The Children Have Spoken

Today is my birthday. It is the big 4-0. A month ago, I began writing a post in anticipation of this day. It was going to be the most open, authentic, and inspiring post I had written in my life. I couldn’t wait to post it. But then something happened. A message fell right into my lap … no, actually, it slapped me painfully across the face. And I knew THIS, THIS was meant to be my 40th birthday post.

“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.” –Carl Sandburg

It is my 40th birthday, and this is not the post I had planned for today. But this message is far more important than anything I could ever say about my own life.

Trust me on this.

Recently I have had the opportunity to speak to various groups of children about becoming an author and setting life goals.  However, the minute I explain what my prospective book is about, the topic at hand goes right out the window and a bleak reality overwhelms me like rising floodwater.

When I tell the children, “My book helps people think about putting down their electronic devices to interact with the people they love,” something happens.

Small hands shoot straight up in the air and eager voices beg to share their own stories.

And they are not pretty.

As I look into these children’s hopeful eyes and listen to their painful truths, the mother in me yearns to pull them to my chest and assure them I am listening. Although it is not possible for me to comfort them, I can make sure their voices are heard.

These are direct quotes from children living in the 21st century in January 2012 …

“My mom is on the phone all the time. She never gets off.”

“My dad has a problem putting down his phone.”

“My mom texts and drives.”

“My mom talks on the phone the whole time she is driving. She doesn’t even say ‘goodbye’ when I get out of the car.”

“Sometimes I say something and my dad doesn’t hear me because he is typing on his phone.”

“My parents are so busy with their phones that they forget to feed me and put me to bed. I am forgotten a lot of the time.”

And had I not directed the discussion back to the original topic of being an author, I am certain the children’s testimonies of excessive parental phone use would have gone on and on.

Although my “Hands Free” journey is not about deciding if other people’s behavior is right or wrong, bad or good, the children’s remarks indicate there is a disturbing problem in our society.

And no matter how important your occupation, no matter how valuable your clients, and no matter how critical your online communications are to your life, no one wants to think his or her child feels forgotten and neglected because of a phone.

And regardless if your phone usage is rarely or never, it is worth it to consider if there is another type of distraction in the modern age that keeps you from being fully present and connecting with your loved ones.

The truth hurts, but the truth heals – and I speak from experience. Less than two years ago, my own children would have been waving both of their arms in the air desperately wanting to share their own stories of distraction neglect about ME.

I am not immune to this world that the children speak about; I know it all too well. In fact, my distraction almost cost me everything I hold dear.

But once I began my “Hands Free” journey and realized living distracted is NOT truly living, I have attempted to share this message in every way possible.

But not even posts that have gone viral like this one or this one have come close to the profound message delivered directly from children themselves.

After listening to their testimonies, I realized my writings hadn’t even scratched the surface. While I strived to keep a positive and encouraging slant on the cost of distraction in my messages, the children didn’t mince words.

They didn’t sugar coat it.

They were not worried about “offending” anyone.

So they told it like it is.

To be that young vulnerable person ignored behind the electronic device held in a parent’s hand is far worse than I had ever described.

And as small hands rose faster than I could call on them, all I could think was this: If my child were here, would she be waving her hand desperate to share her own personal experience of phone neglect that I have been too distracted to see?

I knew what I had to do.

I needed to know if I had made progress over my distraction … not just in my own head, but also in the eyes of the people who mattered most.

I knew my eight-year-old would tell me it to me straight. Through our “talk time” nightly ritual over the past five years, we have developed an open system of sharing where no topic is off limits.

What I was about to hear from my daughter could be a potential turning point in my children’s lives that would greatly determine who they are today and the people they would eventually become.

As talk time came to a close that evening, I nervously I spit the critical questions out.

“Do you think I use my phone too much? Do I have a problem putting the phone away either when we are at home or in the car?”

As I wiped my sweaty hands on my pants I added, “And please be honest. I won’t be upset no matter what you say.”

And then I waited.

Her eyes rolled upward as if she was thinking back to every single day of her life. She was giving it real thought, not just telling me what I wanted to hear.

After sitting there for what seemed like agonizing hours, she opened her mouth and said, “You talking on the phone is rare. RARE, RARE, RARE, RARE.”

She said rare exactly five times. I counted, thanking God each and every time.

Then she added, “In the past year, I can only remember you using the phone one time in the car. You called Daddy and said, ‘We need lice killing shampoo! Please stop at Walgreens and get some!’ But that was pretty much an emergency.’”

I began laughing at her incredible memory, and I couldn’t stop. I laughed so hard, I fell over in a relieved heap upon the pillows that lined her bed.

And suddenly I realized I was not just laughing, I was also crying. Tears of happiness rolled down my cheeks as I grabbed my child and pulled her into my arms.

And in my mind were these three words: There IS hope.

There is hope.

Why?

Because the woman who now “RARELY” uses the phone in the presence of her family was the woman who once:

… thought nothing of having a phone glued to her ear she drove her children,

… and thought nothing of checking emails while stopped at stoplights,

… and thought nothing about the ramifications of the constant dinging and ringing on the peaceful well-being of her family life.

And above all there is hope because …

The woman, who now RARELY uses her phone, is the same person who at the height of her distracted life, inadvertently blew through a red light and almost left her children motherless.

If there is hope for me, friends, there is hope for anyone.

Even the minorly distracted.

Even the majorly distracted.

And even the ones in between.

The children have spoken.

Are we listening?

Because if we are … there is hope.

***********************************

What would your child (teenager, grandchild, significant other, friend) say if you asked, “Do you think I use my phone (Blackberry, iPad, laptop) too much?”

If you really want to know the truth, ask them. Assure your family members and friends you want to know the truth so you can begin to live more presently and more connected to them.

And then make change to let go of that damaging distraction – even small changes can make a big difference. I will be posting specific ideas for small changes you can make  on “The Hands Free Revolution” this week. Simply “like” my page on Facebook to receive daily inspiration to grasp what really matters in your news feed.

And if you wish to make my 40th birthday the best one yet, please click “share” below. I would be thrilled if the stats on this post surpass anything I have ever written. For then I would know: The children have been heard. And with that comes hope.

 

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    You have made me so conscious of this! Tonight I asked my fourth grade daughter if she had noticed I had cut down on “phone time” when I’m with her and her brother. She said, “Yeah, you really have!” Baby step, but it felt good!

    • 2

      says

      THIS, my friend, is exactly what I was talking about when I said, “There is hope.” Thank you for sharing this tonight. Even in the smallest of steps toward letting go of distraction we can create a moment of connection that will be remembered forever. Thanks for the birthday gift by reading and sharing your inspirational story!

  2. 5

    says

    Happy birthday! Yours is such an important message. My daugher is too young to ask but I have been concentrating on reducing my phone use around her. It’s a transition, but I’m getting there. That you for this important reminder.

    • 6

      says

      Thank you, Tricia! I truly feel that awareness was/is KEY to changing my distracted ways. Once I realized what I was missing while I was on the phone in the presence of my loved ones, it served as strong motivation to put it down until later. I think it is so important to recognize our progress on this journey, as you are doing. Thank you so much for reading and leaving this lovely comment. You have made my night!

  3. 7

    says

    Happy Birthday Dear Friend. I’ve been meaning to call (ha ha…on the phone, but with our distance, I can’t even use a passenger pigeon). Once again, I could use your counsel. And nothing like being 40 to add to your Wisdom Resume!!!

    Always The Best, Lori

  4. 10

    Peggy Troublefield says

    Thank you a million times for this! I am SO guilty, yet I am always fussing at my kids about too much time on the phone, iPad, iPod, etc. Now with tears streaming down my face and feeling like a fool, I realize that I must BE the example.
    Happy birthday and I hope 40 is the best year yet!

    • 11

      says

      Thank you, Peggy, for sharing your own painful truths. I remember the day I honestly admitted my difficult truths and I, too, was an emotional mess. However, that was a turning point in my life — the day my Hands Free journey began. You have taken the first and hardest step, which is recognizing change needs to occur and that you want to make a change. I applaud you and look forward to hearing about many moments of connection happening in your life in the days to come! Thank you for sharing.

  5. 12

    Debbie says

    How do you get an entire family to unplug and engage with each other? My two sons and husband pretty much exist plugged in to a computer. After fighting years worth of battles, I fell into alignment with them and just revert to work to keep myself occupied and doing something that makes me feel more worthwhile and successful than I do as a mother. There is an underlying medical issue with two of them (husband and son) having serious depression (genetic) which we are just starting to get a handle on this week. There is hope. And, yes, I know I can’t abdicate my responsibility as a mother. I’m back in the fight.

    • 13

      says

      Debbie, thank you for sharing. It sounds like are enduring a very difficult situation. I commend you for declaring to be “back in the fight.” A relationship with the people you love IS worth the fight, even though it is not easy to change habits. It is a positive that your family is getting a handle on the medical issue of depression. In my experience as a behavior specialist, I found that my students who were depressed preferred solitude with electronic devices rather than human connection. I hope that proper treatment is in the near future for your husband and son.

      I would also like to offer these suggestions:

      -Don’t give up on inviting your family members to do something away from electronic distraction. You know best what might be of interest to the members of your family, but in our home, I often tell my children I am shutting down the TV/DVD player and we are going for a walk. We recently bought several family games. We have strived to play games together on a regular basis. In both of these situations, once we get away from the electronics, we have a wonderful time. My children are not happy with me when I declare it is time to shut it down, but once we engage in an activity together, they are much happier than they were “plugged in.”

      -Try going places were there is no electronic distraction and leave the devices at home. We love visiting the library for this reason. We go on hikes or picnics for this reason. We look at our local paper on the weekends and try things we have never visited, like museums, farmer’s markets, sporting events, etc. Again, there is often resistance from the kids, but we go anyway. We end up making memories and meaningful connection.

      -If all else fails, step into your son’s world. If he loves to play video games, ask him to teach you how to play one. By stepping into his world and listening to him, he might be more willing to try something in your world.

      -Keep showing them an example of what it means to live presently. Point out things you see while driving that are beautiful parts of nature. Declare to the family that you are not taking your phone to the restaurant (or whatever) so that you can connect to the people around you. Share how good something tastes when you actually focus on the food and not on electronics while eating. Express your gratitude out loud for simple moments in life that you would have missed if you were distracted. As you begin to live more presently, chances are that you will become happier — whether your family chooses to join you or not.

      I wish you the best of luck. Please feel free to contact me at anytime for encouragement.

      Rachel

  6. 15

    Heather S. says

    I love all your Blogs. When the boys are in bed and my Husband is out of town..I love going back and reading the blog…And I can remember when I was a kid that it used to bug me when my mom was on the phone or reading a book a lot of the time I just wanted to talk.. Also my friend and I started a Moms Running club it is on facebook at Moms RUN This Town..Since you are a mom and a runner would love to see you over there!

    • 16

      says

      Thank you, Heather! I appreciate the words of encouragement about my writing, and I am thrilled to find “Mom RUN This Town,” on FB. I love inspiring sites that embrace us right where we are. Your site looks like it had everything from the beginner to the advanced runner. THANK YOU!

  7. 17

    says

    Wow. This hit me like a slap in the face. I am that mom. I never talk on the phone while driving, and I don’t talk on the phone or text much at home, but I am ALWAYS on the computer. And I know it’s to the detriment of my kids, my husband, and my family as a whole. But I guess I needed this article to make me “see” that I have to do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it. Thank you.

    XOXOXO
    ABC

    • 18

      says

      Thank you, Ann. I am so inspired by your words today. You have made the first step to a less distracted life … giving yourself an honest assessment of where you are and where you want to be. I am with you all the way! Please keep me posted on your progress.

  8. 19

    Andrea says

    Thank you so much! I have been making a conscious effort to stop checking email/texts during the hours of 3pm-8pm, as that is when my children need my attention. I view “my time” to exsist from 8am-3pm, so they have a mom who is present after school. I certainly don’t do this perfectly, however reading your post made me think I will be more vigilant. Thank you & happy birthday!

    • 20

      says

      Thank you, Andrea! I just shared your inspiring idea on The Hands Free Revolution . This is what I love about this community … by sharing what is working for us, others might be inspired to try it. I found that the very first time I went “Hands Free” the results were so profound that I was highly motivated to keep on trying! Thank you so much for commenting!

  9. 23

    Jim says

    Rachel, happy birthday–if I drive by the house will I see a host of crows sprinkled in the yard!!
    I don’t read your blog as often as I should-but when I do I find your thoughts to be penetrating; it may make sense to have your readers have the men in their lives connect occasionally

    • 24

      says

      Hi Jim, thank you for the birthday wishes and also for the encouraging words about my writings. I truly appreciate every man/father who reads my blog. These messages are not exclusive to women, by any means. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  10. 25

    says

    First and foremost, a very happy birthday and welcome to the fabulous 40’s! (One of my favorite decades, thus far.)

    Secondly, this is another fabulous post!(–that I will be sharing on my Transitioning Mom Facebook page, in just a moment.) I so agree that we need to put down our phones, though I’ve been guilty of overuse myself. I believe we need to put them down to engage with our children, our spouses, the clerk ringing up our food. (I wrote about it here: http://transitioningmom.com/2012/01/11/really-in-the-bathroom-too-wednesdays-wisdom/)

    Your question (posed to your daughter) both frightens and inspires me. Thank you for the reminder.

    • 26

      says

      Thank you, Mary! I am so grateful for your kind words and for sharing on your page. I was so happy to find your page and blog. Please send me the link via email, if you don’t mind. It is not working here for some reason. I love how you mentioned putting down our phone not just for family members, but for people in our community who provide services for us each day. Excellent point!

  11. 27

    Lizette Blackwell says

    Happy Birthday and thank you for giving your readers such a priceless gift. I posted this on my FB wall :)

    • 28

      says

      Thank you, Lizette. Those of you who have shared have given me the greatest gift! The stats on this post have FAR exceeded what I imagined they would. I am so hopeful that many families will begin to make small changes to be more present when in the company of one another. THANK YOU!

  12. 29

    says

    Awesome post, my friend, and Happy 40th!!! I’m so glad that your daughter answered with the word “Rare” repeated 5 times!

  13. 31

    says

    Your post is on point. I realized that I was using my phone, too much when my 17-month old started having tantrums because he wanted to use it to watch home videos. It got to a point where he’d prefer to watch us play together on video than actually engage with me while I was sitting right there. It’s not his fault, I set the example and used the videos as a quick babysitter. The funny thing is that we don’t watch t.v. in our home, but the home videos on my phone are now becoming a hinderance at times.
    -Asia

    • 32

      says

      Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly here, Asia. I commend you for acknowledging how this reliance on distraction got started and why.I have a feeling things will be changing and you will find new ways to entertain your son without the use of electronics. Please keep me updated!

    • 34

      says

      Thank you! This has been the best birthday ever … I have never felt so hopeful of the future! It is so inspiring to see so many people embracing this reminder, acknowledging there is change needed, and setting out to make that change. I can only imagine all the meaningful human connection that occurred today!

  14. 36

    Callie says

    Thank-you for writing this post. I don’t even need to ask my kids, I know exactly what the answer would be. It’s time to start making some changes!

    • 37

      says

      Thank you, Callie. I can read the determination in your words. I KNOW positive change is coming for you and your family. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts! Wishing you the best. Please come back any time for encouragement and inspiration!!!

  15. 38

    Marty Bridges says

    This is an excellent post, thanks for sharing! I am going to share it on my FB page. While I am well past raising children and have 9 grandchildren, I can still be guilty of this. 2 of our grandsons lived with us for a time and I made a rule to not have the radio on and listen and talk to them in the car. I didn’t use my cell phone at that time while driving! It was a wonderful time for us and I passed the idea on to my children and know their mom also does this. Also, if there is more than one child in the car and they are talking to each other, you can learn many secrets because they tend to forget you are there. The other day I was on the phone with a friend when my granddaughter was here, and I had stayed on too long. I have a rule not to be on the phone chatting when grandkids are with me, but I had broken that rule. And my granddaughter said “I thought you’d never get off the phone!” Owww. I need to follow my own rules!

    • 39

      says

      Thank you for reading and sharing this post on FB, Marty! I LOVE your comment about not having the radio on when in the car so you can not only have a conversation, but listen to the children talk to one another. That is so true! I hear the funniest things when my daughters are talking to their friends in the car.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with your granddaughter, as well. They certainly tell us what we need to hear, don’t they? I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment today!

  16. 40

    Susan McElroy says

    This is the most thought provoking convicting life changing blog post I have read in quite a while. This grandmother humbly thanks you. More importantly… Her grandchildren thank you.
    And Happy Birthday. You are so young to be so wise.

    • 41

      says

      Susan, you have made my day with your amazing compliment! I cherish encouragement from a mom who is farther down the path of raising her children than I am. I have made mistakes, but I have learned from them and am trying to focus on making TODAY the best it can be for my family. Thank you!

    • 43

      says

      Thank you so much, Tara. Your post left me in tears. I was brought back to the day I made the same heart-breaking realization about the cost of my distraction. I am so thankful to report that the past is now the past. Now I am focused on grasping the moments that matter in this precious life I have to live.

      I am truly grateful that you met me in the light of realness. It is not easy to step into it, but once you do, your eyes are opened to a beautiful Hands Free life!

  17. 44

    Suzanne (Hale) Caithamer says

    Rachel (hi!!) what a fantastic post! Every phone-totin’ parent needs to read this. I just got a smartphone about 2 weeks ago, and I am so very conscious of not using it when my daughter is around. I do not want her to say things such as you have described in this heartbreaking message. Thank you for writing it, and Happy Birthday too! Your children are the cutest!

    • 45

      says

      Hello Suzanne! What a wonderful treat to hear from you. Thank you for reading and leaving the lovely comment. I am so inspired to hear that you are already diligent about your use of the phone in the presence of your 2 year old. What a lucky little girl to have you for a mom! I can’t wait to ask Rebecca more about you and what you have been up to all these years! Much love!

  18. 46

    Anne Caskey Farmer says

    Great post, Rachel. Rebecca shared it on FB. I don’t have children, but it still rings true for those trying to live in the moment and not being tied to and distracted by technology. I remember a few years ago a colleague bragging about how her daughters kept telling her to put the blackberry away – she thought it was a badge of how important she is – it just made me sad.

    And happy 40th! It really is the best decade.

    • 47

      says

      Thank you, Anne. I am so glad you felt that my message holds true for anyone, not just parents. It is a daily struggle for anyone living in the 21st century to not allow distraction to overtake his/her life.

      I appreciate the birthday wishes, too! Hope you are doing well, Anne. So nice to hear from you.

  19. 48

    muriel essell says

    Happy Birthday, Rachel. You touch us all with your talents. Accomplished thinker, writer and mother. Keep the ideas coming.

  20. 50

    Allison says

    Rachel,

    I have been reading your blog for many months, and I carry your words with me every day. I have learned so much from you and am so encouraged by the changes you’ve made. I strive to live Hands Free, and I am a better mom and a happier person for it. Thank you for opening our eyes.

    I wish you a wonderful 40th birthday and a happy, healthy, Hands Free year.

    XO,
    Allison

  21. 52

    muriel essell says

    Hi again. I had a wake up call today and your post has reinforced how disconnected I have been as a parent of a 13 year old girl. She was suspended from school today over some comments she posted on twitter. I take some of the blame for this. I stay on the phone and she stays on twitter whenever we are in the car. Sometimes she demands I get off the phone but I usually don’t. This is the time to be handsfree and reconnect all the loose ends as a parent. Thanks for the nudge.

    • 54

      says

      No worries, Muriel. I am thankful for your honesty and openness tonight. Your admissions take guts. It is difficult to go to those tender places. Believe me, I have trouble hitting “publish” on some of my most unflattering moments as a mom. But every time I go to that place of my hardest truths, I came out a better person — someone who has looked my issues right in the eye and said, “I am learning and I am growing; I am determined to make changes.” I commend the progress you have made and look forward to hearing the progress you will make. I have faith in you. Thank you for stepping into the light of realness. I am right beside you.

  22. 56

    C. Benentt says

    How sad. I would have felt like staying until school was over and having a serious chat with the parents of the poor child who went to bed forgotten, without food or thought. I volunteer for an organization that educates parents about the hazards, often fatal, of leaving children alone in cars. Encountering friends or my child’s schoolmates’ parents doing just this on a daily basis drives me crazy, yet I’m not sure how to handle it. How do you carry what you do for your “day job” into your personal life? Thank you once again for such an inspiring article. It has been shared.

    • 57

      says

      Thank you for the leaving this thoughtful comment and also for your efforts to educate parents about the dangers of leaving children in the car. You have provided a priceless gift to those who have learned from you, and you have undoubtedly saved lives.

      In response to your question, I will tell you that about a year into my journey to live Hands Free, I stopped noticing people tied to their electronic distraction and instead began focusing on those who were connecting with their loved ones. I feel strongly that my purpose on this earth is to educate and inspire connection, rather than condemn or judge people for their distraction issues. Focusing on the positive interactions that I see in public motivates me to continue writing these messages that people indicate to me are life-changing. I can remember every person in my life who encouraged me in my life. I want to be an encourager both in this space and also when I am in my community living my life.

      I would also like to add that when children bring up the topic of parent phone neglect when I am speaking in public, we always spend time talking about positive ways they can talk to their parents about their problem or ways they can invite their parents to connect with them. I feel like this empowers the children by giving them the tools to help their parents understand how forgotten they feel in the presence of their distraction.

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment and question!

  23. 58

    says

    The thing that my husband and I have also talked about is that I want my kids to know how to communicate, how to find the answers to something by trying it out, or reading about it, not by finding it on Google, but I have to model these behaviors! Thank you for posting. We do not have TV or cell phones, but we do spend too much time on the computers.

    • 59

      says

      Megan, thank you! You have made a very interesting point! I so often end up “Googling” something with my kids when we need to know something. I love the idea you pose of trying something out (my kids love experiments) or getting a book on the subject (we love visiting the library). That is how I did it when I was young and there was a great sense of achievement in doing so. You have given me a new goal to work on! THANK YOU!

  24. 60

    says

    Sometimes our unconscious mind make us aware that we are spending more time on computers and internet than with our children. But we don’t listen to it. But post like your make us realize of what we were doing wrong. Rachel , very good job done by writing about it.

    • 61

      says

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I call that little voice my “Hands Free Inner Voice” and when I started my journey, I became more and more aware of it. When that little voice says, “Shut the computer, you’re missing what matters,” I try to listen and act on it. So far, I have never regretted that choice … not once. Thanks for being here!

  25. 62

    says

    Our church does a 40 day “fast” at the beginning of each new year. One of things I gave up this year is “Facebook”. I am considering never going back….my evenings are so much more fun now, spending time with my young son. Thanks for your blog; I truly appreciate the reminders.

    • 63

      says

      This is awesome stuff! I can see why giving up Facebook would allow you to have more time to devote to the things that really matter to you. I commend you for making that decision and possibly extending it! I find that even taking a Saturday or a weekend away from the Internet and social networking sites allows me to stop thinking about what is going on in everyone else’s life and allows me to focus solely on my own family! Thank you so much for this inspiring comment. You just never know how might motivate someone else to do by sharing a Hands Free tactic here! I love this community of people who are striving to grasp what matters!

  26. 66

    says

    my first visit here – I truly love this post, I followed the link to your “missing more than life” post and was captured heart and soul. Thank you for your insight, your love for your kids, and your passions. I’ll be back…

  27. 67

    says

    I am a newly divorced mom. Thanks for the reminder that, even through all the incredible juggling of life I have to do, I need them to know I am fully engaged in their moments.

  28. 68

    says

    Usually, when I remember to link a favorite post on Write On Edge, I jump around to different blogs, not just those that are next to mine.

    I’m so glad that my very first stop tonight was on your excellent post! Beautifully written and so worth sharing.

    Thank you!

  29. 69

    says

    As soon as I reading this, I just had to share it on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I love how open and honest you are about it, and it’s such an important subject. I don’t have a smartphone, but the internet in general, especially Facebook and blogging, does take up way more of my time than it probably should. Thanks for the inspiring words!

    • 70

      says

      Thank you, Kate! I am grateful to you for sharing this post so its critical message can be heard. You are the reason this message reaching thousands and they are taking action to change their distracted ways. I really appreciate your supportive words, as well. Thank you!!!

  30. 71

    says

    Thank you so much for this. I have seen the eyes of children, some of them in my extended family, who are sad, sad, sad, at the behavior of their parents. I really commend you for going against the tide of the “digital overload” and keeping it real! Thanks!

  31. 72

    Staci says

    I just shared and I hope other moms and dads see this! This hits the nail right on the head. I have been very conscience about this issue for the past two years since the purchase of my first smart phone. I have tried very hard not to be on the phone around my children but will be ever more vigilant in this task upon reading your blog. Very thought provoking!

  32. 73

    says

    A friend shared this with me on Facebook. When I started to read it, I knew where you were headed. I never endangered anyone with the constant use of my smart phone but I lost a good amount of time with those I loved. I made emails, texts (both personal and work) a priority over WAY more important things like living the life right in front of me and not the one one my phone. I made putting my smart phone down one of my resolutions for the New Year. I still feel the urge to pick it up but then I see one of my girls smile or hear my husband laugh and realize I don’t want to miss a second of that.
    Happy Birthday to you!!

  33. 75

    Aaron says

    Thank you for putting this out there; it is nice to hear someone else espousing the fact that putting technology away and being fully present is not some outdated communicative modality, but a fundamental aspect of showing others that they matter.

    It saddens me to hear my kids continuously talk about how other adults in their lives very frequently are preoccupied with the use of technology and ignoring them.

    I remember growing up feeling like those kids yiu interviewed, though technology is not the only culprit. As multitasking parents, any (and every) thing can fill that space;though it doesn’t aleays happen, I try to make every effort to give eye contact and/or a reassuring touch when my kids are speaking, to let them know that I am present, their opinions matter, and that their little voices are being heard.

  34. 76

    Mabel says

    This post shows how truly pathetic many adults have become…seriously! I have a phone tucked away in my purse which I am forced to carry for work purposes in case I get paged the week that I am on call…The phone is off. I never use it. I have absolutely no need to use it…wait — I use it about every 3 months to call home whem I’m at the grocery store to check if we need milk. My son is the love of my life. I would never make him wait, ignore him or forget him while I chat on the phone unless I was tlaking to a 911 operator in the middle of a life threatening emergency. Grow up parents. I’m duisgusted that yo ueven needed to writ ehtis post…but sadly that’s the narcicisstic society we live in. I hope you and your book make a difference today.

  35. 77

    Jen says

    I am a homeschoooling mother of four with another one on the way. I do not have TV, a smartphone or anything else I carry around with me. BUT less than a year ago I got a laptop so it would be easier for me to keep up with finances and do “paperwork” and so my kids could do their math on the computer. Well, the laptop has taken over my life…I am on it all day long (off and on) and always thinking about checking e-mail/facebook. I get on just to “quickly check” and end up reading a bunch of blogs and articles and responding to a bunch of stuff (that’s how I got here after all). Before I know it I’ve been on for an hour or more and my kids are whining and wanting my attention. More often than I would like to admit, I tell them to just “go do something…stop staring at my screen” or the infamous “go play!”

    I wish I could stop myself, but I don’t seem to be able to. I need to be on the computer for “school” reasons throughout the day, but it’s like this huge magnet drawing me to it all day long.

    I’ve been wanting to be on the computer less often for a long time now, but it just seems like my usage has only gone up when I try to stop myself.

    I was hoping you might have some suggestions. My oldest is 11 and my youngest is 5. I desperately crave “alone time” as I am an introvert, but I seem to want to be alone way too much. I think my real problem is that I am just addicted to being “connected” to the world through the computer. I’ve known this was a problem for a while now, but your post really hit home…

    • 78

      says

      Thank you for your openness and honesty. Simply by taken that difficult look inward and having this new awareness, you have taken the most difficult first step, in my opinion. Maybe this will help you take the next step:

      I started by creating designated time periods when I was completely unplugged and connected to my family.I started with 10 minutes, believe it or not … but even that 10 minutes of meaningful connection made an impact on me and my child. My time periods of being completely undistracted and focused on what mattered grew a little each day. I started taking entire weekend days unplugged. Those were life changing for me.

      It helps tremendously to shut down the computer totally and turn off all notifications on my phone so there is no temptation to “check.” Even if you have a job that requires computer use at home, it is important to build boundaries into your home life. You can always address those issues once that designated time period with your family has ended. But having that uninterrupted “Hands Free” time with your kids will make a tremendous impact on them and also on you. As a recovering “workaholic” and someone tied to her distraction, I know these boundaries might seem impossible, but if you begin taking little steps to let go of distraction and connect to your family, you will feel a difference immediately. You will feel more at peace and more connected to the important parts of life. And what you thought was “so important” 5 minutes ago will be put into perspective once you have spent time bonding with your children. I hope this gives you a starting point.

      Also, I would suggest keeping a notebook handy. Then if you have something you want to research for your lessons or something you need to find/do on the Internet, you can write it down, rather than always going to your computer. Once your designated “Hands Free” time concludes, you can knock out the things on your list. In addition, I would try to discipline yourself to do ONLY the things on that list … you mentioned getting lost for hours, which can happen easily on the Internet. Log on and do the things you need to do, then get off.

      I might also suggest finding ways of having “alone time” that is not related to the computer. Perhaps by starting up a hobby or even spending time walking outside, you will feel renewed. Getting away from the computer opens your eyes to the beauty of the world. That motivates me to continue my Hands Free practices. Also, think about the positive role modeling you are providing for your children. They see mom tending to her garden (or whatever) rather than being online. That is meaningful to children and can actually make a positive difference in how they live their own lives. You might even find that your new hobby would be fun if they were involved with you. There are so many positives that happen when you step away from your distraction, Jen. I am just certain that if you start letting go today, you will find a newfound hope you did not have yesterday.

      Here is a post I wrote that you might find helpful. It is an easy list of ways to go “Hands Free.” Start with one step today. http://www.handsfreemama.com/?p=1102
      Please keep me posted on your progress. I am so glad you are on this journey to grasp what matters with me!

  36. 79

    says

    Ok, I have been reading your posts with some interest as they have gone viral among my fb friends and I am currently on bedrest with a soon-to-be-finished pregnancy, so I have some extra time.

    I do nto have a “smart” phone and rarely text or talk (other than for appointments and such) But, I work from home. I make nearly as much money as my husband working as a freelance writer, and that means I have to work quite a bit. When the kids were little, I could relegate that time to when they were sleeping, but now, sometimes I have to work while they are awake. Also, there are sometimes urgent emails that need to be answered or work boards that have to be checked at strange times. So, the computer is always on and rarely far away. This is the only way for me to stay home with my babies, which is important to me.

    With summer coming and the loss of those mornings when they are both at school, I am struggling with finding the right balance. I have to get my work done, and that work has to be done on the computer. Do you have suggestions for a mommy in my boat? I do try to work within set hours, and we regularly leave the house to go on excursions so that I have to leave “work” behind. But when we are home, I struggle.

    • 80

      says

      Thank you for your openness and honesty, Nicole. As a writer and a public speaker, I can relate to what you are experiencing. Please come back this week for my next post. I will be addressing summer and I think you will find it helpful. In the meantime, here are some other thoughts:

      -I started by creating designated time periods when I was completely unplugged and connected to my family.I started with 10 minutes, believe it or not … but even that 10 minutes of meaningful connection made an impact on me and my child. My time periods of being completely undistracted and focused on what mattered grew a little each day. I started taking entire weekend days unplugged. Those were life changing for me.

      -It helps tremendously to shut down the computer totally and turn off all notifications on my phone so there is no temptation to “check.” Even though your job requires computer use at home, it is important to build boundaries into your home life. You can always go back to your work once that designated time period with your family has ended. But having that uninterrupted “Hands Free” time with your kids will make a tremendous impact on them and also on you. As a recovering “workaholic” and someone tied to her distraction, I know these boundaries might seem impossible, but if you begin taking little steps to let go of distraction and connect to your family, you will feel a difference immediately. You will feel more at peace and more connected to the important parts of life. And what you thought was “so important” 5 minutes ago will be put into perspective once you have spent time bonding with your children.

      -Also, I would suggest keeping a notebook handy. Then if you have something you want to research for your writing or something you need to find/do on the Internet, you can write it down, rather than always going to your computer. Once your designated “Hands Free” time concludes, you can knock out the things on your list. In addition, I would try to discipline yourself to do ONLY the things on that list … you mentioned getting lost for hours, which can happen easily on the Internet. Log on and do the things you need to do, then get off.

      -I suggest starting up an outdoor hobby or even spending time walking outside. Getting outside (even if it is just your backyard or local park) getting away from the computer opens your eyes to the beauty of the world. That motivates me to continue my Hands Free practices. Also, think about the positive role modeling you are providing for your children. This practice is meaningful to children and can actually make a positive difference in how they live their own lives. You might even find that your new hobby would be fun if they were involved with you. There are so many positives that happen when you step away from your distraction.

      Here is a post I wrote that you might find helpful. It is an easy list of ways to go “Hands Free.”
      http://www.handsfreemama.com/?p=1102
      I am so glad you are on this journey to grasp what matters with me! Be sure to come back and read my next post in a few days!

  37. 81

    says

    ouch. ouch. ouch. For me it’s not phone but computer. And I keep trying to cut down, but here I am reading blogs and following links again. At least the kids are in bed now.
    Thanks for an awesome and convicting post!

  38. 83

    says

    I really enjoyed your article.
    Happy belated birthday to you.
    I used to have a one-day-a-week-electronic-free-day! It was great. The kids had to play more, I didn’t think about FB or blogs or emails. It was quiet freeing…..
    Thanks for the reminder of going back to that.
    Blessings.

  39. 85

    Shannon says

    Wow I read this and I realize I am that distracted mother and I never really thought about how it affects my children! I already struggle with finding the balance of being a good mom but maybe this is my whole problem I spend way to much time texting and facebooking and not nearly enough time talking to my children. This will be my new focus and I will see how it changes our lives and I am positive it will. Thank you for opening my eyes before its too laye

  40. 87

    says

    I just came across your website this morning. I have only read a few articles but I really appreciate the words of wisdom and inspiration. I look forward to reading more. I just started a year long journey of mindful living which I am chronicling here (http://amindfuljourney.com/). I know for my months of parenting, simplicity and unplugging I will be referring here. Thank you!

  41. 88

    says

    Hi, Rachel! I found your blog via Etiquette Hell (http://www.etiquettehell.com/?p=3653#comments is where it was mentioned). I’m not a mother myself, but I posted the link to this post on my FB page because a lot of my friends are, and I think it’s so important for them to remember that their families should come first, before anything! Thank you for writing this, and I’m going to add your blog to the links section of my own.

    And btw, happy birthday! I turned 40 last May, and even though I can’t say at present that it’s the best decade of my life, I hope that’ll be true!

    • 89

      says

      Hi Glenna, thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a kind word and for sharing this post on your FB page! I am grateful for the response to “How to Miss a Childhood” and “The Children Have Spoken.” When I was living distracted, I lost my awareness to the precious moments I was missing. It is like these posts have offered awareness and people are using this newfound awareness to make positive changes. Each time I receive a note from someone who has reconnected with their spouse or their child, it is truly a gift. I am grateful to people like you who have shared it! THANK YOU.

  42. 90

    MidoriBird says

    Hello…

    First of all, happy 40th birthday!

    I’ve shared this article on Facebook, and for the sake of privacy, I’ve tried to keep identities as vague as possible.

    I ran across this article on a website about etiquette, and it brought tears to my eyes. I’m not a child, and I have always refused to own a cellphone. I’m highly introverted and there’s nobody around me to neglect when I’m here by myself spending a couple of hours on the computer in the evenings.

    That said, I refuse to own a cellphone because of the terrible choke-chain it represents to me. I also don’t like to deal with people who can’t put it down for even a minute to deal with me in public; especially at my job.

    However, my big issue lately is with an immediate family member, who can never put their phone down at all. They were at the place where I work some weeks back, and invited me to sit with them since I was going on my break. I anticipated a real talk with them for once because I rarely see them. they were on their phone texting when I came over, and never lifted their eyes, never answered me when I tried to speak to them, and shut everyone and everything else out to hang out online for intense, personal emotional drama they didn’t have to deal with if they’d just set down the phone. They did the same thing to another close family member who also stopped by.

    I went home and cried later. I matter so little to them, and there was proof. I tried to confront that person about it, wanting them to put it away if she’s with someone else, but they only got defensive.

    When it is immediate family, it hurts so much more.

    They are the parent of two young children.

  43. 91

    Erika says

    thank you for writing this, I really enjoyed reading this and I have a lot to ponder now. I often catch myself saying I don’t have time to play with something or get something that my kids are asking for…then later checking my texts or FB…though I still didn’t have time to do what my kids were asking for.
    This is a great read and I appreciate the time, effort and openness you put into this article.
    I have just come across your site and will be checking it out as I have time, loved it!

  44. 92

    Chase says

    Thank you so much for posting this. I especially appreciate you responding to your readers comments. Your response to Debbie’s comment about her “connected” husband and son really hit home to me. When I first got married, I thought my days of hard core gaming were behind me. But as life moved on and things were hard, I eventually stopped doing somethings that I needed to do for my happiness to be in check. I therefore became unhappy and I turned to games, either on my phone or on my PC. My wife was quiet about it at first but being the assertive, wonderful woman that she is, she eventually talked to me and helped me to see that it was turning into a problem.

    Not only was I not connecting with her, I was letting go of responsibilities and duties that I should have been doing but chose to replace with video games. My happiness was in the garbage and I was starting to feel like I was pretty lame. (there were a lot of other things going on including unemployment).

    My time being “connected” was an outward expression of my inward dissatisfaction with life. I have now realized this and am making a huge turn-around. Your article simply drove it home. Thank you so much.

    You are right to share this message with so many people. I will do my best to spread this message as well. And thank you to my wonderful wife, for suggesting that I read this.

  45. 93

    Jo says

    Belated Happy Birthday! Hope you had a wonderful one. Thank you for this post. It’s actually my husband who sent it to me… he has expressed many times how I over use my phone.. I’m glad he sent it as I can digest and better understand the real importance of giving my loved ones my full attention and to be present when I’m with them. So, thank you!

    Jo

    • 94

      Clutterbug says

      Great post. Great blog. My major distraction is reading good blogs. How do I solve that?

      Happy Birthday 2014 a little bit early.

  46. 95

    says

    Thank you for this post! I remembered reading one of your posts that had gone viral and came back to follow-up and REALLY read your blog. I struggle with the “ringing and dinging” daily because my job is for a marketing company and I work at home- being “accessible” is practically a job requirement. BUT, I want to make more of an effort to have a quieter life, and I make it a priority to BE with my kids and to have time that is quiet and just for us. Basically, I feel like as a society, we need to break the habit of responding to every sound our phone ever makes. Thank you for this.. it is going to give me a lot to think about :)

      • 98

        Toni says

        Thank you so much for your reply!!! That makes complete sense!!! You made my day!!!! Can’t wait to get into the book more!

  47. 99

    Ashlee says

    I just read this…I have been trying so hard to cut down on my phone/computer use after my 6 yr old son told me “mummy you love your computer more then me” it was truly heartbreaking…to the point where I broke down in tears

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