This one dangerous distraction can cause you to disengage and disconnect from your kids. In fact, it can keep you from connecting with your kids everyday if you don’t stop the habit from coming between you and your family. Learn how to take back your time and invest in other areas to be more present and happy in motherhood.
I started to feel the distance from my family last year, the canyon between us suddenly felt huge and wide.
The fraying showed in the way my kids half-hazardly listened to rules, and dipped their toes past boundaries which had always existed, but they wanted to test.
Dramatic behavior straight out of a Caillou episode was a way to seek attention in any form I dished it out, good or bad.
When things like this start happening, as I always do, I turned the looking glass back on myself.
A parent’s actions are more often than naught, the root cause for a child’s behavior and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how my recent distraction from motherhood was affecting our home.
There is one bad habit in particular I know causes me to regularly disengage from my children and my husband and put a painful distance between them and me.
THE BAD HABIT WHICH HURT MY MOTHERHOOD
I started the habit of checking my phone during nursing sessions with my third child. Around week three when the exhaustion was kicking it, I had brought my phone with me to the rocking chair to watch the time. It started innocently enough wanting to track how long she was nursing but soon I was scrolling through social media, checking news sites and answering mountains of congratulatory texts.
It made the middle of the night feedings go faster, I could stay awake easier and I rationalized I was some sort of multitasking genius because I was catching up on everything “relevant” or answering emails while I fed my baby at the same time.
However, this distractingly bad habit carried on well past when she was nursing. It started leaking into the daytime as a way to escape the natural demands of motherhood or pass the time while the kids quietly played with each other.
Suddenly I was a slave to my smartphone, carrying it around in my hand, if it wasn’t in my pocket or on the counter within eyesight.
I became a zombie distracted by social media, by news and staying current and “in touch” with the world outside the four walls of my house at the expense of my children. I was increasingly distracted looking at pictures and engaging with others on my phone instead of my own children who were right in front of me.
I noticed it and they definitely noticed it.
The frowns on their faces when they wanted to show me something and I was looking down at the phone in my hand and had missed the news, was of total sadness.
REALIZING HOW BAD IT HAD GOTTEN
One evening, I saw my daughter carrying around an old phone we had given her as a play toy. Sometimes I listen carefully to how the kids play to see what they’re picking up from their Mom and Dad and others around us.
Play imitates life, and this is an easy tool to see what sticks with them when you think they aren’t listening or looking.
At first Juliette punched in numbers and carried on her pretend conversation, but then when I called her name to come to the table for lunch, she ignored me.
I watched her closely to see how long it would take her to put her phone down, but instead she took her time making her way tot he table and carried it with her, placing it next to her plate. I reached for it to set it aside as we have a “no toys at the table” policy but she slapped her hand down before I could grab it.
“No, that’s my phone. I neeeeed it,” she whined.
“No toys at the table.” I said matter-of-factly and then was floored when she replied.
“You do it all the time. You always have your phone, I want to keep mine at the table like you.”
There is nothing in the world like your five-year-old hitting you with a dose of hard-to-hear truth to sweep the rug from right under you.
IMAGINING THE TABLES BEING TURNED
I pictured my children years from now, older and sitting around the house glued to their phones. I saw myself asking them if they wanted to go to a movie or grab dinner and making an effort to connect and being met with… nothing. They’d continue to stare at their phones and mumble a generic response like “maybe” or “hmmmm.” My heart broke.
I felt it drop to the ground and shatter at the thought of being rejected and ignored by my own children.
This is how they must be feeling and my stomach dropped and a nauseous feeling began to circulate inside.
This was it.
This was the defining moment I vowed to ditch my phone, worry less about staying “up to date” on social media and always, always put my kids first. I’d look them in the eye when they spoke to me and turn off my phone, happy to hear the click of the button when the screen went black, and burying it deep in my purse or a jacket pocket and forget about it for a while.
I was investing my time on the wrong thing. On a superficial, distracting object which could never fill my heart the way my babies do.
What mattered the most to me was right in front of me and I was disappointing them everyday with this terribly hurtful habit.
As I write this, I can honestly say I have no idea where my phone is right now and in it’s place, I have found little ways to live in the moment of motherhood and fill my own cup – and my children’s – with meaningful moments of connection.
When I realized my life needed more balance aside from taking care of children all day, if found simple ways to make my own peace so I was more readily available emotionally and physically for my children and wouldn’t fall back into the habit of being attached to my phone.
1) FIND YOUR OWN HOURS
Whether you’re a morning person or night owl, find an opportunity each day to have time for yourself. Set your alarm an hour before your kids wake up and stay up for a couple hours after the kids have gone to bed to spend time by yourself and with your partner. Don’t waste your kid-free time cleaning your house or working, make sure you set ample time aside to relax, decompress and center yourself.
Be mindful how you spend your kid-free time before they wake up, during naps, while they’re at school or after bedtime. Be sure to nuture your passions and internal fire.
2) EXERCISE OFTEN
Not only does the endorphins from exercise do the body good, it works wonders for clearing and centering your mind. It’s a wonderful way to start the day with a little extra zip and feeling like your mind has been put back into order.
3) SIMPLE PLEASURES WHICH FEEL LIKE INDULGENCES
Simple indulgences can take minutes but also act like magic when you’re a tired, wearing and hard-working Momma. Grabbing a latte or foamy beverage instead of your normal coffee black, sit in the backyard with a glass of wine or set up a diffuser with essential oils and turn a regular moment into something which feels special and “more.”
4) FEELINGS OF GRATITUDE
When things aren’t going your way or you had to carry a crying child out of the grocery store after the third tantrum of the day, it can feel hard to remember all the good things you have going for you. Nothing reminds you of how blessed you are, even in the hardest of circumstances, by writing down and reflecting on the positives in your life.
Keeping a small notebook in your purse to jot down things which make you feel grateful in the morning, when your child is throwing a fit in the car or you feel down, acts as an instant pick-me-up.
Looking at pictures also does the job reminding you of your blessings. Scroll through your photo album and let the love you have for your family, children, pets and friends roll over you and bring you out of your funk.
5) STOP OVERSCHEDULING
Hectic schedules reek havoc on stress levels, which can leak into your psyche and contribute to unhappiness, distraction and disengagement from your family. When you juggle too much and feel like you’re never able to tackle your to do list, the feelings of falling short can be overwhelming and frustrating.
Evaluate your activities, obligations and social engagements and eliminate the unnecessary. To be more productive and feel unburden by your obligations, you have to do less and this is where the buck stops with you. You are in control of how busy you and your family really are.
What are your priorities? Is it having dinner together as family most nights of the week, making it to soccer practice and guitar lessons on time, or setting aside a night a week for your marriage? Find your priorities and then evaluate what is causing them to not line up and how this can be remedied.
My priority is making sure my husband and I have strong parent-child relationships as well as giving my kids free time each day for unstructured free play. Spending time together as a family is a non-negotiable for us. We’ve cut back social obligations and limited the number of activities the kids participate to make sure our priorities always line up.
6) SET AN EARLY BEDTIME FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Setting an age appropriate bedtime for your children is not only important to their growth, development and bodies needs, but important to parents in order to find hours in the day for themselves.
Read more here about how to establish a peaceful bedtime routine for your little ones. For older children, end the day on a high note and find a way which works for both of you to connect in a meaningful way. Each night before bed, I talk with each of my kids about their day, what they’re looking forward to the next day and share our own special sayings of love. This is a ritual to end the day on a high note and send them off to sleep in a loving way.
7) PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY AFTER 8PM
Once I realized technology was impeding my relationship with my family, and causing me to become more distracted too often to count, I sent a hard boundary of putting my phone away on a charger in another room at 8pm. Technology has an uncanny ability to suck our attention away from those we love, our children or spouse. It often shifts our moods when we’re interrupted in the middle of browsing or responding to emails and treats those closest to us with negativity.
Spend less time on your devices and more time being present with those who matter the most. You can break your smartphone addiction with these seven steps.
Take control of your time. Invest it in things which bring you peace and happiness. Spend 15 or 20 minutes after the kids have gone to bed to pick up, put away dishes or fold laundry and then enjoy the free time and don’t waste it.
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