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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
* To those who know me personally, this blog is going to come across as extremely hypocritical. Bear in mind that, while I’m encouraging others to follow these steps, I’m directing this advice at myself as well.
I fail at my job as parent pretty regularly. Every day, in fact. I yell too loudly, I laugh in my kids’ faces when they mispronounce words, I sometimes even forget that they’re due for an afternoon snack until we’re pushed right up against dinner and it’s too late. But since I still show up for my “job” the next day, no matter what, I think I’m on the path to ultimate success. I also believe that my tendency to scrutinize myself, while occasionally leading to personal anguish, yields a self-aware, prepared father at the end of the day. At least I hope so.
Naturally, the road to self-improvement goes through self-awareness. So, I decided to come up with a list of potentially harmful common themes I’m finding in my own life, and quite frankly, in the lives of too many parents.
Here are the most direct ways I think we can ensure we don’t miss our children growing up while we’re busy doing too much:
Put Down the Camera
Look, I get it. I’m guilty of it myself. But your kid doesn’t want every waking hour of his/her life dedicated to film. And if they do, you’re raising a narcissist (or a reality TV star). There are certainly times when I hover over my son like the paparazzi in hopes of a magical moment. But neither of us are enjoying it as I’m stressing over getting the perfect shot, already thinking ahead to the Instagram filter that will go best with my masterpiece. In the end, my kid gives less than a sh*t about social media and much more about me playing with him, hands-free. And another thing, not every single picture you take of your child is post-worthy. Trust me on this. I’ve had to remind myself on Christmas morning to put down my phone and/or camcorder to focus more on enjoying the look on their faces and less on documenting it.
Stop Cleaning Up
I hate cleaning an entire roomful of toys after my sons are finished wreaking havoc on it. So what I often find myself doing is shadowing my kids, picking up things and putting them away not even a minute after my boys have moved onto another toy. I do it for two reasons: one, to avoid having a much larger mess to clean later and two, to avoid the inevitable struggle of convincing my kid to clean it up himself. I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens. And I need to stop. If even ¼ of the time I spend with my kids is taken up by snapping pictures and clearing the floor, am I really spending time with them?
Talk to Them at Length
You’ll find that if you do too much of bullets 1 and 2 listed above, you’ll have less time for this. I’ve discovered some of the most fascinating things about my children by simply asking them follow-up questions about their day, what they dreamed about, their fears, etc. Sometimes if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. Probing your children for further information is like listening to a musical artist’s entire album, rather than just the singles. You’re bound to find a gem or two.
Let Them Fail
I’ve written about this in the past, but kids need to know what it feels like to fail. It’s the only way they’ll be motivated to succeed. I’ve spotted my older son trying to tie his shoes at age 3 a few times. I knew full well he wasn’t going to make it happen, and initially tried to step in. But more and more, I’ve been letting him try to figure things out on his own. I like to think it stimulates his brain and encourages self-empowerment. The one downside is it also leads to frustration, but it’s worth the risk.
No Phone Zone
Like anyone with an iPhone, a constant battle for me is Joe vs. the perpetual social media tick. Instinctively, we pull out our phones when we’re in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Or when we’re on a dreadfully boring conference call. Or, sometimes we even take it out as an escape from the chaos of our routine, daily lives. It becomes a problem when it’s interfering with our parenting, specifically when your son or daughter actually calls you out on being on the phone too much. Whether it’s for work, play, or a simple check because you *gasp* heard a notification sound go off, don’t overdo it. I know I’d hate for my kids to grow up thinking, “Dad was here, but he really wasn’t here most of the time.”
I suppose the best advice I can give you is the advice I try to follow everyday: The most important gift you can give your children is your time. Surely, there will be days when we snap one too many pictures or we get so distracted by our own thoughts that we don’t even listen as they gleefully regale us with a story about a new friend they made at school. But if we make a concerted effort to live in the moment and give our kids the attention they deserve, I have a feeling we’ll look back on these years with significantly more pride than if we hadn’t. After all, no one ever looked back wishing they spent less time with their kids and more time with their iPhone.
If you enjoyed this, check out a previous post I wrote about choosing my kids over an iPhone app and what made me wake up.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to tweet me @JoeDeProspero or add a comment below! I also welcome email, and have been blown away by the effort readers have put into their messages to me. The greatest gift a writer can receive is knowing he/she made an impact on a reader’s life. Keep them coming!
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* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He is the author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
There’s an app for that.
You’ve heard it time and time again, both as a serious suggestion and as a punch line. Want to track your daily caloric intake? There’s an app for that. Want to get locations and ratings on all Italian restaurants within a 20-mile radius? There’s an app for that. Want a constant distraction from your daily life that will serve as both a healthy mind-stimulator and immeasurable impedance on your parenthood and overall productivity? Unfortunately, there are several apps for that. Most are free, but can be quite costly in other ways.
For me, that app is ultra-popular, Scrabble-inspired Words with Friends. Now, before I go any further, I have to be clear that I’m not criticizing or trying to discourage use of this addictive app. I happen to love the game. In fact, I’m obsessed with it to an unhealthy degree. And that obsession got to be too much one particular day while reading a book to my son. Rather, trying to read a book to my son. At the time, I had 21 active games going, and frankly that number would’ve been higher had the app allowed it. And as it turned out, my kids’ bedtime always seemed to correspond with when my opponents were at their most prolific. Naturally. So, I was right in the middle of Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons book when I looked over at my iPhone to check if any plays had been made in the past 45 seconds. Antonio, my son, frustratingly asked, “Daddy, do you ever put your phone away?”
I did put my phone away. That very moment, in fact. I was completely surprised by the question. More importantly, though, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. My son had playfully tried to grab my iPhone out of my hand in the past while I was playing my turn in WWF, but this was the first time he’d verbally expressed disappointment. And it was clear. He thought I cared more about playing some game on my phone than reading to him. That night, after the kids were asleep, I resigned from all my current games and deleted the Words with Friends app from my phone. Considering how addicted I was to it, I even surprised myself at how I was able to do it without the slightest bit of hesitation. But considering how it was starting to make my kid feel, the decision to eliminate it from my life wasn’t difficult in the least.
I won’t lie. I miss playing. Like any part of a daily routine, it had become ingrained in my psyche to the point where any idle moment (and sometimes, not-so-idle moment) was devoted to punishing my opponent with a Triple-Word score. I know there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly capable of striking a healthy balance between their responsibilities and hobbies. But when a hobby becomes so consuming that it’s affecting how your boss, spouse, friends, or especially your children view you, it’s time to walk away. For me, the time had clearly come.
It would be foolish for me to believe that I’m completely in the clear when it comes to distractions. In this day and age, if it isn’t Facebook, it’s Twitter. And if it isn’t Twitter, it’s Instagram. And if it isn’t Instagram, it’s some other social app that’s as attractive to a wandering mind as a fire hydrant to a urinating dog. As parents, our minds need relief more than anybody. But I’ve learned that seeking such relief while your children are awake and in your care is as selfish as it is dangerous.
So, if you have a similar distraction that’s taking you away from something far more important, know that there’s somebody, maybe even one of your children, that have noticed it. And no matter how tempting a Triple-Word score is, no point total is worth ignoring, even for a moment, that very important somebody.
Do you have a habit you’re looking to break? Know someone who does? Let me know about it by leaving a comment below! Or tweet me with the hashtag #appaddict!
And if you are looking for fun activities to do with your kids, check out our free Activity Finder.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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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 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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Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
I know I overshare on my blog. Hell, I even posted during pregnancy about my ugly vag problem. I’m sure my pious mother-in-law was horrified by that one, though we’ve never discussed it. I keep thinking maybe she didn’t read it. I know my husband only reads posts I flag for him. Otherwise I think he’d be horrified too. He’s a private person. So private in fact that he, get this, doesn’t even have a Facebook page. Yes, you read that correctly. He will occasionally go on mine to surf and post obnoxious comments that I then have to go undo/overexplain to my “friends.”
All this to say that there is a new term. It’s called oversharenting.
I cringed when I read parts of this Wall Street Journal article. As in, “God I hope I’m not oversharenting everything I post.” When it comes to my kids, I’d like to think they won’t be horrified by my blogs in 15 years. I keep telling myself that since everything is so instant, everything is also instantly forgotten, right? But what if it’s not?
Will Fia care that her first boyfriend can find a picture about her first poop? Will Emmett care that the world knows he’s not circumcised? I don’t dare ask my husband this because I think his gut feeling is I reveal too much. He would probably be okay if my blog went away. He’s supportive of my writing—he just doesn’t want our family to have anything to do with it. But I’m a mommy blogger. So what line do I walk? My family is my blog. And it gives me a creative outlet that I cherish.
When it comes to social media like Twitter and Facebook, I’m pretty lame compared to most moms. I have less than 600 twitter followers (please follow me! @jillcordes) and I have a small fan base on Facebook (please like me!). I’m so bad at putting my links up that I have someone helping/teaching me to do it. As ridiculous as it sounds, somehow this makes me feel like a superior parent in the online world. Well, I may be posting naked pictures of my babies, but at least I don’t live on the computer all day.
Ahh, we humans can justify anything, can’t we?
I have no right or wrong answers for oversharenting. I don’t know if anyone does because we don’t know where the digital age is leading us. Will our kids and grandkids be more open about issues? Will there be less passive aggressive behavior in the world because we call everyone out on everything? (That would help many an in-law relationship, no?) Or will we end up raising robots? Or worse—kids who hate us for all we’ve revealed?
I joke that when Fia and Emmett become tweens, we’ll all move to rural New Zealand and become sheepherders. But something tells me there will be a wireless connection there, too.
Where do we draw the line in dealing with online? Tell me. Help me. Share your thoughts for the world to see.
Picture of mom and baby on computer via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Must Read