Moms, I think it’s time to put down your phones.
I’m not suggesting you’re on your phone too much. I couldn’t care less about how much time you spend on your phone. You’re an adult. I’m not your mother. I’m not your kids’ mother. But if there is one time during the year that you should be putting down your phone, it is now. And I’m here to gently remind, but mostly share with you, why.
Believe you me, it was far from easy for me to get to this point, where I feel I can shell out this advice. But here I am, because I realized something incredible happens when you put your phone away during this busy and stressful time of year when there are so many photo opportunities happening. It’s the end of the school year, which means graduation, proms, extracurricular end-of-year performances, recitals, awards, kids starting camp and last days of school.
The point being, there are many, many occasions at this time of the year when you feel the need have your phone out, ready to snap dozens of photos, or take videos of your kid performing at recitals or walking across a stage. I’m not telling you to ‘live in the moment.’ I’m no self-help guru. What I’m telling you is how much more enjoyable these experiences will be, if you can just manage to forget you have a phone for those six minutes your kid is on a stage.
I’m absolutely guilty of using my phone to video tape my daughter, while she was performing. I’m also guilty of taking numerous photos of my son during his Taikwondoe tests and Saturday soccer games. Why? I’m just like you! Except, I can finally articulate what I was feeling and why I needed to stop taking photos. And I want you to experience the same feeling that now washes through my entire body after I finally forced myself to put my phone away. It’s a feeling that borders on euphoria, without taking any ‘good’ drugs.
In this day and age, unless a photo or video is taken of your kid’s performance or award ceremony or graduation, and it’s not seen by others on some social media feed, did it even really happen? Because again, in this day and age, it feels like if you don’t post a photo of your child on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter of them winning an award, or in their grad outfits, or on their last day of school, or during their recitals in costume and no one ‘likes’ it – did it in fact really happen?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for social media. Take a look at my Facebook wall and you’ll see that, yes, I feel the need to document almost everything I do with my children. But, finally, I can now say I USED to be the mom who took videos and photos of my kids during their performances or activities and post them immediately from whatever venue we were in. Not anymore. I’m pretty self-reflective, and I started to realize that not only was I anxious about how my kids performances would go – please let this go smoothly! Please let her be awesome! Please let him pass the next level! – but added to that was the stress of getting a great photo to post on social media.
I asked myself, ‘Why do I feel the need to take photos during my children’s performances?’ I knew one thing for certain. I wasn’t exactly enjoying myself because I was always too busy trying to take a perfect photo of my kids in action. If I’m being completely honest, yes I took photos because I wanted the memory, but also I felt like I needed to share my children’s accomplishments to my ‘followers.’ I started feeling completely pathetic because I wondered why I cared if others (mostly strangers) see what my children are doing, even if my daughter looked so cute in her tap dancing costume and my son was so adorable in his soccer outfit.
So, I put my phone down.
Last week, during my daughter’s final dance recital, I not only set my phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’, but I purposely put it in my purse, which I then zipped closed. During her graduation, I also put my phone in my purse. This wasn’t easy. Taking photos and/or videos of my children had become such a habit that not holding my phone, ready to snap away, made me feel completely lost and aimless at first.
At some point, taking photos of my kids started to seem like a chore, or worse – like a job I hated. With my phone tucked away, I realized that I could just sit back and watch. I watched my daughter’s tap and jazz recital and, without the self-imposed pressure of taking photos for mostly strangers as she performed, I could literally feel my blood pressure go down, my body tingling with satisfaction, and I could breathe, without feeling like a panic attack was coming on. I was… happy! It was so nice to just sit and watch.
It was a fantastic evening for me. Why? I got to enjoy my daughter’s performance, watching with my actual eyes, not watching through the camera on my phone at a specific angle. Of course we want memories. And, sure, we want to post and brag. But, now, I will do one of two things: I will take photos of my children, only after they are done their recitals or sports games or graduation. Or, I’ll ask someone, who isn’t as invested in my children as I am (which is everyone else in the world) to take photos and videos for me.
I’m not saying that doing this has made me a better person. I’m not saying it’s made me a better mother. What putting my phone away during all these end-of-year events and activities did was make being in the audience enjoyable.
These moments that I may not have captured on video or with a photo are imprinted not only in my head, but in my heart. Where it really matters.