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Who Do You Want to be Interrupted By?
Readers respond on making space and time for others
Our discussion last week centered on the difference between kairos time and chronos time. When are we free to be at the disposal of others, and when are we stuck serving a schedule? Next week, I’ll share highlights from your thoughts on the vocation of motherhood (beyond literal mothers).
Martha praised Maria Montessori for always making space for kairos for children.
I love the writing of Maria Montessori and the books Montessori at the Start and The Montessori Toddler for creating space for kairos as a parent. At its core, Montessori is a philosophy of following the child and creating an environment that fosters a present-together style of parenting. I'm definitely not anywhere close to perfect at it, but have found those books to be great guides!
I also really enjoyed Montessori from the Start (even though I didn’t follow its emphatic sequencing of mobiles!) and my daughter is in Montessori three days a week now (see above). The educational philosophy is all about making time for children to work on things that interest them, straining to expand their mastery. That requires kairos time, time that is unhurried but still intense, as you get to know a tool or an instrument on its terms.
The interruptions can become the primary thing. Allowing interruptions, being interruptable, can frame good life, the opposite of billable time.
And let me second Ivan in recommending Madelaine L’Engle, in whose children’s books I first encountered the chronos/kairos distinction.
KG wrote about her experience as a single woman—she’s often the one being asked for help and isn’t sure when she’s allowed to ask, too.
I feel like as a single woman, I can tend to either extreme: going through the motions and not being attentive enough to others' needs, or trying to be of service in so many different ways that my time and person feel scattered and I end up overscheduled and serving "chronos" anyway.
That being said, even in minor ways it's a lot harder for me to ask others to interrupt their time for me instead. This is where I'm frankly at a disadvantage where the concept of the nuclear family is concerned (and this relates to your post from March too); while it makes perfect sense to me that I should use my time to support my friends and their families, it's not clear where I "fit in" and whom I should interrupt when I'm the one who needs the support since I know that everyone else is so taxed already. This is where the idea of a more expanded and intentional concept of community can be appealing!
In my own experience as a parent, the needs of my single friends are very different than my baby’s needs. These categories of interruptions don’t always feel in competition with each other. After a very busy day of being sat on, I sometimes really welcome a friend reaching out for sympathy and advice about an interpersonal problem. Meeting only my baby's needs requires only part of myself, and I appreciate friends calling upon other parts of me.
Margaret also spoke about enjoying interruptions:
I don't work outside the home, so I get to be in kairos with my young children and baby a lot, and perhaps because of that I love interruptions from the outside world. I am always so happy when a friend drops by unannounced. I know that some people hate this, so I get that it's important to read the room, but I think one of the best ways to invite interruptions from someone is to interrupt them first. In a nice way, of course...maybe with a book to lend or a jar of jam. Sometimes I wish there was a structure for this like there used to be- I'd love to have "calling hours" when I knew that friends were at home and wanted their day interrupted by some friendship! Lacking such scheduled interruptions, however, I feel like letting people know you're available if they need or want you by going to them first can be very encouraging.
She and I would both love to see the return of formal visiting hours. They’re explicit permission to interrupt!