“What! Are you on your phone again?!” The familiar protest came from my husband tonight, like it does a lot of nights, if I’m honest. He’d just transferred our sleeping toddler to his bedroom after he’d fallen asleep on the couch (winning!) and I’d seized the opportunity to grab my phone and start scrolling. In fact, it wasn’t even a conscious decision, I’d done it without thinking; it’s such an ingrained habit. He takes exception to this, because the one, maybe two hours (I’m lying- it’s one at most) between Mr Toddler going to bed and me starting to snore on the couch, is the only time we really spend alone together, given that we both work and have no family (aka willing and free babysitters) in this state.
Now, I’m not saying that after Toddler goes to bed is the only time I’m on my phone; far from it, and here lies the issue. I’m a bit obsessed with it. I’m on it too much, no doubt. I say “too much” in the context of all of the studies which tell us about the dangers of being on the phone too much: Dangers for us, our relationships and for our kids. I never want to do anything to harm my marriage, myself or my son, so I am taking this seriously and thinking about what will work best for our family.
But I thought I would try to explain (to both myself and hubby) why the phone is such a hard habit to kick (let’s not get crazy; cut down on, not kick permanently)!
- It does, well, EVERYTHING. If I was to spend an afternoon leafing through a recipe book, chatting with a friend, reading a book, writing a letter, answering some work emails, shopping for clothes, doing the banking, and then planning my next arts and craft project, you would say that was a highly productive day, well spent. It is NOT MY FAULT that this amazing device allows me to do all that without leaving the couch or putting on pants.
- I’m anxious! When you are a parent, there is ALWAYS something to think about. When my son was born, my phone was out of action for a few days; I felt it! There was no way to google, or ask my online mother’s group, EVERY LITTLE THING. I distinctly remember googling such things as “baby never opens fists”, “baby cross eyed” and “baby’s head flat” and asking my mum’s group “approximately how many hours a day do everyone’s babies cry because mine goes at least 25”. Heck, just tonight I asked my mum’s group for ideas on how to get Mr Toddler to learn not to hit the dogs with his xylophone stick (by the way if you have any ideas on this one let me know). Speaking of my Mother’s Group…
- I’m connecting. I’m not only a. an introvert but also b. extremely busy and c. unbelievably tired. My day (like most parents, I expect) starts at 5:00 am or earlier. It consists of making breakfasts, lunches, packing bags, changing toddler’s nappy, dressing him and me, and playing trains or dancing to Wiggles before going to work for the day. After work its day-care pick up, drive home, bath, dinner, and bedtime routine. Maybe, MAYBE I’ll watch a show with hubby before crashing out myself. Usually it’s half a show; I fell asleep in Game of Thrones yesterday, after waiting a year for it to come out, if you can believe that! Sometimes I spend some time writing (not enough). All this to say, I am very unlikely to leave my house to socialise with actual real life human beings, unless it is a special occasion, at this toddler-rearing stage in my life. (Yes, I know I “should”). But I do get to feel connected with other mums, friends and family via phone calls, texts, and social media. Sometimes my phone is my only form of connection and communication. So, there’s that. It has been well established that parents need a village; a real life one is not practical for me at the moment, and online is better than nothing!
- I’m encouraging a friend. There comes a stage of life where you and your friends start adulting, hard. The stakes are suddenly a lot higher. We are dealing with health issues and pain. We have kids, who we adore, and who sometimes drive us up the wall. We have houses, and budgets, and financial worries. We could be dealing with unemployment, highly demanding work roles, leaving work to be at home with the kids, resigning ourselves to the fact that we can’t stay home with our kids. Our parents are getting older, some of them are ill. We have relationship struggles. We need each other, perhaps more than ever before; but most of us are in the same, extremely busy, unbelievably tired boat. And so, we text…
- I’m trying to get my life together! So I’m looking at healthy recipes, shopping lists, fitness apps, craft ideas, planners; I’m trying to get things done for our family, although I am aware that I look like an emotionally checked-out Zombie right now, laying on the couch with my eyes glazing over and probably a bit of drool sneaking out of the side of my hanging-open mouth.
- I’ve had a really long day, and I just need to look at some funny pictures of cats being unlikely friends with ducks, okay?! Please leave me be for five seconds, I beg you. I’m so, so tired.
I just want to say again, I am NOT in the business of promoting ignoring your kids, partners, or your work to look at your phone. Like I said, I am really actually wanting to be more mindful of my phone (over) usage. I just wanted to have a think about and process why it has such a pull on me, and I’m sure I’m not alone (I’m not, right?)
Now that I’ve done that, I’m brainstorming some ways to find my own phone use balance. Giving myself a time frame of when I will be on it, and putting it in another room the rest of the time is one idea. That way I can still hear it if people need me, but won’t automatically grab it to mindlessly scroll. I could plan our dinner menu at the start of each week in one go, and write it down, rather than scroll recipes every night. Actually get off my butt and go for a walk with the family, rather than scrolling fitness apps like that is a workout in and of itself (I would be SO skinny). Give up Pinterest altogether, because seriously, I am never going to make a “busy wall” out of toilet paper holders and pipe cleaners. WHO am I actually kidding?
Any other phone use tips would be appreciated by me and, I’m sure even more so, my husband!