Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Temptation to Distraction

This lent, one of my resolutions is to spend less time on the internet during the day. Though I periodically check my email and Facebook for messages, I have been trying (with varying degrees of success) to save the article and blog reading for the evening. As a stay at home mom, it's been a real temptation for me to fill the every "in between moment" with information. After some thought, I think that the temptation stems from two sources.

Just a symbol. If apples were my only temptation, well, call me holy.
First, the very "hurry up and wait" nature of being at home with children. One moment you can't catch your breath because there's an accident on the carpet, a child climbing the counter to get that juice you forgot they wanted, and another yelling that he is going to get in trouble. And then the baby starts to cry.

And at another, peace reigns while some nap and others play. The peace may last five minutes or thirty.  Whatever the case, odds are it won't be long enough to get into that new book by Weigel or have an uninterrupted phone conversation. The result of this reality is that there are a lot of odd and unclaimed minutes here and there. Moments begging to be filled.

The second source of the temptation is the very nature of the stay at home tasks themselves. They're mundane in the most literal meaning of the word. And at times, they are, to be quite honest, unpleasant. Disciplining, cleaning up gross messes, getting up when you're tired, sitting still when you want to do. It's not all drudgery, and it's very rewarding, especially in the long run... But it's not always easy. It's rarely easy. 

It's human nature to seek escape from boredom and unpleasantness, and we all need a bit of escapism now and then. But there is a real danger to subconsciously make the day more and more about these "filled"moments. In the language of Laura's review, we try to fill our hunger for something more with mere distractions. The paradox is, at least in my experience, that the more one tries to fill that hunger with distractions, the less and less satisfaction one finds in the distraction and the real. 

So, while my lenten practice was intended primarily as a little mortification, I'm seeing other side effects. The first is that I'm realizing that these "empty" moments aren't so empty. In the quiet of these moment, there is often inspiration, whether it is some profound philosophical insight, or a flash of creative genius about how the living room could be perfectly arranged. 

Another is that I see my children more clearly, and catch more of the interplay that goes on between them. The comical, the absurd, the innocent, the tragic (isn't every sorrow a tragedy to a child?), it's all there to be treasured if one has the eyes (and the attention) to see. And this has given me a new sense of gratitude for these children. 

The comical. 
The lovely.
The wonder.
The fleeting.
And finally, I realize that I have more time than I thought. While I may not get through chapters of an intellectually weighty book, I can gain something from reading a short excerpt and reflecting on it throughout the day. And while I may not be able to make that hour long call to a friend, I can write a quick note to let them know they're on my mind. 

So maybe the more that I'm looking for is already in these moments. It just takes time and practice to recognize it.


  1. Well said, my friend! Right on the target...I'm so guilty of those fillers, thanks for spurring me right where I need it!

  2. Replies
    1. And I see this as something that's going to be a long term struggle for me...

  3. So well put, this struggle of the SAHM. I deal with it daily and probably never as well as I should or could.

  4. really good thoughts! i find myself trying to escape all the time. thinking the fb notification or email will bring some excitement into my life as opposed to the mundane tasks of a stay at home. and how sad when I think of the things i could be missing out on... like being able to 'see' my kids and take pleasure in them. alot to think about, for sure!

  5. Sarah and Nicole, thanks for commenting! It's consoling to know that other moms out there, good moms, are having this same struggle.

  6. great post, Mary! I've been trying to do the same this Lent - and I am pleasantly surprised at how much joy comes with staying in the moment with the kids, instead of clicking around when I give myself little online "breaks."

  7. Yes to everything you just said. Been attempting the same thing and find it to be amazing how much more calm and focused my day seems when not attempting to catch snippets of stuff to fill in those quiet gaps.


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