I have a faulty battery. I feel like I’m constantly being forced to do software updates that I can’t handle, and it’s leaving me at 0% battery life by 4:00. When I was a new, shiny mom, I could stay charged and stay green till Daddy came home. But now, the older I get, the more information I have to handle, the harder it is for me to keep up. But in real life terms, I feel like if I have to break up one more wrestling match or hear a voice whine “MOMMMMY!” I might burst into tears.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s HOW I’m parenting that makes me feel this way, or if moms since the beginning of time felt this way (although maybe their metaphor would be a candle at the end of it’s wick?). I’m sure everyone reading this would say “it’s just being a mom.” I’m sure they’re right. But I still have to wonder: what’s draining my battery so quickly?
I never remember fighting for my parents’ attention. They were always involved with us kids. We were the family that had family dinners, complete with place mats, pre-filled water glasses, and even napkin rings (as setting the table was a fun chore for me). My mom ran a tight ship, and almost every day, we gathered around our kitchen table and talked about our day. There were no distractions, no phones, the TV was off, and if the (wall) phone rang, we let the answering machine get it. The 80’s and early 90’s were pretty low tech.
Fast forward thirty years, and one of my biggest challenges is technology. It’s both friend and foe. I worry that my kid is going to rot their brain one day, so I declare “NO MORE TECHNOLOGY!” and try to fill the day with activity after activity. Then by 4:00, I’m desperate to turn on Netflix and let my kid binge watch PJ Masks so I can do one of two things: plop on the couch or tend to my house since I neglected it all day. Those are the days where I feel like my mom battery is blinking red and the only thing that will recharge it is Daddy coming home to take over. Then other days, I’m on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as I realize Daniel Tiger just played through the whole first season….don’t judge me, you know you’ve done it.
For me, it has been hard to find a balance between too much screen time and too much scream time (that’s me, screaming in my mind that I can’t make one more Play-Doh toy poop out a purple turd).
I feel like my mom battery empties and recharges differently day to day, and some days are worse than others. With two boys, ages six and three years old, and a one year old girl, sometimes I feel like I’m just surviving. I told myself a year ago that survival was okay during the baby phase, but now, I should be thriving...right?!
So, back to the faulty battery, the energy stealer, the time bandit…what is it (besides my children)? I’ll tell ya. It’s too much technology. Too much of everything lazy, everything idle. I need to take a step back and remember why I made the decision to stay home with the kids. It wasn’t to parent them in just the easy times, it was to be present and never miss a moment. It wasn’t to be looking down when I should be looking up. It wasn’t to be working on the computer when I should be working on puzzles. So, this year, I have decided to make a change. I am going to (mostly) unplug. I’m going to be present.
Part of what opened my eyes to my need for change was thinking back on my childhood and remembering how my mom did it. If Mr. Rogers and Mary Poppins had a baby, it would be my mother. Growing up with that kind of mom made me one lucky kid. However, assuming that I would end up being that kind of parent through some sort of magical osmosis, created a very high mental bar that I am constantly striving to reach. The kicker? She’s so supportive and encouraging to me in all stages of my mommy-hood, that she’d probably feel terrible if she knew I was constantly wondering how I could live up to her example. But bottom line, my mom rocked and I want to rock too.
So what was her secret? Here’s part of it… she didn’t live in 2019. My brother was born in 1981 and I was born in 1983. We had the basic channels, no cable. I remember getting our first computer that was just for my dad’s work, although once in a while my brother and I would sneak on, wait for dial up, and enter the world of AOL chat rooms. I remember our phone attached to our kitchen wall. I remember when we would watch Captain Kangaroo, she would be ironing, folding laundry, cutting coupons, or preparing a meal sans microwave. We lived in 1600 square feet, didn’t have a play-room, if it didn’t fit in our room, we didn’t keep it. Our garage was organized, our beds were made, and the house was always clean. So I asked her the other day, “How the heck did you do it?!” Here’s how: she wasn’t idle. She wasn’t distracted. She didn’t sit and watch soap operas or call her bestie on the phone (because that would be her only two options, really). She wasn’t posting on IG or FB, or tweeting, or researching why her children only eat chicken nuggets, or googling when the next season of Mrs. Maisel is going to start. She was present. If I said “MOM!” she wasn’t finishing up a text saying “just a second…” She played with us without having a phone by her side. She stuck to her guns when she disciplined us, and did it without online forums on peaceful parenting. She used our nap time to organize or maintain the house (or maybe she napped sometimes too, since she isn’t literally Superwoman). I’m sure she wasn’t as perfect as I’m playing her up to be in my head. But my mom is my mom-hero (if that’s a thing) and when comparing my ever-present mom to the mom I currently am, I realize WHERE I need to make a change.
I need to put down the device and be present for my kids, be present for my husband, respect my role as caregiver and be thankful for my home as well as being able to stay home, keep my house in order to ensure order in my kids’ lives, stop seeking opportunities to check out and start mentally checking in. I need to be present for my family, present and active in my role as “house manager,” present in my other relationships and spiritual life. It’s like I’ve been trying to recharge my battery with an incompatible charger (don’t buy them at the dollar store, it will only cause problems).
We, especially mothers, never give ourselves enough credit. I am not constantly on my phone. I play with my kids A LOT. I go outside to push them on their swing, throw the ball, and blow bubbles. I go to the park, aquarium, zoo, and play dates. I cuddle and snuggle. I am MOSTLY present. But what really makes me want to change is the constant, nagging need to have technology; even the need to be posing my kids, saying “look at mommy!” as I make them pause their play to snap a picture. In my free time, I want to take a break to “scroll” (feel free to judge now).
I think in 2019 we have too much. Too much screen time, scroll time, picture time, google time, Pinterest time, online shopping time, iPad time, Netflix time, and YouTube time. We don’t need to stop, but we need to decide when we have relied on it too much and when we need to step back, like it was in the 80’s (or early 2000’s, if you like baby steps).
Let me be frank. I’m not going to stop letting my kids watch TV or uninstall FB. I am not a crazy person. What I am going to do is be intentional about putting my phone away in my “unplugged” box (I ordered it on Etsy). I’m going to stop sitting down with a phone in front of my face while my children are playing with their toys and I think they won’t notice. My recharge time shouldn’t be found on my phone, it should come from focusing on my kids. I am going to be thankful for my role as mom. And maybe by unplugging a little more, I’ll plug back into my family.