How to Miss a Childhood. She discusses how smart phones have pulled some Moms away from their children. It's something that is close to my heart.
Since texting became popular a few years ago, I remember being around certain people who had their phone almost literally glued to their hands. Not their pockets- in their hands, like it was another finger. As soon as the phone would chime, it would be answered immediately, usually this involved the other person texting back for a few minutes, in their own little world, not hearing what I was saying and practically forgetting that we were in the same room together. I remember how it made me feel mad, angry, and just a little worthless. Was I not worth this person's undivided attention? What was so much more interesting than me?
Flash forward a few years to the age of smart phones. It seemed almost everyone I knew had a smart phone, and that just as bad if not worse than texting because you could log on to Facebook, blogs, or silly websites that are apparently more entertaining than me. Seriously, it hurt my feelings and was insulting.
I got a smart phone in April 2011, my excuse was that it was for business. I wanted to be able to get online for information for clients, check my emails, and access Google maps while on my way to a client's home. But, I felt so hurt by my previous encounters with smart phone users, that I promised myself I would never be that way. Heh.
I definitely have good days and bad days, some days I'm online more than I'd like to be but I understand the interest now. It is seriously an addiction, and I can see how people can become obsessed with checking the latest information, as useless as some of it is.
When I'm tempted to check my phone, I have to consider why. Why do I need to log on at this very second? What is so important that I am willing to not be fully present to my children here in this moment? Am I going to get pulled in by an interesting article and then snap at my kids if they interrupt me? Am I going to find something I'd rather pull up on my computer? What sort of example am I setting for my kids? How am I influencing them positively right now?
I've considered that this is maybe the modern version of soap operas, which were so popular long ago. (Are they still popular?) I'm sure plenty of kids were "neglected" to Moms who wanted to watch tv, or maybe Moms who were avid book readers, or other hobbies. I also am firmly convinced that Mommies absolutely need a break here and there during the day, so I've tried to come up with my own personal rules for my smart phone and computer usage. (TV isn't a problem in our house since we don't have cable and I absolutely despise daytime programming!) I wanted to share my rules here so that my friends and family can hold me accountable:
1. Respect. Be fully present in the conversation with the person I'm engaged with, not half-surfing and half-talking. I want the phone out of my hand so that I can give my children or my company my full attention. Please allow me a little leeway if I'm on-call for a client!
2. Limitations. I want to avoid using my smart phone for the purpose of anything other than a phone while my kids are I are home together during the day. I do realize that there are times when a client may need to talk to me or I may be anticipating an important email, but Facebook, Pinterest, and other similar websites are off-limits.
3. Texting. I'm not a huge texter but if someone wants to engage me in a conversation, please just call me. Texting back-and-forth for an hour is probably normal, but the never-ending wonder of, "Did she text me back?" and checking my phone takes distracts me and takes me away from my kids. So, text if you just have a quick question or statement, but I just have to stop the long conversations. That, and I'm not on an unlimited texting plan either. ;-)
The purpose of all of this isn't to make my life harder or whatever, I feel like in order to be truly free to be a mother I have to set limitations for myself. Self-control has never been a strong virtue for me! But the other purpose is the whole golden rule thing... Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want my kids to grow up knowing that I was there for them all the time, not just sometimes. I want them to learn how to respect each other, and they'll learn not by what I say, but what I do.
Please read both How to Miss a Childhood and The Children Have Spoken, and I encourage you to evaluate your own smart phone usage in your family. Here's the question posed at the end of The Children Have Spoken:
What would your child (teenager, grandchild, significant other, friend) say if you asked, “Do you think I use my phone (Blackberry, iPad, laptop) too much?”
If you really want to know the truth, ask them. Assure your family members and friends you want to know the truth so you can begin to live more presently and more connected to them.
I am scared to ask my children. They have elephant's memories and could probably tell me every time I was on my phone for the last year! I am hoping that I won't be scared to ask them, maybe around Christmas I can ask them if they've seen improvement.