I don’t think it’s any secret that social media, the internet and whatever else seems to be completely affecting our actual presence in the world right now. You hear of people being run over because they’ve walked out in front of cars because they were too engrossed in updating Facebook or sending tweets. But what about our families? Our kids? The next generation?
I spend most of my time working from home, working around the kids, working evenings and any other five minutes I can gather. It’s been a real problem lately, especially after biting off more than I could chew, and my kids and my family have suffered for it. And it’s totally not fair on them. Toby was only three in August, and Teddy has just turned 18 months. Two very impressionable ages and they constantly see me stressed, relatively unengaged or sat at the table behind a laptop while they vie for my attention. But I couldn’t see it. I thought they were quite happy playing together most of the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I do take my children out of the house, we go on walks and we visit other friends, but a lot of the time we’re at home I had just been leaving them to their own devices. And it’s sad. I’m sad about it. And so when I recently got asked to participate in a campaign and switching off for the whole weekend it was my chance to prove to myself and, most importantly, my boys that mummy is here and that they are my first priority.
If I was playing with them, my phone was never usually far from my hand. It’s my comfort blanket. The door to my blogging life, my work, my “girls” who I speak to literally on a daily basis. Could I go without it? For a whole 48 hours? Punkt and Time To Log Off set me this exact challenge. They wanted us to focus on giving the ‘gift’ of undivided attention over Christmas, but wanted to give it a practise run ahead of the big weekend and trial it this November. I had to log off all internet connected devices for the whole of the 25th and 26th November and I was sent an exciting challenge pack to help stay offline.
The main part of the challenge pack was a Punkt phone which only allows you to make and receive calls and texts and I was to swap my sim over to this one. So how did I get on?
I won’t lie. It was incredibly tough. I struggled. A lot. I haven’t been without my phone for years. Other than the eyes of my toddler who’s woken me up to tell me he’s got a bogey on the end of his finger, or my wonderful husband, my phone is the first thing I look at in the morning. I check notifications, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and anything else that might come up with a little red circle in the corner of the app. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to sleep and it’s usually picked up at least once in the night too – though only to be used as a torch when the smallest one wakes up!
If I felt like I needed to access emails or check my Whatsapp I did start writing things down to keep my fingers busy. During the day I tried to keep myself occupied. Usually I would do my shopping online and collect it on a Friday morning but this Friday was different. Jamie dropped Toby off at nursery and Ted I went to the supermarket. I physically went shopping around a real store, rather than a virtual one and Ted and I made the most of the rest of the day until Toby came home.
On Saturday, rather than letting the kids get on with fighting over toys I ended up whipping out the tuff spot which had been wrapped in plastic until now and did some sensory play with the boys. I sat with them and helped them, praised them and encouraged them to feel and do lots of things with the pasta, rice and lentils I’d gotten out. It was absolute bliss having an hour where they just played together. I’ve never known my children to react so positively to something and it was a really beautiful thing. It made me realise that not only are they missing out on a part of me, but I am missing out on them. And they are growing up far too quickly for my liking. Like, literally, right before my eyes.
So, did I struggle with this challenge? Yes. Did I probably sneak a little peek in the evening at some emails? Yes. Because my job is social media and there’s not much escaping it. But, did I learn something? Yes. I learned about myself. I learned about my kids. And I learned that I need them and they need me. They need my presence, my input, my praise and encouragement, my hugs and kisses, my ‘well dones’ and high fives. And I need them to remind me that there is more than life to working, stressing and sitting at a screen.
This Christmas, I can’t promise I will totally switch off, but I will be putting my phone to one side for most of the day to give them my full attention. I want them to know that Christmas is about families, not about telling Facebook what you got for Christmas. Thank you Punkt, and thank you Time To Log Off for bringing me back to my reality and making me connect with my little boys.
*I was gifted a Punkt phone along with a challenge box in return for this post.