Thursday, August 14, 2014

Smartphones in a Fallen World - the Good and the Bad

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter. The pictures are unrelated to the content today. But I promise that they're lovely. ;-)

Jenny hit it on the nose again the other day. Honest to goodness, when I read her posts, they typically feel uncomfortably close to home. When I first read this post (about mothering and distraction, specifically of the electronic sort) I initially expected the same old spiel I always hear - "Put your phone down and look at your kid. Don't be selfish." But Jenny, ahhh...she just has such a nonjudgmental way of writing that I was actually able to hear her, you know?

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He didn't know I was taking the picture. He never would have posed for it. ;-)

Now, I'm in a stage where I don't use screen time as much as I did, say, a year ago - back when I had a newborn followed by the post-partum kidney stone drama. Back then, I looked at screens, Therese looked at screens, and we were just plugging along (pun not intended, but true nonetheless). Now, granted, there are some days that I still really need to make use of screens, and I know that I'm not the only mom of littles that does that. (And when even KENDRA admitted to needing to plop her kids in front of the TV alot when she had only littles...well, that made me feel a little more normal!) But overall, what Jenny hits on is the attitude that we mothers sometimes have about distracting ourselves with smartphones and laptops and TVs and such. Go back and click on that link, because she says it so well. But the gist is - are we actively seeking to be distracted from our kids? Are we losing an opportunity to grow and to grow closer to them if we are? It's excellent. Read it.

(I promise Jenny didn't pay me to tell you all that.)

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But I think that our attraction to screens does highlight how lonely it can sometimes be to raise very young children. Yes, having time with other mothers helps, but some of it is just lonely no matter what you do. It's hard. And if you happen to have some other cross you're bearing (depression or anxiety, super- or sub- fertility, a child with special needs, problems in your marriage or family), then it makes it that much harder.

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Was in an awful mood. Accidentally got sprayed in the face by a fountain at the Botanical Gardens. Suddenly was in a good mood. Little Goof. ;-)

Okay, my self-proclaimed job is to reassure you about these things, remember? So, I just want to remind you that...well, technology can be a tool. And a good tool at that. Jenny is right...your attitude can make a big difference.

But here's the thing...technology can keep you connected. It can help you distract yourself or your kids when the alternative is going completely batty. Smartphones aren't evil. Laptops aren't evil. TV is not evil. But, like anything else, it's got to be used as a tool, not an end in itself. God is the end. Created things, though, are good, albeit fallen. So, with some vigilance and, of course some mindfulness of your attitude God can even use Facebook and Instagram (and even Pinterest!!!) to bring about good in your life.

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Our audition shots for the new season of Downton Abbey. Or pictures from the dress-up corner of the local children's museum.

Concrete example? I didn't have any handheld device when Therese was a baby. Nursing her to sleep was incredibly stressful for me (which is probably why she nursed to sleep only about two times in her life). I was so focused on the microcosmic world of the rocking chair and a restless baby that I forgot to relax and enjoy the beauty of the moment. With Maria I have had a handheld device the whole time I've had her, she tends to nurse to sleep and/or for long stretches, and I am able to stay calmer and happier because of my Kindle or smartphone. I don't focus on my anxiety about her restlessness, my mind doesn't race - I can pray the Liturgy of the Hours (with one hand!) or read some Jane Austen (my latest project) or even respond to a text or an email. All the while, I am able to mindful that the moment I'm sharing with my daughter is just that...a moment. A moment in her life and in mine. When we're having a good night, I snuggle her close and breathe her in. When I feel myself starting to get stressed or frustrated, I pick up my phone and read a book or a blog, and it reminds me - this too shall pass. Other mothers encounter these same struggles. This frustration is not unusual, and I am not a terrible mother. In those moments - distraction is not my enemy, but a powerful tool to keep my anxiety and hopelessness at bay a bit. Instead of despairing over a baby who won't sleep and is smacking me in the face repeatedly - or who is trying to "self-soothe" in her crib in an angry way - I open a blog or Instagram and see...other mothers. I see their smiling and tired faces, their happy and cranky babies, and I know...I am not alone.

And that, my friends, is a powerful reminder. The evil one wants us to think we're all alone. God wants us to know we're not. And yes...He most certainly is not afraid to use social media to get through to us. ;-)


5 comments:

  1. I totally cringe every time I see one of those "put down the smart phone and play with your kids" posts - I work REALLY hard to get my kids comfortable playing independently, and a lot of the time the only way they're willing to do that without literally clinging to my legs is if I'm in the room with them. But they don't really need me playing with them, because they're learning to play on their own, and create on their own, and imagine on their own. And yet if I had to sit on the couch watching them without doing anything except cherishing the moment? I'd go insane. And the presence of so many awesome Catholic women on social media has been such a blessing to me, because rather than wasting my time perusing celebrity gossip, I can catch up with other women who are in the same boat as me! But it has to be easy to put down - if I find myself getting exasperated because a child is interrupting me in the middle of reading a blog post? It's time to save that for later and put it away, because priorities are priorities :)

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  3. Great post Michelle and great photos. It is lonely to be a stay at home mom. I'm struggling of late because for the first time in 10 years, I have NO employment, no outside job to go to. I've always been home 70%+ of the time some times as much as 90%, but 100% is something new and I am having a hard time with it. I used to get time in the car to listen to what I wanted to listen to without interuption, a couple of lunches that were hurried but not harried with kids, a chance to run quick errands with only myself to drag in and out of the store. Now being home 24/7 and homeschooling is a challenge. Working, homeschooling, and still keeping a house and marriage going was way to much to accomplish, but I still miss the down times it provided and the distraction and the chance to think about something other than sweeping up the floor and folding clothes and ending sibling squabbles. However, I realize that I have used my laptop as too much of a crutch to get away. I'm trying hard to cut down the time and use it for only specific task--which is why I have been falling behind on all my favorite blogs, yours included! But, my little man won't go to sleep due to a way too late napping session in the car,so I am letting him bang blocks together at my feet until he is finally tired while I catch up a bit.

    Have a good weekend.

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  4. That was a great post! As an older mom, I had all my children before screens (for the most part -- computers were around for the last), I completely understand how screens help us cope with the loneliness, and we must admit -- boredom that comes with being a stay-at-home mom. But, screens themselves can make us even lonelier! We reach out and no one answers sometimes. That's frustrating! I really do believe limited screens is better, but they definitely have their place today and offer great conveniences...as long as we live in the real world most of the time.

    PS I popped over from Like Mother, Like Daughter

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  5. Gosh Michele, thank you! I totally need to take my own medicine over and over and over again every day. Ironically, (or not, since it was probably a spiritual attack) since I wrote that post this week has been one of the WORST for me balancing internet/media with motherhood responsibilities. Funny how that works out...

    Oh, and I'm glad to be in good company with another fellow Vatican II schismatic cult member ;) some trolls are really entertaining to me.

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