I suppose there’s a fine line between multitasking and being dismissive. For example: I was trying to get some stuff done, and my little girl asked to play a Barbie game on the computer. Then a light bulb went off and I thought of my two year old’s new obsession with the movie Cats&Dogs. So… right now, my four year old is playing her game on the other computer, my two year old is watching a movie, and I’m able to chat with y’all!
If there’s something I really strive for, it’s balance. I guess that means being caught between two extremes, and trying to weigh them against each other, in the best way. I don’t like the idea of using technology to manage my children, but I’m not a person that’s totally against technology either. So I feel a little bad about letting them get hypnotized into a screen so that I can get something done, but on the other hand I feel so blessed. I’m working, and the three of us are sitting on my bed together, very content. I can help her with her game if she needs me, I can see and hear him when he laughs hysterically at the movie (my favorite thing about any movie!), I can take care of potty breaks, go get a cup of chocolate milk when they need it… You know, the important stuff!!
Being present with your children means so much, and we really get so little time to do it. But when, and how often, is it ok to be partially present? How much time do we spend nodding our heads saying “Oh” “Uh huh” “that’s cool” while they are talking to us and we are staring at our phones on instagram/facebook/twitter/whatever…? I really can process most of what they are saying even when I’m looking at something else. But I wonder how it makes them feel to know that I’m really only half engaged with what they are trying to say to me. I’m sure some children don’t even know to be disappointed in this lack of interaction, because it’s all they’ve ever known of talking to their parents. I definitely don’t want to get to that point. But I do want to check my instagram a time or two each day. I definitely want time to type up my blog posts, make video’s etc. I do have to take important calls. And some personal calls so that I don’t lose my mind! Not to mention my husband and I talk frequently and have to communicate. Oh yeah, and I have to clean now and then! 😉
I want my family to know that they are the most important part of my life, but need them to know that they should be courteous to Mommy too. Mommy is also a person, with feelings and desires, and kids often have a hard time realizing that. I want my children to know that if it’s not an emergency, and Mommy is busy, it’s ok to have to wait a bit. That being said, I’m bad about forgetting. So if I say I’ll be there in a minute, that needs to mean that as soon as I finish the specific task I told them they had to wait for, I will be there.
So, how do we balance this? Well, I’m certainly not an expert. But there are a few things I’ve put into practice, and a few that I need to work on, listed below:
- Set a specific time, or times, each day that you check your social media. I don’t let my kids turn the tv on after school until 7:00. The goal is that all homework and chores are finished by then, and that I’ve cleaned the dinner mess. I like to sit with them while they watch tv, but nobody minds if I’m busy on my phone/computer during this time. (If I’m not folding laundry that is.) I also wake up before the kids, so sometimes I’ll watch a video on a favorite blog, or read something quick that I am interested in while I make breakfast, etc.
- Establish a specific word/phrase that means it’s time to be patient. If your children are very demanding, or high maintenance (like mine are) then you might need to sit down with them and explain that while you love them, they also need to show you love and respect by allowing you to get some important things done. (I don’t feel like social media is included in this, unless you run some sort of online business.) “Mommy needs a minute.” “It’s time for Mommy to do this.” “Oh, I’m busy, but I promise what you are asking is next on my to do’s.” are all phrases that could trigger them to realize it’s time to wait. For many taking that a step farther and agreeing on a specific word or phrase, could be even more helpful. I think I will use alligator. I can picture smiling, giving a wink and saying “Alligator.” As opposed to a look of frustration and “Wait. A. Min-ute!!!” Sounds much better to me. 🙂
- Be honest with yourself and your family about your priorities. This might mean getting honest with yourself about what your priorities should be. Maybe even make yourself a list to remind you of what really matters. If you are working from home, then it is a priority that you work certain times of the day. However, if you have become obsessed with social media, or some hobby that consumes you during the time that you could be with your family, something could be very off balance. If so, admit it, apologize, and move on. I can’t imagine much that would mean more to your child than for you to say “Mommy has spent too much time on ____ and that’s not my priority, you are. So I promise from now on I will do better and keep you on the top of my list where you belong.” Maybe even add that you do want to continue that hobby. But again, set times that you can do it and stay within those limits.
- Have a schedule/ plan. It’s amazing how much “It’s time for…” works with children. For example, “Would you like to take a bath?” Is generally less effective than “It’s time for you to take a bath.” So coming up with a schedule and sticking to it is a wonderful way to make the most of your time. It will at the same time keep your children aware of when they get all of your attention, and when they won’t get quite as much, because “it’s time” for you to be doing ____.
- Give them tasks and goals to accomplish as well. This goes along with point number 4. But it won’t do most of us a lot of good to say “It’s time for Mommy to scrapbook” and expect them to accept it and keep themselves busy. It’s much more productive to say “It’s time for Mommy to scrapbook while you play with play dough.” or “While I”m doing this, I want you to clean your room and then come sit next to me and do this crossword puzzle.” Whatever they need to do, or will enjoy doing. It will take more effort, but be totally worth being able to be more productive. Especially for moms. I think being able to accomplish anything with out getting frustrated and overwhelmed, is worth the extra prep time!!!
- When it’s time to be with them, BE WITH THEM! This whole thing will work best if they know and trust that when you are able to focus on them you really will do it. It’s hard these days to really enjoy the moment you are in and not have your mind in 100 different places. It’s ok to tell yourself it’s time to wait too! “Ok, it’s time to be with them now, I’m going to hang out for this hour and everything else will have to wait.” I promise that’s a decision you won’t regret!!
I have lots of fun things planned for Christmas and I’m super excited! I have some fun stuff to share with ya’ll too, so stay tuned!! After Christmas my four year old will start learning to read, so that will take much more consistency than what we’ve done thus far with her preschool. I have my blog, my house, my Close to my Heart business, and the list goes on. All of these things are important to me. But if I don’t remember these tips, plan, and stay on top of it all, very little will get accomplished to the level that I want to accomplish it.
Remember, we are all in this together and no one is perfect! Give yourself and your kids some grace as you try to get more organized and productive with being Mommy, and who ever else it is that you need to be!
Smile through the trials!