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Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
When Fia was born, the internet saved me. Now, it’s killing me. Lately I have been writing about how I decided to unplug and what I discovered in unplugging. In short, my mind isn’t constantly racing and I feel more in-the-moment with my babies.
It was a different story with Fia. The web was my connection to the world. I would spend hours giving and getting advice from moms. I’d scour blogs and read everything from sleep training to reflux. I’d write about my own mental health. I’ve often said it wasn’t my husband or my therapist who pulled me through those early months. It was other moms. Many of whom I never met in person.
So it’s no surprise a recent study says that new moms who are in the blogosphere feel more connected, less alone, less stressed, even less depressed.
“That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, Penn State.
He and his colleagues at Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers who had babies under 18 months. They asked about their use of media, both in terms of blogging and social media like Facebook. The social media aspect didn’t have much impact. But writing and reading blogs did. I think therein lies the difference.
When you are texting and checking your phone all day for emails, your mind spins. You feel less-connected to just about everything. It becomes an addiction. When you’re blogging or reading blogs you feel more a part of something. I’m not tooting my own horn here. For me, the phone is my addiction, the blog is my salvation.
I think the author of the study explained it well. He pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog:
- It gives moms a way to connect with family and friends who live far away.
- It gives moms a creative outlet. They can showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, especially the stay-at-home moms.
Both of these make sense to me. We moms often struggle with feeling under-appreciated. I know my blog gives me a sense of self that I may have lost otherwise.
In the study, the moms reported spending about three hours per day on the computer and using the Internet. That was only behind sleep at seven hours a day and caring for their babies at nine hours a day.
I think about the generations of moms before us. On the one hand, their lives seemed simpler. They weren’t checking iphones and texting all the time. What did they do with those extra three hours? I often wonder if they were more focused and present? Or if they were more stressed and depressed? We know by Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique
that many were questioning their purpose in life. Housewives were admitting their unhappiness and realizing motherhood wasn’t always enough. It still isn’t for many of us. In that regard, I think we are lucky to have all the technology at our fingertips. We can connect and feel connected. For many stay at home moms, blogging has even turned into a career.
How you manage it is the key.
There’s a fine line between fulfilling your life and dominating your life; between oversharenting
and not sharing enough. Should you be writing about your kids or spending time with them? I guess it comes down to finding your own personal balance. I know I’ve been working hard to find mine.
As for why social media like Facebook
did little for the moms? Here’s what I think: Social media, for all its good, is a time-suck
. I know it doesn’t leave me feeling content. Blogging, on the other hand, is writing. When I get to sit down and use my creative energy to put something organic out there, I feel purposeful and accomplished. Plus, if it helps others, I actually feel useful. Writing inspires me. It keeps my brain functioning in a way that diapers and breast pumps don’t.
But how do you embrace social media, disconnect from the internet/Blackberry, blog about motherhood, and not feel hypocritical?
I have said before that I’m going for quality over quantity. Set limits for your online time/your kid time/your wife time and stick to them. Put the phone away after a certain time of day. It takes discipline, but I think in this day and age, it’s the only way we can straddle all our worlds without losing sight of the most important one: our kids.
Image: Blog Pic via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Monday, June 25th, 2012
“Hello. My name is Jill and I am a Blackberry addict.”
Actually, I don’t think I’m as bad as some (we love to justify our bad behavior, don’t we?), but I did decide last week to unplug for a bit. I wrote about my plan (Is My Tech Addiction Making Me a Bad Mom?) and today is the follow-up.
In putting the brakes on my computer and blackberry, here’s what didn’t happen:
- The world didn’t fall apart.
- I didn’t lose out on any jobs.
- I didn’t lose any friends.
- I didn’t miss any important calls.
- I didn’t miss any deadlines.
- I didn’t have crazy mood swings (because I wasn’t checking email and text constantly).
Here’s what did happen:
- I felt focused and present with my babies.
- I felt focused and present with my husband.
- I felt focused and present with my writing.
- I felt focused and present with my life.
- In short: I felt happier. Because I was.
I can see how the addiction creeps up though. I found that after the first couple days of being really disciplined, I’d start to regress. I’d go into the mindset of: “I’ll just check my phone really quick. Just this one time.” It is such a habit I had to be incredibly self-aware and disciplined. I knew that if I just “started to check a few times here and there,” I would be back into full-blown crazy. It’s like a recovering alcoholic just having a “few sips.” It doesn’t work.
After my post I got some great comments from all of you. And not one of you disagreed with how plugged in we are. Universally, everyone had the same take: ie: Guilty of “checking in” with the phone and “checking out” with the kids. One mom said she almost missed her toddler’s first steps. Another says she is thinking of having a “phone basket” by the front door. It’s a place to put their phones when she and her husband come home from work.
My friend Teresa (who got me on this kick) told me to take this a step further. She brought up some excellent points. Not only are we getting scattered and blue checking our phones, but are we also:
1. Modeling behavior for kids who will think interacting involves constant detaching. Are these the kids who will sit at the table with an iPad all the time? Is that okay? In moderation, probably. All the time? No way. (Read fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott’s recent blog about Smartphones becoming the new pacifier.)
2. Sending a message to our kids that other things are more important.
Granted, sometimes other things are more important, but maybe we shouldn’t constantly be at the beck and call of the world.
Unless you live in a cave, you all know what I’m getting at. And it’s not pretty. Agreed?
I’m continuing on my journey of unplugging in chunks and then doing a total blackout at night (not with the bottle. Then I’ll need another 12-step program!). Every afternoon I put my phone away starting at 3:30 pm. When Fia is asleep and Emmett is resting, I do one check around 7:30 or 8 for a maximum of ten minutes. Then that’s it until 9 a.m. the next day.
I won’t check my phone right before going to bed either. It can quickly get my mind racing. Not exactly conducive to falling asleep. These issues have been thoroughly documented. There’s even a book out now: Sleeping With Your Smart Phone. It’s all about how to break the 24/7 habit. An article in Time Magazine calls us a nation of “addicts” when it comes to our phones. It’s gross, isn’t it?
Did any of you come to different conclusions? Are you continuing on the path to unplug? Maybe we should start a movement called, “Unplugged: The Path to Present.” Thoughts?
Blackberry Picture via Shutterstock.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Must Read
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Today I am partially unplugging for the week. My goal? To become more mindful and present. Here’s why:
My friend Teresa came over yesterday. She is pregnant and a vegetarian. I was ordering pizza. I needed a crucial answer. I texted her: can u pick the meat off or do I get veggie pizza? What kind of veggies?
She didn’t text back. I got a little indignant. I went ahead and ordered (one plain, one pepperoni). When she arrived I asked if she had seen my text. She said something that I’ve been floating through my increasingly scattered brain for a few days.
“I try and only check my phone every 2 hours. Especially when I’m with my son. It makes me feel like I’m not a good mom when I start responding and not focusing on him. I find that the more I check my phone, the more depressed I am at the end of the day because my mood is constantly shifting based on what comes in.”
What she said = gold in my book. And my brain. I kid you not: last week I had a headache for 3 days. I could tell it was from tension. Nothing made it go away. I honestly think it’s because I’m so scattered with a lack of schedule (read: Frustrated. Need to Vent) and feel pulled in a million directions that no amount of aspirin or Motrin will help. What will help is changing my behavior. Drastically.
Granted I wrote last week about the beauty of social media. How I’m now a believer in it. But, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put limits on all this stuff.
On any given day, here is how my crazy goes:
Fia and I are playing. I check my phone. She frolics, I text or email someone back. Then I run into the kitchen. Open freezer. Remember someone else I was going to email about something. Write them. Freezer is still open. I pull out chicken to thaw. Fia shouts, “Mama, what are you doing?” I open a cabinet. ”I’m coming baby.” I pull out a glass and fill it with water. I check the phone. Oops–respond to an email. Cabinet still open. I almost walk into it (two years ago I did and broke my nose. No sh-t). Glance out window. She isn’t maimed. I shoot a quick text to another friend. Reply to the email. Fia asks for me again. I walk outside with my phone. Oops. Forgot water. Back inside. And on and on.
No wonder I don’t feel “present.” No wonder I have self doubt about my mom abilities. Or frankly any of my abilities. It’s a CONSTANT yo-yo of emotions. Even as creatures of adaptation, our brains aren’t made for that.
My mom in her crass wisdom used the quote, “If you have one foot in tomorrow and one foot in yesterday, then you’re pissing on today.” I’m going to say that when I have one foot on my computer and one foot on my kids, I’m pissing on the present. I can’t straddle the worlds anymore. It’s a lose-lose situation, and one that apparently has consequences. A recent article in the New York Times says there is a thing called Facebook Depression. And that constant texting and emailing can cause mental illness. These include OCD behavior (me) and narcissism (probably me).
As my friend Teresa said, “Bottom line: this sh-t isn’t good for us.”
I find in moments when I am down on my knees, sans blackberry, playing with Fia, helping her poop, whatever, there is never stillness. Instead of absorbing everything about her and our moments (yes, even if it’s in a disgusting public bathroom), my mind spins. Crazy sentences begin. I literally have conversations with people, thinking about what I will text or email them–which then turns into an entirely different conversation that can range from my purpose in life to my next grocery trip. I am so tired of hearing myself.
TIME. TO. STOP. THE. F–KING. CHATTER.
Here’s what I’m doing: I am going to overhaul my life and really examine how I can schedule my week in a more seamless and sane fashion. Following Teresa’s lead, I will allot myself time to check my phone and time to put it away. I will schedule chunks of time for my kids without the phone even in reach. I think this will reduce my mom guilt too. I’m going for quality over quantity.
Like I said, I’m giving this a week. Anyone else want to join me in this venture? I’ll report back on June 25th. If you want to do this too, post comments on this blog and I can share them in the follow-up post. And not to worry; I’ll read your comments during my allotted “work time.”
Lastly, if anyone has any suggestions on how to manage time and technology better, please share!
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blackberry, depression, facebook, facebook depression, ibook, ipad, iphone, mental illness, milestone monday, narcissism, neurosis, neurotic, OCD, oversharenting, social media, tech, technology, twitter | Categories:
Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
I now believe in twitter. And the power of social media. Doesn’t mean I like doing it. But I do think there is something to it.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, my editors at Parents sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal on Oversharenting. They asked if I wanted to blog about it. I did. I tweeted it out with a slew of other stuff. From that tweet, I began a “twitter conversation” (is that what you call it?) with a producer at KCBS. Next thing I know, he was asking if they could interview me for a story on Oversharenting. (click here to view.)
I connected with another woman on twitter by posting about Emmett’s reflux. She happens to be a nurse who works in pediatrics. She gave me some amazing information and now we email advice and updates.
I wrote a post about my angst over the alleged allegations of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. I went to Penn State and grew up in State College, so the story really hit home. (His trial is going on right now.) That landed me a segment on Fox LA.
I still don’t have that many followers, but it’s growing. I have a woman helping me navigate the waters and she’s great. She isn’t putting pressure on me, but what she does is point out articles I’m interested in. I’m a huge fan of Nicholas Kristof’s columns in the New York Times. He takes on the bravest of topics, often writing about the impoverished women and children of the world. She helps flag some for me to retweet to my small flock. You hope over time, you start to make a difference.
This all sounds like a big, gross blog on self-promotion. But it’s not. It really comes down to my resistance of trying something new. Then, getting over that resistance, embracing it with baby steps, and seeing first hand results.
Does it mean I get a better spot in the universe? No. Do more followers mean I’m more important? No. But if the point of my career is to write, it’s nice to have readers, conversation and feedback. When Parents posts my blogs on their Facebook page, I get to see real-time responses. Two years ago I didn’t even have a Facebook page.
I am quickly realizing in the digital age, it takes a digital village. The key is how to manage it. There is definitely an art to this, and it does take time. I’m not ready to let it rule my life, but I have seen it work.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
In the running world it’s called bonking. In motherhood it’s called overbooking. The end result is the same: exhaustion.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how the endless stream of company and chaos (albeit, self-imposed) affected my milk supply. Luckily I got it back up by putting brakes on the crazy. Things are much more calm around here lately.
I started to think about why I pushed myself to such a ridiculous point and to to thinking: does it seem like our generation of moms feel the need to constantly get out and “do” more than previous generations? My mother-in-law, my aunt, and countless older moms have teased me about how much Fia and I were on the go the first two years. Part of it was living in an apartment in Brooklyn. You’ll go stir crazy if you don’t get outside. Part of it was the need to connect to other moms. But is there another part in our technologically-obsessed, plugged-in culture that makes us incapable of sitting at home? Or god forbid, letting our children entertain themselves?
Recently I was feeling guilty for not taking Emmett to the “Mommy and Me” movies. Every week in LA a couple of the movie theaters show a new release for moms. You bring your babies. Diaper changes, crying and breastfeeding are the norm. No one cares because you’re all in the same boat. I did it when Fia was 3 months old (we were out here for a brief stretch). Her first movie was “Shutter Island.” Okay, now read the first sentence of this paragraph again. Guilty? For Emmett? He gets no benefit from the movies. It’s purely for me.
Could the play date and having to ”do” something with the kids end up being harmful? Does it gear them up to think they ”have” to be entertained or go somewhere? Instead should we be teaching them calm and quiet? To play with themselves? Commune in nature? My aunt thinks so. She feels that the drive in this generation of moms will lead to some uncontrollable kids/tweens/teens who don’t know what to do with themselves if they aren’t “doing.” As she put it, “Being able to be alone with yourself, entertain yourself, read, etc., is paramount to becoming a well balanced, non-hyperactive teen and adult.”
Are we selfish in wanting to see movies and do yoga while dragging our babies along for the ride in the guise of “mommy and me” classes? Or are we helping ourselves get through motherhood by creating our own villages? If it’s the latter, they are very activity-centered villages. At least mine always have been.
I’m sure the ability to text a friend and get an instant response contributes to the ease of meeting up. Before the age of email and cell phones, it may have been different by default, not choice. But is this the right choice for us and our kids? I don’t know. I think it’s something to ponder.
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breastfeeding, cell phones, email, entertain, mommy and me, movies, overbooking, oversharenting, play date, playdate, text, yoga | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama