These days, the words “tech-free” are almost an oxymoron in our culture.
You can pay with your watch at most major stores, you can drop a pin to find a friend in a crowded place and you can order pretty much anything you can think of and have it delivered in two days. Seriously, I ordered five pounds of my favorite candy the other night, and two days later was pleasantly surprised when I found it waiting at my door after work. (I swiftly lost my “prime privileges” after that purchase though – at least after I’ve had three glasses of rosé.)
I’ll be the first to stand in line and testify that I’m no stranger to the luxuries technology provides us. It truly has made my life as a full-time working mother of two much easier and efficient.
I’ve written about being a “device-free” household before, but as my girls grow, the ever-present peer pressure is beginning to creep in. The conversation I have at least once a week with my seven-year-old goes something like this:
Kid: “Mom, when can I have a phone?”
Me: “You are seven, what could you possibly need a phone for?”
Kid: “So you can get in touch with me whenever you want.”
Me: “You are never without an adult that you cannot ask to use their phone and call me. So no, you cannot have a phone.”
Kid: “Okay, what about an iPad? They have learning games and all sorts of other things that can help make me smarter.”
Me: “Books and your own imagination will do that. You don’t need an iPad.”
Yes, at this point I do realize I sound like the cranky old critics from “The Muppets” and am one step away from starting a sentence with “when I was a child, we didn’t have cell phones and we had to walk to school barefoot in the snow …”
Round and round we go, until she hits me between the eyes with the closing line of her argument:
“Then why do you and dad get to look on your phones all the time?”
Trying to explain away the reasons – we are replying to work emails, answering text messages and checking in with what’s happening on the plethora of news apps at my fingertips – my answers did not sit well with me no matter how I tried to crawfish my way out of her spot-on observation.
So I did what every mother since the beginning of time does when she cannot come up with a good enough answer – I told her the conversation was over and changed the subject.
As you can expect, I was not getting off that easy.
Not being able to get my heart around the whole “do as I say, not as I do” argument on this one, I decided to lead by example and shut down my phone when I get home.
After school time, dinner time, morning routines, weekends – any time we get to spend together as a family of four – I relatively check out from my phone and focus on enjoying life with one another. I use the term “relatively” because life isn’t perfect and neither are we. Sometimes the email needs an immediate answer or the phone call needs to be taken.
I’m still adjusting to a tech-free(ish) home life, but since I put my phone away I realized how much I was missing. And not just at home, but in the real world.
When was the last time you were waiting at a restaurant and rather than look up what was happening on social media, just observed the space you are in? When was the last time you just let yourself be – no distractions, no obligations, just spent time getting to know yourself again?
Listen, I’m not trying throw any mama shame here. That’s not my style. I know we’ve got mom-trepreneurs and CEOs and moms making life-saving and life-changing decisions well beyond the traditional nine to five. I just ask the question, “when you are able to unplug, are you letting yourself?”
The less time I spent away from my phone at home, the less important it is in my life. I’m able to be fully present with my girls and husband after a long day of work and school. It’s my hope that by my example they can prioritize where devices should play in their relationships – not only with others but with themselves.