Wednesday, May 7, 2014

3 ways I'm choosing to be more present

Parenting is hard (remember this post from last week?) for many reasons. It's hard physically, but I think it's hardest emotionally. We obsess over and worry about every choice we make as mothers, and beat ourselves up constantly for the mistakes we think we've made, and for the things we'd do differently if we could. 

There are so many aspects of parenting that we are expected to make a choice about, starting before our babies are even born. Midwife or doctor. Meds or 'natural'. Breastfeeding, formula or a mixture of both. Staying at home or going back to work. Circumcision. Ear-piercing. Typical vaccine schedule or delayed. Co-sleeping, sleep training, CIO. Purees or baby led weaning. Weaning. Potty-training. It seems like an endless list of choices that we have to make and remake as we get to know our child better. What we think will work isn't always what actually works. And on top of it all, there is controversy around many of these decisions and you will almost certainly be making a different (and sometimes hard to understand) choice in at least one area than your family or friends. 

Screen time is just another area of parenting that requires our attention. We have to decide if and when we will let our children experience their first screen time. If we decide to allow screen time at a certain age, we have to decide how much and what. Will we let them play on our iPhones or iPads and what criteria will we have for when it's okay?

You may have already addressed these issues in your own parenting journey. But there's another part of the screen time controversy that maybe you haven't spent much time thinking about. Lately there has been a lot of emphasis on our screen time choices as parents. Videos, blog posts (angry responses) and articles are shared, somewhat ironically, on a daily basis on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Nearly all of them focus on over use of smart phones, and how it's affecting our children. So far this week I've had over 15 friends share the same video, nearly half of them typing some variation of "turning my phone off now" in the caption. 

I've struggled with this issue ever since I became a mom. I first thought about it when I would spend (what felt like) half the day breastfeeding Riggs in his first few months of life. After staring at him lovingly for a few moments, I'd spend the rest of the time on my phone, scrolling through Facebook or drooling over recipes on Pinterest. After the first couple of months Riggs nursed less during the day, but I was still getting on my phone during bedtime and middle of the night feedings. I often felt bad, both because I was ignoring Riggs completely during my times of closest contact with him, and because I didn't want the phone next to his little developing brain for so many minutes (hours!) a day. 

Even thought I thought about it a lot and sometimes chose to soak up the moment rather than picking up my phone, I never really made a big decision or resolution about it. Fast forward to the last couple of months. I'm not nursing Riggs any more, but I still feel like I'm on my phone (or computer) a lot during the day. On some of my worst days, I'd be on my phone first thing when I woke up, then while we ate breakfast. I'd lay on the couch while Riggs played on the floor and mindlessly browse through every single app on my phone, having no idea how much time had passed. We'd go on a walk or play outside, and I'd check my phone constantly or take pictures and then spend the rest of the walk editing them and posting them as we walked along. Then I'd try and finish a blog post during Riggs' nap time, and would still be on the computer after he woke up and had a snack. 

watching him sleep while working on blog posts was a huge bonus yesterday

Like I said, days like that were an exception, but even as a rule, I was on my phone quite a bit most days. Lately Riggs hasn't been as happy playing by myself, and he wants my attention more and more. Especially since he's going to get a far deal less of it in another month, I really want to give him the attention he wants (and needs) right now. So I'm making a choice to be present in our days. I've made three rules/goals for myself and am hoping to keep them up permanently. 

one | limit iPhone use first thing in the morning
I tend to wake up about 30 minutes to an hour before Riggs every day (without setting an alarm) and used to spend most of that time slowly waking up by browsing through my phone. The problem with this is that I get into sort of a 'screen-trance' and think about all the things I want to do on my phone or computer the rest of the day. As a result I'm more distracted and impatient with Riggs, plus I don't get some of the my chores done around the house that should be no problem to complete. So from now on I'm putting my phone off limits for anything other than replying to texts or phone calls during the morning hours.

two | 'phone' use only while Riggs is awake (with some exceptions) 
This is probably going to be the hardest 'rule' for me, at least at first. I've decided to put my phone in one spot where I can easily hear it if it rings during the day and leave it there. If it rings I'll answer it, and if I need to make a phone call I will. But I'm not going to carry it around with me every where I go, and I'm not going to use its 'smart' capabilities. Occasionally I will make exceptions, for recipe use and some camera use. But only if I'm actually cooking something or I don't have a chance to get my real camera, which I need to use more anyway.

three | limit computer use while Riggs is awake
I'm not quite as worried about this as the other two issues I've addressed and made rules about, because computer use for me not as much of a problem. I only tend to use my laptop during naptimes and after Riggs has gone to bed. But there are some days here and there where I get in a browsing rut and spend half the day online window shopping or editing photos. Just to keep that under control, I'm going to loosely limit computer usage while Riggs is awake to under one hour. That should not be hard at all since he naps for nearly two hours every day and goes to bed at 7:30 every night. 

These are goals I've made for myself based on my own personal experiences and feelings. I'm trying to be a better mom and also a better wife. I'm also trying to limit the distractions that keep me from getting housework/chores done. I don't expect to follow these rules every single day of the week. Mostly I'm going to apply them during the week days, with special exceptions here and there. I decided to share them here on my blog so that it would be more clear why I might not post as often on Facebook, Instagram or even here in this space. 

This post is also my way of participating in Screen Free Week, which is going on right now, from May 5 - 11. Are you participating in scree-free week and if so how are you spending your extra screen free time?


  1. I could have written this myself. I do the same things some days (a lot more days than I would like) - wake up on the phone and sometimes let hours pass before putting it down and in turn I'm more impatient and not as involved with Ev. It feels good to know I'm not the only Mama who does this at times. I've started making 'rules' that are similar for myself. No browsing through apps in the morning, taking minimal pictures while we're out and editing them when we get home or after Ev has gone to sleep so I'm not on my phone on our entire outing, etc. I guess I share all this to say you're not alone. I think a lot of stay at home Mamas struggle with this, especially the ones that blog. I think I'll probably share a similar post soon with some of the ways I'm working on this.

  2. This is so great, and also such a good reminder. I try to limit my screen time as well. i will text or email while I am breastfeeding Avalon. And I also try and do the majority of blogging and reading at night when the kids go to bed, or nap time. Obviously I could be doing so many other things ( like cleaning the playroom ) But I am with you on this!!

  3. I love all these suggestions because I have the same problem. My boys are too precious to miss!

  4. My kids are bad influences...they will say "you should post this on the blog so grandma can see it!"

  5. Wow I love this and I love your honesty about your phone time. Because I think most of us moms are looking into phone screens more than we care to admit publicly. I know I am. I'm actually semi ignoring my 3 year old right now to read blogs while he plays with play doh! *Sigh* I love your 3 goals and I hope it's working out for you. I find that I am so much happier, productive, and patient when I leave my phone on the counter all day as opposed to carrying it everywhere with me and getting in that "phone trance". Thank you so much for posting this!