By Christa Melnyk Hines
As a work-from-home mom raising two sons, finding dedicated time to focus during the summer months is usually fraught with frustration. Then I landed on a gem of an idea that might seem a little kooky, but turned into a brilliant way for me to rescue my workday.
On a typical day, no sooner do I slide into my office chair than I'm interrupted with some sort of family situation. Usually the crises range from "I'm hungry and there's nothing to eat!" to allegations of injustices like "He won't give me a turn on the Xbox!"
It's not that I haven't tried to establish clear boundaries between work and family. As I shut the door of my office, I encourage my adolescent sons to be their own best problem solvers and to only interrupt me for code-red emergencies, i.e. blood or fire. I've taped Do Not Disturb notes on my office door and promised outings when I'm done with my work. Nevertheless, they perceive my calls for time alone the same way speeders treat a speed limit sign--simply as a suggestion. My grouchy responses to yet another inane interruption while in the midst of a pressing deadline have little effect other than a sheepish, "Sorry, I forgot."
I gave the situation some thought and remembered how a clever friend cut short her three-year-old's temper tantrum by putting a silly hat on top of her head to redirect his attention. Could I tweak the idea to help send a message to my kids?
After digging through a basket of some old hats in my closet, I discovered a tiara I received after running a 5K a few years back. The playful tchotchke features cheap circlets of diamond rhinestones topped with three teardrop pink gems. I'd never before considered it as anything special.
Taking it downstairs, I looked in the hall mirror and popped the tiara onto my sun-bleached blonde hair. Paired with my raggedy blue jean shorts and green cotton t-shirt, the ensemble wasn't electrifying, but the visual impact was beside the point.
Historically, the tiara symbolized wealth, leadership, and distinguished social ranking. It seems to me, the esteem a tiara carries is so hardwired into our DNA that anyone could sense its power, possibly even one of my sons.
The rhinestones winked in the sunlight streaming through the hallway window. I wiped the amused smile from my face and walked into the room where my boys were haggling about whose turn it was to play Xbox. The living room resembled a disheveled frat house littered with microwave pizza boxes, Popsicle sticks, and cups of half-drunk lemonade.
"I have an announcement," I said to my two sons.
I stood in front of the television and snapped my fingers in the air to get my 11-year-old Drew's attention. He reached up and pulled the noise-canceling gaming headset off of his ears. Sitting on the floor, leaning his back on a chair cushion against the ottoman, his green eyes widened as he stared up at me.
I looked over at Nolan, my 13-year-old, standing in the kitchen behind our center island munching on tortilla chips, which had scattered across the grey countertop and wood floor. His blue eyes gawked at me.
For once, my pair of rowdy boys was silent.
"See this tiara on my head?" I asked calmly.
"Whenever you see me wearing it, it means I can't talk to you. It means I can't go looking for your shoes, download a new video game, or resolve an argument that you guys can figure out for yourselves."
I paused for dramatic effect.
"It means your mother, the queen, is working and is not to be disturbed." I raised my eyebrows at them, holding their gaze.
"Um. Ooo-kay, Mom," Nolan said with a grin. He popped a tortilla chip into his mouth.
Drew rolled his eyes and pulled his headphones back on.
"And clean up this mess!" I declared, my hand regally sweeping across the living room. I spun around gracefully and walked slowly and stately back into my office and firmly shut the French doors.
A little while later, still wearing my tiara, I heard the boys tromping down the hall toward my office.
"Shhh, Drew, stop! We can't talk to Mom right now. Look!" Nolan loudly whispered.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them turn and tiptoe away. I smiled to myself.
My bejeweled accessory may seem like a silly head ornament, but it has taken on the important role of protecting my personal time. It informs those around me that I take my time seriously. What's more, it is a reminder to myself that in the midst of the demands of motherhood, I deserve sacred space, solitude, and time to fulfill my priorities. I am, after all, the queen of my domain.
Besides, even managers with open- door policies sometimes have to shut themselves away if they are going to accomplish anything. Moms are no different. If there is one accessory every mother needs, it's a tiara.
Find Christa Melnyk Hines at christamelnykhines.com.
Want a playlist for your tiara time? How about music from the band named--you guessed it!--She's the Queen. You can access the pop duo's music here: soundcloud.com/shesthequeen.