Friday, May 18, 2012

"Mama, can that wait?" Thoughts on technology, boundaries, love, and a handsfree morning

Hand on the mouse, eyes on the computer, I asked the child standing closest to me,
"Honey, would you get me my hairbrush please?"
She brought and said, "I'll give it to you in exchange for a hug."
Again, that article came to mind.

Slow down, focus on your kids! They want you, they need YOU! 

In other words,
A child cannot kiss a moving target!

Yep, it's time to make some changes.

Let me just say first technology is a gift and a blessing. However, a person can love it too much.
It is a gift, meant to serve those around me.
It is a gift, meant to serve those who read my blog and my book, and my future books, if there are any.

But sometimes, I use it to neglect those around me, and simply to entertain myself.
Seriously, self, do you really need to check facebook at the park?

Right now, I have very few boundaries around my own technology use. 
And what has been the result?
I'm constantly connected.
I'm constantly entertained, if not by my children, by my connections.
I check the easy things off my list, and I ignore the harder things.
I do the "urgent" things, and quickly, to get back to the fun things.
Quite often, I completely forget the important things.

No, I am not going to stop writing or blogging. It would be impossible for me not to write- I am simply built this way. However, I am reassessing the time I spend with and away from my children (mentally,) and even more than that, I am trying to pay attention to the time I spend both with AND away- "multi-tasking," but really just scattered, and distracted.

I am slowly coming to realize, that when I do not deliberately focus on loving and serving the people around me, I simply give my attention to whatever is most interesting or entertaining at the moment.

That, friends, is not love.

(Father, forgive me for sacrificing what is important to do what is fun. Forgive me for misusing the gift of technology, for being distracted and selfish. Forgive me for Jesus' sake. Focus my heart for me Lord. Teach me to love You and love others.  By your grace, give me strength and wisdom as I seek to make changes according to Your will. Amen.)

Baby step: A disconnected morning

I started the day with a talk with my girls.

"Girls, you know how we've been talking about how important it is to fill buckets? (ie, love people) Well, I have to ask you something, and you can answer just how you feel, I won't be mad. Do you think mama spends too much time on the computer instead of filling your buckets?"

The girl on my right nodded emphatically. She said nothing though, her eyes were wide. I think she was wondering how I would react.  She's the one who asks me to jump on the trampoline with her at night when the boys are in bed. She's the one who hates it when I sit at my computer and say "Not this time, honey."

The girl on my left said she didn't think so. "Mama, you fill people's buckets when you write, too. So it's OK if you are on the computer."
Wow. I really didn't expect that.
I agree with her, actually. This is why I am not cutting out all technology or anything crazy like that. It's important for me to write, and connect, and email. I do see it as a ministry.
"Girls, did you know my family is my number one job? Number ONE. So that other stuff, while it is good, I don't want it to come before family unless it absolutely has to. So as much as I like doing that other stuff, I'm going to try to start doing it a little less, especially when I'm also trying to spend time with you. Does that sound good?"
They both smiled. Huge.
"See, sometimes it's easy for mommy to have my hands full of things that aren't really that important, and then I can't use my hands to hug you and tickle you and stuff like that. And I don't want it to be that way, OK?"
I tickled them, and they giggled.
"Here's the deal. I'm going to let you try to help me with this. It's going to be hard for me. I'm going to give you permission to remind me that we had this talk."
Their eyes danced. I immediately felt the need to reign them in. I could tell they were making plans for me. Too many plans.
"Now, that doesn't mean you can nag me. It doesn't mean I'm never going to use my phone or send an email.  And I'm not going to say yes to a bounce on the trampoline EVERY night. I will still get tired."
One girl snorted, "Yeah, you have to deal with those boys all day. Of course you will get tired!"
It is so nice to be understood. I love my daughters.

Life In Bloom"So, if you see me on my phone or emailing when we are spending time together, like at the park or something, I want you to ask me one question: Mama, can that wait?"

"Sometimes it can't wait. Sometimes I'll say no, and I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. But lots of times, it can wait, and I want you to help me make those other things wait so I can spend more time with my eyes and hands and heart focused on you."
I squeezed their hands, and they squeezed back, tight.

I sent my accountability buddies off to school, and then I told my stay-at-home boys a little less. "Mommy wants to spend time with you boys today. What do you want to do? Let's make a list."
In my head, I resolved: No computer until naptime.
I am an addict.  It was hard, but I did it. And I noticed how often I almost went to the computer, or the phone, just out of habit.  I do hope this will get easier.

But I am inspired to keep on trying, especially when I consider,

If my hands had been full of junk, I would have missed...

  • the girls' joy, when I asked them to hide with me on the front porch so we could talk
  • their inside info, about who used to fall asleep in kindergarten, and who fell asleep in math class
  • the little bumps on her nose, reminding me that she is growing so fast, and I'd best teach her to wash her face at night. Sigh, she probably has my bad skin.
  • the way they are happy to give me running hugs, even in front of their friends
  • the three year old spilled, for the second time in five minutes, but he cleaned it up quietly, all by himself.
  • the baby, climbing on my back and playing with my hair while I read the Bible
  • the big boy, capable of being the record-keeper, the list writer for the day
  • the ridiculousness of my angry words, "It is NOT polite to play the harmonica when someone is giving you a lecture!" His suppressed smirk, and then my laugh, and we all laugh. 
  • One asked me if I had a pair of "garden mittens" for him. The other joked, "what are you, a Tom Girl?"
  • Breathing in the sweet smell of honeysuckle, and realizing he calls it "Honey- snuckle!" 
  • I had to untie a tight knot so I sent a child to get me a fork to help. He returned with a fork and a butter knife. "Mommy, can I be coyote? I promise I won't hurt anyone with the knife!"
It wasn't all cute and fun, don't get me wrong.
For instance, there was a major mess:

And I was out of paper towels. And it was spaghetti-sauce mixed with glass. I was "fully present" for the cleaning up of the mess, but it wasn't fully fun. The little culprit watched me, quietly, and finally said in a small voice, "Me not do that again."

Also, the wrestling match was a short one. I was chasing a boy, running full-speed, and I slipped on a transformer costume.  I landed flat on my back on the concrete floor. It probably looked hilarious, but not one of them laughed.
"Are you OK mama?"
"I'm... not sure. Just let me sit here for a minute."
They only gave me about a minute and a half before the littlest ones climbed on me again.
(I'm mostly OK.)
While I laid there, I wondered,
Would the kids know how to call for help if you are unconscious on the floor? 
Later, the pain in my back reminded me to teach my little boys emergency procedures. It turns out, my oldest boy knows his daddy's phone number and 911, but he didn't know how to turn on my phone. I'm glad he knows now.

They watched the bread machine work. 
"The bread is dancing!" 
"Why can't we hear the yeast burping?"

One morning, cut off from technology. What did I observe?
I noticed many precious moments I would have missed.
I also noticed a few hard things I wold have gotten to skip (like the crash on the floor and the messy kitchen help.)
I won't say my day was easier. 
But it was more focused. Less scattered.
And I was more available to my children.
I prayed more.
Read more.
Breathed more.

Try it, won't you?

Think. Pray.

Ask yourself: Can it wait?

If you struggle with this, I'd love to hear from you.
If you've conquered this, I'd love to hear from you, too.
If you have blogged about it, please leave your link below.
(You don't have to link back to me, but it's always appreciated!)


  1. I really appreciate you sharing this, Emily. Yes, it is a struggle for me, too. I have also had to admit to self that I am an addict, too. I did the same experience: no computer until naptime and was AMAZED how often I tried to go there. Also noticed an emotional pattern: beeline to the computer to avoid stress or hard jobs. It's an easy opportunity for the flesh. May the Lord deliver us from our own technology and show us how to have balance.

    1. yes, the computer is a nice place to hide- and like you said, an easy opportunity for the flesh. Balance is the key... because sometimes hiding, relaxing, and networking is good and healthy...
      praying with you for wisdom and balance!

  2. Mine is not an addiction, but after reading Ashley's comment, I have realized it IS an escape. I, too, plop down in front of the computer when I don't feel like doing a chore, whatever it may be at the time. I play card games, I check email, I browse Facebook. None of it is ever that interesting. I'm trying to get away from doing that. I have found that putting on some music helps. I find a certain amount of energy in music. I sing along and the chores are done more easily.

    I said No to a smartphone. The one I have simply makes calls and sends texts. I spent a good deal of time one day thinking about whether or not I needed one. I certainly WANTED one, but did I need it. I decided, No. I don't need to have internet access while I'm out and about. I do have one advantage though. My three boys are in school full time, which leaves me to plan my day with more freedom.

    Great article, Emily. Very thought provoking - thank you.

    1. An escape. Yes.
      But then, I argue in my head, sometimes escape is good, right? It is, really. Rest is good. Connecting is good.

      But definitely NOT all day every day. And probably not 80% of the day, either, not when I have babies at my feet.

      You are right, isn't it amazing how it can suck you in and even when it isn't really that interesting!?

      I definitely agree with you about the music. It gives me energy, makes me more playful, and I even think it helps the kids moods if it is upbeat.

      Very strong of you to say no to a smartphone! I was thinking of getting a laptop myself, but then I realize, I don't think my addiction needs to be made more portable at this point :)

  3. I think I'm in the same boat. I spend every spare minute during the week on the computer. And after my blog is written and the link is posted in all of the spots I post it, after I've checked my tribe and approved tweeting their posts, after I've gone through my reader and visited and commented on the blogs I love, after I cruise around the groups on Cafemom, after all of this and more, instead of disconnecting, I search for more. In the past week I've joined 3 more websites!

    It's been like this for two weeks straight, since my husband started his full time job and I scaled back on my own hours to watch our toddler during the week. Am I really watching him? I'm keeping him out of trouble, sure, but am I watching him grow?

    Thanks for the much needed wake-up call!

    1. Nicole, I very much relate. There are so many ideas out there, and so many ways to go with a blog, and so many ways to promote it, and so many friends to make and conversations to have... when is it enough? when is it too much?

      And yes, there is a huge difference between 'watching' someone and just keeping him out of trouble! I'm sad to say whenever I am "connected," i do switch into "putting-out-fires" mode instead of really engaging with my kiddos. I definitely need to do less of this!

      Thanks for reading, and prayers for you as you struggle along for balance with me!

  4. This is really wonderful! I'm trying to do it myself, no phone, no kindle fire, no computer. It has made such a difference! Thank you for posting this!

    1. It really does make a difference, doesn't it? I do feel a little less frazzled. The internet things are never "done," but here I am surrounded by 6 kids and a house that is never "done" either... the least I can do to help myself juggle all this is try to keep them separate a little more! Doing both at once just doesn't work!

  5. Excellent article, Emily. It’s even hard for us old codgers to let the computer even substitute for time with God. And we excuse that by claiming that I am reading Christian sites... sigh.

    I wrote about a different aspect of the internet (computer) effect on Christians:

    As always, Emily, your insights are sprinkled with humor and great emotional tugs. Thank you.

    1. Yes, Rich, that is definitely the most important thing. The way it squeezes out time with God. And reading things of substance online is not the same as reading His Living Word!!!

      So... why is it so much easier to open Google Reader than it is to open the Bible ap? I think because the sinner in me is longing for something new, fresh, distracting...

      not something sharper than a two-edged sword!

  6. Thanks for stopping by Chase and More - following you back via GFC. And yes - God bless the messes! :)

  7. it IS so hard emily. i left my phone untouched this morning when i woke up and i so wanted to hop on fb or check my email. i just keep telling steps!

    1. baby steps indeed! It's not about cutting technology out completely, but keeping it from be the monster that takes over all my thoughts!

      You are NOT the boss of me! :)

  8. Hi Emily,
    I SO identify with you and the others here. I am addicted as well. I have an iphone now and it is my constant companion. Some things are important, as you said, and it's OK to have a little fun with it too, but I definitely am too connected to my devices and the internet at the expense of my kids. I am even sometimes on the phone reading blogs or whatever when I'm ostensibly doing something else with them at the same time, like playing a game. *hangs head* I am definitely right there with our whole selfish, instant gratification modern culture that says "entertain ME!!" first and foremost, no matter who suffers.

    One thing I could add is how it affects time spent (or not spent) with your husband. Mine is just as addicted as I am, and we spend more time with our devices and internet than we do with each other. It is like any other addiction in that you know what you are doing is wrong, but you feel powerless to stop and compelled to continue.

    I wish there were a concrete 12-step program to break this addiction!

    1. Hanging my head with you, friend.
      Same as you said with the husband/marriage effect. He likes to relax with TV or a movie at night (nothing wrong with that per se); but it bores me, so I tend to stay at my computer instead...

      Funny, how easy it is to connect with the world... but who hard it is to connect with the people in the same room with me!

    2. Ann- this was a very good one on the marriage angle. A little heart-wrenching though.

  9. Hi, Emily,

    I so resonate with this, as it is a daily struggle for me: how to stay connected and do that important work of writing while not neglecting my role as a mother and my time with my little boy (and soon to be two little boys). I don't know exactly what "doing less" means for you as it's related to being connected online, but one suggestion I have (a loving suggestion) is to drop a blog post or two per week. I have read on that people are actually MORE inclined to read your posts when there is more space between them. That way, they're not desensitized by seeing your name in their inbox every day. That little addage, "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

    I recently wrote about being disconnected on my blog, and it received some kind feedback. You can view the post here:

    Thanks for your honesty here. -Kate

    1. Thank you for your loving suggestion. :)

      Actually, I did only do three posts this week. (hooray me!) and I noticed many benefits to that. I'm thinking of making 2-3 a week a goal. To be honest, that's always my goal, but then I come up with a little something on the off days anyways. Why? Because I'm constantly thinking about it, constantly connected! So that's the part I'm working on :)

  10. I am trying to go that route of no internet, no phone,etc. It is hard because I feel like I don't have a balance of family, work, and blogging fun. I tend to sometimes steer to one end, when I should be steering to the other end. THanks for writing this post.

    1. Though i know it is a problem for me (an addiction, really!) I'm not quite convinced that I need to go cold turkey, and cut it all out. In fact, I think that would probably be a bad idea at this point. Instead, I'm trying to block off certain hours of the day that are technology-free... and using that time to think and pray about exactly HOW I do want to use my time in front of the computer. Writing is important to me, and I believe it is a calling... however, wasting hours on pinterest or facebook... not so much :) Not at the expense of other more important things anyways!

      Balance is tricky... I'd even say, probably impossible. I'm pretty sure there is no magic formula. But even so, it is good to step back, think, and pray about what we are doing, trusting God to guide us as we go!

      Prayers for you today, new friend!

  11. Emily,
    I'm learning a lot from your posts.:) I was that mom who was anti-facebook, anti-iphones, and recently began to open up to the tools God has given us. I was guilty of fb on my i-phone at the park...I am so sad to admit that. Reading this helped--my little guy isn't old enough to remind me I need to remind myself! I LOVE the honest conversation you had with your kids. Such a sign of respect for them. Praying about it, well, when we go to grab our technology too much...a prayer like the one you wrote is a much better strategy. Thank you for sharing these well thought out thoughts...
    :) Michy

    1. Prayers for you as you wrestle with this! It's all about balance... but I've never been all that graceful, so I expect a few falls :)

  12. Great Post!! I'm reading more and more posts on this, and have found myself quite convicted. Summer is upon us and I know blogging and the computer are going to have to take a back seat for the next couple of months, I think God has been preparing me for it with posts like yours :) Thank You!

    1. It is so hard to balance it all, isn't it? If you are like me, I could not function as a human being if I did not write things out. I think in writing, if that makes sense. I even pray in writing.

      I know I need to make time for thinking/writing, for my own health, and because it is a ministry.. however, I also need to simplify, and block off large parts of the day (or even whole days- could I do it?) where I am completely disconnected from the online world.

      My daughter, with her nagging license, is really helping me with this. "Mama, is that important, or could you read to me right now?" :) She feels so powerful.

  13. Wonderful post! Very needed. I think this life is given to us to figure out balance. Sort out what is necessary from what is merely entertaining. And you have made such a good start. I will be following your advice. Thank you for sharing on NOBH!

  14. This is something I'm focusing on right now. I have little time with my children with my schooling. I am focusing on making the most of that time with them and NOT spending it on facebook or texting. That can almost always wait until after bedtime. GOOD POST!

    1. It's so hard, isn't it!? :) You are right.. it almost always can wait. When's the last time I got an EMERGENCY facebook message? Never!

  15. What an amazing post on this issue. I'm so glad you shared it at 5minutesforFaith or I would have missed it. Hm. See? That's why it's a gray area. :-) I'm definitely sharing this post and pinning it too as I will need reminders.

  16. What an amazing post on this issue. I'm so glad you shared it at 5minutesforFaith or I would have missed it. Hm. See? That's why it's a gray area. :-) I'm definitely sharing this post and pinning it too as I will need reminders.

  17. Thank you for the beautifully written review of my book on Good Reads. I am deeply touched by what you wrote and the way you wrote it. What a gift.


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