Protecting our attention when we don't have time

Mothers are tired.  So we look to ways to manage our time and plan our days with more efficiency and speed.

I recently heard a quote, we don't have a time management problem, we have an attention and energy management problem.

This, said by a man with much more control over his time, has left me wondering whether this nugget carries any wisdom at all for mothers.  

I'm convinced that if I logged my time, I would in fact have a problem with time.

However, perhaps the time shortage that we have is not a problem in the way we think.

In The Fringe Hours, author Jessica N. Turner says that we all have the same 168 hours a week and that if we looked, there is time on the fringes that we can put to good use.

For many parents (and usually mothers), much of our time, and consequently our attention, is chopped up into bite sized pieces.  For parents who are at home with babies or with small children, the absolute maximum amount of time you may get in one day is perhaps one stretch of 1-3 hours.  The rest is made up of short and scattered pieces of time through your day.  

This is why there's the saying that mothers are masters at multitasking.  For a mother to get the things done that she needs to for her self, her home, her family she often has a few items on the go at the same time. 

Helping with homework while cooking a meal. 

Changing dirty diapers while calming down a toddler. 

Reading to a child while feeding a baby. 

Cooking while listening to the news from everyone's day.

Answering work emails while bouncing someone on your lap.

Tidying while planning the week's grocery list and meals.

Loading the dishwasher and remembering all the kids parties you need to RSVP for.

The problem for mothers, who are expected to be these masters of multitasking and are supposed to live up to expectations that they can learn to juggle many tasks at the same time, is that multitasking is a myth.  The human mind is not designed to direct it's attention at multiple jobs, engage with the information at hand and then process and act on it all at the same time.  We are able to process one task and carry that one thing out.  When we are "multitasking" we are in fact switching our attention from one thing to the next.  Over and over and over again.  

The practice of yoga is a practice in directing our attention.  Our attention is an asset that needs to be protected and defended.  

When a mother is trying to be the champion multitasker of the family her attention is not able to flow in one direction for any significant amount of time.  Her attention is being scattered and as a result she most probably doesn't get to feel the satisfaction of dropping into a deeper level of work or thought.  She probably feels that her energy is diffused.  She feels tired and drained from everything pulling at her attention.

It is true that our perceived lack of time is in fact an attention and energy management problem.  However for parents and particularly mothers, time plays a huge part in this picture.  When time is a variable in family life that cannot be controlled, protecting and cultivating our attention becomes ever more vital.

The Yoga Parent is hosting The Peaceful Yoga Parenting Workshop in Sydney over 4 Saturday afternoon sessions (5, 12, 19 March and 9 April).  Come along to explore how we can take the depth of focus and attention from yoga into your life at home.


Sandra WangComment