I love the Hands Free Mama Revolution. It warms my heart and reminds me how much attention matters. This movement has opened my eyes to how impersonal technology has made us. Pictures of people at dinner staring at their phones and not each other make me think twice about my own phone usage and make changes accordingly. The articles posted have given me a needed boost some days to really look at my children and really connect with them. Of course, I was reading the articles on my phone, but that’s kind of my point….
My phone has kept me connected during some of the loneliest moments of motherhood. Hours spent on a yoga ball bouncing my baby in a wrap, trying to get her to sleep – I texted with friends and read articles. Hours spent rocking and nursing or patting a baby late in the night – I played Words with Friends and Solitaire. Whether texts, research, Facebook, Pinterest, games or FaceTime, my phone has kept me connected during a fairly disconnected time of my life.
My phone has provided a window out of my tiny little world into the worlds of others. As I grew into my role as mother, I made incredible friends that I know I will have for life. Some of these have moved away and some are right down the street. I have group text messages that run all day, every day. I can be sure that when I wake up I will have a handful of messages from friends near and far as we share bits and pieces of our lives. We are each other’s witness to what many would describe as mundane, monotonous or just plain TMI (too much information). We get to share the tantrums, the kisses, the diapers and the disasters with each other and really be heard, really be seen, and even through a phone, really be comforted by each other. That’s a gift!
If there’s one thing the Hands Free Movement has done for me that I don’t enjoy is this essence of judgment. Whenever a mom chooses a certain path and talks about it, there’s this inevitable line drawn in the sand by those who are perhaps “more evolved”. I don’t think less of the mom who’s on her phone while pushing her kid in a swing at the park. How can I? Maybe she’s texting her husband about dinner that night. Maybe she’s corresponding with friends about a hard day and a wounded spirit. Maybe she’s looking up where to take her kid to lunch. Maybe she’s checking her bank balance and worrying about how they’ll make ends meet this month. Maybe she’s me. I don’t think the judgment is inevitable or intentional, but I do think it happens. I know it happens.
I’m not choosing a side in the hands free movement. I think it’s eye opening, life-changing and incredibly beautiful. I just want to speak for those “on the other side”. And I’m choosing mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of those goals that always seems slightly out of reach. Trying to remain mindful about the things we do each day will bring us greater joy in the small things and shed light on areas that perhaps need a little change. So, I practice mindfulness with my phone usage. I leave it in the kitchen while I sit with my family for dinner. I silence it when I’m spending one-on-one time with one of my children. I don’t respond to non-urgent texts if I’m listening to my daughter speaking to me. I do pay attention to a text from a friend in need. I do stay active with Facebook groups and respond to moms who are asking for help. I do keep it near me and it does keep me sane.
I think phones, tablets and other technologies are only going to become more prevalent. They’re going to be a huge part of our children’s lives and I’m not going to pretend they don’t exist. I am going to practice polite and thoughtful phone usage, the kind I hope my daughters will practice when they have their own phones and people are speaking to them.
When my daughter says, “Don’t you want to put your phone down?” I feel like a failure. I can admit that. I can learn from that. I can give my family my undivided attention and then return to my “phone world” later, when I am feeling out of touch with adults and friends, when I’m needing to research a behavior or illness, when I’m trying to figure out what to cook for dinner, or when I just need to give my brain a break.
Parenting is hard work. Sometimes it’s the technology that keeps us grounded as opposed to segregating us from what’s happening around us. Sometimes it serves as a distraction in a boring waiting room for my child or a needed break on a long drive. I’m not going to knock my iPhone and I’m not going to beat myself up for using it every day. I’m going to dig deep for grace for myself and understanding of my reasons, while being mindful that my phone is not taking the place of the life I’m living right here. In fact, it puts me in touch with articles and movements like the Hands Free Revolution, that inspire me to be a better mom, a more focused and attentive mom, while continuing to take care of myself.