My Kid Is Jealous Of The Attention I Give My Phone

I reach for it as an escape — but it’s gotten out of hand.

Originally Published: 
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My five year old was perched at the kitchen counter eating a handful of dry cereal as I scrolled through my phone. I was searching for an old email about kindergarten registration, one that was proving more difficult to find than expected. And with each scroll of my finger, my daughter became increasingly more frustrated, peppering my name loudly as I ‘sush’ her while she pleads for attention. I continued to search, ignoring her pleas, knowing that I could tune back in and meet her needs once the email was found. And then suddenly she sighed. “Mom,” she said, “sometimes I feel jealous of your phone.”

Instantly, my heart broke. Because she was right. The statement was not the dramatic overreaction of a five year old. It was an honest, logical declaration of her truth. Because every single day there are moments when she looks for my attention and instead finds me occupied with a fist full of apps, text messages, and emails. Of course she feels jealous of my addictive, distracting, attention-sucking device!

And how the heck did I get here — a grown woman unable to set appropriate boundaries with a handheld rectangle of technology?! I am an almost forty-year-old mother of four with a phone-distraction problem that my five-year-old daughter needs to point out in order for me to pause and pay attention to — ugh. And I don’t think I am alone. Because here’s the thing: the phone often provides escape that I desperately need from the tiring, overstimulating day-to-day that is motherhood.

In the past nine years at home raising my four kids, folding in paid work as possible, the days have often felt long and exhausting. And in moments of frustration, boredom, or loneliness, I’ve reached for my phone too often. Between diaper changes and while rocking for hours in the chair I’ve scrolled the depths of social media, sent text messages, and read emails. What started as a brief connection into a world outside my house has turned into a massively terrible bad habit. Because now the moments are not brief: One email turns into a quick social media check and within seconds I am down a rabbit hole, watching videos about different microwavable mug-cake recipes instead of paying attention to the wonderful things right in front of me — my kids.

But before I beat myself up too much, I will remember that this role as stay-at-home-mom — filled with late night nursing sessions, diaper changes, sibling arguments, and homework battles — can drive even the happiest, most well-balanced person toward some pretty unhealthy habits. Being home with my babies as they grow is all I have ever wanted, it is also insanely stressful, exhausting, and frustrating in many, many moments. And if an iPhone scroll session (or twenty) is what I needed to get me through a long day, I think there could be worse things.

Still, I need to change my ways. I have one life to live with these little people and I certainly can’t have them feeling like I value screen time more than my time with them. So, I will set limits on myself as if I were a toddler — it’s the only way I know how to do things, after all. I will move and delete apps to make them less accessible and I will find a special spot for my phone so it’s not always in my hand. And I will have honest conversations with my kids about limiting technology, parenting mistakes, and the true hierarchy of what I care about. And hopefully, thanks to my honest and expressive five-year-old daughter, I will change my ways.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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