To Be More Joyful: Be All There
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She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
I am on a quest to be a more joyful mom. I want my kids to look back on these days and say that I was able to laugh at the mishaps, to trust God in all things, and to seize each day as a blessing and adventure. And that is more complicated than it sounds.
Sometimes you have to simplify the way you do things. You have to be realistic about your situation. Watching how we think and how we speak can help us have a happier outlook, as can realizing how good we really have it.
But, sometimes, it’s all too easy to get distracted from the important things.
The Multi-Tasking Myth
There’s a myth circulating that the modern mom is the master of multi-tasking. Sure, most women can change a diaper, referee a fight between two older children, and read the directions to an Easy-Bake Oven all at one time. However, with the myth comes the expectation, spoken or not, that Mom should multi-task — and multi-task well — 24/7.
I dunno ’bout you, but I just don’t do well trying to accomplish fifty things at once. Something always suffers, and completing the tasks combined usually takes much longer than accomplishing them one-by-one.
And that does not a joyful mom make.
Photo Source: DaGoaty
If I’m talking to you on the phone, I want to give my attention to that one thing, the conversation at hand. I don’t want to worry about burned toast or how long the sprinklers have been on. If I’m cooking, I want to throw myself into the experience and create a delicious meal, not wonder if I have an urgent email to answer. If I’m reading a story to the littles or orchestrating a family art project, I want to focus on my children and not a phone call to the gas company.
For months and years I’ve felt frustrated with myself that multi-tasking was slowing me down instead of speeding me up. And I think my family has been getting the short end of the stick as a result. Multi-tasking doesn’t often help us.
Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.
— Jim Elliot
I go back to these words by Jim Elliot. Will my kids say that I was “all there?” Or will they remember a mom who fumbled through too many tasks with an ear half-cocked to their words?
True confessions? I don’t multitask well. Sure, I can set the table, heat dinner, and talk to my husband when he comes home from work. I can fold laundry and call a friend. But check email, work on a writing project, and listen to my children tell me a joke?
Let’s just say, “It’s not working well for me.”
I want to be all there.
Perhaps your situation is similar. You find yourself with many important tasks butting up to one another. You find yourself doing many things, but none really well. You find yourself easily distracted and the toast is burnt more often than not. It’s not a situation that makes me feel “joyful.” But, I’m determined to troubleshoot it.
- How can we “be all there?”
- How can we position ourselves for better productivity and more meaningful conversations?
- How can we focus on the most important?
Photo Source: Milica Sekulic
Consider the following to be more purposeful and more “there” in your Life as MOM:
1. Let technology serve YOU.
While technology is supposed to make our lives easier, often it can be a major distraction. Many times we become slaves to our phones, email, twitter, facebook, etc. Determine how to make these technologies serve you, not the other way around. Do you need to schedule times for certain activities instead of squeezing them in here and there? Would it help you to learn your DVR system so that you can watch at your leisure and not at the dictates of the TV Guide? Is a media fast in order to wean yourself of the idea that technology is more important than you think it is?
Put things in their proper place. Do you need to work on time management? Would you do better watching TV after the kids go to bed than trying to get them to hush or help them with homework during your show? Do you need to say no to more volunteer commitments and yes to more invitations to play with your children? If you work at home, determine some boundary lines so that work does not invade family time.
3. Turn off distractions.
Can you really fold laundry and watch that movie? Are you so busy taking photos for your daughter’s scrapbook that you miss the really funny story that she just told? Is the beep of a text message preventing you from giving the speaker at the meeting your full attention?
As you are able, turn off the things that cause you to be distracted from the task at hand. Focus and find more joy in what you’re doing in the here and now.
I hope you know, I am preaching to myself here. I am very easily distracted by the urgent and often let it supercede the most important things. Yet, I know that I will enjoy my life as MOM so much more if I’m really “in there.” Multi-tasking, or trying to do too many things at one time, just doesn’t help me.
But focusing does.
I love this!! Especially about technology. Now that I stay home and walked away from a very busy and hectic job where I was always checking email and always on the phone, I enjoy using the computer for leisure and forgetting where I put my cellphone. I see other people being “slaves” to their phones where they access their emails and texts and it drives me insane. If you are going to have a conversation with me, please give me your attention not your phone. And if your children need you, put your phone down. I saw a child at the doctor this week on the sick side crying and the mom was oblivious as she was talking to someone on her cell phone. I wanted to pick the child up and just hold him so he would stop crying. My son was sitting in my lap asking what was wrong with him. Thank you for putting this out there for others to read.
I think it’s important to set realistic expectations of what we can do in a day. I shared my thoughts on that more in depth here, http://momsinneedofmercy.blogspot.com/2010/06/pace-yourself.html, so I will skip repeating myself!!
While I’m reading this my daughter keeps asking me to “come watch the show it’s about to start”. She wants to ‘put on a show for me’. I have been struggling with turning off the tv/computer and spending REAL time with my family. My husband is guilty of watching tv from when he gets home until time for bed. I am guilty of constantly cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, checking email…just letting everything overwhelm my time with my daughter.
Each day I am trying to find “the time” where I am my daughter’s without distraction. Yesterday we played boardgames…she loves candyland. Today is the pool.
While it is difficult to admit…I find that even having the “entire day” together I rarely find just her and I doing something. I feel like my mind is absorbed in so many things. The worst part is I am on break from college. My program begins (8-5pm) in August and I will never have this time back. Before I blink she will be in kindergarten and then elementary…college is not that far off for my little 4-year-old.
Thank-you for this post. I find that your words always seem so timely and I needed this small reminder today.
Now, I have a show to watch and a swimming pool to visit!
Wow. Thank you so much for writing this. While it is EXTREMELY painful to read (because you wrote this DIRECTLY to me, right?) It is so what I needed to hear! Thanks! I’m turning off my computer right now and will turn it on again when it’s TIME, not when email bleeps at me. THANK YOU!
I guess I see it a little different then the others. What I took away from your post (and I needed it) was that I need to focus on the task at hand. So if I am reading to my girls-I need to settle in and enjoy the moment and not think about email or laundry. Then when it is time to do laundry, I need to focus on that instead of “what can I make for dinner, let me go look in the fridge real quick to see if I still have some cream cheese”. And during dinner, I need to enjoy my family’s company instead of making a mental to do list for after dinner. I don’t feel like I need to spend all my time with my girls-they need to learn how to play by themselves. I am not their play mate, but too often when it is “mommy” time with them, I am somwhere else in my head. Thanks for the reminder. I love the quote from Jim Elliot. I am taping it to my fridge!
@Morgan, YES! That is what I meant. But, if people got other things that help them, I’m good with that, too. 😉
I think multi-tasking hurts me because I am so easily distracted. When I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll. And I can be getting 4 or 5 things done. But all it takes it is the least important of those 5 things to suck me in (i.e. what’s on TV when I’m folding laundry, or facebook while I’m waiting for pictures to upload) and suddenly, I’m not multi-tasking. I’m only doing one thing and it’s the least important thing there is to do.
Love the post! Thanks!
The other night, my 7-yr-old was waiting for me to spend a few minutes with her at bedtime. I was rushing around, giving her a “just let me do this first, then I’ll be right there.” One thing led to another, and I kept telling her “I just need to…” Finally she looked at me and said “Mom, it sounds like you’re just making excuses ‘cuz you don’t want to.” Ouch. Big ouch. HUGE ouch. And so convicting.
I am so enjoying your Ways to Be More Joyful series! And this post was very timely for me–baby #2 should arrive this week, and I have been very busy trying to have all my ducks (and my 3 year old son) in a row in preparation for baby’s arrival. Definitely need to sit back and enjoy these last few days with just-me-n-my son, though!
I love this post! This is my daily struggle. There is so much to do and I often… maybe even extremely close to ALWAYS… feel like I’m doing so many things at once that nothing is really getting done with the focus and passion it ought to be.
I purpose to slow down and focus on my children, be fun, be creative, be passionate… but I forget. I get caught up and lose sight of my goals and just start doing.
This post was a good reminder to slow down again and cherish the time I have to invest in the things that are most important.
I really needed to hear this. I am very guilty of trying to multi-task my way through the day. (As I typed that comment, the timer went off to check the marshmallows that are melting for Rice Krispie treats!) There is one comment I’d like for you to expand upon. “…determine some boundary lines so that work does not invade family time.”
How do you do that when your family is with you 24/7? This is one of my biggest challenges. When my family is away from the house at school or work I can be quite productive and concentrate on them when they are home. But, during the summer they are here with me all the time – it’s always family time. How do you “be fully with them” and still get the tasks done that must be completed each day?
@Sharon @ UnfinishedMom, great question. I wasn’t sure how to work this into the post. But, now that you asked… I’m not saying, “be all there all the time.” There are plenty of opportunities for our kids to play or read independently, take naps, go outside, or do things on their own. I’m not saying be with them 24/7.
But, I know for myself that it’s not a matter of my being with my kids too much, it’s that I’m distracted too much trying to do too many things at one time.
And I can drift toward the laptop more than the storybooks. So, my advice may not apply to all people. I guess what I was trying to say was if you work at home, then make sure you’ve set “office hours” so that you’re not constantly working throughout the day.
Does that make sense?
this so hits home – I work from home and am often in meetings when the kids get home from school – I feel like I shortchange EVERYONE in that first 15-20 mins – the kids who are bursting with some silly news to share or an achievement as well as my meeting as I am distracted trying to make sure the kids have a snack and if I can, listen to a quick snippet of info. It serves no one well. A summer comes, I am so worried because the more I multitask and the more my worlds overlap with work and the kids, the shorter fuse I have and the kids suffer when that fuse blows. Its not pretty. So this summer the kids will have some activities, we’ll have a mothers helper some days, and then I will take a lot of half days and my husband will make sure he also is engaged when he’s home so that work can get done but the kids don’t compete. I am hoping we can have a structure to our days where they are busy and engaged and I can do my work but that I can shut down early or take a half day and hit the lake or some other activity and my kids have my attention. Its a tough struggle!
@s, it sounds like you have a great plan! Let us know how it goes.
I have been reading this blog for a couple of months now and it has inspired a total change in the way I am running the household part of my full time stay at home mom job. I have two boys and a new baby girl and I feel insanely unorganized!!! Thanks for today’s reminder about what is really important because like you have said before, the grandma’s in the grocery store are right, these moments are very fleeting!
Well, thanks, Kelley! Hang in there. You will figure out what works for you.
I usually multi-task during my “work time” (i.e. when everyone is at school/work, etc.) and that way, I have everything done so I can be all there when they are all here:-)
I love your tips on cooking, shopping, folding sheets, organizing, vacationing, gift giving, cake making and all the other tips on doing “things” better but these encouragements on “how to live life” are my very favorite!! I thank God I found your blog (through Crystal at MSM)!! You are much appreciated!!
Thanks, Debbie. I’m so glad you are enjoying this series. Thanks for telling me, too.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. It really spoke to my heart today. It is really easy for me to fall into the trap of missing the moment I’m in because I’m focusing on what needs to happen next. Every now and then I have an “Aha!” moment to shut off all of the electronics, stop worrying about dinner and have sandwiches and just ENJOY my children.
Thanks for the reminder 🙂
I totally needed this today! I am always trying to get several things done while my daughter plays on her own. Maybe I need to just stop and play with her. Thanks for the reminder!
What great advice and something I needed to hear as I’m guilty of this to. When I stop and think about it when I’m in that multi tasking mode none of the 5 things I’m doing at that same time is done to my full potential ~ I especially need to work on turning the comp off or the TV or whatever 4 things I’m doing at that moment and give my full attention to my granddaughter (who lives with me) when she has something to say instead of saying “just a minute” which turns into an hour. What message am I giving her? That Twitter is more important than she is? After reading this I’m really going to check my priorities. Thanks ~ and I’m sure my granddaughter thanks you to:)
Thank you so much for this article! When I read it, I cried, because I have been struggling for what feels like my entire lifetime with these same issues. It is encouraging to know I’m not the only mom who feels overwhelmed or carries that sinking feeling of letting my children down. I am the mom of four littles. 8 and 3 year old boys and 10 1/2 month twin girls. Many nights I am up most of the night trying to get things accomplished and then spend the entire day going full force on numerous tasks at once. I never feel that I am able to give my kids my best becaues I am too exhausted. You have encouraged me with this article. I plan to save it and reread it over and over.