The alarm dings at 5:30 a.m. in our house. It is quiet. I don’t have to rush out the door to an office. The kids are sleeping. No one is pulling on me yet. I am able to think about the day, listen to God, exercise, throw in laundry, or take a shower uninterrupted.
The kids slowly come running in or dragging blankets down the stairs and the day has begun but I still have control. The day is only about my family so far. Breakfast, books, coffee, switching that aforementioned load of laundry. I don’t mind my family’s noise, the mess (usually), the needs, the wants. But, when my phone starts ringing and beeping, when there are messages to return, outside people’s expectations to meet, and appointments to get to on time, I start to feel the stress rising. My kids all of suddenly are now in the way. This is the opposite of how I want to see them.
It is not the demands on my family within the walls of my house that I can’t handle (well, on good days). It is the outside requirements that usually end up being too much for what I am realizing is a very small plate.
When I started having kids I was unaware that life needed to change. When they were babies it didn’t have to change much. We needed to be home for naptime and bedtime but other things I just brought baby along and did what needed or wanted to be done. That changed with toddlers and kids. They scream and yell, throw fits, refuse to listen, test boundaries, and demand independence which needs to be taught and triples the amount of time it used to take you to do anything. They also want to play with you, talk to you, and help you. They want and need more of your attention – not just your time.
A friend posed the question to me: “What if you had one week left to live, what would you change about your days?”
My immediate response was, “I would turn off my cell phone.”
I long for quiet days. I love the stillness of morning and the silence of night but it is because I know that before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. no one is going to call me, text me, or come knocking on my door. I love community. I want to be part of people’s lives and have vulnerable friendships full of honesty. But, I have to begin with being honest about how much I can take on.
Three kids, a house, a marriage, and a dog are probably my limit the majority of days. I want to be able to handle more. I want to be everything to everyone and so I try and try, day after day; and I fail and fail, week after week!
Recently, I discovered the “Do Not Disturb” setting on my phone (well, honestly, my husband showed it to me). I set it so that only my husband’s calls and texts will make my phone beep. With this setting I feel more engaged while playing playdough, reading books, or doing the dishes. Rest time in our house is my work and catch-up time and I am easily distracted by every noise and flashing light on my phone. With a click of a button that can go away. I still have to exert self-control and not pick my phone up every 10 minutes but it is a little easier when I don’t hear it or see it.
I am trying to be aware of what stresses me out and why. I am trying to make clear choices about saying “no” and saying “yes.” I am working at being honest about how much I can do in a day. It takes effort to be present with three kids vying for my attention. I am trying to teach them to be patient and wait on me to finish a task or a conversation but I am so easily distracted and going in too many directions to remember to come back to them when they are waiting on me.
I found that stress came when I always felt I could be interrupted and so I never completed a task or conversation. Creating “Do Not Disturb” times allows my kids to have all my attention or the dishes to get done more quickly because I am focused. Now, when I know my phone will be quiet, I feel ready for my kids to disturb everything and I am able to prioritize their needs, our house, and my time to give to others. A simple setting on my phone has brought me immense peace.