle if I would attend their meeting to run a Christmas craft seminar. I had already run one big seminar at a community venue that year but rather than decline them I invited them to come to my home. They were thrilled and a busload of ladies who I had never met before arrived at my home for the morning. I did not have to go to much effort, my home was decorated, everything was at hand and over a cup of tea I described my love of Christmas and shared my heart and my home. My children spent the morning with dad on the farm that day but as they became older I began involving them in my Christmas seminars and they became my most excellent assistants as we served people together.

Me sharing ideas for decorating the table for Christmas last year at an end of year of function for a mother's group. My sole engagement for last Christmas. This is a scaled down version of the seminars I used to run. I may return to doing the big open home at Christmas in future years - when I am ready.

3. Rectify

Rectifying for me involves taking steps to make something better and do it right. To stop something becoming a distraction that keeps me apart from my family I look for ways in which that activity can be turned into something the whole family can be involved in. When it comes to necessary household chores and homesteading activities I'm with 'Bob the Builder' 'Working together we get the job done.' I just sang that line by the way! Remember how I shared how shining my sink caused me to miss out on a moment? Cleaning windows is another one of those chores which can cause me to become preoccupied. But I'm onto a winner here - my young children love to spray stuff so if windows need cleaning I give them their own cleaning cloth and a little spray bottle filled with water and a little white vinegar. Each child is allocated the bottom section of a pane and we clean windows together. They may leave streaks but you can always go over it later. We are accomplishing a task and enjoying moments together.

Working together we get the job done!

Rectifying may involve adjusting a task. I've just discovered one of my twins is an expert towel folder after she gave me a demonstration at the coffee table - so rather than folding in at the line or at the dining room table I am now folding washing in my living room and calling on my chief towel folder to assist me. It is tempting to just do it myself and get it all done but then I would miss out this wonderful homemaking demonstration (complete with verbal instructions on how to smooth out properly!) from a five year old who would give Martha Stewart a run for her money!

Rectifying may involve a selection process - if you have young children you may want to choose activities that they can be involved with particularly, when it comes to homesteading and self sufficiency. So baking and bread making would be the more sensible option to take on first and leave the soap making for later on. Chickens would be my choice before honey bees or goats - my husband would love for us to get into more animal husbandry but so it doesn't overwhelm us we are taking the journey one step at a time and choosing what works for our family at each season in life.

Helping to make Christmas crackers

With hobbies, find ones that your children can pursue at the same time but 'in miniature.' Card making and scrap booking is just one possibility. You may not want to hand over your best card stock and craft glue but why not give your children a card making box of their own filled with construction paper, scraps and supplies that they can use to create their own cards, as you work at making your own. You are there to offer them advice and help and they can observe you at work in a creative process - don't be surprised if your passion becomes theirs one day.

Rectifying may also involve waiting for the right season. It occurred to me as I wrote this series of posts that we are all often too keen to fit everything into the early seasons of motherhood. We want to be the best parents, develop and refine our homemaking skills, take on new hobbies, minister to others, blog, be socially active and the result can be a life of busyness and stressed and worn out mothers. Why not wait for another season? You want to learn cake decorating skills? Why not wait until your little girl grows up and attend classes together when she is a teenager? When she is 4 she will not mind that you only used chocolate frosting and lollies to decorate her cake! When she is about to marry she may be very happy that you chose to learn how to make iced roses in the previous year.

She requested an ice cream cake for her 6th birthday!

The famous passage in Titus 2 was addressed to older women. They were to be the teachers of 'good things' using the time that they now had available to them in this season of their life to admonish the younger women to be all what God intended them to be. Some years ago I attended a well known Christian women's conference. One of the keynote speakers was a young woman who was certainly most gifted at speaking. She had traveled from the other side of the world and shared a most entertaining and articulate message during one of the sessions but what I remember most was the moment when she told the women gathered there that she had left behind her very young baby to be at this conference and it was causing her a lot of heartache. Suddenly the message no longer mattered. In fact it seemed to me now to be inconsistent. I was saddened by the organizers thanking her for her 'sacrifice' and if it had been possible to speak with her in person I would have told her 'Go home - your husband and baby needs you more than I needed this message.'

4. Replace

Initially there were only going to be 3 R's but I thought of another. Replacing a distraction is putting in place something more worthy and making better use of your time. For example, choosing to read the Bible instead of losing yourself in that romance novel. Meditating on the Word rather than reading self-help guides and devotionals. Praying instead of blogging. Playing a board game instead of watching a movie. Finding hobbies that save the family money rather than deplete it. Taking walks along the beach or in the park with your children rather than going to the gym by yourself - the same purpose of exercise and increased fitness is achieved but you spend time with the family and save money to boot! I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

In fact, I'm certain there are tonnes of ideas out there of how we as mothers can take steps to deal with the distractions in our lives. Blogging is one of mine that I want to deal with and for a season I'm going to be sharing shorter posts - giving you little glimpses into our life in a most beautiful place as we continue to raise beautiful children who reflect the character of Christ, have a passion for people and a wholehearted desire for learning. That is my family mission statement by the way!

I'm excited about how I could creatively share short posts and still inspire you but I know it is all possible. The reason I want to try this new approach for a time is because I tend to put a lot of thought and effort into posts. This takes time of course and once the words are in place I have to find and upload photos. I'm documenting memories but not allowing enough time to create and observe new moments of motherhood. Hey, I might just even blog about single moments in time!

Today she bakes and decorates cakes (and has started to sell them!) but it just seems like yesterday that she was decorating sandcastles at the beach. The sands of time wash away so quickly.

I pray that my 4 R's have been helpful to someone somewhere who wants to deal with the distractions in their life and have the time to enjoy their moments of motherhood before they pass us by. Let us ask God to teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90 .12)

The Living Bible paraphrases this verse with these words which are my earnest prayer for all mothers - 'Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.'


Fruitful Harvest said...

Hi Ann,
Great post!
We are really cutting back on the sports and activities this fall. Hubby always pushes the kids to have a FULL plate and I'm always trying to cut back.....the kids finally said they did want to play.

I love the slower pace of things!

Peace and Love,

Natalie said...

Great post, Ann! Thank you for sharing your wisdom - it inspires me to carefully and prayerfully consider our activities.

Camille said...

Another lovely and thoughtful post my friend!

I enjoyed the photos you included. The *map* shot at the beginning was creative and fits this post well. The girls on the ice was a fun one to see. And your little one in shorts and t-shirt working on a Christmas cracker got me to smiling...we live in such different parts of the world, don't we? I cannot imagine a warm Christmas. :)

Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts here in this post. I appreciate the practical wisdom you shared. It is timely for me as I am taking a step back in this next month....the LORD is so gracious with us, isn't HE?

Many blessings to you!

P.S. *See* you in about a month, Lord-willing! :)

Farming On Faith said...

Oh the balance of knowing what to let go of~ having to make some of those decisions right now.

Great Post My Friend!

Renata said...

Yes I agree with the above ladies - another wonderful post. About a term ago I felt challenged to replace blogging with prayer just one day of the week - I chose Wednesday & I try to not go on the computer (unless it's for school) and whenever I feel tempted to blog instead I will pray for one of my blogging friends.
I've had no time lately to update or even read (as you can tell since I haven't been on here for ages & your blog is one of my favourites) - which is fine - I remind myself that I need to focus on real life (& of course the many little lambies in my care at the moment - the kids & I are having fun looking after them, but they are big time wasters - needing attention & affection!)
Thank you for this post & all your posts. I look forward in reading your moment in time posts - have a wonderful evening!


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