LESSONS FROM ELSIE: The gift of undivided attention

The gift of undivided attention

SOME of you may have noticed that there wasn’t a post from me on Monday.

I like to try and post at least three times a week on Pouting In Heels. It’s a do-able amount for me (usually) and hopefully enough content for you guys to keep things interesting.

Posting three times a week is something I try and stick with when I can, but this week I couldn’t do it as life and motherhood just didn’t allow it.  I didn’t get the time nor the chance.

I tried a couple of times to pick my laptop up and get cracking but then something happened, which meant every time I picked it up, I had to quickly put it back down again. And it was this.

Every single time I opened up my laptop and started typing, Elsie would look at me and said : “no mama!”.

At first I wasn’t quite sure what the problem was, as I’ve hopped onto my laptop many a time in the past in her presence. But on the third occasion of her saying it, after putting my laptop down, I was treated to a massive smile and a big Elsie cuddle. And then I got it.

Totally got it.

She wanted me to put my laptop down because she wanted my attention, my FULL attention.  At just 18 months old she’s already figured out that when Mummy is on her laptop (or phone), Mummy is distracted. She doesn’t like it and I can’t blame her.

Most times when I’m on my laptop when Elsie is up and about during the day, it’s for a few minutes, here and there. I might need to quickly respond to an email or look up something on Google. But here she was, in the most simplest of ways, telling me, mummy I want you. Mummy I need your attention.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt as bad as a mother. Talk about a wake up call.

Elsie teddy attention

So you see, quite frankly, opening up my laptop now in front of her has become impossible. Likewise using my phone. I’ve had to stop picking it up and responding to alerts because every time I pick it up, Elsie says ‘no’. Unless we’re ringing Daddy. She’s quite happy with that.

And so, Elsie’s awareness of my distractions really got me thinking this week about whether I give people the undivided attention that they deserve? And so far, as much as it pains me to say it, my conclusion is, I don’t think I do.

The other night my husband came home and started talking about work, and I just did not want to listen. It was nothing to do with him. I was ‘just’ too tired, had too much on my mind, wasn’t feeling great, had so much to do blah de blah and so I did my best and tried to listen, but in terms of giving him my undivided attention, I have to admit I fell well short.

He deserved better. As does Elsie. As does everyone whom I love and care about. As do you. As do I.

To turn the tables around, yesterday I spent some time with my Mum and was trying to talk to her about something when I suddenly realised, she wasn’t listening to me. It was understandable as she was playing with Elsie and concentrating on her, but even though I knew this, it still didn’t feel good. And after a while of trying to speak to her, I decided to just shut up. Afterall, what was the point?

What is the point of talking to someone if they’re not listening or being with someone if they’re ignoring you? It’s wasted words. Wasted energy. Wasted breath.

I’ve always considered myself to be a good listener (I mean I’m a journalist for heaven’s sake!) and to be someone who does her best to enjoy the present moment, but this week has shown me, that I am nowhere near as good at it, as I like to believe.

Life is busy. We all know this. But still, really, is it any excuse to not give people the attention they deserve?

Elsie hiding attention

Being listened to, really listened to, is a gift. And there’s no greater feeling than when you’re with someone and you both know you’re enjoying each other’s company. You feel validated, honoured and respected. You feel heard, empowered and cared for.

But yet how many of us do this for someone? And how often?

These days many of us are too easily distracted. By our lives, by our stresses and most of all, by our devices. Smartphones, laptops, tablets…we all have them and most of us love them. But I’m beginning to think while they themselves are remarkable in many aspects, that they’re making us unremarkable in being a decent and interesting human being.

That they – and are obsession with them – is taking away from us, one of the most precious gifts we can give anyone – our undivided attention.

That we are missing out on enjoying a moment. Of being in each other’s company. Of the art of interesting and stimulating conversation. Of toddler cuddles. Of an understanding ear.

All in all, this week has made me realise that I’ve got to make some changes.

So later, when Elsie is home from nursery, I won’t be popping on to my laptop or checking my phone for tweets, Instagram messages or texts. I’ll be sat with her playing and laughing and cuddling and doing my best to give her as much of my attention as I can.

And when my husband comes home from work tonight, if he wants to jabber on about his day, I’m going to sit and listen and let him.

Both of these actions will cost me nothing and require very little effort on my part, but yet will give them so much. Because that’s the beauty of having someone’s undivided attention, it makes you feel like a million dollars.

Especially, as these days, it’s becoming so rare.


What do you think about undivided attention? Do you find it easy to just be with someone? Are you easily distracted? Is there someone you know who is a master at listening and making others feel special? Do you feel guilty when you can’t give your children as much of you attention as they deserve? As always, I’d so love to hear your thoughts! x

Till the next time, if you’re still reading, thank YOU for your undivided attention. :)




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12 Discussions on
“LESSONS FROM ELSIE: The gift of undivided attention”
  • as ever, SPOT ON! it makes me cringe when i think of the amount of times i have answered someone while reading something totally different…slap my wrists!
    you’ve got a way with your words and making someone want to change something x

  • This is exactly the conclusion I came to at the weekend and I’ve vowed to step away from the devices when I should be spending time with Ant or Luca. It feels awful when it dawns on you but it’s a good realisation to make. I’ve even gone as far to making a promise to Luca that when I pick him up from the childminders after work I will give him all my undivided attention until bedtime, nothing less. No washing up or doing little chores, just mummy and Luca time. So far it’s been amazing and we’ve managed to cram loads of fun into that extra hour before bath time three times a week. Even though it’s not a massive amount of time as he gets lots of my time anyway it feels like a HUGE amount of extra time together.
    Elsie is lucky to have a mummy who has come to this realisation, I bet we aren’t the only ones who do it! Xx

    • Fantastic Franki! Love that you’ve managed to find an extra hour of fun before bath time! And yes, I am sure we are not the only ones! x

  • Fab post and totally agree with you there, it’s hard when you’re a freelancer working around your kids and from home as we are, but we have to know when to switch off too. For our kids and sanity!

    I’ve always been strict about limiting phones on weekends and holidays (no phone on when we’re away and only a bit of weekend usage when kids are asleep) but since the New Year and my mid week day off, I really am getting good at dividing my time generally between work and kids.

    It’s a work in progress but I’m much happier… Trying to give my full attention to writing when kids in childcare and them, my undivided time when they are with me. Time when they are small goes so quickly and I don’t want to miss out on all the special moments with those people I live for! Lovely post x

  • P.S having two kids means a dividing of attention between two too! I also loved what psychologist Karen Pine said in my interview with her. I quote her below,

    “2. Read Judith Harris’s work. She’s shown that parents aren’t as important or influential as we’re led to believe. The current zeitgeist makes parents believe that their every move will shape their child’s future. It won’t. Once we accept that, we can stop feeling guilty about not being the perfect parent!

    3. A bit of healthy neglect is good for kids. Hands-off parenting teaches children self-responsibility, independence and gives them an internal locus of control. The more we, as parents, do for our kids the more we undermine the development of those important life skills.”

    Really interesting stuff!

    • Brilliant comment Vicki. Thank you so much for sharing. I remember reading this on your blog yonks ago. Great advice! x

      P.S I daren’t even imagine how hard it is finding time for two little people! (Or 3, 4 etc)

  • Thanks, somehow you manage-my friends with 3 are pretty organised (more than I am)…love the term ‘yonks’-interview was only in Sept! Karen Pine is one wise lady! x

  • This is so very very true. There is so much to command our attention, and I wrote about being present in the moment – or rather, not being present in the moment, and missing out because of it a while ago. The temptations are so plentiful, but actually, they are so trifling in comparison to what is really going on around us. Thanks for linking up this brilliant post to #AllAboutYou and good luck with with finding time to write now that Elsie has you sussed! xx

  • It’s something I am so conscious of – and so conscious of not always doing when I’m at home with my girl and my husband. Modern life makes it very easy to be in the room, but not be in the room as it were. Great post musing on an issue so many of us struggle with, thanks so much for linking up to #AllAboutYou

    • It’s one of modern life’s daily struggles I think! I know I’ve often wanted to say to people, “turn your bloody phone off”! (And don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next person for getting easily distracted at times!)

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