Technology is a blessing for stay-at-home-moms…but it can also be a curse. If you’re feeling the need to disconnect from your phone, here are five simple changes I made to take back control and connect more with the beautiful family in front of me.
I got my first smart phone in 2012, just after the birth of my oldest son. At the time, I didn’t even really want a smart phone. I didn’t need it, I told my husband. I was fine with my super simple, electric blue flip phone.
But after he explained that getting a smart phone would only cost us five dollars extra a month and it would enable me to have GPS on my phone, I agreed it would be a good idea.
And it began. As I sat on the couch for hours upon hours nursing my infant, I needed something I could do while sitting down…and that only required one hand. So, I filled my time scrolling through Facebook, searching Pinterest for delicious-looking recipes, and researching how to get your child to sleep through the night as soon as possible.
Six years later, I don’t know what I ever did without my smart phone. I use it ALL. THE. TIME.
I love that I can whip out my phone quickly to capture moments like this one…I make shopping lists, download grocery coupons, respond to emails, check the weather, get directions in Google Maps, and–yes–still scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
My smart phone makes my life so much better…sometimes.
But last summer I had an epiphany.
We were visiting my parents in California and decided to rent a cabin for a couple of days at a lake that I went to often as a child. When we got there, it was as beautiful as I remembered, but we also realized that we had no cell phone service and the condo didn’t have WiFi. What vacation rental these days doesn’t have WiFi?
Totally by accident, we were completely unplugged.
At first, it was unsettling. What if something important happened and someone needed to contact us? How would I keep up with my blog? How would my husband keep in contact with his office?
But as time went on, I felt the most amazing freedom. It was incredibly liberating to be completely unreachable. So much simpler.
There are so many things I typically feel compelled to “keep up on” during regular daily life that I forced by our lack of technology to just leave undone.
No reading the news.
No checking discount websites for the latest deals.
My husband couldn’t get interrupted by an urgent need from the office.
I couldn’t get distracted by posting or responding to comments on social media.
No one could even call us in case of emergency. The world could have fallen apart during those two days and we would have had no idea.
It was wonderful.
We played at the lake. We roasted marshmallows and played games. We did a puzzle for the first time in years.
It was like we were in a time warp that took us back 50 years–and I LOVED it. I actually dreaded driving back down into the valley. As soon as we got in cell range again, our phones started buzzing…notifying us of all that we had missed while we were gone. Part of me wanted to turn around, drive back into those mountains, and throw my phone in the lake.
I wanted to hold on to the simplicity and the closeness we had enjoyed during our break from the outside world.
And I realized in that moment that while it’s not realistic to completely unplug all the time, I have the power to choose how much I allow technology into my life.
Technology is good in so many ways. I love the ability it gives me to stay in contact with my parents who live a thousand miles away, to look up information almost instantly, and to find my way in unfamiliar territory (seriously, what did people do before Google Maps?).
But it’s far too easy for me to let my phone become a crutch and a time sucker. I hate how my fingers itch when I don’t have my phone with me, and how scrolling social media has become my default activity when I’m bored or waiting in line.
My forced detox in the mountains gave me a new perspective, and a vision of what I want to change about my relationship with technology. I still want to make use of its many virtues, but I refuse to be a slave to my smart phone. I will not be owned by an inanimate object, no matter how carefully designed that object is to be attractive (and addictive).
So, over the past few months, I’ve experimented and made some tangible changes to my relationship with technology. I’ve set limits for myself, and I’ve changed settings on my phone that have freed me from the constant barrage of beeps and buzzes.
I’m sharing what I’ve done and learned in the hope that it will inspire more mommas out there to find more joy in life by taking control of their technology. I’m still learning, but it’s already made a HUGE difference for me.
5 things I’m doing to take control of my cell phone
1. Turn off badge notifications
What ARE badge notifications, you ask? They are those little red circles in the top corner of apps that show you that you have messages waiting for you to read.
You open your phone to check directions to the pharmacy, but you also see that tempting red badge…”Ooh, I have messages on Facebook? From whom?” Innocent enough to check, but once the app is open, how much extra time do you spent there?
It’s silly, but if I see the badge notifications, I feel like I have to click on them to clear the circle away. For me, it’s better just NOT to know. So, I disabled them. No red circles for me anymore!
Here’s how to disable badge notifications no matter what cell phone you have:
2. Turn off push notifications
More notifications, I know? In fact, have you ever counted how many notifications you get each day. It seems like every app has something to tell you. Of course, that’s great marketing…they don’t want to wait for you to open the app. They want to actively encourage you to open it by sending you a notification about the latest deals, news, or whatever else.
The biggest offending app for me was email. I used to think I needed to get notified of emails immediately, but when I really sat down and looked at what I was receiving each day, very few were really urgent.
I get a lot of blogging business-related and promotional emails (I’m a frugal gal who likes to keep tabs on sales), so I was getting dinged by my phone all the time for things that I really didn’t need to know right away. But, once I knew it was there, suddenly I felt like I needed to respond. These constant notifications broke my concentration when I was working and took my attention away from my kids. Plus, once again, once the phone was in my hands, it was easy to get sucked in to something.
I decided to disable ALL notifications except for text messages and phone calls. I just check my email a few times a day now, and I can mass delete any promotional emails I’m not interested in. (Side note: It might be time to have an unsubscribe party to clean up your inbox if you find you’re constantly deleting messages without even reading them.)
Here’s how to disable those push notifications:
3. Set DOWN your phone
Remember the olden days when the telephone was attached to the wall? Sure, it took a little more effort to get the phone when it rang, but you could still hear it and communicate with the people you needed to talk to.
I’m trying to treat my cell phone like an old wall-phone more often. Rather than keeping it in my pocket, I’ll set it on the counter in the kitchen. This way I can still hear it ring, but I’m less tempted to “check something quickly” and get lost in my phone or use it as a time-waster when I’m feeling a need to escape from the craziness of mom life for a moment.
I’m not always great at this, but I definitely notice the difference when I do. I’m more likely to notice funny things (and naughty things) that my kids do. I connect with them more, and I know I’m being a better role model for them on using technology responsibly.
4. Set tech-free times and places
I’m still experimenting with what this looks like for me, but I think it’s important to set family etiquette for times and places when phones are simply not to be used. For me, the dinner table is one of those times. Family dinner is sacred time in my book (even if it isn’t always bliss when kids are complaining about the meal and the baby is whining because he wants something that no one can identify). I set my phone down, and TRY to really capitalize on the time to connect with my kids.
I also try to limit using my phone right after my kids get home from school. I want that to be a safe time when my kids know they have my attention to tell me about their day. I want to look in their eyes and learn about what happens during all those hours they are away from me. I want them to know that I’m excited to see them and that they are more important to me than what is happening on Facebook.
Whatever times of day you choose, make a conscious effort to pick consistent, meaningful times each day where you consciously take control of your use of technology by just saying, “No thanks. The world in front of me is more important right now.”
5. Have a social media fast
In October, I completely disconnected from social media for ten days. As a blogger, this was a hard commitment to make. I use social media to promote my business and network with other mompreneurs, so I worried that by signing off I would lose traffic and momentum for my growing business.
But, I also knew that I wasted too much time on social media. I would find myself scrolling through my feed in the late afternoon when I was just burned out on folding laundry, making snacks, and playing referee for my kids’ squabbling. I turned to my phone for a brief moment of relaxing and–to be honest–escape.
The problem was that I realized that after five (or more) minutes of “relaxing” by looking at my phone, I actually didn’t feel any more relaxed or fulfilled. I still felt drained and irritable…maybe even more so.
So, I took a break for 10 days. Cold turkey. I allowed myself to use my social media scheduling tool to promote new blog posts (which I only had to do twice), but I didn’t open up my actual social media apps for ten days.
You know what? I didn’t miss it. Not. one. bit.
During those 10 days, I had to look for other ways to relax and unwind…and I found that reading a book, doing some stretches, turning on music, or even just staring out the window and breathing was SO much more fulfilling than anything on my screen.
I’m back on social media now, but I’m trying to remember those lessons I learned…trying to set a limit and hold the line…to protect myself and my family from overuse.
BONUS TIP: Create a new habit to replace the old one
You can’t get rid of an old habit without replacing it with something else. The bad habit will creep back into that empty cavity unless you fill it up with something more satisfying.
For me, the choice to step away from using my cell phone as often required me to figure out what else I would do in those moments when I normally would have reached for my phone.
Mom’s gotta have a way to relax for a moment, right?
During my social media fast, I found a good book to download on my phone. While this was still using my phone, it was more productive than just scrolling through social media. I needed something convenient because I often only have a minute or two of solitude to take a breath–a few precious seconds when my kids are all miraculously engaged in an activity at the same time, before somebody pokes somebody else and the house of cards comes crashing down.
Here are a few ideas of simple replacement activities for moments when you would have pulled out your phone mindlessly:
- Read a book (physical or digital)
- Complete a quick cleaning task so you can have more free time when kids are sleeping
- Take a few deep breaths…maybe even do some yoga stretches
- Take inventory of your body and mind for a moment. What do you need today?
- Choose to get involved in what your kids are doing…get on their level and PLAY
- Make a mental “done” list for the day and congratulate yourself on what you’ve accomplished
- Go get a drink of water–hooray for hydration!
- Turn on a favorite song (better yet, dance to it)
- Look out the window…really observe the world around you
- Tell your kids a joke
The key is to find something that will actually fill you up for a few minutes, rather than drain you further.
There you have it. Five simple ideas that helped break my cell phone addiction.
Defining my relationship with my phone is still a work in progress, and there are still days where I reach for my phone more often than I’d like to admit, but these changes ARE making a difference.
I’m feeling more connected to the people in front of me and less concerned about everything “out there”. I’m more content with my imperfect little life, and less inclined to compare my messy living room with what I see on Instagram. I’m more able to see social media for what it is–a snapshot of someone else’s day–not a complete picture of their apparently perfect life.
If you, too, are looking for a way to put the brakes on a bit in this always-moving-too-fast world, I challenge you to try these changes for yourself.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about your own thoughts about cell phone addiction…
- How do you stay in control of your cell phone?
- Have you used any of the strategies that I shared above? Did they work for you?