What Happened When I Realized I Was On My Phone More Often Than My Teens
How can I teach them to live in the moment if I’m constantly escaping into my screen?
My Saturday afternoons with my kids are sacred. We go out to lunch and take turns picking something we’ve wanted to do all week. It’s the one time we’re all able to dedicate a few hours to each other since none of us have school, work, or any other activities pulling us in different directions.
One recent Saturday, as I was pulling into our favorite restaurant, my daughter suggested we all leave our phones in the car. Before anyone could answer, my youngest son said: “Yeah, Mom!”
I immediately got defensive and nearly launched into my lecture about how I have to work, which often involves my phone. I need to support my family — but I stopped myself. My son is absolutely right. I’ve got three teenagers and there are many times when I’m on my phone more than they are.
If I’m being honest, most of the time when my kids are around I’m scrolling on it mindlessly, thinking I need to document something and share it on Instagram, or I have to look up some facts the second we all start talking about it.
If I’m with a friend and we’re talking about the weather, I always pull out my phone to look at the forecast for the coming days. If someone comments on something I’m wearing, I immediately get out my phone and send them the link. It’s not just me, either: I’ve been at a family gathering and looked around and no one is talking. Instead, we’re all looking down at our little rectangles or sitting around a table showing each other memes.
And I often wonder: How is this affecting our kids? When my daughter suggested we all leave our phones in the car, all three of my kids were on board and didn’t protest at all. In fact, it was obvious they really liked the idea and the first thing that came into my son’s head was that he wanted to make sure I left my phone in the car too. That hit me like a Mack truck.
How can I teach them to live in the moment if I’m constantly escaping into my screen and feel the need to constantly check emails and Instagram and stop mid-conversation to look something up?
Lunch sans phones was wonderful, and it’ll be our new thing going forward. I didn’t miss a thing by not taking a picture of our lunch to post to my Instagram Stories. Nothing happened when we started talking about when the fair in our town was taking place and I didn’t yank out my phone to find the dates at that exact moment.
I’m a Gen Xer and I grew up with the luxury of a life before smartphones. But my kids don’t know a life without them. I’d like to show them a little bit of what that feels like and it needs to start with me.
Since my son’s comment I’ve intentionally been better about not being on my phone all the time, and the habit has stuck. I’m not only more relaxed, I realized how much it was affecting everything I did. I felt the constant need to check it after every task, whether that was going to the bathroom, taking a shower, or reading a few pages of a book. It was ridiculous.
I’m so much happier now that my phone isn’t a constant accessory — and I’m never going back.
Katie lives in Maine with her three kids, two ducks, and a Goldendoodle. When she’s not writing, she’d reading, at the gym, redecorating her home, or spending too much money online.