It’s not news to anyone that we live in an era of interruption and distraction; reams of material have been written on this topic. Cell phones, iPods, emails, TV, texting. I’ve posted before on the effect the world’s noise can have on our kids and the corresponding need to help them appreciate stillness. But what about for us? How about this as a sub-topic: “Distraction and the At-Home Mom of Young Kids’?
I remember being a kid and feeling that child-like annoyance with at times not having my mother’s full attention when I wanted it. She was on the phone; she was involved in something else and giving me the “uh-huh” response while she tended to a task or was focused on something else. I remember my impatience with it and desire for her attention. Now as the mom, I’m the one giving the distracted “uh-huh” while I do something else.
Only I think I do it a lot more with my kids than my mom did with me… and that as a society, we all do this a lot more. We all stare at a screen and click away while someone in the room is trying to have a conversation with us. We all check weather or bank account while we’re talking on the phone to our boss – or our sibling. We all multi-task all the time.
It may be obvious to say that there’s a direct link between a mother’s distraction level and her focus on her family and household life, but it still bears saying. The more distracted we are, the less we can fully attend to our children and our homes. Period.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with phone calls or the internet or TV. The problem is us and our usage of them. Can we moderate the quantity of these things in our lives? Can we harness self-discipline? We live in an era when self-discipline is more and more necessary to moderate our pervasive technology – and in which self-discipline is less and less evident in anyone’s lives. It gets no press; people haven’t even considered the concept (except as it relates to eating in our food-obsessed culture). Self-discipline with regard to web usage or TV viewing, for example? Never talked about.
But we must be ruthless with ourselves if we want to keep from being consumed by distraction. Being online for 10 minutes is fine, sure, but six times throughout the course of a day is (you do the math) an hour. If your laptop is often in your kitchen, as mine is – or if you carry an iPhone and pop online while an out and about – that’s a lot of during-the-day time. Time I’m in my kids’ presence but my focus is elsewhere. Time not being profitably spent engaging my children or focusing on my household tasks-at-hand. Time not being diligent with what God’s put before me.
It’s a question of focus. A friend and fellow mom responded to my post on diligence by saying she’d quit her Facebook account and felt much more focused as a result. That makes sense to me – Facebook takes us out of our given space. It’s not bad, and being out of our space is fine and even necessary at times. But how often? And how best to make sure it’s not too much? And how can we make sure we’re leaving mental space to seek God and pray throughout the day in the midst of it?
In a post called “Pay Attention” Carolyn Mahaney said “if there’s one concern I have for this generation of mothers, it is the potential for distraction.” I completely agree with her.
A huge part of the self-denial that Jesus taught his disciples about – “If anyone would follow me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” – today translates to denying our urge to distract ourselves through mentally exiting our immediate surroundings. We have a culture addicted to distraction, entertainment, and multi-tasking. “Be very careful how you live,” Paul wrote, “not as unwise but as wise… because the days are evil.” Our kids and our homes are depending on us to minimize distractions in our lives and put them first.