I feel very fortunate to live in a place where my daughter’s imagination and play can go wild. My daughter can live, as I see it, an ‘unplugged childhood’. She can explore, play and really throw herself into this place and what it has to offer. If it’s a miserable day we play indoors; making something, crafting or baking. It is doing all these things I can see a little spark go off in her, her energy shifts and immediately the focus is on whatever it is we are doing.
I would be lying if I said that there were never days when she had time to sit in-front of the TV. During the ‘witching hour’ she often gets time to ‘zone out’ with mind numbing Cbeebies and then there are also those rainy days when we just fancy a cosy afternoon with a Disney DVD.
But this post isn’t about a ‘Childhood Unplugged’, this post is about ‘Parenting Unplugged’.
Over the past few months I have become increasingly aware of just how “connected” and “plugged in” I am electronically. Yes, I have started this blog and it has taken time to get going, however, that has been in the time when the little one sleeps (as she does now) or she is at nursery. What I became aware of, was that wherever we went, even when she was ‘unplugged’, making, baking or playing, I had my mobile phone in my hand.
For a while I made excuses for it; I’d go to play dates, social occasions or celebrations and be in a room with people and realise that either myself or someone else would be on on a phone. Once, I even sat with someone in their sitting room having been invited over and they didn’t even utter a word or look up from their phone.
As I say, I’d make excuses, that person may have been having problems or maybe there was something on their to-do list that needed doing urgently or maybe I just wasn’t worth having a conversation with! Whatever it was, I made an excuse for it.
My mobile phone is also my camera, I don’t have a proper camera so my iPhone is what I use to capture moments of our family or places we go. This, is the positive of electronics now, having a camera to hand just when you need it. However, I also remember on my travels to India how some people seemed to live their travels through a lens, making sure every single second was captured on a camera rather than actually throwing themselves into the place or an experience.
A few weeks ago, I realised the excuses had to stop.
I was in my kitchen and had several different things going on at once; an email I needed to get back to, a grocery shop I needed to complete online and the millionth Whatsapp message that had pinged at me that I needed to get back to for fear of upsetting someone by not replying. I glanced up to look to see where my daughter was thinking she was happily entertaining herself. But there she was, my darling, sweet natured daughter, leaning against her play table with a simple wooden block in her hand, a totally blank expression on her face and as she slid her thumb around and tapped at it, I asked what she was doing. She didn’t even look up from the block and simply bit back “hang on a’minit. I busy”.
BOOM! That was me. In that moment, I saw and heard myself. She was busy on her ‘phone’ as I so often am on mine.
Instantly, my phone went down, I grabbed our coats and off we went for a long walk. As we got deeper into the woods, she stopped, grabbed hold of my leg and clung to me tightly and said “luv you mummy”, at this moment I had complete clarity, this was what needed my focus, moments like this.
Since then, spending time with my daughter, my husband or as a family ‘unplugged’, I have discovered that letting go of these seemingly constant distractions, it has given me much more meaningful connections to the people I love the most. It was letting go and focusing on what really matters to me, that has given me the happiness of living an unplugged, hands free life.
We can spend time together talking and interacting, no distractions. Time is now set aside in the evenings to get back to people. As a self employed couple who live in an isolated spot, we have to find the time to connect and contact people but that time really doesn’t need to seep into precious ‘family time’.
With a few simple adjustments and establishing personal and family rules it really is possible to be fully present.
These are the methods I have adopted:
Turning off my computer
Waiting until my daughter is at nursery or sleeping I knew I wouldn’t be tempted to check my emails or blog.
Turning notifications off on my phone
This meant I didn’t have to check my phone as soon as my phone pinged at me and also meant my daughter’s attention wasn’t suddenly focused on a shiny gadget making interesting noises!
Putting my phone on the side when I’m in the house
Avoiding all temptation to ‘check in’ every second.
Leaving our phones elsewhere to charge at bedtime
I think a lot of us sleep with our phones by the bed to charge. I won’t go into the research and science behind why this isn’t a great idea but what I will say is that having the phone by my bed meant that whilst I may have been in bed at a sensible time, most nights I’d still be in ‘office/social mode’ well into the early hours rather than getting much needed recharge for myself.
Capturing the moments that really matter
Using my camera for those moments I knew I’d want a lasting memory of, something to show my daughter when she’s older and not every single moment of our precious time together. I want her to remember me, not a lens!
Leaving my to-do list until the end of the day
Some things do need attention during the day, however, most things can be left until a time you can focus solely on that. My to-do list is now in a notebook that I scribble in when something comes into my head and instead of leaping on it simply to get it complete, I have accepted that it’s actually OK to leave it for a little while and deal with it later in the day… or a few days later!
Disconnect from Social Media, Texts, Emails, WhatsApp etc etc
I have already posted about how I have ‘dumped’ my nemesis, Facebook. Text, Email, Whatsapp; all these fabulous tools that connect us instantly to one another, I feel are creeping in and beginning to actually disconnect us from the people who matter the most. Instagram, I can dip in and out and enjoy at times that it doesn’t affect my time with those I love.
Life really is what you make it and if the last two years has shown me anything, it is that time simply flies by so by being truly present in the moment with those you love the most, you are able to make lasting, happy memories and the distractions? Well, they can just wait a day or two!