My laptop is to me what most people’s smart phones are to them. It’s my brain, my outlet, my means of communication, my connection to the world. What I hadn’t realized was that in many ways it had actually become my world. When it died, I felt lost and began to experience withdrawal. I found myself reaching for it every time a sliver of stress snuck into my life:
My kids are being needy. Ugh, let me just go check my email—oh, right. I can’t. The laundry is piling up, but I’ve had such a long day. I should take a break and type up some of those blog ideas I had—oh, I can’t. The playroom is a mess AGAIN. Well…I wanted to go check Pinterest to get that new recipe for dinner, and I found one, a Healthy zucchini noodle dinner which is perfect for everyone, all right!
It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I had a problem. And, whether I liked it or not, I had suddenly been thrust into a forced detox. I’d like to share with you what I learned from that detox.
I learned why technology is so addictive for moms. As moms, our days typically consist of rapidly moving from one thing to the next: breakfast, then cleanup, then doctoring an “owie,” then settling an argument, then planning an activity. We literally switch from one thing to another every five minutes. Why not add checking email and surfing Twitter to the mix too? The internet, and technology, is all about speedy results. So are moms.
Not only is technology just our speed, it’s also very clever at filling the emotional and social gaps of our daily lives. As an introvert and a perfectionist, being a mom is especially hard for me because every interaction with my children forces me to do several difficult things:
- Encounter their unpredictable words and actions.
- Formulate and execute an appropriate (or, in my mind, perfect) response.
- Evaluate immediately whether my response was correct based on their reactions.
This draining process is repeated a hundred or more times a day. In contrast, technology—
- Allows me to have complete control over what I experience.
- Requires nothing from me, and—as I click from site to site—allows me to act impulsively without consequence.
- Gives me the freedom to communicate with others at my own speed and carefully plan my reply before sending it.
I learned what my triggers were. Like any addict, I had triggers: certain situations or feelings that would cause me to reach for that glowing screen to soothe my nerves, like an alcoholic reaching for a drink. Once that glowing screen was gone and those grated nerves stayed grated, I started noticing what my triggers were:
- Experiencing too much external input (having more than one kid demanding my attention at one time)
- Being faced with responsibilities that felt too overwhelming to handle
- Recognizing my own shortcomings as a mom
- Being overly tired
- Boredom: wanting more mental stimulation than a conversation with a two-year-old can provide.
I learned what I’d been missing. I’m not a terrible mother; I always did the things I was supposed to do. I cooked meals, read to my kids, helped with homework, and for the most part I kept up with housework. But I spent a lot of my time feeling short-fused and irritated. I felt like I never had any time. I always wanted to be doing something else, and I never felt like I was good enough, or organized enough, or fill-in-the blank enough for my role as wife and mother. I was just never enough.
When the screen finally went dark, I realized that my children were not as annoying as they had seemed before. My housework was not as burdensome as it had felt before. And, do you know what else happened? That person that I always wanted to be just kind of showed up. And I realized that I was enough.
When that not-good-enough feeling dissipated the whole world seemed to change. I found an inner clarity and peace that I hadn’t thought possible in a hectic home with four young children. As it turned out, it was possible all along. I just had to stop staring at a screen long enough to see it.
I learned how to break the habit. By this point you may be seeing yourself in some of what I’ve written, and if you do, you are not alone. Technology addiction is a worldwide epidemic, and it’s hitting moms hard. But there are three things you can do to break free:
- Identify and eliminate triggers. Is there a certain time of day when you find yourself reaching for your phone or computer in order to avoid certain tasks or activities? Could you eliminate some unnecessary activities or streamline family systems in order to reduce stressors that make you want to escape to technology?
- Replace addictive habits with healthier ones. When you feel yourself reaching for your phone, instead try turning on some uplifting music, reading a book, throwing yourself into some productive housework, or stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. Each of these things takes the same amount of time as surfing social media and will likely leave you feeling far more refreshed, peaceful, and capable.
- Ask yourself, is technology your servant or your master? This question is a great way to keep your tech usage in check whenever you feel the urge to go online. Make sure you’re making conscious decisions about what you’ll be clicking on and how long you’ll spend with your technology. Don’t let Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram call the shots. You are in charge.
As Jan Pinborough said, keeping technology usage in check ”requires the discipline to unplug, a conscious choice to turn away from our screens and turn off our digital devices.” And then she gives this wonderful promise: “By striving to more fully and more frequently behold our little ones, we will nourish our children’s sense of worth, enrich our relationships with one another, and enjoy more of those sacred moments when we see into the hearts of our children.”
Is technology stealing your motherhood? You have the power to take it back.
QUESTION: When do you feel yourself becoming distracted by technology? Do you have any tricks to minimize such distractions?
CHALLENGE: Choose to stay away from technology for eight straight hours. Was it hard? Was it easy? Did you find yourself going through withdrawal? How did it change your interactions and your choices about how you spent your time?
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Katie Carter.
Image from Pixabay; graphics by Anna Jenkins.