Like an addict, I’ve spent far too much time prioritizing this devilish multi-purpose gadget over my children and my marriage.
Three years ago for Christmas, my husband bought me an iPhone. He says it’s the worst gift he ever gave me because, from the second I laid eyes on it, I became obsessed.
I’m constantly checking my phone—looking at emails, texting with friends, playing Pet Rescue Saga, and scanning Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for photos and the latest breaking news on what’s for dinner. I find it relaxing, almost like a retreat, a way to check-out while still being semi-present.
When my twin boys became old enough to notice—and began saying things like, “Mommy, put your phone down, down, down!”—I knew that I needed to dial it way back. While I’ve certainly curbed my bad habits a bit, the thing is still attached to me like a second skin. I mean, I could leave the house without underwear, maybe without a bra, but without my iPhone, I feel naked. More than naked—anxious and ill-equipped, possibly non-functioning.
I know that I have a real problem but, like a true addict, I’m not quite ready to give up the junk. Still, as I read work emails or online articles or play another game of Candy Crush, I have this vague awareness that I’m missing something. That I’m half-there. That my fuse is short. That there are always other things on my mind. I’m busy, in the middle of something…and apparently prioritizing this devilish multi-purpose gadget over my children and my marriage.
Sure, on a day-to-day basis, it’s no big deal to miss the plot points on Bubble Guppies, or to let my little guys build a Duplo tower on their own. But I don’t want to be so distracted with my precious smartphone, that I’m actually disconnected from the real, live humans I love more than anything.
I don’t want to miss that story my husband’s telling me, or an opportunity for us to just shoot the shit. With my kids, I don’t want to miss their funny toddler quips, the big smiles and silly laughs, or the chance to “go camping” in their bedroom. I don’t want it all to pass me by, while I’m busy browsing for dinner recipes.
We may think that our phones keep us connected, but in many ways, they allow us to hide away. We disappear into a screen, lured in by a frenzy of information, and then lulled into a hypnotic state by the rhythmic tap-tap-tapping on the touchpad. We don’t see ourselves anymore, from the outside, what it looks like while we’re “Mmm-hmmm”-ing our partners, clearly half-listening, not really caring that we’re terrible at hiding it. Our kids have to tell us to put our phones away, and then we’re surprised that they’re so obsessed with the iPad. How did that happen?
I know that it has to stop, or at least, that I need to try to be better. So, with the holidays this week, I’m making a conscious decision to shut off the iPhone, block out the white noise and the empty chatter and the useless fluff.
Why do I need to concern myself with other people’s Christmas hams and festive mantels and gleeful kids when I have my own ham to eat, fireplace to adorn, and happy children to tear presents open with? What text messages are more important than the conversations happening right in front of me? Why check my emails when most of them are just after-Christmas sale spam? Why rush to snap a photo with the great-Grandmas, when this precious time to actually sit and talk and hear their stories is what I’ll really remember?
In many ways, I know it’ll be like a gift to my family, but it’ll also be a gift to myself. I’m treating myself to presence and awareness and the beauty of the now. I’m giving myself a vacation from the frenetic assault of emails and texts and status updates that keep the wheels turning all day and sometimes keep me up at night.
I owe it to myself to tune it all out, to take a real break, and truly absorb the warmth and fun of friends and family. I owe it to my husband to be a partner who listens, who is there to acknowledge his good news or bad day or the interesting article he read. I owe it to him to leave my hands free to squeeze his sweet face, leave myself free to give him a hug or just snuggle together in the morning.
More important, I owe it to my children to be 100% there for them. To watch them enjoy the holiday fun, and to take it all in, this happy, fleeting little boy time. To remember their 3-year-old selves tearing into a superhero gift, enjoying a cookie for Christmas breakfast, or seeing the Rockefeller Center tree for the first time.
The white noise and empty chatter and useless fluff can wait. This, the right now, I can’t miss.
Jennifer Benjamin is an LA-based freelance writer and editor with over thirteen years of experience writing for national magazines and websites like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, SELF, Parents Magazine, The Stir and Daily Glow. More important, she’s a Mommy to identical twin boys, as well as an avid cook, a terrible housewife, and a loungewear enthusiast. Find her on Twitter @JennyBenjamin or Facebook.