Putting Away the Phone and Being Present

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 a.m. to 12 p.m. This enables me to fully be present with my toddler.
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Is there one place you choose to honor with your full attention? Our "Sacred Spaces" series explores where your phone is unwelcome. From the mundane to the truly unique -- from yoga class to family dinner to your bath tub -- we are spotlighting the environments where you are truly unplugged. Want to share your own? Send us your story here.

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.


Enjoying an early morning hike with my daughter in Breckenridge, Colo. this summer. Peek-a-boo! (Ironically, captured this image on my iPhone)

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 a.m. to 12 p.m. 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 attention, 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.


Emylia enjoying our porch swing this morning

I also have started to put the phone away from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. as well, when my oldest gets home from preschool. It's not 100 percent 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 swing set. 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 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 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 1 p.m., I'm usually not missing anything urgent.

After nap time today, I ran with my girls over to the local children's museum Young At Art in Davie, Fla. 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 10 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 www.modernmom.com 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.

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