If you remember, I issued myself an “Unplugged Parenting” challenge a few weeks back. I promised to turn off the screen and social media unless my kids were taking a nap or having quiet time. I’m a little over halfway through the challenge, so I thought appropriate to give you guys an update.
The short of it? It was really awesome until I completely fell off the boat last week. And when I say completely, I mean it. I got sick last week with some weird bug, and spent the large majority of the time vegging out. I hurried through homeschool, put the kids in front of shows, scrolled through the smartphone unabashedly, and we all had a dreadful few days hooked on screens again.
Well. We could use a reset button, couldn’t we?
Before that, as I said, I felt that “going unplugged” on a long-term basis was really beneficial and enlightening. I can think of very few times in my life when I’ve had little or no access to screens, phones, video games, tv, computers, etc… However, each occasion where that’s been the case has been so rewarding.
As for the last three weeks, I’ve been surprised by how much more time we had. (Who knew? The internet is a time sucker!) We got more accomplished and played more together. I didn’t have that uneasy feeling that I had just wasted a perfectly good half hour doing who knows what on Facebook.
We were SO much less distracted. I didn’t “just check” this or that throughout the day- and so, I was present with my children. It sounds simple, but actually listening to, learning from, and being with my children without going down so many technological rabbit trails was a really beautiful thing. It’s amazing how much we can miss without realizing it.
We spent more time outside, played more music- and I would wager to say, just enjoyed real life more.
Consequently, we were also less grumpy. (Generally, of course.) I think that’s because we were spending more quality time together, and better tending to each other’s needs.
The best night was a night that we made heart-shaped pizza together. We made a TOTAL wreck of the kitchen mixing dough, rolling it out, using cookie cutters, and topping teeny Valentines-ey culinary creations. To make thing messier, we baked a quadruple batch of friendship cake at the same time. We ate by candlelight with the counters in complete shambles around us.
After dinner, my husband turned on Pandora, plugged in his bluetooth speaker, and turned up some music. My daughter stood by my side, “washing” dishes with me, while I handed my son a dish at a time to dry and put away. My husband chipped away at the countertop. It was a cheerful scene, reminiscent of Snow White and her animal friends whistling while they worked. The kitchen got cleaned relatively quickly and we ended the night with family reading time.
Now why couldn’t we live like that all the time? Undistracted, cheerful, hardworking, kind? Focusing on the relationships instead of all the screens that steal our time and attention?
I’m not fooled into thinking that removing technology will create a perfect world for our family. And of course, technology isn’t bad in and of itself. However- at least for this mama- removing it for a time definitely seemed to help us refocus our priorities.
So here I go again. I may have flopped and failed for a bit, but it’s time to just pick up where I left off and carry on for the rest of this challenge. I know I won’t regret it. <3
“Mama, can we go outside? Can we go sledding?!?”
After several months with hardly a nod to old man winter, we finally got our first notable accumulation of white stuff this week. (I’m not complaining.) I groaned as the children tugged at my shirt hem and scrambled for boots.
“Not right now guys,” I answered, stalling. “I’ve gotta take care of a couple things first.”
I mentally tried to work up the gumption to get the three kids snowsuited, hatted, gloved, and bundled. My inner sluggard despises the preparation and supervision needed for outdoor winter play, especially when I’m trying to keep an infant warm too.
I had just gotten the baby to sleep when the kids asked to watch a show on Amazon. I said yes, with great relief, and set them up in front of the computer. I’d much rather do that than deal with bulky layers, potty needs, icy fingers, and wet play clothes.
It was a lazy mother moment, to say the least. I let them be content with another episode of Daniel Tiger on the screen, instead of the chill and crispness of a winter’s day with fresh snow on the branches, and the promise of coming inside for hot chocolate and a warm bath afterwards.
It’s an example that’s indicative of my own problems. I’d much rather sit down in front of Facebook than knit. I’m more addicted to my smart phone than my music practice. Email can easily suck away the time that could be spent building blocks or playing dragons with my children.
What’s more than that, I find that too much “tech time” can put a real damper on all of our moods- mine included. We get cranky and irritable after staring at a screen. None of us want to be distracted from that which is entertaining us. It’s ugly to see it in a 2 year old’s temper tantrum when a show is turned off. It’s even uglier when a parent doesn’t want to be pulled away from his or her own “toys.”
We talk often about creating an “unplugged childhood” for our kids. What about unplugged parenting?
When my kids are grown, what memories will I want to look back on? Hours of scrolling through countless news feeds, communications, beeps and notifications? Or doing, being, loving, living together?
I think the answer should be obvious.
I’m going to commit to going the next 40 days (yes, inspired by the Lenten season) in not being on the computer or smart phone unless the kids are asleep or having quiet time. I usually think these kinds of rules feel a little silly, but sometimes it helps me to make changes if I have a concrete plan. Plus, if I make a public commitment to do it then it will be good motivation to follow through. 😉 All the blog and social media posts that you see from me for a while (including this one) will be pre-scheduled.
Technology can be quite useful, and it isn’t inherently bad. However, it’s become far too much of a distraction for our family, and that needs to change. Anyone care to join me?
Last Monday afternoon, I accidentally broke the cord on my phone charger when my phone was almost dead. Arrg, I thought, now I’m going to have to order another. So I went home that night, found a charger for my iPhone on Amazon prime, and saw that it wouldn’t arrive until Thursday.
It was a little frustrating, but I have gone without phone and/or internet for periods of time before, and it has always been a refreshing time. So I decided that I would make the most of it.
While I still had my computer at home, I found that I suddenly had a lot more time without that silly phone around to pick up at any given moment. I was less distracted and more observant, and- lo and behold- my kids were less cranky too. Probably because mama was more engaged.
How easy is it for us all to be wrapped up in our screens all day. How quickly we forget what it’s like to be unavailable for a day or two- even for an hour or two. How frustrated everyone is when they can’t get in touch with you quickly!
While I’m not ready to make any big drastic changes like dropping internet or ditching the cell phone, the week greatly encouraged me to leave my phone behind more often and to keep the computer off for more of the day.
I’ve got two links you should check out this week on this topic:
The Big Disconnect– Ironically, I began reading this book at a friend’s house the morning before I broke my phone. This startling book pictures what our constant relationship with technology does to our relationships within our family. The author discusses how our affinity for gadgets and social media can be destructive and dangerous when given an improper place in the family’s life. Many scenarios were frighteningly familiar and unsettling- but most saddening was hearing what children and teens really think of their parents’ screen addictions. I cannot yet vouch for the entire book as I only read a couple of chapters, but it is on my library check-out list for next week.
The Value of Real Connections– This guest writer on Living Well Spending Less shares how she and her family go without internet or cable, and only limited smart phone usage. She challenges all of us to consider what we’re sacrificing in our day, and to re-prioritize accordingly. Inspiring- albeit intimidating- this non-connected mom is standing for that precious time with our families that we too easily let slip away.
I’m certainly far from perfect with this. I need to hear it and think about it just as much as everyone else. So, I’m going to get off this computer to think about how I can better schedule my blog/work time, so that I am ALL there for these sweet ones when they need me.
Have a Saturday in which you are fully present in the here and now.
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