I didn’t realize how much I am dependent on my phone until I was challenged to put mine away. It is one of the most amazing human inventions, but it has also become one of my greatest time wasters. I want to say I am above needing and wanting my phone all the time, but when my phone broke and I had to wait two days for a new one to come in the mail, I realized I might have a problem. It had even affected my relationship with my 5-year-old daughter. She was adopted from India and we are intentional with spending lots of quality time to make up for the years we were not together. We do not use electronics at dinner, we have reading times where we put phones away. Even with these boundaries, I realized I was counting the minutes until I could have my phone again.
Many women in my small group felt the same love-hate relationship with their phones, so our pastor gave us a challenge. She told us to put our phones away all morning, every morning with the express purpose of spending intentional time with our children. No phones before noon became our challenge and the first week really showed me how addicted I was. So, I made some changes.
I am a stay-at-home mom, so we were able to be flexible with our schedule. My daughter and I started staying closer to home and spending more and more one-on-one time together. We read more books and did more art projects. We took more walks. Even our chores changed. I still needed to clean and do laundry; I would normally listen to a podcast or audiobook with headphones on and my daughter would go do her own thing. Many times, she would be in a different room wrecking the place. Because I was distracted with my phone listening to a podcast, she knew she could get away with mischief in the other room. But, when I put my phone down in the mornings, she wanted to be around me more. She would follow me around and help me with chores. Of course, this would make the chores take twice as long, but it was more fun to have my daughter with me.
These mornings taught me patience. I was finally ready to slow down and not just worry about a checklist that I had to get done. Of course, we had appointments and doctor’s visits, so I had to leave my ringer on in case I got a call. But I kept the phone in another room instead of carrying it around with me. We do not notice how often we look at and engage with our phones until we are forced not to. It was eye-opening. With my phone in the other room, it was more like how it used to be when phones were connected to the wall. We had to focus on one thing at a time and I think that is good.
The first few phone-free mornings, I felt like I was missing out on something. I am ashamed to admit that I was jumpy—like I was having withdrawals or something. I kept finding myself wanting to just check something or look something up. However, after a few days, I didn’t have that feeling so much. I could focus on one task and not be pulled away by constant notifications and distractions.
My daughter is adopted from India and she has an independent personality. We have a strong mother-daughter bond and love to spend time together. I realized that my daughter was content to play by herself or go to another room and cause mayhem and trouble when I was distracted on my phone. When I put my phone down more and focused on her, she wanted to spend more time with me as well.
Attachment and bonding in adoption is a lifelong process. There is the initial bonding that happens when your first adopt, but it is ongoing as well. I get to prove to my daughter over and over that I am her mom and I will always be there for her. I have made mistakes. I too often wanted to veg out on my phone instead of dealing with the stress of motherhood or even my daughter’s attention-seeking behaviors. But, when we know better, we do better.
There are many things that we are trying to change and improve from past generations, but some innovations come at a price. I did not grow up with a cell phone, but I was on social media at age 13. I was on the internet any minute that my mom wasn’t using the phone line. I thank God we no longer use dial-up, but what have we lost as mothers as a result of instant gratification for the small computer in our hands?
I realized I lost snuggles and quality mother-daughter reading times. I missed long walks unencumbered by distractions. Now I try to enjoy a sunset instead of just getting a picture of it. I try to have some undocumented adventures and memories. My daughter will grow up in a world with computers and phones and other electronics as a normal part of her childhood. She will have to learn to use these tools correctly. We have to use the tools and not let them take over our lives. My daughter will look to my example to learn how to use technology correctly.
Technology is not all bad. We used my phone to look up videos about flying to help my daughter not be afraid to fly in an airplane. We listen to music together and discover art all from the comfort of the sofa. PBS Kids is a treasure trove of entertainment and educational games. I have pictures of our trip to India. I have pictures of the moment I met my daughter and took her home. I have videos that document her many, many milestones and we can look back easily and see how far she has come and how much she has grown. If I didn’t have this amazing piece of technology in my hand, I wouldn’t have that.
We take our tech-free mornings as an opportunity for more time: more treasured moments of mother-daughter adventures and playtime. We do our chores together. We read, sing, and more. Ditching electronics was hard at first, but they have made all the difference with my daughter.
Natalie Welch is a co-creator of the InstaMommas, a Christain podcast/blog that is all about motherhood and adoption. She is happily married and a mother through international adoption to her 4-year-old daughter. Natalie graduated with a BS in Secondary Education in English with an emphasis in English as a New Language and Spanish Language studies from the University of Idaho. Natalie was a teacher for many years and now loves being a stay-at-home mom. Natalie enjoys traveling the world, creating or listening to music, reading long novels, and continuing her education. Currently, Natalie is learning American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate better with her daughter who has special needs. Natalie loves to take long walks with her family and explore the beautiful state of Idaho she has called home for the last ten years. Natalie has a passion for adoption and loves to share hope and healing through her writing.