Ever since my husband’s first deployment, I’ve been attached to my cell phone. The thought of missing a call from him, however brief that call might be, was unbearable to me. Because of that, I kept my phone on me at all times. It was on my pillow at night, in my hand while I was shopping and by my keyboard while I was at work. I’ll admit to even setting it on the soap shelf in my shower a time or two…or three or four.
After more than one deployment, it just became natural never to be without my phone, even when my husband was home. It became a routine for me. I had moved away from my family and friends, and as social media became more and more popular, I never wanted to miss an update, text or phone call.
Fast forward six years later to the birth of our son. My phone was with me in the delivery room, at home while I nursed and on my nightstand when I finally got a few minutes of sleep. I used it as my alarm clock, my camera and my outlet to the rest of the world.
No matter how anyone gets there, I was there. I was addicted to my phone. It wasn’t until one day when I had a real eye opener that things finally started to change. My baby was lying on his mat doing tummy time and I was taking photos and posting them to social media, then taking videos and emailing them to family. After about 15 minutes, I realized I had been looking down at my phone more than I was looking up at my son. I felt guilty and ashamed, and I knew it had finally gotten to the point where enough was enough.
It’s a hard habit to break, let me tell you! I first started by consciously setting my phone aside during any time with my son and during family time. I continue to use it as my camera, but I stopped posting or texting things immediately. It could all wait. What mattered most was that precious time with my beautiful baby boy. Next, I started removing my phone from the table at family meals. This was huge, and my husband noticed and starting doing the same. After that, I began removing my phone from my nightstand and placing it in the bathroom at night. I still use it as my alarm, but now the temptation to mindlessly scroll social media in bed at night or first thing in the morning is taken away. I’d say this has been the hardest step, and I still forget at times and find myself lying in bed, scrolling through my social news feeds. It’s a process, and like any addiction, it’s taking time to break free.
Finally, beginning in November of 2015, I began taking “social media-free weekends.” I turned off all social media notifications on my phone to avoid the constant desire to scroll through the updates that used to flash across my screen. To this day, I have not turned the notifications back on. At first, I had to completely delete the apps from my phone, but now I simply keep them all in a folder on my phone labeled “Distractions.” Any app or social media platform that distracts me from my family, real life or my work goes in this folder. Any time I want to open those apps, I am reminded that it is a big, fat distraction.
Now I love my social media-free weekends. I look forward to them each month, especially the break and release I feel from not being plugged in 24/7. I usually start these weekends on a Friday evening and stay off until Sunday evening. I find that taking this time once a month is just the break I need to not want to jump right back into it the next day. I look down less, and up more.
The most important thing to me is this —I will not be a parent who looks down at her phone more than she looks up at her child. I keep this phrase with me, repeating it to myself when I find that I’m slipping back in to that mindless thumb scroll on my phone. What matters most is my time with my husband and my son and making those moments count.