I’ve been talking with a new friend about how our iPhones help us or hurts us as mothers.
How do we teach our kids to use it as a tool rather than a distraction or substitute? How do we use our online relationships for real growth and friendship? How does technology change motherhood? When will they invent a special pair of yoga pants that holds your iPhone and your snacks whilst hiding all panty lines??
As someone who spends so much time online, for pleasure and purpose, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this (pants included, prototype to will dominate kickstarter, be warned)
For my generation (*cough* ala scrunchies and see-thru phones) we grew up without technology being part of our lives (and can I get an Amen to that?). Unless you count the friend who borrowed their realtor mom’s flip phone to call for a ride after drama club. It wasn’t until our late 20s that we started nestling these fancy phones into our back pockets. I remember when I first became friends with my younger-than-me-omg-i’m-so-old bestie and she would text me all.the.time! This was new to me and it felt like a cyber reminder of my increasing age and also like I was initiated into the cool kids club of people who express their feelings with short sentences and emojis. A true test of modern friendships is whether or not your bestie can decode your message that you send in ALL EMOJIS.
Over my past five years of parenting my phone has constantly been in the same room as I am at all times, often within arm’s reach. Then there is the iPad on the counter, the laptop in the hutch, the Apple TV in our living space. Technology is part of my daily life, therefore part of my kids’. At this point, most of my kids’ technological abilities include chewing on my phone, changing all the settings to airplane mode and taking 127 forehead selfies with the camera function. But they see me on the phone and I know they are learning how to use it from me. Also, they are learning how one should react to others around you while you are using it.
I really think moms being online gets a bad rap. I know some of us can dive in too deep to the online world and our nose is perpendicular to a little glass screen for way too long. But lots of us strive for ‘balance’. I know the struggle of being on your phone trying to accomplish something and the kids keep getting up in your space. And you are all like, ‘Child! Are you Jolie and I’m Ryder? No! This is not girl interrupted! Give a mama five minutes!’. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little #instagramcoffeebreak. But it can be really depressing when you are always reaching for your phone – just because – and you end up feeling like you’ve wasted your day checking a screen, for what?
Our ‘why’ is the most important. Why are we online? What are looking for when we go online? Because there is value with being online, when we go into it with a reason. When I am reaching for my phone for the twelfth time before second breakfast I have to set a rule for myself, ‘don’t go on the phone without a reason’ (sometimes that reason is to see what my friends are up to, sometimes it is very specific and ‘adultish’ – like paying my bills or converting pounds to kilograms).
These past five years I’ve spent as a mom online have taught be that technology can be empowering, when I use it with some boundaries.
First of all, your phone is like a swiss army knife. Which is something we call a knife but it can open battery panels, clean toe nails, cut eye-holes in robot cardboard costumes! The phone is a modern tool for us to run our homes and lives more efficiently. For one, I locked down my husband by learning to cook online! The tools we have are endless. There are recipes, banking, conversion calculators…ah, regular calculators (cause I haven’t done math in my head since Grad 8!), period tracking app, books, devotionals, podcasts, weather, everything. EVERYTHING! I mean, we all have that friend or family member who is asking you questions that they could just Google. But they don’t. Google is the pathway to empowerment people! It’s not like the Oregon Trail days when we had a question and had to find someone to ask, or ack! research it! Remember when we would have to look things up….in encyclopedias!? First of all, we had to find these books, best guess at which word we should look up, then recite the alphabet in our head a few times to flip to said word. Too many hurdles. Mostly we just wanted to hold that brown pleather spine in our little hands and feel all refined and worldly that we knew crap about Nova Scotia. But now we can just TALK AT our phone. “Show me videos of how to re-caulk a bath tub”. The more you know! Girl Empowered!
My kids know the phone is an important tool. I mean, Lenayah can get a picture of what the back of her hair looks like after I braid it and adorn it with ALL THE BOWS! #lifehacked. All of their artwork is archived on the phone. Sometimes we sit together and look through old photos and videos (not to mention sending them an email of all the weird wonderful things they are doing). Their favourite music lives at my fingertips for an on-demand kitchen dance party, or to sway to Italian crooners while we eat spaghetti by candlelight. If my kids have a question I can’t answer (e.g. what do clouds eat? what is skin colour? can bears open doors?) then we can load up youtube and watch it all together and talk about it. This is information our parents never had at their disposal. No, we were just left with the second hand interpretations of Woman’s World and Reader’s Digest and a big finger pointing to that brown rigid collection of encyclopedias.
But there is more value than just information. There is community. And not just the fact that I can touch base with friends and family through out the day, possibly send them pictures of my pancake butt in a maternity dress, get an update on how my grandparents are doing. My kids can skype with their aunts and grandparents. I can send my husband memes of the Office to express the love I can’t put into words. There is even more community than that. I’ve have ‘friends’ across the world I’ve met through shared outlooks and beliefs on parenting. I message them, ask them how I can pray for them, we share stories of our day, like penpals (remember those?), I read their blogs, I send them emails. When I was at BLUNTmoms I had a community of women who were like big sisters to me, they shared all their best tips, secrets, and made me howl with laughter every single day. They pushed me to be bolder and taught me so much about womanhood, motherhood and friendship. And now I’m growing a community of online and offline friends at A Little Light. For realz, in-person community is the way community is best done, but life is still being lived online and we can find communities of value that we can be a part of and grow with.
Of course, technology was a hurdle at first. As a new mom, all this online information took up residence in a spazzy part of my brain that didn’t let me skim and chose what was right for my family and kids. But over the years, I feel like I have become a better mother with technology. At my hands there are a myriad of ideas to stave off cabin fever, there are interesting articles my friends are sharing on motherhood, there is practical advice, inspiration for a crappy day, views on marriage and womanhood that have enlightened me.
From cruising Pinterest during midnight feedings, to a mid morning text with family or friends, to all the Facebook groups I go to for specified advice – I have learned about so many great products, approaches and ideas that I use every single day of my life (like baking bacon! or using tape on the floor to make race tracks! or styling your hair once every three days! or the heart importance of getting dressed like you dang well want to!) And though I’m on Pinterest, like all the time, I have muffled those heavy voices chanting that I need to have a Pinterest life. Mostly because I’ve also found a community of laid back, down to earth moms on Instagram that help me appreciate that it would be a really boring way to live.
So, I do think moms can be online with purpose. I think we can show our kids the power we are privileged to hold in our hands and how to use it effectively, rather than as a stimulant or antidote to our lives. I think there are communities of value that offer meaningful relationships that hopefully will translate into real life friendships. We are a pioneer generation of moms who are learning how to weave technology into motherhood and I believe that we can do it successfully, knowing we might sometimes suck at it. But if we can keep our Google history deleted, not have that panicky hollowness when our phone is out of our reach, get outside on the regular and always put it down when someone is talking to us – then I think we are well on our way to empowering motherhood with technology.
What do you think? How has technology impacted your motherhood?
This post was part of the #wholemama link up. This week’s word was ‘Question’. Check out more posts here.
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