If there is one insight I gained from this past summer of intensely long days and solo parenting, it is that I can easily and constantly lose myself in the distraction of two extreme opposites: a flurry of busy work or mindless consumption of social media.
They’re polar opposites at first glance, one producing the desirable (and always necessary) results of crumb-free floors, clean counters, food, folded laundry, etc, and the other of…well, nothing, really, save for seeing what other people are doing or what may be going on outside our four walls.
Dear Lucy, thanks for the stealth photography of all this in action.
Yet both of these activities offer something in common— a sense of escape, distraction, and the chance to turn, if only momentarily, from the stresses of the day, the clamor of three needy offspring, and the general malaise that comes from a chaotic or disordered environment. And both, usually, shut out the little people from my brain-space. Again, momentarily, but the more I try to distract myself from the craziness at hand, the more annoyed I get when my children (loudly) call me back to reality or interrupt whatever chore I’m working on.
Technology (especially ye olde i-devices) makes this especially tricky. I may want to “just quickly” look up my recipe/track my package/find out the outside weather, and then find myself sucked into a 15-minute hole of Instagram scrolling, blog-reading, or clicking through a rabbit trail of something or other. The lost time then only causes more anxiety as I rush back to whatever task I was trying to get done, only to have someone need something urgently! and immediately! … and then the needs, or even the little people themselves, seem to be in the way of whatever else I wanted or needed to do (rather than the other way around).
Over Labor Day weekend, I had the chance to drive out into the beautiful Shenandoah Valley for the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Mid-Atlantic Conference. We were given a gorgeous early-Fall day, and Maeve slept perfectly on the long drive there and back. It was great to meet with like-minded women for fellowship, sharing ideas, and hearing some amazing talks about various aspects of writing and blogging. Not surprisingly, I was deeply impressed by Elizabeth Foss’s keynote talk, a woman I’ve been following in print in our local Catholic paper since I was little, and then on her blog in more recent years.
Her main point was that, in order to write or blog well, we need to step back and start actually living our own real lives. She gently suggested pulling back from so much social media consumption, both to protect ourselves from comparison and envy, as well as to protect our children from a mother who’s living virtually in a scrolling feed— Instagramming all the moments she wants to display and then losing sight of the actual moment, happening right there.
It was so good. And really exactly what I needed to hear. I always know that I feel more at peace and just like a generally better human being when I practice self-discipline with the phone, computer, laptop, or iPad. But hearing why it was so important was a great reminder. Nobody wants to be the mom who’s glued to her phone and the virtual world, ad the expense of her children’s reality (well, I don’t anyway).`
As I’ve thought over all of this, and talked about with Tom, I realize that part of what makes this so hard, aside from ubiquitous technology, is that my day (and the days of countless other stay-at-home moms of only tiny kids and babies) has almost no real breaks in it, during which I could leisurely check- in to social media, write, check email, and otherwise connect with the outside world. To shower, I almost always have to have the baby napping and the girls watching a show. To eat a full meal, all the children have to be fully occupied with some activity or game or whatever. Laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc, also have to take place when everyone’s involved in something, or the baby’s sleeping and both girls are interested in doing those things with me. And the main kicker is that suddenly, I have a toddler /preschooler (depending on the moment!) who no longer naps, 95% of the time. So, my precious little slice of alone time, to do ALL THE THINGS, or even nap, is gone. Gone, gone, gone (sob).
So I can see how it was easy and almost natural for me to fall into compulsively escaping into the world on my phone, or into a flurry of housework—it’s not like there is any other time to do those things, so I may as well do it while all my kids are awake, I guess was my unconscious reasoning. I’m glad Elizabeth’s talk brought all this into my conscious thought, and I’m all ears for how other moms make or find time to do any of the things they need and want to do.
And if you have the chance to attend a CWBN Conference in your area, I highly recommend it! Thanks to Rosie for hosting on her beautiful homestead, Mary, Elizabeth, Jenny, and Ginny for their inspiring words, and the hilarious Kelly for emceeing.
All the adorable and well-behaved babies of the conference! Lisa and I laughed at the fact that we each showed up with a totally different baby this year. 😉 Thanks to the talented Rachel Cupps for taking our head shots and these group photos.