Oct 12, 2016

Choosing To Be Present

A couple of weeks ago, late at night, I was doing something on my iPad, probably Facebook, while lying in bed. One of my kids came in and started talking to me about things going on in her life and the logistics of the next few days. I thought I was listening but my attention was divided and suddenly I realized she had left the room and I had no idea what we had decided. I wish I could say that hadn't happened before, or since. But I can't.

Another night, I was sitting by my daughter's crib while she cried about going to sleep. She's almost four and I just need her to sleep. I sang her some songs then thought about posting my bedtime struggle on Facebook. Then something struck me. With my older children, when I was with them, I was with them. I didn't have any way to broadcast to the world that the child wouldn't sleep, nor would it have occurred to me. I might have read a book or magazine, while hoping the child would drift off, but I was fully there. And I'm pretty sure we were both better off.

I hear friends on Facebook, usually in small, private groups, discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of Facebook. Most of the friendships I have on Facebook are either "in real life" friends, or they are women I have known through groups and forums that pre-date Facebook. Back when we had avatars and screen names and conversations that didn't involve memes! I can huddle with these ladies in our various groups to discuss motherhood, homeschooling, and our faith. That is the good of Facebook. But even the good can be overdone.

As a young mother, I never would have dreamed of spending the day on the phone chatting with a friend while my children needed me. But the lure of that app on my phone, while the third grader does his math problems, or I wait for the water to boil for pasta, or maybe when the baby is nursing, it pulls my attention away, a little at a time, until it becomes a reflex to click and scroll. For years, I've paid for caller id on the phone so that I wouldn't interrupt our day unless it was an important call. So, why do I let these devices creep in and interrupt constantly?

There are plenty of blog posts, articles, and even books imploring moms especially to put down our phones. Why does this even have to be said? I remember when my husband got his first smartphone and he seemed to be staring at it all the time. I couldn't figure out what he could possibly be doing. For him, it is sports, or news. Then I got one, and the Facebook app, and Candy Crush, and then Instagram. And gradually I became the one with a phone attached to my hand. And I cannot say it has made my life better.

So, what to do. Go back to a flip phone? Quit social media? I admit that I am addicted to my GPS app and love taking pictures that look good. So the iPhone isn't going away. Social media keeps me connected to family, sort of, and long time friends spread throughout the country that support me in this vocation. So, not ready to give that up.

What I can do, what we can all do, is maybe delete the app so it isn't just a click away. Set up break times to mindfully get online, whether it's Facebook, Pinterest, or blogs (or Candy Crush). Make sure the needs of those around us are taken care of first. Leave the phone on the counter or wherever, instead of carrying it around, tempting you, and interrupting you. Let your time with family be time with family. Only answer urgent texts or calls. Put your phone on "do not disturb" and be present.

I need to model to my children how to handle technology and also how to build and maintain relationships.  I need to be mindful of the message it sends if I look at my phone while they are talking to me. I need them to see that when they want my time, I am willing to walk away from all distractions to look them in the eyes. And I need them to see a mother who can just sit and think, ponder life or work with my hands creating something, rather than a mom who clicks and scrolls, who half-listens and who never actually seems to find calm or peace doing so.

Finally, my children need to see a mother who does not constantly seek affirmation from the world but a mother who prayerfully discerns and looks to God for direction and affirmation. I want my children's memories of me to be with a Bible or a prayer book in my hand, not an iPhone. What is the image you want your child to remember?

We can do this.  :)


  1. Molly, this is not only insightful and honest, but practical and helpful. The point you make about modeling restraint for our kids in favor of human relationships is powerful. I am reminded of a dear old Polish priest I knew once who said, "If you swear, they'll swear. If you are unkind, they'll be unkind... etc." If we are always susceptible to the lure of the electronic, our kids will be, and the bonds between us are loosened.

  2. If all else fails, I might try one of these apps. There are versions available for your computer too. http://www.inc.com/jeremy-goldman/6-apps-to-stop-your-smartphone-addiction.html


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