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Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Not-so-smart use of my Smart Phone: Balancing Technology and Parenting

It started completely innocent and justified. It was 3am and my four day old had been awake for the umpteenth time. It was a frustrating 30-minutes of him crying to get him latched on and I was frustrated, tired, and in pain. I needed something to get my mind off of it all (and mostly to try to keep me awake while I nursed him). I powered up the Smart Phone screen and navigated through email, Facebook, Google Reader, and Diaper Swappers. Before I knew it, the feeding was over and it was time to crash once again. Hmmm, that flew by.

This became my go-to routine every time I breastfed. I even added Pinterest and my Kindle app as supplementing made the feedings go longer.  One day, while waiting for my Diaper Swappers screen to refresh, I looked down and the moment happened. He did the thing I had been waiting for that I heard other breastfeeding Moms talk about: he looked up at me and paused his feeding to flash me a huge grin. I loved it, soaked it up for a second, but then Diaper Swappers loaded up again and as he went back to eat, I went back to work.

This got me thinking: what the heck is my phone doing to my relationship with my two children?

Which image looks happiest to you?

Given my low supply issues, the ONLY reason why I am breastfeeding is for the skin-to-skin bonding opportunity, which is why my actions are so contradictory. The only reason for why I am breastfeeding is for that connection. But the connection is a two way street, and I have taken a serious detour.

I decided to commit to put the phone down a little more often and soak up my little guy. Can I just confess that this was really tough to do? The hardest for me is when he is up every two hours (not to mention when the toddler is up) and I am frustrated and tired and feel like I need something to help me out a little bit.
But this process made me realize that media use and parenting doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. As I have tried to find this delicate balance of media use  vs. Mommy and Baby time, I have come up with a few tips that have been helpful:

1) Follow the gut. I am convinced that women are built with a gut with a conscience buried in it that grumbles or purrs if we are going off course. I am learning to pay attention to this gut because it seems to growl loudest when I am not spending enough time focusing on my children. There are definitely times when I use my Smart Phone while feeding my little guy, but I have tried to get out of the habit of constantly grabbing the phone every time it was feeding time. Now I listen to my gut, it usually tells me when I should be putting that phone down.

2) Dedicate special time for bonding If I need to use the phone while feeding, it is a must that I set the phone down at the end of the feeding and stroke my little guy’s hair and kiss his cheek and head. When little guy goes down for his mid-day nap and my oldest and I are up, I immediately want to bolt to my laptop to see if someone has filled out a new survey on this site (yes, I really do that), but now I take some time to play with her. I make sure that each child has very special one-on-one time with me every day.

3) Look at what other Moms are doing.  I have improved SO MUCH as a Mom by looking to others for inspiration. Some of my favorite blog Moms are Shawna and Nie Nie. And don’t even get me started on in-person friends I admire. These women help shape me to be someone better. I think I am far more likely to say, “I admire how she spends her morning at the park with her kids” as opposed to, “Wow, check out her stellar play on Angry Birds.”  I have to be careful when doing this because sometimes I forget that the beauty of the internet is that you can OMIT parenting mistakes, therefore I assume that a lot of Moms out there are near perfect and therefore I beat myself up. So I am learning that healthy balance of emulating others, without diminishing myself.

4) Unplug Everyone. When I need to cook dinner, instead of putting the babies in front of the TV, I now have them in the kitchen and describe what I am doing as I live out my secret life-long dream: being a TV chef. Yum-O. Earlier today I had a cartoon going and was hesitant to turn it off because I thought daughter would meltdown--I did it anyway and I had the most beautiful moment with her, we played classical music and she brought book after book out for me to read.

5) Spend time building memories. Instead of staring at a screen, I spend a lot more time thinking about my children. I think about what I love about them. These early baby years are so brief, but so special. Inspired by Styleberryblog’s 52 week project, I decided to pick something every week that I don’t ever want to forget about each of my two kids (like this week, it is how the 2-year old calls her Jellies shoes her “Jell-Os” or how little man likes to sneak one little hand out of his sleep sack). I take a nice picture of it, write about it, and maybe one day I will have a nice book of unforgettables. I’d say that is some pretty productive use of time.

6) Devote time to it. I don’t think Smart Phone or media use is bad, I just know that in my case it is simply misplaced. I am not doing it at the right times. Now I follow my gut on things, but I also dedicate a small amount of time each evening to email, facebook, blog, etc. I love this “me” time. I feel ready and eager to give my kids their much deserved and needed “Mommy and Me” time.

I genuinely feel like I know when I am starting to go off course on things like this, I just often ignore what knowledge. What is important is staying in tune to that voice instead of drowning it out with tweets.

What are your thoughts on this? How has media had an impact on your parenting (for good or bad)?


  1. I don't know...when my 14 month old was little and nursing round the clock, I was going *nuts* not having anything to do while nursing. I think my smartphone (and nook) saved my sanity and helped me not resent all the time she spent/spends nursing (still 8-10 times a day!). I didn't start using them until about 6 months ago, so I feel like I got "both" experiences. That said, there are usually 1-2 sessions a day where I am "unplugged" and I feel like I get the bonding time you mentioned.

  2. Oh don't get me wrong! At my 3am feeding with the little guy, that phone keeps me AWAKE and less focused on fatigue. But the fact that I habitually reached for my Smart Phone EVERY time I fed the little one started to get at my gut.

  3. One thing that happened with me is that I would play some games, like sudoku, on my phone but I realized that it was stressing me out and keeping me awake. I would let her nurse after she'd fallen asleep to keep playing, even though I should have gone to sleep as well. Or my brain would keep playing after I had put the phone down.
    Now that she's older, there are fewer times that we meet eyes and my heart melts a bit. She nurses so quickly, and I'm often doing other things while she's nursing that I forget to look down. I'm sure she'll be weaning soon so I really need to be taking it in while I still can!

  4. Thank you for this. I've done the same thing, but I know I need to do better about unplugging. There are just so many blogs (and facebook, twitter, etc.) I enjoy reading that I feel like I "can't" give them up. I guess the first step to "recovery" is admitting I've got a problem! :-)

  5. Thanks Heather! Yeah, it's been tough for me to learn the balance. I am definitely a work in progress!

  6. Just saw this post and it is SO TRUE. I started reaching for it because it was keeping me awake in the middle of the night to feed my daughter but I now reach for it too often. My biggest challenge is not work anymore but checking facebook in the middle of the night. I need to put that phone aside and give her my attention - I already have to go to work, I want to make sure my special time with her breastfeeding is really special. Thank you.


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