As a mom, I’m constantly…oh, wait…hang on a second…interrupted. When giving out instructions, retelling the greatest story ever, or showering, it’s all cut short. My family has a lot to say and it explodes in my general direction without a thought as to what I’m trying to accomplish. This pattern has been at play for a while now and honestly, it’s my fault. I let it build up like that sticky soap scum on my shower door because I wanted my 8-year-old, husband, and dogs to feel heard in their world — but now I’m feeling unsupported in mine. Is it too late to teach my family a new trick?
Like any habit, this one developed slowly and it was my family’s sense of urgency that reeled me in. I could hear in their voices such a need to express themselves that I gave them the immediate attention they craved. It often played out like this: My husband or son would have a quick question or major revelation and I stopped everything to hear it. When the pattern began several years ago, the infrequency of this scenario made taking time out of what I was doing no biggie. Showing my family I valued their words was important and there are occasions when immediacy matters — except now it matters all day, every time, all of the time.
“Mom, have you seen my homework?” my son asks as he bursts into the bathroom while I’m showering.
“There are occasions when immediacy matters — except now it matters all day, every time, all of the time.”
I hear the need in his voice and I answer without stopping myself, “Have you looked in your backpack?”
I see the lightbulb go on over my kid’s head and he runs off to find his homework. I wonder if there will be any more interruptions during my only real alone time today. But I don’t have to wonder for long because my husband walks in with the same question. (Does anyone in this house knock?) When I ask him to lock the door as he leaves, he looks confused. By now I shouldn’t be surprised by all the interruptions, but somehow, I am. What’s more, is the inkling of frustration I feel doesn’t shut off with the shower water.
Oh, please don’t misunderstand, I do like helping my crew. My mom-wife skillset is in such great demand it must be fairly remarkable — as long as I don’t have any remarks of my own to make. I love being able to provide answers about Minecraft while I’m peeing. I’m happy to be awoken from a much-needed nap to guide my husband through using the food processor. All kidding (not kidding) aside, I want to be there for my family—and acknowledging this desire is how the pattern started in the first place. But these disruptions have become such an all-the-time thing, I can’t take a deep breath without it being redirected.
“I feel like my time is no longer valued — it belongs to everyone else.”
For a bit, I tried ignoring all the cut-offs and cut-ins that bugged me. I mean, who cares if my train of thought gets derailed? I’m an adult. I can roll with it. Perhaps it’s my job as a mom and partner to be interrupted day and night. But pushing my feelings aside only made it worse. And, I’m certainly not expecting my 8-year-old to maintain an adult-like level of patience in this area; however, I have brought this occurrence up to my husband, and when I mentioned it…well, I was interrupted.
I push down feelings of defeat more often than my kid forgets to flush the toilet. Being heard helps me feel valued. It connects me with my family but I’m not feeling that full sense of connection because my unfinished thoughts hang like cartoon word bubbles cluttering up our kitchen. Each interjection feels like a push away and I feel like my time is no longer valued — it belongs to everyone else. I’ve been waiting for my family to recognize this pattern, but they don’t. So, it’s my turn to speak up — and have them listen because I’m trying to set a standard where everyone is heard equally.
“Hey family, can we…”
“Mom, I have to show you this program!” my son interrupts excitedly.
“Hey kiddo, I’d love to watch your program, but first can I finish my thought…” He nods.
It seems like the simplest of solutions, but giving my family a “pause button” has made all the difference. It serves as a reminder that there’s space for all of us to be heard. I’m never going to stop listening to my family’s stories about school, work, and bathroom breaks because those are the stories that connect us. But I am going to be more assertive when it’s my turn. In demonstrating how I valued them, I didn’t always take the time to value myself—and that’s a thought that definitely deserves to be heard.
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