When my daughter was a baby I didn’t have a fancy phone. Just three years ago, I survived with a brick that had limited internet access. Back then, my time was devoured by a beautiful baby who cried for milk on-demand and constant entertainment. My phone just lived on the kitchen counter, occasionally ringing when someone wanted to talk to me. Some days I didn’t even answer it.
But then, in 2012, I got a new iPhone. It was a revelation. Finally, I could check my emails on the go! Log into Facebook whenever I pleased! I even joined Instagram, eagerly taking snaps of cups of tea and putting trendy filters on them before sharing them with the world. I started to see my phone as a lifeline to the outside world, wondering how I had never lived without it before.
Fast-forward two years and I’m starting to loathe my phone. It’s like having a newborn baby in the colic phase, forever. The baby needs supervision, reassurance, attention. Lots and lots of attention. I even find myself taking my
baby phone to the toilet, lest it gets lonely without me.
Time was, I would sit down at my computer, log into my emails and work would begin. When I finished, I was safe in the knowledge no one could reach me unless it really was an emergency and they needed to call. And you know what? They rarely called.
These days things are a bit different. The thing I used to love about having that instant connection has become the very reason I sometimes dread looking at my phone. Facebook groups and emails and tweets… constantly.
I love my job. I’m lucky enough that I get to mainly work from home around my daughter. But there are times when work (and that blasted phone) butts its way into those moments with my daughter. A notification on Facebook that I need to respond to. Or perhaps an email that needs to be replied to. And even if it doesn’t need to be replied to asap, I still know it’s there, waiting for me.
Just like that, whatever conversation I’m having in real life, whatever task I’m trying to do, is instantly derailed. I need to see to my demanding phone and put everything else on hold. The newborn baby is crying again, but this time it’s not even cute or cuddly.
I wrote about Phubbing over at The Motherhood recently. While my argument for that piece still stands – I’m sick of being made to feel guilty by experts saying mums who pick up their phone in front of their kids are BAD – I do recognise that maintaining the right balance is a tricky one.
For example, I still like the fact I can check my emails on the go. It makes working as a freelancer that bit easier, juggling motherhood with paying the bills. But it’s oh-so-easy to lose sight of what’s important when you’re checking your phone – those things that need an immediate response and the bits that can wait until later.
When was the last time you picked up your phone to check your inbox, only to find you’d been tagged in a conversation on Facebook?
The scenario goes like this: tootling over to Facebook to see what’s being said, an interesting article catches your eye, shared by one of your Facebook friends. You read the article and watch the accompanying video – something promising to be The Best Thing You’ll See All Day! and BOOM. You’ve just lost ten minutes of your life. That’s ten minutes that could have been spent unloading the washing machine, cooking tea or – *gasp* – playing with your child. I’m not pointing the finger here, I am more than guilty of falling into this trap myself.
Recently I’ve started leaving my phone downstairs when I go to bed. It’s just a little act of rebellion against the phone dictatorship, but it feels kind of liberating. Instead of letting my demanding phone sleep beside me, waking me for night feeds with its angry flashing, I now turn it off and put it in a drawer. If I wake up at 3am I don’t have the urge to check my phone. I just go back to sleep. Simple.
I’m not sure what the answer is to the rest of the day though. I try to stay away from my phone as much as possible at the weekend, although that’s not always easy – especially if I’m expecting an email. I sometimes wish I could have two phones, one for work and one for real life. But then, I know I’d end up just having them both on all of the time and it would be like having newborn baby twins, rather than just the one.
Do you ever feel like you’re being ruled by your phone? How do you manage the balance?
[Photo credit: Caroline Gue at CP Photography]