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I once heard a woman—some time management expert I think—suggest that the reason some office workers check their email compulsively is because they don’t know what to do next. Without a clear understanding of the purpose of their job, what it takes to get it done, or, for that matter, much desire to finish it, the noise announcing a new email becomes a welcome interruption.
The same can be true for me as a mom. Without a clear understanding of what I’m called to do and why it is important, I head aimlessly into my mothering workday and end up wasting a lot of time. So much to do. Where in the world do I start? I have no idea. I guess I’ll check Facebook again.
Now this doesn’t mean that we aren’t good moms if we don’t wake up every morning with a clear sense of purpose and a prioritized list of tasks. Some days we need to simply put one foot in front of the other, even if we’ve lost sight of the end of the road. We have to choose to say “no” to distractions even when we can’t remember why it is important to do so.
But we must also labor to maintain a clear biblical vision of motherhood: to remember who it is who called us in the first place (God!), what He has called us to do (raise these children, created in His image, for His glory!), and how he has called us to do this (diligently, joyfully, relying on His grace).
The more we see the mercy of God in motherhood, the more we understand the honor and eternal significance of our calling, the more we grasp our solemn responsibility to bring our children up in the ways of the Lord, and the more we are joyfully compelled to glorify the Savior by giving our lives away for our little ones, the less likely we’ll be distracted by the cheap thrills of the Internet.
We’ll be so caught up in the difficult yet delightful duties of motherhood that the Siren song of our Facebook feed will simply fade away.
“Just as an artist who paints pictures and portraits exercises great care in his work, so each of you, mothers and fathers, must be attentive to these wonderful images [children]. Each day, a painter adds what is necessary to the picture. Sculptors do the same, removing excess stone and adding what is lacking. You should do the same: as makers of images, devote all your time to the task of fashioning wonderful images for God. Remove the excess; add what is lacking. Each day, examine the images closely. Cultivate the natural excellence that each one has, removing what is by nature inferior….[T]each them to be sober, vigilant, watchful in prayer, and to place everything that is said and done under the sign of the cross.” ~John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), On Vainglory and the Education of Children, 22:
HT: Tony Reinke
This so could have been me, only Mike didn’t have his camera rolling at the right moment. See ya Monday, Janelle for the girls
If less important activities are infringing upon more important priorities, we need to make a change. But what does this look like?
Does this mean that moms can’t have a life beyond warming milk bottles and reading bedtime stories or helping with homework and driving to soccer games?
Of course not! But given the significant amount of time it takes to effectively teach, train, discipline, care for, and encourage children, you won’t have time for much else. Motherhood should consume a majority of your time and attention
So how do we eliminate online distractions and that keep us from focusing on our children?
Let me return to a previous illustration. You may remember how I realized that browsing online while my coffee was brewing each morning ended up cutting into my time with God’s Word. So, I set up a boundary for myself: no email or blogs until I have my quiet time. This wasn’t legalistic. It was simply a personal resolution to protect the most important from the less important, to keep first things first.
We can apply this same principle to the priorities of mothering and caring for our homes. What structures do you need to set up in your life to keep the training of your children a priority? Maybe you need to refrain from looking at email until the kids go down for a nap, or wake up a half hour earlier to update your blog, or only browse Pinterest or Facebook after the dinner dishes are done. Maybe more drastic action is necessary. You may need to refrain from certain online activities for a time.
Whatever it takes, let me encourage you to clear away all distractions. There’s a time for every season under heaven, and the time to train your children in the ways of the Lord is now.
So how do we know if we’re distracted or focused on the right things? We need to determine biblical priorities for our season, and then consistently evaluate whether or not we are living according to those priorities. For moms with young kids, it’s pretty simple. Three non-negotiables top the list:
1. The gospel (1 Cor. 15:3)
2. Your husband (Tit. 2:3-5, Eph. 5:23-33)
3. Your children (Deut. 6:4-9 Tit. 2:3-5)
Ask yourself: Am I preserving these biblical priorities as my top priorities?
Then consider your daily Internet or cell phone habits and ask yourself:
Does my time spent online cut into my time for consistent practice of the spiritual disciplines?
Does Facebook hinder me from putting my husband’s needs first?
Does twitter or texting distract me from the teaching, training, discipline, care and encouragement of my children?
Do my Internet habits cause me to be rushed, hurried, distracted or anxious in caring for my family and training my children?
If we’re consistent at checking our Facebook wall but not in prayer, or if we’re attentive to our Etsy site or blog but not our children, then we need to make a change.
In a recent note, Heather describes a scenario most of us can probably relate to:
I am so so grateful that you have brought up the internet as our latest discussion topic. Before I had baby Ellie last June, I worked in a job where I got several emails a minute, and so checking my computer screen regularly was important. Since leaving work, I have (rather sadly) continued with this same habit—except now I have no more than the occasional email from Amazon, eBay or the Baby Centre, or from sympathetic friends who know that I still treat my inbox as though it belonged to a lawyer! And because my inbox is empty, I comfort myself by checking Facebook, searching new recipes or - wait for it - seeing whether you’ve written again on your blog!! As you say, none of these things are bad in themselves but they frequently distract me from what I really should be doing. The washing stays in the machine, dinner remains unprepared and my husband arrives home to find his wife glued to a computer screen.
So thank you for addressing a topic which I have known in my heart I’m struggling with. My Straight Edge is at the ready!
Like Heather, most of us have a sense that something needs to change about our online habits, that all is not quite right in the way we handle technology in our homes. But how much time online is too much? When have we crossed the line from harmless diversion to harmful distraction? (e.g. Is it wrong to read our blog about biblical womanhood when the laundry isn’t folded yet?) And how do we go about making wise and appropriate changes?
We’ll set these questions up against the Straight Edge of Scripture in the next few days.
I’ll never forget the year Feminine Appeal was published. Mom delivered the completed manuscript to Crossway on February 19th of 2003, and two days later my oldest son Jack was born. Three days after his birth my colon ruptured and I had emergency surgery to save my life. Mom spent the next four months living out the message of her book under intensely trying circumstances.
Mom stayed at the hospital with us—all day, every day—and she and Steve took turns sleeping on the horrible chair by my bed. When I was discharged, Mom moved our little family into her home and she and Dad gave up their bedroom so that she could care for me and Jack ‘round the clock, making it possible for Steve to finally return to work. Mom woke up for midnight feedings with Jack, force-fed me three meals a day in bed, drove me to and from physical therapy (forty-five minutes away, several days a week), performed nursing duties too gross to mention here, and pointed me back to Christ and His Word when I was scared, post-partum, and in lots of pain. In the midst of all this, she planned Janelle’s wedding which took place on Mom’s birthday that year, June 1. Two days after Janelle got married I had a second surgery, and Mom started the whole process over again.
My mom’s care for my family was nothing short of heroic, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary. She simply did what she had been doing faithfully for the past twenty-five years: serving God by putting her family before herself. I know she’ll be uncomfortable with me saying this, but you can open up to any page in Feminine Appeal and I can tell you a story of how Mom has lived out that portion of teaching from Titus 2.
Jack turned nine this year. And so did Feminine Appeal. Jack is healthy and strong, loves reading and baseball. And Feminine Appeal has changed the lives of countless women around the world.
This year, Feminine Appeal also has a newly redesigned cover. Same great TItus 2 message. Same wonderful author. Same reminder to me of God’s amazing mercy to me through my mom.
Thanks again Mom, for everything.