Phone-y Parenting



Being on my phone was never an issue to me. I bought my first cell phone in high school and pretty much since then I have always had one, and always had it with me, like another limb. I never thought anything of it - it's reality now - everyone texts and checks their Facebook, Instagram, email, etc. and to do so we have our phones. 
Enter children. My tiny little humans that look up to me as a role model. My sweet little boys with rapidly growing and developing brains. My little everythings. The last thing I want is for my boys to grow up thinking that it's okay to be glued to a screen all day long. Other screens have been easily eliminated - I don't find it hard to keep the TV off or not use the computer throughout the day. My phone however, that's another story. 
My big little screen problem all boiled over last week when I had a meltdown. Last week I had a tough day. One of those days when, for whatever reason, you just cry. I didn't have a particularly tough night with the boys, I wasn't ill or heartbroken, I just felt like crying. Don't get me wrong, these days are normal, and they are okay. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that days like these are cleansing. I once read:
"it is better to cry than to be angry because anger hurts others, while tears flow silently through the soul and cleanse the heart." Pope John Paul II
And so on days when I just feel like crying, I simply do. On this particular morning I let my husband take over for a few minutes and I had a nice shower to cry in.
But the day must go on, my husband must go to work and I consider strongly the effect that crying all day long would have on my two sons. Clearly I will not sit and wallow all day long, while my boys look to me as a role model. And although I believe it to be cleansing, I also believe in choosing your attitude - yes, all you Vivo readers, this philosophy extends into my personal life as well. So I choose my attitude, I decide to be happy, I think of all of the wonderful blessings in my life that I am to be thankful for. And the day goes on.
My sappy morning got me to thinking though, and this post by a wonderful writer, Kristen LaValley, came to mind. A lot of moms feel isolated, lonely or sad. I am lucky enough to have many momma friends and I know this is a common feeling so I wondered - perhaps it's not the being at home raising kids part of it that is lonely? Perhaps there is something else adding to it?  Initiate nerdy-research behaviour - my calculated Google searched began.
As it turns out the research goes both ways - naturally. Despite my love of research I am a firm believer that studies can often be influenced to give desired results and there are many other factors to be considered in certain outcomes, so tread lightly in your endeavours my friends. 
One of the most famous or infamous studies, depending on what side of the fence you sit on, is the "Internet Paradox" (Robert Kraut et al. 1998). Kraut and his gang decided that using the internet led to less interaction within the household, smaller social circle involvement and higher levels of depression and loneliness. If you're into this sort of thing you can check out the full PDF. They revisited this same paradox a few years later ("The Internet Paradox - Revisited") and decided that now the findings followed more of a "rich get richer" effect - extroverted and well supported individuals were less likely to experience negative effects based on internet use while introverts and those with little support were more likely to experience depression and loneliness with increased internet use. 
Take what you will from the studies - my experience is that increased internet usage typically results in increased loneliness, isolation and general sadness being at home with my boys. And I've asked my momma friends - apart from using the internet as a means of communicating with family that is out of town, my momma friends agree that when they spend more time on Facebook, Instagram, etc. they feel the aforementioned negative feelings.
Fear not, my research did not end there... I refuse to believe that Facebook can make you sad - just as I refuse to believe that a screen can make a kid fat. When we are on our phones, checking our Facebook, Instagram, etc. we are not being present, we are not experiencing the moment. Did you know that being present makes you happier? And because I've loaded this post with heavy research, here is a fun infographic with all sorts of tidbits on being present.
True to form I put my research to the test. Flashback to my sappy morning. Upon finishing my cleansing-crying session I decided that I would only check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. when both kids were napping. I decided to see what happened if I just left my phone on the counter all day. Yes, I still texted my husband, my sister, my dear friends, but I chose to do so at opportune moments. You know what? I felt amazing. I was present with my boys far more often and when we are present as parents, we are far more effective. I also noticed I had less feelings of "constantly being in demand." I attribute this to being present. My son didn't need to peel my attention away from my phone to watch him shoot his hockey puck. We played together, my full attention on our activity. My day was made significantly better by putting down my phone and increasing my mindfulness.
I'm still working on finding my balance - some days I go online far more than others. But this is what life is all about, experimenting and enjoying things in moderation. 
So I am not writing this to tell you to stop using your phone forever. I am not telling you how much or how little you should use your phone. I am writing this to share my experience and maybe the right person will read this, the right person will relate, the right person will try living in the moment and the right person will feel happier because of it.
lovefrommaria

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