Focusing on what we are doing can be quite difficult when we are pulled in different directions. Be it our children, spouse, phone, or work, there are many people/things needing our attention pretty much every minute of the day. Today, I have one of the Founders of Bismillah Babies and a mother of two - Sadia Anwar - sharing her insight on how she stays focused.
I’m sitting here trying to pen a few words for Spark On With Neelu. (I have another article in my head about Ibtehaj Mohammed which I need to pen down.)
One child is sprawled on the couch glued to the Ipad. The other is in the bath, making a mess I’m sure – I am not sure what exactly she’s doing, I haven’t checked. I haven’t given them their breakfast yet. My MIL walks by giving me a disapproving look, I smile at her and gesture ‘two minutes more’. By now she knows that gesture means ‘I won’t be budging from my spot for another hour at least.’ It’s the usual chaos from a summer-holiday-morning.
‘Mina,’ I yell for my lovely house-help, ‘Please take the baby and change her clothes.’ I ask, as a dripping-wet toddler charges at me excitedly.
But I do not budge from my spot. In fact, I consider the very fact that I have to smile and give instructions as an incursion into ‘my time’, which earns me a few extra minutes to compensate. This slice of my day makes me sound selfish. I agree and I am proud of it. Let me explain why.
A big challenge that all moms face: “How to Focus amidst Chaos” How do we take time out to do something we want amidst the constant demands on our time and energy?
The biggest hurdle to focusing and doing what we want to - scratch that - Need to do for ourselves is “I’m too busy, I have no time, I have too many things to do.”
I believed that for a while, and played the martyr-mom, but the closer I looked at my situation and logged how I spent my time I realized it wasn’t being busy that was holding me back – it was guilt.
Mommy-Guilt: the core of a lot of our frustrations, a mindset that made me believe that unless I was doing something with or for the children, I was not being a ‘good mom’.
It was a belief that if I did something for myself alone, I was being ‘selfish’, and that was a bad thing. So I redefined selfish. Selfish is good. It’s when I do something for my ‘self’ alone. It is a good thing. I embraced the word ‘selfish’ and made it a part of my daily routine. I must be Selfish in order to be selfless. How does one perfect this art of being selfish? Here are some pro-tips at being selfish from Selfish Sadia.
Pray and Meditate
Connecting with a power bigger and higher than ourselves is soothing. Suddenly all the things I fretted about become meaningless. My soul and its connection to peace and goodness become more important. My body and soul are a gift from God and deserve special care too. Nourishing my soul and keeping it in good health becomes important enough to assuage any guilt I feel about being selfish. How do I nourish my soul? By giving it the time it craves to wind down and indulging in my hobbies and interests.
Shut Social Media
An analysis of how I spent my time showed that it isn’t the children that take up most of my time, it was my phone. A task that could be done in 10 minutes took an hour because my phone distracted me. So whatever is your vice – Instagram/YouTube/Facebook/Whatsap -shut it down. It is not just time, the incessant bombardment of irrelevant information exhausts the mind too. Some extreme measures you could try – ask your partner to change the password and not tell you till after a certain time limit. Ask your neighbor to hide the wires. Set timers/alarms for social media. I felt my energy and time increase many-fold once I put in some time limits on social media and e-mail.
A lot of the times our families are not aware that we need this time away. That we need to do our own thing for a bit. If they did know, they are only too happy to co-operate and help – especially children. My 5-year-old loves it when he is able to help me. Explain to everyone that you are going to take an hour or 2 to do your own thing, set an alarm and DO NOT BUDGE unless it’s a life or death emergency.
It helped me immensely to set a routine with both time and space. 2 hours in the morning when I sit here in this corner of the house is when I do my thing for myself. After a while, it becomes a part of the family routine. When my children see me sitting here, they know it’s useless to call me. Scheduling this time after I have spent time with the children doing something with and for them works best. And sitting in the prettiest corner of the house works best. (Of course, during the holidays, when routines are hard to follow, we end up in the situation I described at the beginning of this article. The time aspect of the routine didn’t work – the space aspect did. My children think, “Moms at her desk, we better ask someone else to help us”.)
I am very blessed to have help at home. My MIL is with us half the year, that's another layer of help. But if you have no help - then please get help. Getting help doesn’t mean finding an expensive solution like hiring a babysitter. Save some money to eat out or order in food, so you can avoid cooking occasionally. Use disposable plates (if only we had disposable clothes too …sigh…) to save time on washing, Serve instant noodles or pre-cooked (GITS!!) meals once a while. Join a mothers group, so you have mental support. Meet your neighbors and find friends nearby, so you can cover for each other. Ask your partner for help. If all else fails, wake up earlier/sleep later so you have the precious few minutes when the children are asleep.
None of these tips work till you believe that your time and what you need to do for yourself is as Important as anything else on your to-do list. Put simply: Be Selfish.
I asked some of the moms from my mom's group what they do in order to find time. Here is what they said:
"When I need time for myself, I first give the children some attention. And engage them in an activity – like read a book or play a game. I do this with the understanding that once done, mom can have some uninterrupted time.” – Mom of 2 school going children
“Usually, after I’ve been with them doing something for a while, or after mealtime, I leave them with a game and tell them to give me some time.”- Mom of 2 (1 school going child and one toddler)
“I engage them in something and set a time limit for myself to finish the task. During this time, I turn off my phone and wifi. I also use an app on my desktop called ‘time doctor.’ You can start a task and set a timer. If you move away from the task, they send you a pop-up message saying ‘are you still working on this?” – Mom of 2 school going children.
“I give her a replica of what I am doing. A book if I am reading, a pen if I am writing. “– Mom of a toddler.
“Engaging the children in something works for me too. I give them play dough, which they love, or I let them ride their cycles outside while I sit near the main door with my laptop.” - Mom of 2, a toddler and a preschooler.
“These days I have been taking my children to Lamcy, they have a free jumping castle and free wifi.” – A mom of two, who works as a teacher and is preparing lesson plans.
Sadia, thank you so much for all the valuable tips that you have shared from your life and from your friends' lives.
Bismillah Babies is an organization that works to cultivate a love for Islam in children’s hearts. They conduct Islamic themed playdates that include stories, songs, and crafts for children between the ages of 0-9 years. Age appropriate themes are carefully selected and cross-referenced with relevant Quranic verses and Hadith. These sessions are prepared with thorough research and conducted in an engaging manner. You can get in touch with them via their Website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.