Here’s a topic I’ve been hearing about from new mamas lately.  As parents, we get a lot of advice about how to manage our children’s screen time.  But what about our own?  Logging into social media, for example, feels like a vicious cycle.  I go on to find out what’s going on in the world, then I get sucked in and stay on for too long.  Then I feel bad about how much time has elapsed.  Same thing with work e-mails.  My phone draws me in, and it’s so hard to disconnect from my job – physically or emotionally.  Any advice?

Joining me today with some great tips on how to manage our own distraction machines (re: phones and iPads), is Alexandra Hughes, coach and founder of www.calmjoyfulmom.com:

Those seductive screens!  Those wonderful little devices hidden in our pockets or scattered around our homes that connect us to the outside world also keep us tied into our work world and the political chaos that abounds.

If left to their own devices (excuse the pun!) they have the power to drag our minds into a time and space dimension that is not the here and now.

Any of this sound familiar?

  • You are feeding your little guy pureed sweet potatoes, while actually ruminating over an email you received or a report that’s due. You check your phone.
  • Our bodies are tucking our beloved children in, but our thoughts are on today’s news about the latest executive order.  You peek at your screen.

It’s too easy with our devices at hand, to leave the present moment and dive a little bit deeper into the distraction.

I know…I’m as vulnerable as anyone is to the combined lure of connectivity that the screen offers us.

I mean seriously, have you ever found yourself saying:  “I’m just going to quickly check that email…”  And then you end up on Facebook for 45 minutes, completely oblivious as your kiddo expresses his Picasso-esq talents on his bedroom wall?

Immediate child-self-entertainment consequences aside, sometimes at the end of a long working day, distraction is more than welcome.

Isn’t it wonderful to hear from and reach out to old friends in faraway lands?  Or to read inspirational words and images that keep you going? Or to catch up on news? Not to mention work!

(Adult world here I am. Take me away!!)

The thing is, these devices do take us away.  They take us away from the here and now.  From the opportunity to create and experience quality moments of connection.

Studies show that it is the quality of time and not quantity of time that matters in ensuring strong relationships between parent and child.

So let’s hold off on the immediate gratification of Facebook.  Dismiss the guilt, and forget regret.  Let’s be intentional in making those moments that we have count.

Imagine: What would it feel like to designate a time where you separate from your device, so that you can be in the here and now with the human beings around you?

Where you are present enough to look in their eyes, see their little hands, hear their stories?

Scary, but possible!

In effect, by cutting your umbilical cord with technology, you may find that you become more efficient (because you are actually focusing on only one thing – that thing you are doing).  And that you also become more consciously responsive to your own needs and to those around you.

Imagine that. (It’s like living in the 80s again!)

Here are Three Savvy Tips for Setting Good Screen Time Boundaries:

(1)    Designate a regular screen-free time of the dayMaybe it’s half an hour, an hour, two hours (!!) after work when you are at home, dedicated to your family 100%.  During this time, have all screens in a different room (muted).  And hold the intention of being present, breathing the air around you, hearing the sounds around you, and interacting with the people around you.

(2)    Give your device a bedtime and stick with it.  There are many apps and functions that can help you to strictly adhere to their bedtime (try Kaboom – it’s designed for parenting, but works a charm with parents too).  And there are apps that invite you to begin winding down (including iPhones Bedtime function and two of my personal favorites: Relax and Rest Guided Meditation and Calm).  Use these to support your needs in the relationship you have with your device.

(3)    Give yourself and your device an afternoon off.  Practice leaving your phone at home or in the car when you go on an outing with the family.  Remember those days when you were fully present?  Before smart phones came with you everywhere?  Replicate these so you can model full and complete presence and connection with your family one Sunday afternoon.

When I started doing this, there was a remarkable shift in the quality of my time with my littles.  One of the best moves I made was to separate from my smartphone at bedtime.  My device-free bedtime strategy is still to intentionally leave my phone downstairs after dinner while I go upstairs with the kids.

I’m flexible, though. If I think a mindful audio or story will help my 6-year old fall asleep, I do that.  Or, if my daughter wants to show me a video she made, no problem.  I choose to get up, go downstairs and get the device.  It is purposeful.  I intentionally chose to use it as a tool for connection, not for distraction.

Creating boundaries around our screens does not mean going back to the Stone Ages.  Rather, it is about being intentional.  Perhaps for the working mother who has trouble disconnecting from the office, it is also about making the healthy statement that you are not on call 24/7.  That you have a family and life outside of the office that you value.

Whatever it is for you, using screens with more intentionality is a commitment to enhancing and ensuring quality connections with those you love and in so doing, prioritizing family time. In fact, it can be freeing.  Knowing you are 100% present for your children when you are with them grants you the freedom to be 100% at work when you are working.  A win-win for you and both the worlds you work to juggle each and every day.

Alexandra Hughes is founder of calmjoyfulmom.com and host to the Clear Mind | Present Mama Challenge – a free 5 day challenge that helps mothers to ditch overwhelm so they can free themselves up to breath, nurture relationships and be present doing what they love with those they love. She is mother to 3 littles, wife to an ever-travelling husband and CEO and manager for her family household of fabulous five.  If you are a mother who struggles with distraction or overwhelm, consider joining her Calm Mind | Present Mama Challenge. Next round starts in April!

And if you want support getting to that place of calm as you return to work after maternity leave, join the next session of Mindful Return, a 4-week curriculum and peer mentoring program all in one.

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