What Happened When I Put my Phone Down Around my Kids

Libby Galin essays

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Your life might look a lot like mine. Here’s a snapshot:

  • 4:15 a.m. Baby wakes up—feed baby
  • 4:30 a.m. Try to sleep again
  • 4:50 a.m. Develop building anxiety over ‘to dos’ and decide to get up
  • 5:00 a.m. Make coffee, sit down at computer, check work email and Facebook simultaneously on my phone
  • 5:30 a.m. Older child wakes up and has a stomach ache
  • 5:35 a.m. Baby wakes up for the day
  • 5:40 a.m. The whole family is in the kitchen expecting something, and no one’s needs are being met, including my own

By 6:00 a.m. I’ve done just enough to realize what more I have to do, and I’m already exhausted.

The rest of the day is spent in a panicky, reactive mode of keeping the children alive and maintaining employment.  By 7:00 p.m. when the children are finally in bed, I am spent and usually fall asleep on the couch watching Nick at Nite at 8:30 p.m. This is not an exaggeration, and I’m actually being generous with the hour.

I used to be a reflective, dynamic person with hobbies, passions and interests. I used to get dressed every day, not only when I had to. When I was this interesting person, I dreamed of having two, beautiful children, a wonderful husband and a job that allowed me to watch them grow.

So why, then, were these days of motherhood not living up to my dreams? I gave up a lot for my children. They are expensive. Why was I allowing them to annoy me so much? Why couldn’t I get on top of things and get some sleep? Why did I only go out to eat to Noodles and Company?

After reading this article, that monitored how parents reacted to their children while on the phone, I began to wonder, was my phone the enabler of my hectic and unsatisfying slog? Could the way I use technology be the root of my problem?

The research showed that parents reacted in an aggressive and annoyed way toward their children while busy on their devices. The more absorbed the parent was on the phone, the more negative the interaction with her child. One parent being observed actually kicked her child under the table! Now I have not actually ever kicked my child under the table or elsewhere.

However, I have found myself snapping at my child when he interrupted me while viewing “100 Years of Hairstyles in 60 Seconds” on my newsfeed or when he had a question while I was mid-sentence in composing an email.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, it became more and more clear that my lack of balance and constant feeling of being scattered could be due to my addiction to information and when I chose to get this information. I was trying to be at home, at work and in the community all at the same time!

As painful as it was, I laid some ground rules around my use of technology for myself to see if I could bring some focus and a sense of being present back into my life. As a trained yoga teacher,  I included several important mindfulness tools into my new ground rules that I had been ignoring for several years as well.

The final list was short but powerful:

  • Remove Facebook and social media from phone
  • Do not check social media while with the kids
  • Only check work email from the desktop during work time
  • Meditate, journal or do a few yoga stretches each day

And here is what happened:

I got my evenings back. On the first night of my challenge, I found I wasn’t as tired when bedtime rolled around. Normally at bedtime I feel exhausted and attempt to get the kids into bed as fast as possible. I bark orders at my son to get his jammies on while directing my husband to brush my son’s teeth NOW while I change the baby for the third time.

The first evening of my challenge, I miraculously felt as if I had some energy left. My son asked to do silly dances before bed, which I normally would have declined in favor of a fast story. I did the silly dances, though, and guess what? It was fun. He got to bed 15 minutes later, and I didn’t resent the encroachment into ‘my’ time. I enjoyed it. And him. I also did a few yoga poses before watching King of Queens. Over days and weeks, this became the norm more than the exception.

I got organized at work. For months it seemed as if feeling caught up at work was no longer something I could ever really expect to have happen, sort of like knowing I’d never again be able to have more than two glasses of wine without a horrific hangover. But when I stopped checking my email obsessively and thinking about work at all hours, and instead dedicated certain times to focus on it, it actually got better. And I did more. With more thought and strategy. This is true. I even found time to write this blog. I may even start a blog.

I didn’t miss any more days of my kids growing up. Each day my 5-year-old son impresses me with his humor and insight. I was missing these comments when I was ignoring him in favor of my phone. While distracted by social media or work, his insights sounded like the teacher on Charlie Brown, and that is if I heard them at all. Also while distracted on the phone, I saw the desperate, attention seeking side of his personality more often (not cute).

My baby is sweet, round and has two teeth. How long does that last? Not long, my friend.  

I’m glad I didn’t miss another day.

They say we can change when we are ready. For whatever reason, I saw a problem big enough that I dedicated myself to compartmentalizing my information flow by limiting my technology use around my family and stuck to my challenge. The result was more energy and focus.

I’m still wandering the halls at 4:00 a.m. and the last place I ate out is still Noodles, but I do feel a big shift has been made in the important areas.

I still haven’t picked my phone back up.


About the Author

Libby Galin

Libby Galin MS Ed. is a teacher, writer, yogi, and mother of two fabulous children. She teaches writing courses for gifted students, and works in online communications. You can find her trying to be peaceful and creative. She lives in the Chicago area.

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January 2015 – live & learn
Brought to you by – kids in the house
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