I read the book Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford on a recent plane ride home from Texas.
I’ll be honest – I really didn’t like the book.
First, Stafford’s writing style is just not my cup of tea. The chapters seemed a bit disjointed – almost as if they were longish blog posts strung together into a book. There were too many call-out boxes with thoughts for reflection and too many run-on stories that should have been synthesized. If Stafford had written a book half this one’s length, I think it might have carried twice the punch.
Even still, I read the book cover to cover, and that led to the second reason I really didn’t like Hands Free Mama.
I didn’t like the pit in my stomach, the punch in my gut, the arrow in my heart, that her words caused within me.
My name is Stephanie, and I’m addicted to my Smartphone.
My whole life, I’ve absolutely hated talking on the phone. Kind of strange, I know, but true: I’ve never liked chatting on the phone. I’m definitely a “let’s meet for coffee and have a chat” kinda girl.
So when I received my first Smartphone the month my firstborn joined our family, a whole new world opened for me. A world where I could check up on your life on Facebook, show off pictures of my adorable kids on Instagram, Tweet my latest thoughts or questions, peruse endless ideas on every subject on Pinterest, read about your lives and your stories on Bloglovin, and maybe challenge you to a round or two on Words with Friends.
The Smartphone became a way for me to forget the
pile PILES of laundry waiting to be folded on my bed, ignore the dishes sitting in my kitchen sink, excuse the need to play Hotwheels with the kids on my family room floor, and lose myself in a virtual world of people, places, and pictures that often seemed more interesting and more fun.
Motherhood carries with it a certain loneliness and isolation, and the Smartphone became a Band-aid for that motherhood wound. It gave me a sense of community, connection, and friendship even when I was home all day with no one to talk to except chattering toddlers and babbling babies.
While my need for connection and community is still real, and valid, Stafford’s book helped me remember that an addiction to a mobile device is too high a price for my family to pay. It’s just not worth it.
Since reading Hands Free Mama, I’ve become more aware of the times and places I’m most prone to bury myself in my phone vs. be more present to my family. It’s only been a little over a week, but already I’ve begun to form new habits that are freeing me from the phone.
- When I get up in the morning, I’m leaving my phone on my night table in my room instead of taking it downstairs with me first thing. I like to sit down with my coffee, my Bible, and my phone early in the morning, and I’m ashamed to say the Scripture is usually not the first thing I read after my first sip of caffeine. Leaving the phone upstairs keeps it out of my reach for the entire early morning routine and breakfast routine. I haven’t missed an urgent phone call or a breaking news Facebook post yet, so I think I’ll be just fine leaving the phone upstairs for the morning.
- When I take the kids outside to play, or to the park, I am easily susceptible to zoning them out and reading on my phone while they play. This week, whether they’re in the kiddie pool or on the swings, I’ve left the phone inside. And while I’ll admit, it’s a bit boring sometimes to sit there and watch them without my little black buddy in my hands, I know it’s been good for me and good for them. I’m much more engaged in their play without the stupid phone distracting me.
- After dinner is another big Smartphone time sucker for me. I’ve been trying to leave my phone out of reach in the evenings so that I’m more available for chats with my Hubs, or to bury my nose in a book without Instagram beckoning me to check in one more time.
In the past 10 days, I haven’t missed anything major being less connected to my phone. I haven’t missed any urgent phone calls, text messages, or emails. Sure, I still check my phone during the day and if you follow me on social media, you know I still post photos and status updates. But that little black time sucker isn’t sticking out of my back pocket or within arms’ reach as much.
I’m happier because of it. I feel more free. And I know my kids are happier too.
When I got home from a girls trip last weekend, my husband took us all out to a pizza parlor to celebrate. At the table next to us sat a husband and wife and two young children. The couple ordered food for the kids to be delivered to the table first, while the couple ordered more elaborate food for themselves. While the children ate their plain pasta, the Dad stared off into space and the mom checked in on Facebook. Not once did the family interact while the kids were eating. When the kids finished, both parents handed their Smartphones to the kids so they could play games while the parents ate. For the entire meal, there was no interaction between the family of four, thanks to two Smartphones also being guests at their table.
The following day, I took my boys to the park, and a young dad with his toddler daughter was also there to play. The dad was on his Smartphone the entire time he was at the park. Literally the only time he pulled it down from his face was when his daughter was toddling off the playground towards the parking lot.
I don’t share these stories to pass blame on these Smartphone addicted parents. I share their stories because without much discipline, I’m could EASILY be that mom on Facebook at the pizza parlor, or that Dad with a glued-to-screen face at the park. Now that I’ve read Stafford’s book, I see us Smartphone parents with new eyes, and I realize how much we all need to be encouraged to live a hands free life.
I am a constant work in progress and I need accountability and lots of practice to become a Hands Free Mama. But I really want to become her. Yes I’m going to fail and often, but I’ll keep striving until I get there.
My kids and my spouse deserve it.
And so do I.