Put down your phone. I know, we all do it, but interacting with your phone instead of your kids damages relationships and sends powerful messages about the importance we give to our children’s lives. I know this because I have done it and my kids are old enough to articulate how it made them feel. Lonely, small, unimportant, frustrated. This is not a surprise since these are words I would use to describe my feelings when my husband is on his phone when I want to connect with him.
The concept that we can multitask really doesn’t work when one of those tasks is being in a real relationship with another person. That requires full attention. Being on your phone and with your kids is not being with your kids. We might think that we can listen and keep an eye on them while we are texting, but this reduces us to robotic babysitters rather than a loving mothers.
Our kids are with us for about 18 years, and working moms have only precious hours each week to spend with them. I am now acutely aware of the importance of using those hours wisely. Running a business and working as a busy doctor gave me plenty of excuses to spend time texting and emailing during kid time. Part of me thought that the work needed to be done, and the kids would understand, since at least I was home and in the same room with them. Not so. A few months ago one of my daughters slipped me a note while I was working on an office email. She said “mom, I want to talk to you but you are always busy. I wish you would not use your phone so much. I wish you would play with me”. I was crushed, and ashamed, since my multitasking fantasy had been exposed.
Kids notice, and their self esteem is largely built by us and the importance that we place on spending quality time with them. Praising them lavishly on one hand and then choosing the phone over them lets them know that our words are superficial and meaningless. If we love them, if they are the most important things in our lives, put down your phone and show them that they are loved. Look your kids in the eye and ask them questions about their day, laugh with them, play with them, and restrict phone time to times when they are asleep or you are out of their sight.
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