My husband and I try to not be on our phones in the evening because it takes away time that could be spent together as a family. However, whether it’s during bath time or between moments when my son runs to his room to grab a toy, we look up things on Amazon, pay bills or text people.
That means whenever he’s on his phone, I yell at him to put it away and when I’m on mine, he reminds me to do the same. Unfortunately, even though we have gotten better at not letting our phones distract us from real life, we still fall short from being perfect. And the more we point our fingers at each other for being on our phones, the more we get used to being chastised, and the effect is minimized.
I’ll try to leave my phone on the kitchen counter or even in my car on some nights just to force myself not to touch it. But then I end up with it anyway because I want to take pictures and videos of everything I’m experiencing with my son. My husband keeps his on the charger but checks it frequently. We know it’s a problem and are gradually learning that it’s not about us, it’s about our child.
Today my son was playing with the plastic cupcakes he got for his birthday and wanted to give me one to ‘taste’. He reached out to give it to me and I didn’t notice. I’m not sure how long his small hand was outstretched in my direction as I sat with the culprit in my hand.
‘Mommy, get off your phone!’ he said.
I immediately looked over in his direction, mid-text and pushed my phone behind the couch, ashamed of myself. If my son could not only notice but also verbalize that he understood how he was second priority to me at that instant, then there’s a lot that I need to change.
We live in a society that’s more attached to their phones than a baby to an umbilical cord, but instead of promoting a movement to end this debilitating nature, we have advertisers, politicians, educators, employers, stores, restaurants, family and friends encouraging us to do exactly the opposite.
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Technology is not to blame and everyone that wants us to do something relating to their business or particular interest is just taking advantage of the fact that this is the prime way to communicate these days, and communication is everything. But how many of us are guilty of putting technology above our kids because it’s easy to get that mental escape or adult conversation after a full day of only interactions with your kids and the messy floor?
Admittedly, I am worse than my husband. Since I’m working most hours of the day, it’s challenging to find time to organize appointments, check personal emails, talk to my family, write grocery lists, balance accounts, shop for a nursery, research pregnancy questions, and much much more. I try to squeeze it all in between 6 and 9pm, often forgetting that my bedtime is the same as my son’s. That the bills can be scheduled on my lunch break. That the shopping can wait. That I only get one chance to make memories for the day with my son. And I’m actively choosing to use that opportunity to multitask because I’m a perfectionist and I want to have control of everything.
I’m guilty of being a mother that says her child is everything but then doesn’t put those words into action. I try to embrace the tough parts of parenting with patience because I know one day my son will be a student in college, and I’ll miss the tantrum he threw over not being able to have popsicles for dinner or the times he spilled his milk all over the table on purpose. At least in those moments, he was my own. I could hug him and comfort him. I could choose to say it’s okay when he looked at me for a reaction. In years that will flash by quickly, he will have a wife to trust with stories of his day and I won’t be the woman that makes him smile daily anymore.
My depression makes it so that I zone in on these memories that haven’t happened yet, which is good and bad. It motivates me to make the time with my son be as positive as possible. I hold on to every piece of motherhood God has blessed me with because I know this mother-child relationship develops and takes turns and even detours where you may never expect it to. And these years when my son considers me his best friend and he opens doors for me and holds my hand and shares his snacks with me are the sweetest. But I shouldn’t think of the future as a sad thing or a loss, and sometimes I do. It’s like premature nostalgia choking me.
But if my phone is getting in the way of me being the type of mother that I want to be, then it’s time to turn it off altogether when he’s around and there’s no emergency. Make rules and stick to them. Even pictures I’m afraid to miss will have to be missed because I want to communicate with my son more than I want to communicate with people on the other side of my phone.