Monday, March 6, 2017


I recently posted on why I feel the need to quiet technology in my life right now.  If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Today I'm sharing the steps I'm taking in limiting phone use and social media in my life and simple actions that are making a big difference.  

A few years ago, I asked for a watch for my birthday, because I realized that I was often pulling out my phone to check the time.   When you innocently pull out your phone to simply check the time, you also see any notifications you have (a text, voicemail, push notifications from social media, etc.). Too often, the temptation to then read that text, listen to that voicemail, or find out exactly what so-in-so commented on your Facebook post causes that quick time check to spiral into a time suck. Instead of quickly knowing what time it is and going back to playing with my kids or doing whatever it is I'm doing, I am suddenly replying to something that doesn't need my immediate attention or scrolling mindlessly through my Instagram feed, and subsequently shooing my kids away or burning dinner.

So, I now wear a watch, and if I need to check the time, I glance at my wrist.  No push notifications included.  No rabbit trail to go down.

Along the same lines as wearing a watch, I recently hung a clock in our home that I can see from pretty much anywhere on our main floor.  I didn't know how much I would appreciate that in addition to the watch.  The kids and I both now know what time it is at a moment's glance...which means that they too also aren't tempted to ask for my phone when they see me pull it out to check the time.  No arguments with them over refusing to let them look at pictures on it or play a game.  Out of sight, out of mind, folks!  I swear.

I requested an new iPhone case for my birthday this year.  It's this one from Amazon.  What I love about this is that I can't see when my screen lights up.  I check my phone when I want to check it and when I have time to check it.  

The other "quieting technology" benefit of my new iPhone case is that it's just a little bit too bulky too feel comfortable in my back pocket, which is where I would normally carry my phone.   I purposefully chose this case for this reason.  I do not need to have my phone on my person at all times, so when I'm out and about I put it in my diaper bag or purse or sometimes my jacket pocket if I'm not carrying one of those things.  

I also have been trying to put my phone away at home.  I put it in one spot (usually the kitchen counter) and not move it if we go to the basement or upstairs for something.  And if I'm feeling really brave and feisty, I'll plug it in upstairs in my bedroom and leave it there.  So not a big deal, but due the expectations of our culture, it feels like a big deal.  I will say though, the more and I do it, the easier it gets.  

There is something mental about having your phone so close to you all the time...pressure that you don't even know you're feeling about meeting expectations to be available to everyone at all times.  And what does that teach my children about what I value?  I lead by example.  If I don't want my kids to be those kids that are constantly on their phones without ever looking up, socially awkward because they don't know how to look someone in the eye and have an actual conversation, distracted all the time, addicted to their phones and the dopamine hit that happens when they get a text or check social media, and having an unrealistic view of real life and impossible expectations, then I can't be that person either.  

My children will emulate what I do, not what I say.

This one has been huge.  I have turned off all notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and basically all apps on my phone.  If you have a iPhone, open the Settings App and look for the Notifications Tab (mine is 5 from the top with a red icon).  Once you go into this, you can choose toggle off Allow Notifications for each app.  I do still receive text notifications, phone notifications and notifications from our bank if our account is getting low, but have opted out of push notifications for just about everything else. 

As you can see, a lot of these things bleed into other things.  Turning off push notifications put social media and my phone in general back on my terms and in my own time.  If I post something, I'm way less distracted by it because I'm not seeing every time someone likes it or comments.  I can choose to open things when I want and when I have time.  

My system is definitely not perfect and I am not super stringent at this point, but instead of looking at social media 10 times a day in tiny spurts here and there, I'm choosing to wait until I have a block of time that I want to devote to it.  Sometimes that means during nap time and sometimes that means at night after kids go to bed and sometimes that means that I don't look at it at all in a day and I'm refreshingly ok with that.  

My FOMO is not longer getting the best of me, because I'm realizing that I'm not really missing out on anything on social media.  However, if I am distracted by it all the time, I am missing out on my real life.  And that, my friends, is something to think about.  

Out of all the things on this list, this one is by far the most impactful, but also the hardest (at least in the beginning for me to do).  I want people to think I'm responsible and responsive when they are texting or emailing about something, but I'm not sure over the years when, "I'll get back to you in a day or so," became, "I'll get back to you immediately or in a few minutes or else you'll think I'm a schmuck."  

I'm giving myself permission to not respond to things immediately if it's not a good time, and to stop feeling guilty if I don't.  I'm giving myself permission to not care what people think if I'm not available to them any time of day.   I'm giving myself permission to not have to keep up with my Facebook and Instagram feeds and release myself from feeling the need to "like" people's posts in order to feel like I'm invested in their lives or for them to feel like I "like" them.  I'm giving myself permission to say no to all of it if I want to, and permission to enjoy a few minutes texting with a friend or scrolling through a feed if I want to.  Mostly, I'm giving myself permission to do what feels right for me and my family, because in the end I'll be a better person, mother, wife, and friend for it.       

So there you have it.  7 ways I'm quieting technology in my life right now.  This may not be for you.  I get that.  But as an overwhelmed mom, this has helped so much in my ability to start living a life that serves me and our family well.   I am way less distracted, less annoyed by our kids, more mindful of how I'm spending my time, more able to make choices that are life-giving, and less likely to get stuck in comparisons and unrealistic expectations.  That's worth it to me. 


Saturday, March 4, 2017


Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?"  
~ Mary Oliver, "West Wind"

I'm still on the change train these days.  There's so much that I'm sort of peeling it off in layers. And sometimes, when you peel away layers, what you find underneath is surprising.  

I'm asking myself, "What is making me crazy?"  "What is secretly stealing my joy and my time?"  "What causes me to look at my kids as a nuisance instead of a treasure?"

These two words bubbled to the surface:  Distraction. Expectation.  


A few weeks ago, my phone might have accidentally fallen into the toilet.  I know, I know. What is my phone even doing near the toilet? Don't judge.  You know you do it too.

It was a Sunday, and I was home from church with a feverish kid.  I quickly popped said phone in a bag of rice  (Arborio.  It was the only kind I could find, but I figured it would still work.) and said a quick prayer.  

For a brief moment, I felt a bit panicky.  What if someone needs to get in touch with me? What if I need something?  

But seriously, how often is a text urgent or cause for immediate response?  Almost never.  

And how often is the perusal of social media necessary to life?  Definitely never.  

On this accidental phone-less day, I noticed that I was way less distracted.  Before that, I wouldn't have said that I was even a distracted type of person or someone that was on my phone that much.  But not having my phone available made me aware of how often I reach for it in little moments, how often I check for a text or a like or a notification, how often I use it as an escape from my very unglamorous life. 

For the first time in a long time, I had a day uninterrupted by a ping, alarm, text, or vibration. For the first time in a long time, I actually felt productive (granted I had only one sick child home with me, so let's be clear).  I managed to tackle a few projects around the house and even some gardening outside.  I read for a forever long time to my daughter, without feeling that vibration in my pocket that even momentarily mentally distracted me from time with her, even if I didn't check it right then.  "Mom, you just got a text," she would say.  "I know, honey, I know, but I will check it later."  

Even my 1 year old will pick up my phone and hand it to me if she sees it lying around, like she knows it's an extension of me.  Personally, I think that's a little messed up.  

I've been reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my oldest.  One thing that has been so striking to me about the life of the Ingalls family is just how amazingly productive they are.  They build their own houses, catch their own food, grow their own gardens, farm the land, make their own maple syrup, care for their animals, cook everything from scratch, make their own clothes, knit their own mittens, play their own music.  

Do you know how they do this?  THEY DO ONE THING AT A TIME.  I'm so serious.  One thing at a time.  If it's harvesting time, they harvest.  If it's planting time, they plant,  If the maple trees are giving sap, they tap the trees, gather sap, and then boil to make maple syrup right then.  If they need a house, they build a house.  They aren't trying to plant and harvest and make syrup and build a house all in the same day.  Doing little bits at a time. They do until it's done.  Their eyes are focused on their work at hand.  

While I understand this is a very different than the world we live in, let's not overlook this very important lesson:

Distraction is defeating and is the killjoy to our productivity and our focus.

The day my phone was on rice, I was able to focus without wanting to stop in between every little thing to check on something...anything. And let's be honest, those things I were checking on were insignificant.  

Do you know what is significant?  Looking into my kids eyes and them knowing I value them so much more than this hand-held rectangular window to other things. I didn't have the feeling that my kids were annoying all day long because I was trying to look at something or post something or text something, constantly shooing away the "Mom, Mom, Moms!"   I saw, and I mean really saw my daughter and gave her my full attention.   

I felt lighter, less tethered to an unrealistic fantasy world, less stressed.  I did one thing at a time.  

I felt less crazy.  Less pulled in a million directions.  Less like I had to please everyone.


The weekend after Thanksgiving, we gathered our tiny humans and took a family trip to the great white north.  We needed some time away from our intense lives to just focus on one another and have some fun.  

Also on that weekend, my Instagram and Facebook feeds exploded with Christmas trees, fully holiday decorated homes, and already bought and wrapped Christmas gifts.  All finished decorating!  Wrapped gifts while watching Elf and sipping Bailey's hot cocoa!! All ready for Christmas!  

Watching all this made me hyperventilate and instantly feel behind in a season that honestly hadn't even gotten started yet.  We've never been a family that got our tree and decorated the day after Thanksgiving, and it never bothered me before..until this year, for some reason. Until I was watching everyone's best bits in little lit up squares scroll through my screen.  

I can't compete with everyone's best bits, especially without seeing the whole.  It's not the best bits that make a life.  It's the best and the worst and everything in between.  It's the realness and the rainy day you pick you tree out from the hardware store down the street and carry it home.  It's the tears that were shed when one child didn't want to walk the one block home behind that tree.  It's the hot chocolate drunk around that tree while our electricity was out during the decorating.  It's the hoping all those strands of light actually work because we can't plug them in to check.  It's the candles that soothed our family and lit our way as we decorated. It's the kids who really didn't care to be decorating and bailed about 3 ornaments in.  It's the accidentally broken ornaments and the dinner that no one liked.  It's the joy on their faces to see the tree all lit up and decorated for the first time.  Or the first presents wrapped underneath.  It's the arguments you get into over waiting to unwrapped those gifts until Christmas.  Its the growth and the stubble.  

And so, I decided to take a break from social media over the holidays.  I didn't want to feel the imaginary pressure that it would cause during an already high pressure season.  

I didn't want to measure my experience with anyone else's ruler.  And isn't that what social media slaps in our hand all too often? Someone else's ruler?  I've got enough of my own, thank you very much.  

Here's what I noticed on my social media break.

I could take things at a realistic pace for our family and not feel like I had to keep up with everyone else.  We didn't even get a tree until December 10th, and that was just fine for us.  
I cared more about the actual moments  than how that moment would look in that little lit up square.  I wasn't taking a photo in order to post it to social media, already running witty captions through my head.  I was taking a photo because I honestly wanted to remember this moment. Just us, for what that moment was, not for what I wanted people's reactions to be. I stopped thinking in those terms.

I spent a lot less time scrolling through a feed, and I really didn't miss it much.

I found I was more curious about what was going on in people's lives because I didn't already know. This made me reach out more on a person to person level, which should always be my aim.  

I don't need anyone's feedback to validate my life.

Let me add a caveat here, too.  I love social media.  Instagram is my jam.  Give me all the fun, real, beautiful, and inspirational photos.  As a stay-at-home mom, it serves as a connection point in to the outside world in an often lonely season of life.  A great, quick way to keep up with friends that I don't have much time to keep up with.  And I often need that.  

Social media and technology are not evil and are actually really great things.  We just need to make sure that they keep their rightful place in our priority lists...preferably near the bottom.  When they lead to distraction and expectation that sucks the joy out of life, when they make our kids wanting our attention seem like a nuisance, when they cause too much unhealthy comparison, we need to reign them in and shut them up.

It seems counter-cultural, but culture doesn't get to dictate what's best for me.  I do.  I told you...I'm not gonna play by their rules anymore.  

I'll be back on Monday with exactly how I'm quieting technology in my life...  

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