When I had my twins I finally gave in and joined Facebook as a way to connect with other multiple mums. It was ideal, as juggling two babies, and often older kids too, meant we never knew when we would have a moment to connect, let alone pick up the phone, and getting out of the house and meeting in person could be a marathon. What’s app and Messenger followed as ways to have a virtual conversation with limited energy between nappy changes and naps (the babies and mine!).
Stephen Porges, who applies the latest discoveries in neuroscience to clinical work, says that the two key stressors for us as humans are isolation from others and restraint. Both of which can be present for mums caring for young children, and many other groups within our society today. For me technology was a lifeline and enabled much needed support, shared tips and above all reduced this stress through connection and a sense of freedom.
A Wakeup Call
Over time, with more friends on Facebook I noticed that it became an additional ‘relationship’ to manage. As I am naturally enthusiastic, supportive and welcome connection, it followed that I was responsive and quick to like and comment, taking time even though I posted little myself. A while back, my husband shared how he sometimes felt that I was more interested in connecting virtually with friends than with him and occasionally with the kids. That I was often absent to those around me when I was on Facebook.
This was my painful wakeup call – I knew it, but still used Facebook to avoid certain feelings or to try to get me-time as a mum of three. It was time to change.. I experimented with putting my phone into silent mode after 9pm, though this was hard to sustain as it was sometimes the one chance I got to connect with friends too.
I also noticed that I was taking my phone everywhere with me, including when putting my eldest to bed. Yes, there were moments when he was having a shower or doing his teeth and it felt an ideal time to catch up on Facebook, but it started to affect my relationship with him as I wasn’t entirely present. So again, I created some new rules about when I took my phone with me. It’s not easy, but I am choosing the deeper quality of relationship that comes from being more present.
Evolving ‘Technology’ Etiquette
I heard about a new kind of etiquette for young people where if 4 of you are out for a meal it’s OK to be on your phone if 3 others aren’t. So as a society we are already finding new ways to manage the social disruption and integrate it into our relationships.
Managing screen time as Parents
With three boys, I’m very aware of their relationship with technology and gaming, but I try to focus on supporting their relationships with us as parents, with each other and their friends alongside creating opportunities for play and fun away from screens and buttons. Over the years I’m sure we are going to face challenges in how to parent them around their relationship with technology, but I trust that their experience of real time connection will help them hold a balance. If you are questioning how to manage kids screen time, you might be interested in workshops run by Mette Theilmann, whom I met recently at Maidenhead Business Girls. I might see you on one!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology – I love the sense of ongoing connection I get from Facebook, as well as feeling a sense of belonging and part of something bigger. Like you reading this, I read lots online that supports me in my life. Yet, I am also aware that I am continually learning how to manage my virtual connections so that they enhance rather than damage the core relationships with my family and friends.