Why Plugged-In Parenting Is For Me
Pick up the phone and be a mom.
When I quit my job to stay at home, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I had worked from home for the past five years as an editor for a love and sex website. And when my daughter was born, I juggled part-time work from home with full-time parenting. Working over nap times and in the evenings, then spending the rest of the day with my children, it seemed very straight forward. Of course, with parenting, nothing ever is as easy as you think it will be.
I’ve been trying to balance freelance writing and full-time parenting for over a year now. And with all of its struggles and rewards, my biggest challenge has been learning when to unplug. As anyone with a baby and a toddler can tell you, it’s hard to count on routine. Sometimes, thanks to naps, really big poops, teething or just rough days, I don’t have the time I need to meet the few obligations I have. The toddler doesn’t nap, she has a rest time. So, I only have one hour of time during the day, with the exception of school days, which have been few and far between thanks to the extreme weather this winter. Consequently, I’ve often found myself answering emails while breastfeeding the baby or sneaking away from a Play-Doh session to go make a call.
Like every parent, I struggle with ambivalent feelings about my smartphone. On the one hand, it helps me stay connected to this world of writing that I would otherwise not have. But on the other hand, it distracts me from the people in front of me.
Starting in January, I’ve made a concerted effort not to use my phone while I’m with my children. I only use it when the baby is napping and the toddler is otherwise occupied (and no, not with TV, I took TV away as a crutch two weeks ago). It’s made me sad to see that people have noticed. I have friends texting me to tell me that they miss me online. Another friend cornered me at a playdate to accuse me of purposefully ignoring her. All I could say was that I was sorry and I was trying to be more intentional.
When I am working, I want to be working. When I am with my children, that is where I want to be. Same goes for my husband who is often left with the terrible deal of watching Heroes alone in the evenings, while I’m scrambling to make up work or meet a deadline. But in this busy time, perfect intention is not always possible. Some days, I have to oscillate between email and children and husband and work. That is okay. As parents, we all have our struggles. Whether working or being home full time, each of us struggle with guilt and time constraints. No work situation is ever ideal (some more so than others, but there is no silver bullet).
Of course, all of this sounds negative toward being plugged-in, but it isn’t. Ultimately, I can’t blame my smartphone for my problems and struggles. My phone is just a tool. Any issues I have using it while parenting are my own. And in the end, I deeply appreciate all the devices that keep me plugged in and connected, not only to the world of work, but to my friends and family.
These past three months, while I’ve been trying to get the baby on a schedule and manage a strong-willed and very creative toddler, I’ve spent a lot of time texting friends and family for input and advice. These small messages, peppered with emojis, have been sanity-saving, if not life saving. My family lives far away and I FaceTime with my parents once a week. My daughter looks forward to talking to her Mimi and Papa and her cousins and showing them all her fancy dresses. Also, the ability to stay connected to work too has helped me earn an income and stay relevant, so when that day comes and both of my children are in school, I won’t be completely irrelevant.
Some days, I want to just toss my phone in the sea, like some character on a TV show that is trying to teach the person addicted to work how to just live free. But the reality is computers, smart phones, tablets—they are all here to stay. I’d rather work at learning how to balance being plugged-in and being a parent, so I can model good technology use to my children, who no doubt will face the same challenge when they are older. Also, how else can I make sure I’m getting the right acetaminophen dosage while my teething baby is crying? Or plan a last-minute play date during a snow day?
Sure, I could put down my phone and some days I do. But mostly, my phone and being plugged in has helped me stay connected to the world outside parenting and this community of supportive friends and family and that makes me a better mom.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN