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Confessions of a Distracted Parent

I recently came across a news story out of Austin about texting while parenting. It talked about the consequences of parents constantly being on their phones or computers — some call it “distracted parenting.” The report spoke to local specialists to get their take on the trend, and according to University of Texas associate professor of psychology Dr. Catharine Echols, “The best language learning happens with focused interaction between the child and adult. In that interaction, parents should be talking about what the child is interested in. If social media is interfering with that, then it could be harmful.”

And Austin psychologist Carrie Contey warned, “The child is going to take their cues from the parents, and if the habit of the parent is I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m busy… I have to do my work… I have to check my thing, then the child will eventually realize, ‘Oh, I better go be busy too, because they don’t have time for me.’ ” While I can try to pretend I’m not almost always connected either via the laptop or my iPhone, I guess sometimes I miss what it looks like from the outside in. And this report made me stop and think about it. I work online so a lot of what I do is somehow connected to work. But a lot of is also being social in the same way people who work in an office sometimes hang out a little to long chit chatting in the break room. And I’ll admit to that.

Over the summer I got into a pretty good habit of doing work in the evenings and weekends, freeing up my weekdays to hang with the kids. But that habit has dropped off and lately I find myself constantly stuck with my face in the computer. Playing catch-up, trying to meet deadlines, trying to get ahead, etc. And the time while my kids are at school is always divided between work stuff, housework, errands, and of course time spent at the kid’s school and in meetings or calls. So when the kids get home from school, I’m still working.

But there are things I can do about that. Today, despite getting caught on calls for a good chunk of the day and not getting everything I needed to get done finished, I still shut off the computer after the kids got home. I did check my email a few times during the afternoon via my phone, but aside from that I stuck to my goal.

We (moms) are connected a lot, and there are many benefits to that connection. For many of us stay-at-home and work-at-home moms the work or connecting we do online is some of the only adult interaction we get each day. Something working parents or non-parents would never get.

But that doesn’t make taking out attention away from our kids even remotely OK. So join me in making an effort to shut off our devices.

  1. Budget Your Time: If you work from home set working hours and stick to them. Though some days will get the better of you, do what you can to shut off the computer when the kids get home from school or wake up from their naps.
  2. Set Specific Limits: On when and where phones are allowed. No phones at the game, at the dinner table or during bedtime, etc.

It’s important to remember that as moms, we’re not perfect. We never will be. But as long as we recognize the stuff we can fix, and fix it, we’re OK.

Are there aspects of your parenting you want to change? What steps are you taking to change them?