I remember as a young child my mother talking on the telephone for long periods of time. Of course, this was in the day before cell phones or–heaven forbid–cordless phones. Yep, this was back in the day when she was stuck in one place while somebody on the other end of the phone line unleashed their life problems on her.
I can remember one particular occasion that she seemed to be on the phone f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Whether it was an attempt to get her attention, or simply out of boredom, my brother and I emptied out the contents of our bathroom closet one by one and threw the items down the stairs.
I remember other occasions when my mother sat at her desk in front of a green ledger book tracking the family finances.
I remember my mother sitting on the couch watching a television show while she made a quiet book for my brother. I can also remember her sitting in her bedroom at the sewing machine sewing countless articles of clothing.
Some days she laid on a couch and read a book. Some days she sat on the couch and watched a favorite television show. Some days she worked on a Cross Reference puzzle.
(I remember PLENTY of days filled with my mother doing housework, volunteer assignments, cooking, etc. but that’s not the point of my thoughts here. …)
At a recent Power of Moms Retreat in California, one of the “issues” that kept coming up was technology. During many of our small-group discussions, we pointed to “technology” as a distraction, or a joy sucker, and more often than not, as a negative thing.
Even though I still prefer to read a book made of paper, and I’d much rather play a board game than a virtual game, I still spend A LOT of time in front of a screen.
When I need to do our family finances, I do it on a computer.
When I am organizing photos for my family, I do it on a computer.
Instead of a lot of phone calls, I do emails on a computer.
If I want to do a Sudoku puzzle, I sometimes do it on my phone.
If mothers today want to read a book, they may read it on the screen.
When I want to read “the newspaper”, I do it on the computer.
If I need to arrange a carpool, I use my phone to text.
While my mother enjoyed sewing, or making quiet books, I enjoy writing. I do it on a computer.
When a mother wants a new exercise routine, it’s easy to find a new one on a nearby device.
Even the book of John from the Bible that I’ve been trying to study this month, I read from my phone.
Is technology really “distracting” us anymore than our mothers were “distracted” a generation ago? How much are we distracted and how much are we busy doing things mothers need to do?
It seems funny that me of all people seems to be extolling the virtues of technology. I’m really not. I’m not even trying to justify behavior. We are likely doing the same things our parents needed/wanted to do a generation ago: balancing bank statements, organizing family photos, and reading obituaries. Yet the way we’re doing it is the difference. We seem to worry that our children will only remember us in front of a screen, but that is THEIR future, too.
Of course there is the issue of entertainment and mindless time spent in front of screens that may certainly require some personal evaluation. But the fact remains that even though our children may see us spending a lot of time in front of a screen, it isn’t necessarily any different than the generations before us and the day-to-day things our mothers were involved in. Perhaps we just need to explain to our children that while they may use their screen time for entertainment, the majority of our screen time is not. Perhaps we need to apply some patience with ourselves and not just criticism.
With that said, we likely all have room for improvement in area of technology usage. I need to do a better job of not checking every text as soon as it comes in on my phone, and I don’t need to be updated daily on what my friend from 6th grade is doing.
This is all new! No one in the history of the world has parented with the same “distractions” we have today. But those distractions are also oh so convenient! How wonderful to be able to have that last minute chat with a friend while sitting in the school parking lot, and not when the children are home needing our attention. Or we can email someone amidst chaos and noise and not have to wait for peace and quiet in the background to make a phone call.
We’re all still trying to figure it out. It will take time and patience to balance it all for good, even as new advances and “distractions” come at us. We can’t call all technology distractions. So much is good! At least our children won’t be emptying the bathroom cupboard while we’re stuck in a room attached to a cord on the telephone.
Oh, but wait! It can happen while we finish up that last email, or balance that last bank statement.
But we won’t think about that for now.
QUESTION: What do you think? Is the prevalence of screens a help or a hindrance? How do you balance your own screen time?
CHALLENGE: Take some time away from a screen to evaluate your technology habits. Is there room for betterment? If so, decide on one concrete step you will take to improve.
Image courtesy of suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net