The other day, River was babbling sweetly and playing with me. I wanted to document the moment, so I set up my phone across the room to take a video. As soon as I did, she stopped babbling, turned her head, and stared intensely at my phone. I tried to get her to look at me and play again, but she was focused on that black square. She couldn’t see the screen, so I was confused as to why she was so captivated by it.
But as I reflected, I realized that of course she would be interested in the object that is constantly in my possession. Honestly, if I’m not holding River, I’m probably holding my phone.
Babies are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and River has already picked up on this “important” relationship I have with my phone. She knows there is something captivating about it, even though I don’t let her look at the screen.
She also knows when I am not fully present. There have been times where she is laying down and I have my phone just above her head as I’m trying to send a text. And I swear she knows when my eyes drift away from hers, even if it is just a slight difference in trajectory. She can feel my engagement with her dwindle when I am on my phone.
Having a baby makes me realize how much time I spend on my phone. I feel slightly ashamed, and I know I need to do a better job of managing my time on social media. I’d love for River to go at least the first year of her life without screens, but how can this be possible if I can’t go ten minutes without my phone? Of course, I’m not going to shelter her completely from technology since it is part of everyday life, but it shouldn’t dominate our thoughts and time.
This addiction is one of my many flaws and if I don’t fix it soon, it could trickle into River’s own life. My actions affect others, including (and especially) my kids and I have a responsibility to model a healthy relationship with technology.
Even though I’ve recognized my dependence on my phone, I still feel the need to be constantly entertained. It’s not easy to be home all day with a baby and honestly, it can get really boring! I’ve got to practice what I preach, and I’ve started with a small goal to help me get to a healthier place. My goal is to nurse her once a day without using my phone. I know this seems like a super small goal and it definitely shows me how much work there is to be done, but it is a measurable and realistic goal, and it has been amazing so far. This time away from my phone gives me the opportunity to focus on River’s lovely nose and her eyes as she looks up at me. I can feel her tiny fingers grasp mine and I can see the beauty in our interactions more clearly when I am fully present. It makes me realize how much I may have already missed out on. She’s changing rapidly and one day she won’t be little anymore. I do not want to look back on this time and regret it because I paid more attention to others’ lives on social media than my own daughter. I want River to grow up knowing she doesn’t have to fight for my attention, and I don’t want to let a device steal precious time with my baby.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but as parents we have to do better. I know people who have deleted all social media accounts or dumped their video game consoles, but you don’t necessarily have to go to this extreme unless of course that’s what you really need to do. Maybe you can set a time limit for video games, TV or social media (one hour per day). Get an accountability partner who will listen to you and not judge you when you slip up. The bottom line is that each family needs to do what works for them.
Also, I am not saying that you can never be on your phone when your kids are around. If I’m being honest, sometimes I need to just zone out on my phone for a few minutes while River cries in the other room! All I am saying is to make sure you are not idolizing technology or putting it before your kids.
If River is to learn how to use technology appropriately, it starts with me. I do not want her to be enslaved to devices or screens. I want her to know that the real world is so much more abundant and life-giving. My goal of nursing River once a day without my phone will hopefully progress into never using it during a nursing session. And from there, who knows? But I will always try to make River a priority. Eventually I hope to be at a place where I don’t crave time on social media at all. I know that this time I share with River is short and I don’t want to waste it scrolling away. Will I fail? Yes. Probably every day. But I will continue to set goals to manage my tech time and lean on God for strength in this area of my life.