If I am ever physically slapped in the face with a ton of bricks, it will not hit me harder than this post by Rachel at Hands Free Mama.
I want to go ahead and warn you, that if you are not up for constructive criticism, positive conviction (NOT condemnation), or an eye opening message on your parenting style then you may want to avoid opening the link above.
The above post was written in May 2012. I did not read the post until December 2013. It was a revelation that I needed. As Rachel shares in her post, yes, we are living in the 21st Century with all of the new technologies and social media available, and many people, like myself at times, get caught up in thinking we must stay on top of the latest app or social media attraction in order to be “of the times” or “in the know.” Honestly, though, who cares? Who in the world cares that I was the 12th person to retweet CNN’s latest story on Breaking News? ……….. That’s exactly who, no one. Having Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram is not bad in itself. There is nothing wrong with having different forms of social media in our lives. It is the fact that we have apparently lost our ability to moderate the overwhelming time that we stay on our social media or even gaming apps on the computer, iPad, or smartphone.
I make a collective statement of “we” because I am also speaking for the many people in my life that have admitted or even deny their “phone/ electronic device in hand” syndrome. I can attest to sitting at a family gathering for the holidays and approximately half of the people in attendance who were old enough to properly operate a phone had one in their hand at all times, and I was one of them! Pre-social media and smartphone era, what in the world did people do? They spent time together. They, wait for it, TALKED and carried on conversations with one another. How crazy does that sound?! Well, not crazy at all. Families knew things about one another because of the simple conversation they actually took part in. Sadly enough, my father-in-law can tell me more about most of my grandfather’s non-immediate family than I can because when my father-in-law was my age you visited people. You looked them in the eye when they spoke to you and you didn’t have a phone to glance at or “multi-task” while you read an email and half-way listened. Oh to have lived during that time where I could not even be tempted by my nice little iPhone. But you know what, I can live like that. It is a choice I make every day to put my phone down or keep it in my hand or pocket. I mean seriously, who am I? I must be the diplomat to a country in turmoil or maybe the President of this country for me to need my phone at my side at all times because I am that “in demand”. HA! I am neither of those nor anywhere close. My job doesn’t even require me to be available for contact after hours. I am only in demand to the people, or in this case things (social media), that I allow myself to be in demand to, and honestly the only people who need or deserve my attention most are usually with me while I am on my phone. When I allow myself to think about it, how sad must the dynamics of all our relationships really be?
If you need proof that people are a little TOO addicted to their smartphones and access to social media, please search recent Associated Press stories where a tourist recently walked completely off of a pier in Australia because she was busy looking at Facebook on her phone. In addition to that being bad enough as it is, she also could not swim and needed to be rescued.
So, when I came across the post “How to Miss a Childhood” what happened as I read came in stages.
First: “My phone use is not that bad” as I first started reading.
Second: “Oh. She has a point.”
Next: “I am ashamed at what I must have made my two year old daughter feel when I’m constantly on my phone for one thing or another.”
And then: Sadness. That my two year old is already accustomed to MY “phone in hand” syndrome. That this is the way she will think families operate with one another. I did not have to experience my parent’s making me feel that way. WHY would I EVER do that to my own child, even unintentionally?!
Fifth: Crying. As I sat and tried to imagine what I have put my daughter’s young and tender heart through as I tell her to hold on because I’m making a phone call or looking at my phone, when all she wanted was to show me how she fixed or made something all by herself. Yes, I was very proud of her and have always told her so when I was finished with what took priority at that moment. What SHOULD have taken priority was her. Even though I always tell her that I’m proud of her, I missed the moment when it was most important. I should be ashamed. What kind of mother or human in society am I teaching her to be? What kind of member of society have I become?!
Finally: Change. After I recovered, I decided then and there that those were not the memories my daughter would remember when she was standing at her high school and college graduations looking back on life. Yes, I have messed up so far. Within the last year since getting an iPhone my attachment to my phone has increased ridiculously. BUT the good thing is, it has only been one year. I have at least 16 more years to fix things before she is old enough to be leaving home, to change our family dynamic and create better and more meaningful relationships with her and any children we have in the future.
Monday through Friday 8-5 p.m. I am already dedicating my time to something other than my family. It is called my job. No, I would not prefer to work or be away from my daughter during her early and impressionable years, but this is how life has to work for us. It has become very difficult to maintain life and a household with only one parent working in today’s society, and we are an example of that. So I have a job and that means that I spend 9.5 hours a day either at work or on commute. Say I actually get a good 8 hours sleep at night, that leaves 7 hours per day to spend with my daughter and fiance, and that’s not counting for the time we’re getting ready in the mornings, which is NOT quality time together. So we will say I have 5 hours per day. You know what I have decided? Screw everyone else’s needs during those 5 hours. Starting now, from the time we walk in the door after work until our daughter is sound asleep, our phones are unavailable. Literally. Monday through Friday from now on for those 5 hours my phone will be on Do Not Disturb setting. If a call is back to back within a 10 minute period, then it will alert me. It needs to seriously be an emergency or I may hang up. I invest so much of my time elsewhere that for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week I can and NEED to invest in what matters most to me: my family. My two year old daughter and her father. I am well aware that there will be those special occasions where an evening one week is disrupted by an event or emergency, I get that. It happens. Life is unpredictable. And that is exactly the point. Life is unpredictable, and what if I leave for work one day and my daughter never sees me again. Her memory of me will be Mommy with her phone. That is so sickening to me.
Habits are hard to break. After doing something for 21-30 days consistently, that action becomes a habit. Which is exactly what has happened with always being on our phones. We do not intentionally choose our phones over our daughter, it is something that has slowly developed over the last year. But you know what that means? In 21-30 days of putting down the phone for 5 hours an evening, a new habit can be formed. It will not seem like a challenge anymore.
Investing my time, attention, and talents in our daughter will reward me more than reading nonsense on Twitter or looking at pictures of someone else’s family on Instagram. (Those are the only social media sites/apps I am a member of, and I do not have any games on my phone.) I mean, how stupid does any of that sound anyways? It sounds boring. It sounds like I need a hobby or maybe even a life. Seriously instead of being on my phone I could be studying to get in to Grad School. Huh, who would’ve thought?!?
BUT I AM TAKING A STAND. I am joining the Hands Free Revolution that was started by Rachel over at Hands Free Mama.
If you too feel like you have over dedicated your time to your phone and are missing out on the things that REALLY matter in the grand scheme of life, please consider joining us. Please click the link in the title of this post and read Rachel’s post “How to Miss a Childhood” which is where all of this began for me. And while you’re there, explore her website, her other posts, and what her purpose is all about. And, let Rachel know that her message is making an impact. If she hadn’t written that post for me to stumble upon a year later, my wake up call might not have came this early or in time.
If like me, you choose to change things and Start making memories that matter and Invest in what is important to you: let me know how your journey goes and keep me updated. It will be good to know that there are others like me who realize we don’t have to make ourselves look back with regret when our children are no longer at home to spend time with.