I grew up in a three bedroom, 900 square foot house. Between two adults and three kids, we occupied every single inch of space. Which is why I still have a vivid mental picture of my mom trying desperately to find one childless nook of that house to hide out and have an uninterrupted phone conversation. She would always start out in kitchen, where the phone hung on the wall and had (gasp!) a CORD. Within minutes my mom was frantically dragging that doggone cord all over the house, under doors, and through laundry piles. All the while, “Shhh-ing” us unapologetically and repeating, “I’m on the phone!”
Now, fast forward 25 years. Phones aren’t on the wall anymore and they don’t have a 25 foot cord. Rather, they are packaged in a shiny little, handheld device that does a lot more than make a phone call. Which is both a blessing and a curse.
Cue the mental health professionals on the morning shows discussing the danger of too much screen time. And I get that, one hundred percent. But I also think phones get a bad rap these days, even when being used “responsibly.” Specifically when it comes to parenting.
There are a whole host of opinions on how parents should and should not use their phones in the presence of their kids. Arguments have been made that we should never even look at our phones in the company of our children. Because if we do, we may leave them feeling unimportant and ignored. At least these are some of the things I have read on the internet, or in the comments of many a thread. You guys, I’m just not on board with that and I’ll tell you why.
My husband’s career takes him away from home for about half of the month. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to stay home with our toddler. But you can see where this is going. I go days on end sometimes with little to no human interaction except with my two year old. Especially in these cold, dark days of winter in Ohio. Sometimes my phone is my only connection with the outside world. And I’m just done being ashamed about it.
Thank goodness for my phone. It allows me to have a conversation with a friend three states away. Even if it is over the course of the entire day in little snippets of text messages. I can send my family videos of our daughter busting a move to the Hot Dog Dance. I can check the weather to see if we can get out and enjoy some of our local parks. I can look up indoor activities for us to do on a rainy day. I can track my food and exercise so I can lead by example with healthy choices. I can check in with my local mom groups to see what everyone is doing, and decide how best to get in some social time for us both. I can also sneak off to the bathroom, lock the door, and scroll through Facebook for three glorious minutes while nature calls. And I assure you, it’s not ruining my child.
I will not allow the countless hours of one on one time to be diminished by the occasional text message or check of the weather. Anybody in my family or circle of friends will vouch that our daughter is nothing if not showered with attention. She is a well-adjusted, hilarious, and bright little girl. And she has a momma who knows the importance of taking a few minutes a day for herself.
While the landline served as the great parental distraction of the 90’s, there were times that the phone was simply taken off the hook. Mostly during mealtime. Or if my Dad was just sick of the thing ringing. That sticks with me now as an adult with a household of my own.
Of course, I’m so, so far from perfect, and finding the balance is still a struggle some days. One thing I try to do several times a day is put my phone away, completely, for a set amount of time. Call it 30 minutes. And in that time I give our daughter my full and undivided attention. We also *try* to keep our phones away from the dinner table.
What are some of the ways your family unplugs?