You may or may not have heard a story or two in the news about a wacky mother from NJ who swore off technology for one full year. If you have read these stories...hi, it's me! It has been said that I started this craziness because I missed my son take his first steps. My daughter made me look up from my phone, exclaiming "Mom, you're missing it!". This is true, but there's a little more to it then that.
Rewind now 9 years ago, I was becoming a mother for the first time, and joy of joys I had a little girl! My daughter Melissa hung the moon. She was a good-natured, happy baby and quite frankly easy. She slept 12 hours through the night at 8 weeks old, ate well, smiled often, and didn't slow me down one bit. I was in my early 20's and my energy was boundless. I did several loads of laundry a day (which I folded and then put away!!! Who WAS I?). I joined every mommy and me group in the vicinity of our little town of Edgewater, and I hosted early morning play dates where I would wake up early and buy fresh bagels. Motherhood was easy, (insert eye roll). I loved it and I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my life. Five years later my husband and I were ready to try for another baby. We did! It worked and we got two for the price of one. Twins! Twin boys to be exact. As daunting as this news initially was, I was really excited. We were getting ready to welcome not one but two new little people into our family fold.
The boys arrived, earlier then expected but healthy and beautiful. We were a family of 5 bursting at the seams with joy. They were quickly released from the NICU and we brought them home, where everything was perfect, for 20 minutes.
I remember the first time our sons cried simultaneously. Not one, but two itty bitty 5 lbs babies who wanted to be fed, changed, and picked up at the same exact time. Needless to say, life got a little bit harder. In the midst of helping my 1st grader with her homework, pumping (trying to), nursing in tandem (trying to), and attempting to shower weekly, I sort of freaked out. One of my all time favorite parts of the day was when my husband would come home from work. I would toss a bottle at him and promptly hide. I would close the bedroom door and pick up my phone. I would decompress for however long I possibly could and my cell phone quickly became my escape. I lived vicariously through people's vacation photos on Facebook. I read article after article on the Huffington Post, and I could not tell you what one of those stories was about. All of that was fine, deserved, needed, and understandable, but here's the thing, it didn't really get easier. I didn't really bounce back with that boundless energy from my first parenting experience. Getting the kids out of the house was hard, feeding them was hard, everything was just hard! I went out less and may have even gotten a little depressed. My cell phone was my escape. I seemed to be on it more and more. Fifteen months later my son was taking his first step, and I missed it because I was looking down!
A project began to take shape in my mind. I needed something to get me excited, focused, and out of my own head. As an English major in college I dreamed about writing the Great American Novel. My plan was to disconnect for a year and write about doing so in the process. I tried my best. Here are 5 things I learned and still (try) to implement now that I'm plugged back in.
1. Take less pictures. Whhaaaattt did I just say? I’m serious. Don't get me wrong, take pictures, but learn to put the phone down. Adorable moments happen all day long when kids are small. Be there for them, Instagram free and present. A picture will last forever, you're right, but that memory will burn into your heart. I can still see my daughter's smile the first time she went down the slide on her own. It gets me teary eyed just remembering it, no photograph needed!
2. You will be OK if you leave the house without your phone. I'm totally out to lunch, I know, but seriously everything will be fine. I'm not talking about a cross country trip here but if you run down the street to Trader Joe's, I promise you you're going to make it there and back without it. You may even start to enjoy the freedom. Before I became more mindful of my devices, I would use my grocery outings as a way to "connect". I found myself texting, posting, liking and what have you, during these trips. Without my cell phone I would grab a coffee and go for a walk along the river. I would take 15 minutes to smell every bouquet at Whole Foods and buy myself one just because. Going out of the house unencumbered allowed me to be kinder to myself. It gave me a few moments of true "me time" without worrying that my husband would text me not to forget the paper towels.
3. Free yourself from the group chats, emails, threads or whatever social media your glued to. As lovely as it is to have friends who want to talk to you constantly, it can hurt your focus, productivity, and take up a lot of your precious time. I can't tell you how many times the boys have napped and instead of taking a nap myself I was texting. Two hours later their nap was over and so was the one I never took. I hope my friends are still my friends, I think they are, right guys?
4. This is the age old rule and I'm not the first to say it, no devices at the dinner table. Turn the TV off, look each other in the eyes and talk about your day. Even if it's just a twenty minutes conversation, make it a good 20 minutes.
5. Dedicate a continuous time to disconnect. It's easy to say you will be on your phone less but a lot harder to actual follow through with it. Creating a specific time to do so helps, even if it's just for an hour, afternoon, or one day out of the week. Allow free thoughts to swirl, be blissfully "bored" and undistracted. This time will become a sort of meditation.
That's really it! I understand unsolicited advice is never warranted. I am a mother so I know, but if you're like me and ever find yourself needing to disconnect to reconnect, do it! Try it!
I have read, researched, witnessed, and experienced so much during my tech free year. I was certainly not perfect in my attempt. I jumped the gun and returned to tech a bit before my year was at an end. I was anxious to take pictures of palm trees and sandy white beaches on a rare weekend away without the kids. True to my nature, it wasn't more than 3 days into my instagramming that my phone fell abruptly into a pool! It made me laugh out loud, LOL actually (how I have missed abbreviations!). I have become a better version of myself. I wasn't distracted with news feed articles (did you know baby carrots actually saved the carrot industry?) or the amount of likes I had on photographs.
I read more, I wrote more, played chess, and listened to music. I saw some wonderful concerts and traveled a bit.
That's not to say I didn't miss witty text banter with my group of girlfriends or posting photos of my kids on instagram. But actually I didn't. That probably doesn't make much sense, does it? I can simply put it like this.
I missed a lot and yet I missed nothing at all.
On my sons' second birthday I took not one single photograph. I just enjoyed them and the moment that they turned two. Their eagerness to blow out the candles on their cake was so joyful! I would have loved to share it with loved ones and yet I was just as happy not to be preoccupied with trying to.
While "I'm back" in our technology filled world, I am now much more mindful. Gone are the days of reaching for my phone when I first wake up or checking it before I go to bed. Instead I reach for a book when I can't sleep.
Iris Tirri grew up by the sea in Cape Cod, MA. She studied at The University of Rhode Island in the Ocean State, where she met her husband. She was married on the beach in Coronado Island, California, and has called New Jersey home for the past 10 years. She resides by the river in Edgewater NJ, with her 3 children, 2 year old twin boys Frankie and Parker, and 9 year old daughter Melissa. She loves good books, wine, and restaurants. She doesn't watch any reality TV even though she was voted most likely to be on reality television in high school, but loves the movies. She writes and practices yoga in her spare time.