June 30, 2009

Plugged In or Tuned Out?

My daughter sat on the kitchen stool chatting amiably as I chopped, measured and mixed ingredients for dinner. I thought of my own mom who’s a wonderful cook. In my mind’s eye I see her in the kitchen lovingly preparing gourmet dinners, homemade desserts and celebratory feasts. Even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by her skilled hands taste better.

I am my mother’s daughter in that I’m quite capable in the kitchen. The problem is I didn’t inherit her love of cooking. At this point in my life I tolerate it at best – a necessary means to an end. In all things domestic, quick and easy is my motto.

I shared these thoughts with my daughter, “When I think of Nanny I picture her in the kitchen.” To which she agreed. Then, I asked her, “When you think of me, where do you picture me?”

“At your computer,” she replied without hesitation.

It’s no secret I love my computer. I use it to work, write, shop, correspond and more. All of these things require lots of B.I.C. (butt in chair) time. But hearing my daughter’s response makes me sad that I’m not giving her a cozier, more nurturing and more delicious version of a mom.

I struggle with how much time I spend on the computer and have tried to set limits, like no computer on the weekend, but that still leaves me sitting at my desk for many, many hours a day. Honestly, breaking away mid-thought or mid-project, is hard. Blogging and “social networking” can be a tremendous time drain.

Case in point, last night I came home from visiting with a friend. It was late, but I did a “quick check” of email before I went to bed and before my husband fell asleep. I saw that someone had written on my “wall” so I clicked over to Facebook to check it out. From there I read the updates which led me to a friend’s page which led me to their friend’s page which led me deeper and deeper into the ethers of Facebook. Forty-five minutes of cyber-stalking later, I headed to be to find my husband sound asleep and myself with nothing of value to show for my time.

Maybe it’s just me and I’m being cranky, but do these drive-by shout outs really improve our lives? Do we really keep up with our 36, 150, 326 or 912 friends? Are our relationships deeper? Do we feel more connected?

Yes, we might catch up with long lost high school friends, faraway family or rarely seen friends, but are these the foundation upon which we build our lives? Or do they steal time away from those that matter most. I think each of us truly want one or two deep, meaningful relationships and not dozens or hundreds of cursory ones.

When I look at my own life and my top three relationships—God, my husband, my children—I have to admit they haven’t improved one bit as a result of “social networking.” My close family and friendships haven't either. If anything, they’ve all received the last scraps of my time as I’ve gotten distracted online.

I’m not drawing a line in the sand where online is bad and unplugged is good, but personally I need to re-evaluate my priorities and how I spend my online time. Am I living each day to fulfill my God-given purpose? To love on the Lord and those He’s blessed me with? And to reach out to others in love.

Unless I change my vocation, I probably won’t be able to change my daughter’s perception of me at my computer. (And maybe I can teach her a thing or two.) But I do need to consciously and deliberately be engaged and available as a mom.

For starters, maybe I’ll make a few more gourmet dinners, homemade desserts and celebratory feasts.

Or maybe I’ll call my mom and ask her to.


Chatty Kelly said...

Wow - can I relate to this one! I have to praise God that when I asked my oldest what she thought I did most she said "drink coffee and read the Bible." But honestly, the computer gets more time than either of those things.

Great writing today. I know I need to evaluate my time too. :-)

Jody Hedlund said...

I'm sure my kids picture me in front of the computer too! Networking can be a time killer if we let it! But I also think we can fill our time with other distracting things too (maybe TV, or other hobbies that take away from the family.)

So I'm not convinced the social networking is the culprit, but perhaps our lack of self-control? Not sure. But I am trying to limit myself and stick with those times that I allow myself to check blogs, etc. And then when time is up, to walk away and leave it.

Great thoughts!

Laura said...

Ouch. Bet I can guess how my guys would answer that question too.

I agree with you...we are losing a lot in this overly "connected" world. Yesterday, spent an evening with some friends at a lake. The kids splashed, we talked, the breeze caressed. I have not had such a good time in so long.

Thanks for inspiring me to build more of this into my life, friend.

Cheryl Barker said...

I think we all have to address these questions at some time or another. I have had some good experiences at feeling more connected with family, friends, and new acquaintances in the writing world.

I guess balance is the key. Don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. And I'm sure that balance will look a little different in each of our lives. Thanks for the reminder to be on guard.

Lori said...

Great post! You gave us all something to think about. I know there are times when I literally spend hours at a time on the computer. For me, it has been an escape at times, but it has also connected me with some great sites (such as yours) that have helped me with my walk with Christ. There are some great things out there in cyperland, but we all know there is also the opposite.

Balance is the key, and like everything else moderation is the answer!

Dan said...

The difference between Kelli and I is that she actually had to ask the question of our daughter. I really don't need to bother - I know the answer (yep - it's the same, only more so).

Now, on one hand, I have little choice. As the major breadwinner and a home-based worker, that's what I do - so, it's what our kids see. And, the more I do it, the more...you know, bread I win...or, whatever you call that. Still, with an 11 year-old boy and a 14 year-old girl, I'm becoming more aware lately that excessive "BIC" time can lead to another condition - one with more far-reaching effects - "CITCS" (Cats In The Cradle Syndrome; first identified in 1974 by Dr. Harry Chapin in the medical journal Verities and Balderdash ).

But, here's the good news...evidently, Kelli's self-professed excessive social networking may lead to more and better homemade meals. So, keep drawing her into your Facebook pages, ladies...Dan's hungry!

Peggy said...

OK, I'm guilty of the same thing the only difference is that my cat doesn't tell me about computer sitting.
I have found long lost friends and made new ones. I do find great blogs and terrific devotionals and there are times I go through my friends list and stop and say a prayer for them when God leads me to do so.
There are pros and cons, and I just pray that God calls me aways before I get to deep into cyberspace.
Blessings and Love....Peggy

Terri Tiffany said...

It's all about balance. I agree with Jody--it is self-control that many of us struggle with. In today's world, we need the computer but like the TV or books or anything that eats our time, we need to know when to say no and spend time with those we love:)

Alexis P said...

In my mind it is never bad when you are reaching out to someone. old or new. How is dropping a line to anyone or chatting on-line with a friend bad. OK - I agree that it should never be to the detriment of your kids, but I think you should not feel guilty about reaching out. As long as you are giving your daughter enough of your time as well, it is ok to say it is Mommy time too.

Julie Gillies said...

Ugh...the writer's life...one without fancy cooked meals (all the time) or an absolutely spotless house (nobody cares anyway!) and a mom determined to do what God has called her to do.

I'm just doing my best, walking in the Spirit day by day, and as Jody said, using self-control (most days! LOL). I know you are, too, Kelli.

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend, my friend.

Carmen said...

Good post! I've spent quite a bit of time on the computer too, although I do limit it now as I've been thinking along the same lines as you.
It all takes time. Is it worth it? What are we giving up in exchange? "Better is a friend nearby, than a brother far away!"
Good read today!

Runner Mom said...

Excellent post, sweet friend! And, I loved Dan's comment!! I hope to meet him one day!!! I think about that "Cat's in a Cradle" song too sometimes. I try to get all of my "computering" done before the kids get home from school. With summer, we are all taking turns on the computer, and Mama is not having as much time. But, it's ok.
It's being deliberate with your time. It's not an easy thing! Sometimes I simply walk away!

I'm with you on the meals though--cooking is not one of my hobbies!! I love to eat!!(You already know that!!)Maybe one fancy meal a week?? Between swim team and other stuff, it's hard! I'm with you, chickadee!


Diane said...

I am always trying to stay in balance too. With God's help we'll make it!

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Well put!