“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” -Simone Weil
So twenty-one days ago, I posted this family photo on Instagram where we’re smiling radiantly near a sparkling lake at dusk.
And I look really pretty.
And Violet is making a sweet, silly face.
And Jacob is lookin’ the perfect amount of dapper to win my heart over for the next 100 years.
And anyways, we look GREAT. ..like we have it ALL figured out.
And I paired this photo with an announcement: that we chose a family word for 2019…
and the word is: ATTENTION.
You can read the Instagram post here if you’d like.
It’s really sweet.
Here’s an excerpt that pretty much sums it all up:
You can give attention, receive attention, pay attention, need attention, …I mean, the list goes on forever. Attention is expansive, and motherhood is the ultimate test of how far your attention can spread! It’s a beautiful balance, distributing your attention. And I want to grow in that this year, thinking each day when I wake up: “who and what needs my attention today?” Choosing this “one word” has already helped me feel more giving, more mindful, and more in control of the emotional climate of our home!
You know, ….*chuckles knowlingly*….
sometimes when I go back and read my writing, I’m inspired by myself,
but sometimes, I roll my eyes HARD and think:
**oh brother, cue the saccharine soundtrack**
But okay so that post was published 21 days ago, right?
And since then,
January really set in.
And while I had the best intentions for my attentions, (see what I did there?)
I have honestly found my attention-span frayed at the seams!
In fact, it’s become obnoxiously clear that that “one little word” I chose is gonna be YET another growing pain.
Yeehaw: 2019! HERE WE GO!!!
Haha, okay I’m being silly, but honestly 2019 has already been very hard!
I have found myself spending way too much time on social media, feeling irritable and lost, knowing I WANT to be in the moment with my little family, but not just dropping everything else to DO IT.
So.. that’s what I’m gonna share below: and action plan for how I plan to focus my attention on my family in 2019.
Hope it inspires you, and if you’d like to share inspiration for me, please leave a comment!!
How to Actually Pay Attention to Your Family
1. VIEW ATTENTION AS A GIFT
Motherhood and marriage have both taught me that my attention is the greatest gift I possess. In fact, attention is often demanded in the very moments I feel I have nothing left to give… And while a year ago today, I would have found that distressing, today I view it as a challenge. In those moments when I’m beat down and overtalked-overtouched-overneeded, I visualize myself digging deeper: literally diving into the well of myself and emerging with open ears.
I know it sounds sappy, but it is SO helpful! Just try it. Next time your husband is droning on about the news, or your child is crawling all over you, pause and think: can I give the gift of my attention? And dig deeper.
2. CLUE IN WHEN YOU’RE SPREAD TOO THIN
Recently I read this amazing blog post by “The Federalist” where the author said: “If I have time to eat but not time to clean up my dishes, I know that I have made my schedule too busy for actual living.”
Cannot tell you HOW many times I’ve thought of that sentence! It’s so true!
If my sink is full of dishes, I don’t feel at ease.
The same goes for putting away laundry (which I loathe).
But if I don’t do it, I’m tripping over laundry baskets and constantly reminded that I am not caring for our home.
It’s so annoying, but for me, laundry is definitely the “barometer” for judging when my attention is spread too thin.
If I have too much on my plate, I get burnt out, and I avoid laundry.
I also get anxious, irritable, and I don’t give my best self to my family.
So I’m planning to be more conscious of my surroundings, and when the laundry is piling up, I need to pay attention!
What about you? What’s your clue for being overstretched?
3. MAKE A MORNING ACTION PLAN
Last year I wrote a blog post called: “7 Things I Do Every Morning as a Non-Morning Person.” And one of the things on my list was to “decide what I want and need that day.” And I still do this! BUT, I’ve grown since then. So now, as soon as I wake up, I think:
“who needs my attention today, and how can I give it?”
Starting my day this way has been transformational. Because some days it’s ME who needs the attention. And that’s good to acknowledge and plan for! But many days, I wake up feeling like I have love to give. (Meaning my self-care is starting to pay off!!!)
I plan to do this every day, and I think this will be a good strategy to have in my pocket if we decide to have another baby someday! I’ll already be used to parceling out my attention 🙂
4. ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF, TOO
The thing about attention, is that you can’t just give-give-give it.
You need to receive it, too.
So this one is HARD. Like, really hard. But I’m trying to get better at bluntly telling my family when I need them.
It almost always makes things better though! Just coming out with it and saying:
“I’m feeling burnt out. Can you help me _____?”
“I’m feeling lonely. Can we plan a date this week?”
“I’m so excited about ______! Wanna hear about it?”
“I’ve been feeling down on myself. Can you remind me how pretty I am?” 😀
“I’m feeling sad. Can you hug me?”
It can feel strange at first, but being direct with how and when you want attention is not only helpful to you, it’s helpful to your loved ones! They love you and want to be there for you. Let them!
5. ZAP YOUR TIME-WASTERS
While we’re on the subject of social media…. *sigh*
I just got a new iPhone (AKA a fancier hand-me-down iPhone) and it keeps track of how much time I spend on everything… And I was ALARMED by my Instagram usage. Somehow, I found a little over 2 HOURS every day, to scroll through Instagram.
Yeah, I’m literally embarrassed to admit that. 2 hours.
So I put a 30 minute daily limit on my Instagram usage, and I plan to stick to it! (And some days I go a little over, but) putting the limit on my social media time has been SO helpful. It forces me to be present with my family, and I’m feeling a little more free and connected to THEM every day.
I highly recommend doing this! Your time-waster might not be Instagram. For example, my husband’s time-waster is reading the news on his phone. Everyone has some little vice that eats up their attention, and it’s good to keep it in check!
6. MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY MEDIA
While we’re talking about social media…Cutting back on Instagram was like, really hard.
So I tried to think of ways to fill that “void” by working on our family media (meaning home videos, photos, etc.).
I started using an app called “1 Second Everyday” and it is AMAZING!!
The app collages tiny clips of your life.
So I’m making a long-term video for 2019 that features 1-2 seconds a day.
And I also made this “Month in the Life” video from: Wednesday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 24 (see above!).
When I look back at this 8-minute video from January… I feel. Shocked. Shocked by all the joy, the laughter, the successes, the in-between victories… You know that phrase everyone says: “the days are long but the years are short”? …well, this app helps to put all those “long days” into perspective. You literally see the big picture. And it’s overwhelmingly validating.
Furthermore, when we watch our “family video,” Violet’s face lights up!! This app has been a good use of my time and attention, because it’s a gift to my family, and myself!
Family media could apply to scrapbooking or other things, too… But I hope you’ll try the “1 Second” app – it’s so cool.
7. CHOOSE YOUR INSPIRATIONS WISELY
I know my media intake can influence my mindset towards motherhood and homemaking. So I’m trying to intentionally fill my mind with books or shows that feature strong Mothers. One of my favorites is “Call The Midwife!” It always puts a pep in my step when I watch a rerun during naptime! And I’m currently binge-watching “The Waltons” on Amazon Prime, haha. It’s silly, but the show always makes me feel super content with my role as a Mom. It’s even inspiring me to want a bigger family!!
I also love to read about homemaking strategies, because it inspires me to work on my home and my family.
I mean, obviously I don’t read about this stuff ALL the time, because I do have other interests in my life, LOL.
But here are a few of my favorites:
What are some of your favorite inspirations as a parent or homemaker? I’d love to read your recommendations in the comments!
8. SPOIL YOUR FAMILY WITH YOUR TALENTS
You know that phrase: “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” …?
I detest that phrase. It embodies everything wrong with our consumer society.
LOL. Maybe I sound dramatic… (and privileged…)
But as a creative SAHM, I am constantly bombarded with societal pressure to make a “side income” with my art.
But… if I spend all my free time making art for other people, how and when will I give my talents to my family?
So while I do have side income from FibreShare (and a tiny bit from Swift and Bloom), I want to find more ways to make-do with less income so I can stay home long-term and spoil my own little crew with my talents and attentions.
I know that’s not an option for everyone, because bills need to get paid.
So regardless of whether you are a SAHM, how can you use your talents for your own family? What have you always wished you had time for? Maybe there’s a way you can streamline your schedule this year, and find joy in spoiling your loved ones! I believe in you!
BONUS: I just discovered a passion for knit/crochet toys. (Mostly because they’re cute!) But also because if I’m knitting a toy for my daughter, and she cries or calls my name, it’s easy to drop my work! If I’m knitting for her, I can stop for her, too. 🙂
9. TRY SIMPLER FAMILY ACTIVITIES
Speaking of making do with less… We’re try something new this year: we’re not going to eat out, not even to grab carryout. At all.
(Hopefully I dind’t just jynx us!!! LOL.)
This is a big shift for us, and the main motivation is to cut costs.
But we’ve stumbled upon an awesome discovery: we enjoy creative constraint with our family outings, and we want to keep it up long-term!
Already this year, we’ve enjoyed several romantic picnics, playdates at the park, and nights cooking as a family!
So far, it seems like spending less money + keeping things simple = more quality time opportunities.
Next time you’re planning a family activity, think about how to simplify it! I really believe that a simple plan like “build a snowman and walk around the block” can be so meaningful and cost effective. And you can really focus on each other and relax and talk! Try it!
10. BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF WHEN YOU STRAY
This one doesn’t need much explanation. But I couldn’t complete a list without saying: be kind to youself!
It’s really hard to harness your attentions, and I fail at it daily!!
But I’m trying to go easy on myself, and remember that I’m trying my best!
Hopefully each day, with these strategies, I’ll get a little bit better at spending my time the way I want.