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Motherhood, Unplugged

motherhood unpluggedWe were about 45 minutes from home on our way to a weekend away to the Lake Erie islands when I realized that my phone was sitting on the bathroom counter. Classic case of mom brain. Don’t worry, I had 6 changes of clothes for my toddler, swim diapers, snack options, car toys, and a medicine bag that could treat anything from tooth pain to diaper rash. But no phone. Like most people these days, my phone is an extension of my body. I don’t ever go more than an hour without checking to see if I have any missed calls or texts. If I couldn’t take pictures with my phone, how was I going to post pictures immediately to Instagram so that all of my “friends” could admire the nice time my family and I were having on vacation? What if someone I “know” had a baby or got a new job and I missed it because I couldn’t check Facebook? How on Earth was I going to survive an entire weekend without my phone?

Turns out, when you’re not distracted by your cell phone for an entire weekend, you’re actually free to be fully present. I forgot how funny my husband is or what it was like to have a beautiful milestone moment with my daughter without standing behind the camera on my phone trying to get the right angle or pick the right filter. I took a walk around the island while my little one napped in her stroller and instead of calling my sister as I typically would, I watched people at the park. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel concerned about what others were doing. I felt free.

I am a stay at home mom to a toddler. It’s a daily blessing to witness and develop this little life, but it’s also long days filled with phrases like, “You’re right, that is a dog!” and “Please don’t throw yogurt at Mommy.” I’m not ashamed to say that sometimes we go to Meijer just so we can talk to other adults. Like a lot of parents, I am concerned about my child’s exposure to technology and the crack-like draw lit up screens seem to have for tiny hands. She’s 14 months old and she knows how to turn on the television, how to talk to Siri, and how to turn her music on the Roku. Last week, she deleted two apps off of my phone. I’m not even sure I know how to do that. I am aware that she is always watching and that almost everything she will learn in her first three years will come from us. It feels like a constant internal battle to stay away from technology during the day in order to be fully present and be the kind of parent that I long to be. But it truly is difficult. I find pockets during the day when she’s content playing alone and I’ll pull out my phone to check my email or send a text. I know that I need to be realistic and that cutting technology out during all hours she is awake isn’t going to happen {or even really need to happen}, but I also don’t want her to learn that it’s okay for everyone to be on their phone at the dinner table.

I don’t have any answers or brilliant insights, I wish that I did. I do think it’s a complex issue and that mom guilt is real. I also believe in grace and allowing your children to see that you’re human. Here’s what I know to be true:

  1. I had the most wonderful weekend with my family. We laughed over ice cream. We rode the carousel. We talked at dinner. We held hands on the way home.
  2. Life is about balance. Technology isn’t going anywhere, so we are going to have to learn how to set parameters for both ourselves and our children that allow for “screen time” and “human time.”
  3. When I got home, I didn’t have a single missed call or text message. Turns out, I didn’t miss anything after all.

I’d highly recommend taking a day or a weekend and making it “technology free.” Leave the phone on the bathroom counter. Talk to your kids. Kiss your husband. Go on an adventure. Don’t have a single picture to share on social media, but have a feeling that is burned into your heart forever. Just be present.

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