“I lost my phone, but found my parenting”

Article by Clare Patience /
Kidspot /
April 06, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

Last year The Project, Carrie Bickmore confessed her addiction. A mobile phone addiction. Her quest over her Easter break was to leave her phone at home when she and her family went to dinner or to the beach.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do!” she confessed.

But the results were incredible. “I was a better mum! I wasn’t as annoyed as I usually am – I’m so embarrassed to say that but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done as a parent.”

Adults on average spend around two hours a day mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, explained Dr Lauren Rosewarne from the University of Melbourne.

I think I’m worse.

“I was a better mum!” Carrie Bickmore revealed of giving up her phone.

Guilty as charged

You know those mums at the playground who bustle their kids onto the swing and then absentmindedly push with one hand while gazing at their phone in the other – yep, guilty!

So honed is my phone-to-face reflex, that I can scan, like and respond with an appropriate emoticon within the blink of an eye. I’m an Olympic champion at Facebook, Instagram and text messages.

Here’s my disclaimer: it’s not completely frivolous. I’m not just scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds looking up from time to time to grunt at my kids. There’s some legitimate work stuff going on. And the beauty of my darling, dearest, loveliest phone is that I can get out and about with the kids AND reply to messages for work and for the briefest of moments pretend that I’ve got this work/life/mummy balance thing sorted. HA!

And there’s the truth that all stay-at-home parents are aware of: parenting can be so looooonely. Transitioning out of the bustling people-y office world into the world of children can take its toll. Sometimes I realise I’m chatting just a little bit too animatedly to my barista or veggie delivery guy because I just need to have a conversation that doesn’t involve the words “poo” or “careful” or “PUT THAT DOWN”. A phone casually connects me to my real friends and that can be lifesaving.

And here’s the thing. I think it’s harmless. I do make sure I give my kids undivided one-on-one time. We paint, build LEGO, garden, feed the chooks together without my phone. Or so I thought …

Lost cause

Lately I couldn’t help noticing that my little boy is annoyed when I pick up my phone, pushing it out of my hand or sticking his big, boofy head in front of the screen grinning like a maniac forcing me to put it aside and give him a tickle. My daughter has started misbehaving when I’m on a call. There’s no doubt they’re actually competing with my phone for attention.

And you know where this is going, don’t you … Because EXACTLY a week ago today my beautiful, clever phone broke up with me. It was devastatingly dramatic and painfully abrupt, leaving not a trace, not even a note to explain why. I tried to track, I DESPERATELY typed FIND MY PHONE into my apps, but this time my phone was serious, cleverly depleting its battery and going offline, for what seems like forever.

I’ve experienced the full spectrum of emotions since: denial, anger, frustration but weirdly relief is starting to creep in there too. All that contact would fill my head with conversations – like Carrie Bickmore said, sometimes I’d get annoyed with my kids because my head was already too full. The sudden freeing up from all that social media has made me a more sociable mummy.

In the last week I’ve found the time to play My Little Ponies, tickle monster AND taught my daughter how to make her bed. Cooking dinner doesn’t feel so tiresome because it takes half the time when I’m focused on it.

We go on walks and I’m not slyly checking in on work or what my friends are up to. Instead I’m aware of the kids and we’re having conversations and it’s fun. I feel more relaxed and I think the kids are enjoying phone-free me too.

It’s not going to last, I neeeeed my phone. But it’s been eye opening to see how full blown my relationship with my phone had become, and here’s my pinky swear: I’m not going to let it get in the way of my kids again.