Putting the Devices Down: How Un-Plugging Tuned Me Back In To My Family

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old, Motherhood, We Are In This Together

Even though I have a lot crammed into my 24/7, I adore my crazy life. I am a mama of a toddler, stepmama to three older boys, wife to their amazing daddy, and manager of a large commercial building. Whenever I have free time (we’ll get to that later) I love to write.

The one thing that has allowed me to keep so many irons in the fire (aside from my own amazing mama who babysits for me) is technology. I wouldn’t be able to do half the things I do in a day if I didn’t have wireless internet, a smart phone, a Chromebook, and my Google Drive.

I have the luxury of working from home when I need to, answering emails as soon as they hit my inbox; writing leases and setting up showings right along with cooking meals. I am a working mama who sometimes stays at home, or a stay-at-home-mama who also works. However you want to look at it. I guess you could call me a “Hybrid” Mom. Basically, I am just very blessed to have the best of both worlds.

Whenever I am caught up at work, and the kids are fed and entertained (or sleeping!) I write. I write to keep my head clear, my stress level low, and my blessings in the forefront of my mind. And these days, even my writing happens online; it is much easier for me to write on a device than to carry around a notebook and a pencil all day long to record those spur-of-the-moment random thoughts.

But here’s the thing.

Some days it seems like I spend more time looking at screens than I do looking into the little blue eyes I live and work so hard for.

I find myself saying “please hang on, mama’s trying to finish an email” or “one second, honey” or “mama has to make a phone call first.”

To make matters worse, now that my baby has hit toddlerdom, motherhood has shifted from pretty much all-encompassing to FULL-TIME HANDS-ON. I have been so busy that lately my morning coffee time with my husband has become my best time for an online check-in.

So when that dear husband of mine asked me if I NEEDED to be online the other morning, I asked him what he meant. He spoke his heart: He missed our mornings of coffee and visiting and watching Hank dance to Baby First and laughing while he bounced back and forth between us for bites of our coffee-cakes. Together. I was there, but I wasn’t there. I was off in cyberland.

It was a definite wake-up call.

So? I woke up.

I snapped the chromebook closed, grabbed my coffee, and tuned back into the blessings that I was missing. Right in front of my face.

All that day, I thought about my online work and social media habits. I thought about how present I was being when I wasn’t at the office. I thought about how much time I spend working on my various devices throughout the day and evening, and decided it was simply too much.

Do I really need to share my latest post right then, during my best quality time with my husband?

Do I really need to reply to every comment on my social media accounts, right when my phone buzzes?

Do I need to waste precious time (and these days, my time is precious) scrolling through pages of ridiculous political memes on Facebook?

Do I need to answer every work call or email the second that I get it, on days when I am not in the office?

Nope. I sure don’t.

Not right now.

Right now all I need to do is be one little boy’s amazing mama, one husband’s loving wife, and three boys’ supportive stepmom.

So I am putting down my devices. As often as I can.

Even more importantly, I am also choosing to LEAVE it down, in my car. I don’t know about the rest of you busy gals, but I am 100% guilty of checking my email quickly or texting to check on the baby from the road, and I know that needs to stop. I am never SO BUSY that I need to be plugged-in while driving. 

I am putting down the device.

I am vowing to be more present as a wife and as a mother.

I am vowing to be a completely safe, focused driver.

Facebook can wait.

Email can wait.

The blog can wait.

My family shouldn’t have to.

As if I wasn’t already convinced, my wise young toddler cemented my decision with what I think was a sign from above. Yesterday morning, while I was down on the rug playing cars with him, daddy went upstairs for a refill on his coffee. Hank saw me grab my phone to steal a quick glance at my news feed. I didn’t even think to grab my half-empty cappuccino that was sitting on the end table behind me, getting cold.

As soon as I swiped the screen on my phone, I felt a strange sensation begin at my left shoulder and spread all across my lap. In that brief moment when my brain was online, my entire criss-cross apple-sauce got completely covered in lukewarm coffee and perfectly foamed milk. I slowly turned to look behind me–in shock–and saw my adorable toddler sheepishly holding my big green mug. My big green EMPTY mug.

Well, that sure showed me, didn’t it!

I don’t know whether he intended to bring me my coffee as a sweet gesture, or to pour it on me to say “put the phone down, mama!”

From the look on his face, I’m guessing it was the latter.

So after I changed my clothes and spot-cleaned the rug, I took the hint. I put the device down.

Today, our morning coffee time was technology-free.

And it was lovely.

He’s so much better to look at than a screen!

Christmas in June

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old

After I got baby all tucked into bed, I walked out to the kitchen.

Why does it smell like Christmas in here? I haven’t baked anything in a long time – 

Oh boy. I know why. Those darn CLOVES! The cute little red jar of cloves that Hank was rolling all around the kitchen earlier, while I did the dinner dishes? Yep. Well, apparently he mastered the skill of biting the top open with his teeth tonight, and I didn’t notice, because it was now sprinkled across my kitchen floor. Of course, he couldn’t have chosen the whole cloves (you know the nice big ones you stick in oranges?) That would have been so easy to clean up! But oh no, not Hank! He picked the GROUND cloves to dust the entire kitchen with.

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What are we baking today, mama?

But clove dusting aside, it was a big day for Hank! And mopping up those cloves gave me some nice quiet time to ponder on my two big Hank ‘Firsts‘ from the day! One was really great; the other, well – not so great.

The great First:

After almost 13 months of trying to get my son to love books, and failing miserably, I finally had a successful story-time!

Well, let me back up and clarify that first statement a little bit. Hank has always loved books. He loves slobbering on them, chewing on them, biting holes out of the covers, tearing off the ‘flaps’ that hide the cute little surprises, and most of all he loves chucking them across the room as hard as he can, with a big “hiyaaaah!”

But tonight, he gave the frustrated teacher-mom in me some much-needed hope. Hank walked over to his book crate library, picked out Where’s Spot?, crawled into my lap, and let me read him the whole thing. And he thought that was so great, he had me read it a second time! And he laughed his adorable bald head off every time I opened one of those darn little flaps, and we saw that Spot wasn’t under it! I almost couldn’t believe that he didn’t try even once, to sneak his little ninja hands on a flap and give it a tug.

Thank God, maybe there is hope after all!

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My little future reader (hopefully!)

The not-so-great First:

Our other surprise tonight, was not quite as much fun as story-time was. Hank got his very first goose egg! Remember when I said how I needed to get my running shoes ready, so I could keep up with him? Well, I didn’t realize I needed to get them this WEEK, but it looks like I better get some rounded up!

So, Hank decided he wants to disprove the saying that you have to learn to walk before you can run. Tonight was a failed attempt, sadly, and I certainly didn’t earn my Mom-of-the-Year badge tonight, either. Like every bath night, I had a good laugh while he frolicked around his room in his post-bath, diaper-only freedom. BUT – I was so entertained watching his new little skip-hop-step attempt at running, that I didn’t anticipate the header into the side of the crib that followed! Or the goose egg that popped up shortly thereafter. Once Dr. Daddy had inspected his little melon and told me it was nothing to worry about, I felt much better, but I was already starting to pull up a google search about head bumps and babies on my phone.

I was hoping to not have a repeat of a night earlier this week, when I remembered an article on Facebook that struck a chord with me (about some child who died from secondary drowning.) Suddenly, mid-bath, I panicked. I was sure that Hank had just swallowed a dangerous amount of water while splashing like a maniac in his 2 to 4 inches of 97-degree bath water. I mean, he kept burping! After splashing in the tub! So that means he must be trying to cough up water, right? His eyes even started to water!

I can’t tell you how many times I checked on him that night, clicking the monitor on and off, making sure he was moving and breathing normally. That was exhausting. And while my day brain told me that he only drank a tiny bit of water, and he isn’t in the 1% of kids who actually have this happen, my night brain was still a nervous wreck about it. Because it was nighttime, daddy was on the road for work, and our precious little life was depending on me and me alone, to not let him die of secondary drowning from splashing too much in the tub!

Whew. Even just typing that out was exhausting.

So, here is my rambunctious 1-year-old, teaching me another life lesson. I am going to take the story-time success, the fact that my kitchen now smells lovely, and the positive report on the not-too-serious goose egg as my “Christmas in June” presents from Hank. And I will be giving myself another, equally fabulous present – a vow to myself as a mother in The Age of Social Media. I vow to myself, that I will no longer read all the articles on Facebook warning me about every possible injury/disaster/illness my child might encounter and the 57 million ways to prevent them. 

I have common sense, right?

I know that somehow, my parents raised me and my brother, in the good old 80’s, without reading any articles warning them about secondary drowning. And they taught us to water-ski at age 4. In a lake. I am sure I swallowed some serious water that summer. But I survived!

I grabbed my phone, and clicked close on the tab of my “head bumps and babies” search window. And with that, came peace of mind. And with peace of mind, can come sleep. So I better get some, because who knows what exciting adventures will be waiting for me tomorrow with my (almost) RUNNING baby!