I get it. Honestly, I do.
The only differences between me and the young mother eating lunch in her kid’s favorite fast food joint while staring into her phone is that my children are old enough to let me know where I went wrong.
I remember when the phone was my umbilical cord to sanity. It kept me company while I did sink loads of dishes by hand. It linked me to the outside world while I folded my 18th load of laundry that week (true story, I had 22 loads of laundry weekly). My phone was the tether to my intellectual self. It plugged me into the adult world.
I get it.
The difference between me and my “house phone” and today’s ever-present cell is that there were imposed limitations. Cell phones didn’t really come into play until my kids were in their teens. Cords, and even what were considered mobile devices then, limited my phone time to when I was physically in my home. Then, of course, there was the daunting expense of long distance charges. Trust me, that one meaty conversation with a girlfriend could eat an entire house payment.
There was one more limiting factor. The children could trash your house and/or (depending on the child) attempt death-defying feats while you talked.
The resounding bell that rang throughout the house was a signal to every kid, even a toddler, that mom was not looking. Twenty minutes on the phone could be tantamount to a toddler version of The Purge.
Knowing this kept an unofficial internal clock ticking that felt like a timebomb without an external read. Looking back, I realize that these seemingly archaic hurdles to keeping my mind alive amid snotty noses and dirty diapers were a blessing in disguise.
I had to learn the hard way to keep my phone from stepping into my relationship with my family.
When The Huffington Post recently ran an open letter to “the mom on her phone” I realized not much has changed over the years.
The author shines a light into the trials of motherhood, but actually, she describes a mind wanting to break free.
You work hard and often run yourself ragged. I think you’re on your phone for some sanity and a little solace. You scroll down, connecting to the wide world, reaching out so you don’t feel alone in your struggles or unnoticed in your successes…
You are aching for appreciation. Someone giving you a thumbs up on your new haircut can help you hold your head a little higher as you juggle schedules, sleep deprivation, and stinky diapers…
Things haven’t changed. You’re just not tethered to a wall. Instead, you have a magic screen you can step through.
One day while driving along with my last teenager I picked up my phone to make a call I had been putting off. She looked at me and said, “Please don’t get on your phone, mom. When we are in the car is the only time I have you all to myself. Can’t we just talk?”
I hate to admit she was so right. Having been in both the “before cell phone” era and now, I can tell you this: car rides can be the best time to connect with your kids. Face it. You’re in the car a lot.
These are the “no electronics allowed” areas we’ve created for our family.
- The car
- In bed at night
- The dinner table
I let my teenager set the rules for my phone use so it wouldn’t interfere with our relationship—our time together. If your children had the words to do the same, what do you think they would say?