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?
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.)
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.
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.
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. ;-)