The Real World: Are You There?

baby ipone

This morning I read a blog post from Adventures In Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered that really resonated with me. Entitled “Popcorn Brain”, the author Christy writes beautifully and honestly about how her uses of the internet and smartphones are negatively affecting her parenting, and how these things are actual addictions for many of us.

Christy, I’m right there with you.

My name is Imogen, and I am an iPhone addict. My iPhone is with me 24/7. I struggle not to repeatedly check or update my Facebook, Twitter, email and myfitnesspal every half an hour. I can often be found ferverently huddled over my iPhone, guiltily snatching 5 minutes between chores to scroll through my news feed. I will often let Monkey watch more TV than I am comfortable with, so that I can snatch some blog-reading time.

The laptop is a similar addictive substance. Being a WAHM, I do need to spend a little time on the computer every day – maintaining the blog, writing posts, and looking for freelancing work – the problem lies when I end up spending 20 minutes on that, and then aimlessly surfing the net for another hour whilst my kids watch TV, climb all over me or repeatedly ask me to do stuff for them.

Yeah, I know. I sound like a crap mum, don’t I? But I’ll bet that 80% or more of the people reading this do the same on a regular basis. And, according to this article on CNN, the overuse of smartphones activates the dopamine cells in one of the main pleasure centres of the brain – the same centres stimulated by addictive drugs.

I’ve been aware of my social networking addiction for a while now, and I have really tried to curb it, but I didn’t realise quite how hard it was going to be. However, over the last few weeks I have been thinking more and more about it, and Christy’s post today absolutely sealed the deal for me – I have to kick this habit, and I have to kick it right now.

I don’t want my children’s memories of their mother to be an image of her huddled over her iPhone, saying “hang on, I’ll play with you in a minute…”. I don’t want to waste every spare minute I get checking facebook, when I could be playing with my children, looking after my home or actually relaxing properly. I don’t want to miss out on any more of the real world in favour of the easy, enthralling, mind-numbing world of the internet.

So, this morning, I decided to make the change – for real, this time. After a brief period of thought, I put in place the following rules for myself:

1. The iPhone is to remain in my zipped-up handbag for the entire time my children are awake – the only exceptions are answering calls and texts (I don’t get too many of these, so this won’t pose an issue), and 10 minutes of catching up whilst I am walking up and down the kitchen with Squish in the sling, trying to get him to sleep. I will also permit myself to use it when I am nursing Squish to sleep at bedtime – providing he is actually asleep.
2. All work to be done when the kids are in bed, apart from one half-hour session to be used when Monkey is watching his favourite TV programmes in the afternoon. HOWEVER, this time is better used for catching up with housework. Only use it for laptop time if you are behind and absolutely need that extra half an hour to work.
3. In the evenings, work is to be completed before catching up with social networking. And if work takes a while to complete, everything else should be ignored in favour of spending time with the husband.

It’s only been one day but already the difference is astounding. I cleaned my house. I did three loads of laundry. I played “seek-n-boo” with my kids under the duvet on my bed. And I was (mostly) the kind of parent I want to be. I only raised my voice once, which was when Monkey was having a meltdown over Squishy trying to take pieces of his build-and-take-along Ninky Nonk – and that was purely down to the fact that, over his screeching, he couldn’t hear my suggestion that he took the Ninky Nonk to his personal play space (problem solving whilst trying to pry his beloved toys from his brother’s vice-like grip is, unsurprisingly, not his forte).

Like Christy, I have noted that the majority of the times that I raise my voice to the kids or am otherwise impatient with them, is when I am trying to get on with something. Obviously things like housework and cooking are non-negotiable to a degree, but ‘getting on’ with checking my various iPhone apps is not necessary, and quite frankly is a waste of our precious time. This whole time I have been missing out on real life interactions with my children and the world around me, and although cutting down is going to be hard, it’s already showing to be well worth it.

Tonight, instead of diving straight into social networking the moment Squish latched on for his bedtime feed, I waited a while. I watched him fidget and pummel my breast until the milk came, then I watched him relax and feed heartily. I watched his little eyelids flutter, and leant down to kiss his soft cheek. I breathed in his scent, and stroked his fluffy head. That totally beats tweeting, hands down.

Have you got a tech addiction? Come on, be honest!

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve had a recent epiphany. Several months ago, my 14-year-old daughter walked through our bedroom as my wife and I hunkered over our computers and said, “Hi, laptop parents.”

    One of the things I’ve been doing is to just turn things completely off — computer, phone. Often it’s just the thought of having to wait for things to boot up that makes me put it off until later.

    Very honest, thoughtful post. Thanks.

  2. says

    Great post, LOVE IT! You did such a better job writing on this than I did! This is the first time anyone has ever written a blog based on something I wrote, I am really excited and humbled. It makes me feel like a real blogger, all squishy inside teehee. But seriously, awesome post! I am amazed at how much more checked in I am now with my kids and my life in general.

  3. says

    I read that post over at Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered as well. “Popcorn Brain” resonated with me greatly, especially when I think about how I talk to my friends and family- randomly firing off one bit of news/gossip/thought after another without having a REAL conversation. I too blame this on my addiction to the Internet. I do not have a Smartphone (Gosh, what would happen if I did!!??) but am glued to my laptop. This week I made it my goal to only use it when rocking/nursing my LO to sleep for naps and bedtime. It’s hard for me to just sit there and do nothing while I do this and reading a book…well, I’ve tried that, but the page turning distracts him. The first two days we were so busy that it wasn’t much of an issue. The next two days I had to be diligent about it. Today, I failed. I was on the Internet much more than I wanted and you know what? When my hubby came home and asked me how my day was, I responded with, “Boring.” Go figure. The past few days of limited Internet use, I had great reports of how much fun I had with my son that day. Time to re-evaluate.

  4. says

    I have been aware of this as an issue since before my Squishy was born – though I haven’t yet found an effective way of policing it, particularly when it comes to my mum, and my husband!

  5. says

    You’re not a bad Mum! I do it, I’ll sit and refresh Facebook all day long, given the chance. I have to remind myself that there’s a real world outside of the screen and try to pull myself away from interwebs to breathe for a while. As has already been mentioned, I turn it off. If it’s not on-I can’t use it!

  6. says

    This made me feel mama guilt. Usually I am honestly working on my computer when I get frustrated, but I definitely tune out more than I should. To be perfectly honest, giving 100% attention to a 10 month old ALL DAY can get a little bit boring. I should at least work harder to alternate independent play with mommy time though.

    Shared this with my husband as well, who is always on his smart phone.

    Fun fact: The targeted ads (AdChoices widget) at the top of this article right now say “Addicted to Crack?” and list treatment centers. ;)

  7. says

    I completely understand. I had this for a while when I first discovered Facebook and then when I first started authentic Parenting. But now, I can proudly say that I actually get too little internet time (also a source of frustration sometimes). I think I get about an hour a day. In that time, I update the blog, read my emails and do my social media, and read to get my Sunday Surf up and running. ANd in the weekend, it’s even less! But i does take letting life settle in again. :)
    I know my personality, and I know that these addictions don’t last long with me, so it’s best to ride them out. After a while, the ‘new’ is gone and I can relax about it. That’s why I’m always hesitant to start with new social media, because I know I might just get hooked :)

  8. says

    Yes, I have a similar problem. I appreciate your honesty on this. It’s good to know I’m not the only one, and it’s also good to be reminded that it’s a problem.

    I decided last week to turn off the email, facebook, and twitter notifications on my phone, so I don’t feel like I have to respond to things instantly. And I only write for my blog and respond to feedback in the morning while the kids are still asleep. But it’s so hard to resist the pull of checking on the laptop. I like Tom’s idea of shutting down the computer during the day.

    Thanks for this! And good luck with your turning over a new leaf!

  9. says

    Great post. I can totally relate. Because I do write for a couple of hours every day I am on the computer…but like you I take breaks when I’m with the kids to run up and check things. My husband says I’m addicted to my “electric magazine.” And he’s right. You too!

    I do leave my iphone in the car though so I don’t bring it to the park or to playdates or even in the house…but that’s where my computer is.

    One of the biggest problems for me is that checking social stuff keeps me from my real writing…and so i’m now going to have hour long periods with no surfing, no blogging, no facebooking….just writing.

    thanks for the reminder!

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