“Put your phone in your pocket, mommy. Put your phone in your pocket.”
Those were the exact words my son said to me this weekend when I had pulled my phone out to take a photo of him. He thought I was getting sucked into one of the many apps on my phone, but really I was trying to document his super cute baseball stance.
I put my phone back in my pocket, though, and forgot about getting the photo for Instagram – because if it isn’t on Instagram, does it really happen?
Turns out, life happens with or without documentation on social media.
Last summer I had a moment. In that moment, I ordered the book “Hands Free Mama” and I started reading the night it arrived at my house. I could empathize with the author from the first page. I got through the first chapter that night, and contemplated reading more, but it was late.
I made a goal to read a chapter a night until I could finish the book. (I’m not always the greatest book-reader, so giving myself this kind of goal was feasible.) We went on vacation and I was able to get in a few chapters each day and before I knew it, I had finished the book and started making changes.
July found me making changes in my technology habits. When the school year started again, and then big events with my job happened, I fell back into old habits. I haven’t liked the old habits, and I’ve been trying to work on them.
A couple weeks ago, my son was fighting me at naptime. He looked at me and said, “mommy and daddy don’t like to look at me. Gamma wants to look at me!” I understand that his comments were coming from a place of sleepiness, but they stuck with me.
We all had been distracted. I had been baking for work parties. My husband was reading something to review (kind of work-related) and Lucas was playing games on the iPad. We were all immersed in our own projects/work and not looking at one another.
And this isn’t the first time that had happened. We’re all often distracted. Stuck in technology. I knew that we had to step back, put our phones (and the iPad) away and look at each other.
After nap time, we took a car ride together, checked on our friends cats, and eventually went out to dinner. Lucas played “drums” with the forks on the table at dinner. And he was well-behaved almost the entire time we were at the restaurant. The difference? Our phones weren’t on the table or in our hands.
I’m taking small steps to hopefully reclaim our time with each other.
Last week, I decided to try and start again on our technology-free habits. We were coming off of winter break and had a couple of really tough days. Something had to give. On Monday, I worked out early in the morning (5:15) so I could come home, cook dinner and engage with Lucas. The phone was away, the tv wasn’t turned on, and he never asked for the iPad. At one point, while I was cooking, he said, “I’m going to play with Play-Doh!” and I didn’t even tell him, “let’s do that later.” I just agreed, and helped him pull the Play-Doh out while I was working on dinner.
(See that photo above? Totally cheesing for the camera. Totally has spaghetti face after dinner. And those Play-Doh colors are not the same a week later. But I totally don’t care. That was a really fun night.)
There was one evening I slipped and found myself with phone in hand. All of the other evenings were much better. I enjoyed being with my kid and we didn’t fight at bedtime. (Oh, bedtime can be a struggle.)
A few tips that I came up with for our technology-less lives (not totally free, just less.)
1. Put the phone away. This is easier said than done. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog. I’m always “on.” It was harder in my previous life to shut down. (I literally had to have a furlough to stop checking work emails.) My toddler doesn’t like me talking on the phone, which I don’t do often, and he misbehaves more if I’m checking email/social media/texting. So the phone has to be put away.
2. The iPad is only out for limited times. We got into a habit of Lucas finding the iPad charging, and he’d run off to play his games. We used to only let him have it for 30 minutes once or twice a week. The iPad now lives out of sight when it isn’t charging overnight. (And then I have to remember to hide it.) We try not to let him play it on weekdays, and it becomes more of a treat versus an expectation on the weekends.
3. Put the laptop away. My laptop will be out of sight until after bedtime. I’m hoping to get into a habit of blogging/doing freelance work during weekend nap times, or after Lucas goes to bed. I don’t normally blog while he’s awake, but it’s easy to get on the laptop and check Facebook, which leads to Twitter, which leads to my email….you get the picture. I’m also trying to find a space in the house where I can do all of my work, that isn’t the dining room table. More on this at a later date…there’s some cleaning going on.
4. Set a timer. If Lucas is playing a game on my phone or the iPad, we set a timer. He knows the timer is set, and then the tech piece goes back into hiding.
5. Encourage more hands-on activities such as art projects or games. The Play-Doh has been a huge hit. I have other art projects saved for rainy days, and I’m thinking of pulling them out for him now. Why wait for rainy days? We’ve also discovered several really fun books during this test. We read every night, but now we have more time to explore longer books.
I don’t think I’m “cured” from my addiction to electronics. I love connecting. However, I love connecting with my family and I’m a work in progress.
Have you read Hands Free Mama? Do you struggle with too much technology?
**Any links in this post may be affiliate links. I was not asked to review this book and I have no relationship with the author other than the fact that I, too, had a difficult time letting go of technology. All opinions are obviously my own.