A few months ago, I wrote a post about deleting all of the apps from my iPhone in an effort to be more present with my children. I’m sure none of you will be surprised to learn that those apps are back.
Here’s what happened. In the first few days after I removed the apps, I became intensely aware of all of the ways in which I had been using my phone. I was unable to share pictures of my girls with their grandparents and great-grandparents, and I missed reading the status updates from friends and family members. I couldn’t check the news or the weather or any of the blogs I read regularly. As we only have one TV, and it’s rarely on during the day, and my computer is up in our office, I felt quite disconnected. I quickly found myself using the internet app (which I hadn’t removed) to access everything online, which was fine, but certainly less convenient.
And here’s the thing: deleting the apps on my iPhone didn’t fundamentally change my parenting style or the extent to which I am present with my children. What really mattered was whether or not I chose to engage my awareness, to truly be with my kids. The reality is that sometimes my girls need my presence and my connection, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I have it to give, and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I just get it wrong.
My husband and I are both fairly heavy technology users (something I am actively struggling with, as you all know). We have smartphones, tablets, and computers, and we love thinking about and discussing the ways in which technology can make our lives better, and worse. Josh is aware of my interest in mindfulness, and he has asked me on more than one occasion what I would put into a mindful parenting app.
The truth is, I have no idea. Ok, actually, I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t think the technology is there yet. I would like an app that will cook dinner each night, potty train my toddler, remind my preschooler to turn on the water before she covers her hands with soap, and sense when I am about to lose it and remind me in a reasonably non-annoying voice to stop and take a deep breath (or twelve).
The reality is that there is no shortage of apps related to meditation, mindfulness, and happiness. Seeing as how I have been feeling stuck lately, my gut reaction is to download every single one in hopes of finding one that will help me navigate the tricky world of parenting in a mindful way. I love the idea that I could tap on a tiny square and all of a sudden the answers I need to all of my parenting questions will suddenly appear on my tiny screen. Should I put my insolent toddler in time out? Tap here! Should I buy my 4 year old the new Fancy Nancy book she has been obsessing over? Tap here!
Sigh. If only.
My name is Carla. I am the mother of two young daughters, and I am addicted to my iPhone.
I am also a clinical social worker, which means I don’t use the word “addicted” lightly. There are many different ways to understand and define addiction, but the one that has always made the most sense to me focuses on the extent to which the possible addiction interferes with an individual’s ability to function in relationships and work and to keep themselves and others safe. After careful (and somewhat reluctant) reflection, I have come to see my relationship with my iPhone as an addiction.
Although neither my daughters nor I have ever been physically injured because of my smartphone use, I suspect it’s just a matter of time. Despite the fact that texting while driving is illegal in my home state of Massachusetts (as it should be), I do, on occasion text or check Facebook, Twitter, and email at red lights. I would like to tell you that I never do it when my daughters are in the car, but that’s just not true. Studies have found that talking or texting on the phone while driving is roughly the equivalent to driving drunk, yet I would never consider getting behind the wheel tipsy. Even if I were to put down my phone in the car, that’s no guarantee of safety. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal speculates that the rise in childhood injuries may be due to distracted parents—distracted by their iPhones. I’ve certainly spent hours at the park with my head down, staring at a tiny screen, and the fact that one of my daughters hasn’t yet been injured falling off a slide or the monkey bars is probably just a matter of luck.
I recently came across an article on The Huffington Post titled “5 Ways Technology Makes You Miss Your Kids’ Childhood.” The author, Nicole Fabian-Weber, contends that we parents spend so much time trying to capture every last moment or making ourselves accessible to everyone other than our kids that we totally miss the important moments with our children. I agreed with much of the post, but I thought it overlooked the most common ways in which my smartphone pulls me out of the moment with my children: email, Facebook, and Twitter.
Meanwhile, Annie Urban, the author of the PhD in Parenting blog recently re-posted a piece she originally wrote in 2010 on the same topic. However, Ms. Urban offers a more balanced view of the role of technology, acknowledging some of the problems as well as a lot of the benefits of email, Google, and social networking. (Last spring, I also wrote a piece about my struggles with technology for Kveller.com here.)
I agree with both of them. There is no doubt that I am a better parent and a more sane person because of the knowledge I have gained online, the books I have read on my iPhone while waiting for meetings, and most importantly, the friendships I have developed through Twitter and blogs. I spend less time running errands because I can shop online, and we take fewer trips to the Doctor’s office because I can email questions to our pediatrician.