Prioritizing What’s Important

A few months ago, my email app on my phone was glitching. I could not get the notifications to disappear.

I tried everything. Looking for threads where an unread message might be lurking, clearing out my messages through a separate email service, but try as I might, that notification remained.

Notifications pester me into action.

In those tiny red numbers, I see opportunity. An email response I was waiting for, a chance to multitask, an opportunity to connect with a friend. My heart almost skips a beat when those numbers appear, and in those milliseconds of anticipation, I think:

Maybe something has happened. Something wonderful. Something tragic. Some adventure or reward or warning. Something.

Inevitably, I am disappointed. Even when I get a really good email, I have to remember to respond later (or save it as “unread” – which means those notifications won’t go away). The mental energy of staying connected is draining.

So when I was stuck with an email app that would not clear the notifications, I was irritated.

I reflected on a time two years ago, when my family sailed with Semester at Sea. One of the most incredible experiences was living without technology. Out at sea, there was slow and expensive internet.  All passengers began the voyage with two hours of internet time. Two hours. For a four-month voyage. You could purchase more, but the costs were prohibitive (something like $50/hour). I thought I couldn’t survive.

Surprisingly, when we completed our voyage, many of us had time leftover. We learned how to live without the internet. If we had a question to ask someone, we had to walk around the ship until we found them. In fact, at our first port stop, I bought a watch because I stopped carrying my phone and had no other way to tell the time of day.

Eliminating the constant tech-drain made me feel calm. No one needed me. I was free to be present.

Living in tech-isolation is impractical on an ongoing basis. Much of my work takes place with people around the world, so I rely on email and social networking sites. I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to stay in touch with family who lives far away. But what I know is this:

Constant connection makes everything feel urgent, even when it’s not, so choosing small ways to disconnect can help us reprioritize our mental energy.

The answer for me is not disconnecting entirely, but rather, making conscientious choices about how I spend my time.

So, last week, when I couldn’t get my email notifications to go away, I made what felt like a radical decision: I turned my notifications off.

Now I only know that I have email when I decide to open my email. I am in control. I sit to check my email when I have the time and energy to respond to messages. Email doesn’t pull me away from the ones I love or the things I am trying to accomplish.

Guess what? I feel free. Turning off my notifications is a gift to myself and a gift to those in my immediate community: I don’t have to be anywhere but here.

This isn’t a radical idea, but it has been meaningful enough for me that I thought I would share it. For me, turning off my notifications was an act of love. Loving myself means protecting my mental energy from the exhaustion of being fractured. Loving my family means drawing boundaries so my attention isn’t divided. Loving my work means making space for uninterrupted focus.

May you find ways to prioritize what’s important today.

The Biggest Problem with Child Care In The United States (A Follow Up Discussion)

debateMy blog is a place for ideas. I am a fervent believer in refining ideas in community, and I had a chance to do that this week with my friends and fellow early childhood educators, Kelly Matthews and Ijumaa Jordan.

I want to share a conversation with you that I had with these thoughtful and reflective leaders in the field of early childhood education. Our discussion began following my blog post from last week called, “The Biggest Problem with Child Care in the United States.” In the discussion that follows, Kelly and Ijumaa dialogue with me about what they see as the biggest problems facing child care in the United States.

The dialogue that follows will make more sense if you’ve read the first post. Please take the time to leave me your thoughts in the comments below. What do you see as the biggest problems facing child care in the United States

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The Biggest Problem with Child Care in the United States

statueI read a sarcastic Craigslist post a few months ago that was circling among my educator cohort titled “Free Child Care.”  (I’ve looked for it since and can’t find it to link…you’ll have to use your imaginations.)  The post attempted, in witty tongue-in-cheek fashion, to illuminate the problem of child care costs by itemizing the actual cost of providing care for a child.  The writer was clever and the post struck a chord with my fellow educators, the sentiment being, Why do clients complain so much about the cost of child care?  Don’t they realize how little we make and how much we do?? 

On the other hand, I have friends in my parenting circles who want more children but choose against it (or choose to delay having other children), because they can’t afford the cost of child care.  Many of my fellow family child care providers had other careers before having children of their own, and then the cost of child care was too expensive for them to work.  They quit their jobs and opened their own child care programs.  They wonder, How can I pay for child care? The costs of placing my children in a child care program take up my entire paycheck.  How am I supposed to survive? (more…)

No, You Are Not Alone

IMG_3876As parents and educators, we can seem to have it all together.

We are embarrassed that we’ve lost it with our kids over something as insignificant as spilled milk, and so we hide our messy stories from each other.  We are fearful to let anyone in on the emotional chaos we feel.  We have bought into the lie that vulnerability equals weakness, and weakness equals disaster.

We believe we are raising our children alone.

But we are not alone.  (more…)

Is There ONE Right Way To Raise My Child?

Mother Feeding Her BabyIt starts at birth.  Well, before birth, really.  Are you planning to have a natural childbirth?  At home with a midwife?  You aren’t eating unpasteurized cheeses are you?  You will breastfeed, right?  How long? 

And it continues with fervor through a child’s early years.  Preschool?  Homeschool?  Unschool?  What types of soap are you using?  I hope you know about buying organic apples.  Will you stay home or go back to work?  And on and on.

To parents, it can seem as though everyone has very strong opinions about how children should be raised.  Those opinions stem from passion to help children grow up with the best – something we can all feel good about!  But social pressure and unsolicited advice can be paralyzing when making the best choice for the family means selecting a path not considered “right.” (more…)