During the summer months, I try to work from home as much as possible, and be with my kids. But I’ve noticed some changes in the behavior of my budding toddler, now 21 months old. She’s been more aggressive, frustrated, and well…just not as happy. She could be just growing up…or trying to communicate, but irritated that she can’t form the words yet. Or she could be trying to get my attention.
I’ve also observed her constantly going after my phone…or pretending everything she picked up was a phone — and saying “ello?” It was like a light bulb went on when I realized, hmmm maybe I should put my phone away. Like now. So I have, cold turkey. And the results have been pretty substantial, and a little surprising.
Now let’s not get crazy, I still use my iPhone as soon as I wake up to check email, twitter, Blogger and Facebook. I also try to send out all of my emails before my kids wake up, which isn’t always possible…because I’m exhausted. I (try to) wake up a full hour before the littlest one to get in a work out on the elliptical, while I type away furiously on my iPad. Multitasking at its best! But once I drop my 4 year old daughter off at preschool and return home, I’ve started to put my phone back in the master bedroom from 9:00am to 12:00pm. This enables me to fully be present with my toddler.
What do we do on these non-working mommy days? Go to the park with friends, go for a walk, do puzzles, an art project, or chores, go to a baby class, and sometimes (like today) run errands. I’ve noticed a big change in her in the past two weeks. She’s less attention seeking, and more focused. She’s thriving with some new skills, cutting and pasting for example, and learning new words like crazy. Prior to this I noticed boredom, hitting, throwing, and sometimes even biting.
Now that I’m not on the phone constantly, or texting, or completely distracted with work, she is getting the attention and praise she needs. She’s receiving more stimulation, conversation from me, and more one-on-one interaction. Isn’t this what all kids need? I believe this has had a huge influence on her behavior…or maybe she’s just getting older. Most likely, it’s both.
I also have started to put the phone away from 3:00-7:00pm as well, when my oldest gets home from preschool. It’s not 100% of the time, but most days I try my best to give them both my undivided attention. We sculpt masterpieces with play doh, swim, feed the ducks, and swing on the swingset. I’ve also purchased them both aprons and kitchen stools so they can help me prep dinner, rather than just turning on Nick Jr. I’m even thinking of telling my employers to call between the nap time hours of 1pm to 3pm on days I’m home, or if they really need me to call my home phone.
It’s so incredibly tough to juggle my freelance work and the kids…and I totally don’t want to miss out on any other work opportunities. But I’ve found that so far, as long as I check my email and texts in the mornings, and by 1pm, I’m usually not missing anything urgent.
After naptime today, I ran with my girls over to the local children’s museum, Young At Art in Davie, FL. It was amazing to see all the kids playing and having fun….and the parents sitting on the side scrolling through their phones. I observed only one or two parents out of ten or so there, actually playing with their kids. Raise your hand if you’ve done this. Yeah, me too! I mean we need a break, and the kids are having fun. But it was interesting that the children causing problems; pushing my daughter off the slide, or not sharing, were the ones whose parents were on their phones. They were completely distracted and unaware their child was causing harm to another.
I recently stumbled upon Brooke Burke’s website modernmom and found this wonderful blog post titled, Take Time to Stop and Smell the Flowers by Danielle Simmons. If you have a moment please read it. It was a lovely reminder of how precious this time is with our little ones. It also made me realize how putting my phone away was my first step to being present with them, and I didn’t even know it.