I listened to this podcast last week which featured an interview with Erica Komisar the author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. While I haven’t read the book, I was challenged by what I heard in the podcast.
The book, as the title indicates, is about how important the presence of a mother is in the first three years of life. The presence of a mother who is truly present, not on her phone, not distracted by all these other things. Present. That means spending time in total attentiveness to my child.
When I think about a date night, I want to be totally present to my husband and for him to be present to me, if one of us is checking our phones, or can’t remember what the other just said, we are not being present and it’s not much of a date.
I reflected and thought. How often do I drag Jason along with whatever I have planned for the day with a “don’t touch that” at every turn? How often do I check the computer or my phone when he’s playing often with the hope of feeling a sense of connectedness? How often do I think I have more important things to do- or feel pressured to do more than be present with my son? Well, the good news is that according to the new research presented in the book spending time being present with my son IS actually the best use of my time.
All of these thoughts of other things to do or being on technology become distractions. “But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10.40-42). I don’t think there was a problem with Martha making supper, surely that was a great way to show hospitality. But, could she have done it without being distracted from what was truly important: the hospitality of being present to her guests? I realized that I need to choose the better part. Yes, people need to eat. Yes, the house needs to be kept (relatively) clean. Yes, there are things that I must do. But, can’t I do those things without them occupying all my mind space and becoming unnecessary distractions? Can’t I do them while still making time to be present with my son? My son deserves better, he deserves my presence.
I think Satan works on “good” people by keeping them distracted by “good” things. These “good” things just might not be God’s will for us though.
I do feel pressure to do more, to not just sit at Jesus’ feet- or in this case sit on the floor with Jason- and learn from him. Little Jason is extremely good at being present and I can learn a thing of two from him. When he’s nursing, he looks up at me, totally focused. He doesn’t live in the past or the future, but totally embraces the present. He takes such joy in all the little gifts the present brings him.
A mark of holiness is the ability to be present. People who have encountered saints have remarked about how they have felt that the saint was truly present with them. So, I thought, “What better way to work on growing in holiness than to put away my to-do list of distractions and be present with Jason.”
My past spiritual director told me on several occasions the same metaphor: adding a little bit of sugar to the kettle of jam sweetens the whole kettle. His premise is that we just focus on getting better at one thing and by doing so, that virtue will “sweeten” the rest of our lives as well.