I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house when I was growing up. It’s where we spent the hours before and after school and on summer days. It’s where all the family functions went down. My grandparents fostered an experience-rich environment full of love and joy. My memories of their house are endless. At family gatherings my cousins and I would run off to explore the backyard or organize talent shows for the adults. We laughed, we created, we developed teamwork skills. As we got older we would spend more time engaging with adults. They would teach us how to play card games or cook. When we were teenagers, we would take a seat in the living room with them where we would have dessert while chatting away.
These are memories I always feel most nostalgic for. Looking ahead to the future, I wonder if my daughter will have the same type of memories to look back on.
Will she know what’s it like to spend time with a group of people whose faces aren’t illuminated by the blue glow of their cellphone or device?
Things are different now. It’s getting hard to deny or ignore it. Conversations are distracted. Company across the room or dinner table can seem miles away. And I know, for certain, the same distance is between us and our own kids on a day-to-day basis. I’m guilty of it too, frankly.
A few days ago at the grocery store, I heard the voice of a child repeating, “Daddy, Daddy”. The sound was soft at first, but grew louder over the course of a couple minutes. No one was responding to the child, so I looked over at her. Her dad was busy with something on his phone. Did he hear her? I can’t say.
Maybe he was reading a recipe to make sure he got everything he needed. Perhaps his grocery list was on his phone. Maybe he was answering an urgent work email. Whatever the reason, no judgement here, okay? I have been that parent. But it opened my eyes.
How does my daughter feel when I’m on my phone and I don’t hear her or see her? And what do I miss when I’m nose deep in that thing? Because this poor, unsuspecting father missed seeing his daughter’s eyes light up like the fourth of July when she spotted a glass case piled high with donuts. I keep coming back to this question:
How much do I miss?
It is a struggle sometimes to pull ourselves away from our devices; I KNOW that. I reach for mine out of habit when the house grows quiet or when my daughter has settled into an activity. Every time I hear the ping or flashing light of a notification, I feel the need to check it right away regardless of what I’m doing. I often feel like I will miss something important if I don’t skim through my news feed multiple times throughout the day. So, I did a little experiment with my social media check-ins this past week. I tweaked some things and made a few simple changes. Turns out, mainly what I missed being hands-free was Kim K’s naked bathroom selfie. In exchange, I had a terrific week with my toddler and family as a whole! I noticed things about my daughter that I didn’t even know I had been missing. And I found time to do a nice, therapeutic deep clean in my kitchen.
Can I share some wisdom here, ladies? Even if you miss one Kim K selfie that raises an eyebrow, there will be more. Many more. But moments where our children’s eyes light up or the times when we connect with loved ones over deep conversation? Those are limited. Those are fleeting. How many do we miss when we are plugged in?
I would like to share some things that helped me this past week in disconnecting from my device, so that I could reconnect with my family.
5 Tips for Unplugging:
1. Carve out set times for checking in.
Schedule check-ins for when you usually have some down time. Like, after the kids are in bed, while the baby has his afternoon nap, or in the morning while you have coffee before work. Then stick to them.
2. Log off.
If ringing or notifications keep pulling you back to your phone, try logging out of social media apps or email accounts for a few hours a day. If the evening hours from 5-8 is when your family gets to spend the most time together, log off during those peak hours so your not as tempted to pick up your device.
3. No phones during meals.
Make this a family rule. It’s okay to implement this for all meals, everyday. Even meals out at a restaurant. And it’s also okay to politely share your house rule with dinner guests.
4. When having company.
Same as the dinner rule, feel free to encourage guests at any time to leave their phones put away. One really polite way to do this is to take their coats and personal items the moment they walk in. Put them in a spare room or coat closet. You could even try leaving a small basket in your entryway for guests or family members to store their phones in during their visit.
5. Scale back.
If you receive large quantities of emails from retailers or companies that aren’t of use to you, take some time to go through and unsubscribe to them. You can do the same with Facebook groups, pages and friends, if the quantity of posts and notifications significantly outweighs the quality, maybe consider leaving the group or unfollowing the page. If you haven’t found the groups or emails useful for the past six months, it’s okay to let them go. If you like receiving coupons from your favorite businesses, maybe have a separate email to give out. You won’t get the constant notifications, but the coupons will still be available if and when you want them.
Along with most things in life, motherhood is all about striking the perfect balance, whatever that may look like to you and yours. For me, I have realized my scale is happier tipped more in favor of the hands -free half. Even though putting it into practice takes some extra work, I am finding the benefits extremely worthwhile! And I scan my news feed each night knowing that I did not miss the good stuff!
Tell me your thoughts! Does a lot of social media make you feel happy? Does your family have special rules involving technology? Do you allow phones at the dinner table?