If this is your first visit to the Focused Moms Challenge, read our first post before getting started.
Welcome to Week One of the Focused Moms Challenge. Let me take a minute and thank each and every one of you for joining this challenge. I have no doubt that what we’re about to do here is going to make a huge impact in the lives of our children, our families, and in our communities. This challenge was started to help us all (me included) get back on track with prioritizing our children and families over our day-to-day distractions. It’s not intended to be a guilt trip. We’re going to take it one day at a time and not look back on what we did or didn’t do yesterday, last week, last month, or even last year. Instead, it’s all about what we’re going to do in the here and now, and hopefully from now on.
I’d also like to give you all fair warning before you decide to continue. This is not a “just say no” challenge. I will NOT ask you to cut off your cable, disconnect your internet, throw out your tv, break your cell phone contract, or delete your Facebook profile. Far from it. Like it or not, these distractions are here to stay. Instead, this challenge is all about becoming more aware and intentional about what you do with your time with your children. By the end of it, I hope we’ll all be less controlled by our distractions and more in control of our precious time as parents.
In my last post I encouraged you to think about what distracts you most as a parent. If we were really honest with ourselves, the majority of us probably answered that some form of technology gets in the way of our daily interactions with our children. Some examples from moms I’ve talked to include talking on the phone, watching television, emailing, texting, reading on their Kindle, surfing the internet, checking Facebook, or playing on their iPad. Our parents didn’t have these distractions, neither did Ward and June Cleaver. But today, we find ourselves telling our children “just a minute” or “Mommy’s busy” when in reality we’re just checking out the latest status updates on Facebook.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of technology. Our society has come a long way because of it. Lots of things about my life are more convenient because of it. I used to think that it simplified my life and made me better able to manage my home, career, and family. But the more and more I see myself parenting my children with one eye on my smart phone and the other on them, the more I realize that it is time for a change. If you’re here, then I hope you’ll take the Week One Challenge with me as we become more focused and less distracted in our day to day interactions with our kids.
Week One Challenge: Look Left, Right, Left
Remember from the first post that our journey to become more focused was going to be guided by some good old common sense and a few Crosswalk Safety Tips. Being a parent is A LOT like being in a busy crosswalk. The moms and dads are the pedestrians, the road is our parenting journey, and the kids are the moving vehicles! If that’s the case, then I for one really need to pay attention to the safety tips! With four kids, I’ve got a pretty busy road to navigate.
The first tip in crossing the busy road is to Look Left, Right, Left, and our first challenge is going to be to take a good look around. Right now we’re not going to focus so much on our kids as we are on ourselves and our own actions and behaviors. What we’re doing this week is laying the groundwork for the final three weeks. Here’s what you need to do:
Step One. Tell someone that you are trying to make an effort to become more focused and less distracted in your parenting. Your spouse is a good choice, or a good friend or trusted family member, just someone who will be honest with you and hold you accountable. Tell them why you’re doing this, and try to be as open as you can with them. Maybe you’ve had guilt that you’re letting your child’s childhood pass you by while you’ve got your head buried in your laptop. Maybe you want to change your focus now while your kids are babies (before they’re old enough to tell you to get off the phone!). Maybe you just think it’s time to shake things up a bit. Just let someone know.
The community of the Focused Moms Challenge will be here to support you online, but you also need someone you see in real life who can look left, right, left with you and hold you accountable. The first step of a twelve step program is admitting you have a problem. There’s no shame in opening up about it, it just means you’re on your way to recovery!
Step Two. Now it’s time to get serious. We need some reminders. Getting distracted all the time has become so routine that we need something that will get our attention and remind us to stay on track. We’re going to use a concept that you probably remember from your own childhood, Mr. Yuk. Our parents put Mr. Yuk stickers on every poison we had to remind us when we saw it not to touch it! Well, our distractions are not a poison per se, but we can use the same idea to help remind us to be more focused when we’re parenting.
Instead of using Mr. Yuk, download our Crosswalk Safety Tips picture and make it the screensaver or background on your phone, your laptop, your iPad, your desktop, whatever. It can even be your Facebook profile picture if you think that would help you be reminded when you’re on Facebook to keep your time there purposeful and not let it interfere with your parenting. Look left, right, left and see where you could use a reminder to stay focused on parenting. By placing the picture strategically around your home (and on your portable devices) you’ll see it EVERY TIME you’re about to get distracted by your favorite vice. I’ve made it available in landscape, portrait, or square sizes on Facebook and Flickr for you to download and use as often as you’d like.
Like Mr. Yuk was to us about poison, the Crosswalk Safety Tips picture will be a quick reminder to say to yourself, “Is what I’m about to do here helping me reach my goal of being a more focused parent?” If your answer is no, then try to walk away and come back to it at a time that is better for you AND your kids. The whole purpose of the reminder is for you to PAUSE and THINK before mindlessly getting involved in something that distracts you from your kids and your family. You just need to think about it for a second or two. Then answer the question, yes or no. Don’t worry about getting good at saying no this week, we’ll work on that more in the coming weeks! Remember, right now we’re just looking around our environment and strategically placing some reminders that will keep us on task.
What if your distraction is your television, your Kindle, your sewing machine, or something that you can’t download an image to? Get creative. If you want, you can print out a copy of the Crosswalk Safety Tips picture and tape it on your tv before you start watching one reality show after another. For places that are hard to tape a picture, buy some gold star stickers and place them where you can see them. Your Kindle could get a gold star, so could your sewing machine. Just come up with whatever you can to have a quick visual reminder not to get distracted. If that doesn’t work, you could order a sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers. Yes, they still sell them, and yes, they’re still free.
Step Three. Our final step for this week is to make our distractions a little harder to get to. I’m not suggesting we need to lock up the iPad in the gun cabinet or bury the Kindle in the backyard. Instead, put up some barriers. Make yourself have to go through an extra step to access the things that distract you the most. Technology is so amazing that we can be surfing the internet from our phone at the soccer field with one touch of a button. On purpose, I’d like to challenge you to make it harder to do.
For example, if your laptop is your distraction, turn it off (completely not just in sleep mode) when you’re done using it. Make yourself have to go through the time and trouble of restarting the thing just to check your Facebook newsfeed or send an email. What if it’s your tv? Just turn it off after you’ve finished watching something and put it on some crazy channel that you would never watch. Then you’ll have to work a little harder to get back to your favorite program or to find the channel you need.
My smart phone is my biggest distraction. I used to have my email and Facebook accounts as short-cuts on my welcome screen. For our challenge, I moved them into a folder. I can still get to them, but it requires me going past the welcome screen, to the folder, and then opening up the email or Facebook application. I can still do it, but I have to want to do it. It’s intentional on my part.
During the few extra seconds it takes you to restart your computer (or dig your Kindle up from your backyard), ask yourself the question “Is what I’m about to do here helping me reach my goal of being a more focused parent?” If the answer is no, you know the drill. But again, this week the goal is not to get you to be good at saying no. Instead, it’s about moving towards the goal of gaining control of your distraction, rather than letting it being in control of you.
Recap. This is the easy part. Look left, right, left.
- Admit you have a problem
- Plaster yourself with Mr. Yuk stickers
- Bury your Kindle in the backyard
On Friday, I’ll be posting how I used these steps at my house this week and how they worked for me and my kids. I’ll also be asking you to share with me and all of the Focused Moms how you did! For bloggers, you’ll be able to link up a blog post about your first week with the Focused Moms Challenge, and non-bloggers will have the opportunity to share their experiences through comments.
In addition to sharing your stories, you can also share pictures! Got a great idea of how to remind yourself not to give in to your distraction? Take a picture of it and you can upload it to share on Friday. Did you develop a creative barrier to keep yourself from having easy access to your distraction? Take a photo so we can all see how you put it into practice! Sharing pictures will help us all get better ideas on how to get focused. Good luck and stay tuned this week to Facebook and Twitter for daily tips to keep you on track!
Common Sense Disclaimer: This challenge does not provide or replace psychological treatment or evaluation. Contact a psychologist in your community if you are in need of individualized services.