I am prone to quick irritability when interruptions disrupt my focus.
Working out of a home office provides for countless interruptions throughout the day, especially during summer months and a house full of anxious kids.
What am I communicating to those I love when I am bothered by their need of my time?
Interruptions pull me out of my work into opportunity. These opportunities are the seedbed of growth and often weigh far greater than the work I’m focused on in the moment. Constant interruptions by my children may mean I have not given sufficient instruction about boundaries and the importance of focus. All good work requires both defined boundaries to work in and ample focus directed at the work in front of you. If I nurse the habit of giving in to their interruptions every time, I devalue the importance of doing good work and do not communicate well with them about what I need. The idea that their needs being met and attended to with immediacy are set as paramount, thereby setting the expectation going forward that when they need or want something, they must receive it then and there. This is the red-faced screaming toddler buckled into the supermarket buggy reaching for the candy or the toy in sight, and the petulant child demanding their way and your allegiance in the disagreement with their siblings, and also, the random inquisitor wanting time and answers to thoughts in real time. All of these need your attention, but the time in which you give response is just as important as the response itself.
The most vociferous of sounds pierced the quiet of evening and reached ear-penetrating levels causing me to wonder just how such a small, sweet little baby of a girl could produce such sound. It was impressive to say the least and quite wearing on my patience to say the most. Her crying was more than need; it was demand. What she wanted was for me to swoop in and lift her from her barred crib holding her in darkness. What she need, what I needed, too, was for her to learn to sleep in the comfort of her own crib. For weeks, I rescued her on demand, reinforcing the fact that I’d be there upon her beckoning call. As soon as she felt lifted from her horrid little crib, all was right and well. In fact, she’d often quit crying so quickly that I was convinced she knew what she was doing. And she did. Because of my quick response, she knew to expect what she desired with immediacy. The problem was my growing lack of sleep and ability to focus and irritability during the day because of spontaneous hang out sessions in the middle of the night. I’d tell myself that as an infant, she needed to be cared for well and not feel alone, and in doing so, I made myself prisoner to her desire – an infant. In a moment struck by weariness and lucidity, I suddenly switched gears on her and her demands. The first time she was allowed to cry unattended to, I nervously waited, hand hovering above the doorknob to her room wondering if my waiting would cause harm. I was told to wait a solid seven minutes before consoling her. This would teach her to fall back asleep each time she woke through the night, and also help her to feel secure and comfortable in the warmth of her crib in the safety of our home. For as demanding as she had been, she was a quick learner and within a week or so was sleeping cozily.
Interruptions hold great opportunity to set aright both expectation and desire. For me to accomplish all that I need to get done and care well for those I love, I must learn to respond thoughtfully, not irritably, to the opportunity within interruption, thus both respecting the work I must do and the love I must give.