Are you a parent who’s attached to their phone, and desperately want to ditch the habit? Here’s why ditching your phone will make you a better person!
by Laura Onstot | Laura Onstot, registered nurse and mom of 2 young kids, rarely pees alone, only frequents restaurants with Kraft Mac N Cheese, and blogs at Nomad’s Land. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids watch endless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Her parenting advice is questionable, but at least she’s honest. Follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.
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I noticed it a while ago. My attachment to my phone was strong. Stronger than I wanted it to be. And when I reviewed my screen time reports on Sundays, there was a pit in my stomach. How could I be spending FOUR HOURS on my phone each day? It must be the Youtube videos I let our toddler watch as she potty trained. Maybe they were counting the time I was listening to Audible? That had to be it.
But I couldn’t lie to myself forever. I was far more attached to my phone than I wanted to admit. My kids pulled on my legs as I responded to endless text conversations, and I browsed Amazon during commercial breaks. I felt compelled to tap the screen to check for any missed texts or calls every five minutes.
It was getting in the way of being an attentive mom and wife. But worse, it was getting in the way of me living in the real world. I felt chained to my phone–like people expected me to return their texts within a certain period of time before I was being rude.
Notifications just had to be responded to. I knew when it was going to rain thanks to my radar app. Amazon let me know when a package was on the way, and then, when it arrived, took away the surprise of a package at the doorstep.
My email, just a thumb tap away, tempted me. And don’t get me started on the camera. This certainly wasn’t the days I grew up in–100 pictures of my childhood, nothing posed, no pictures of publishable quality. Now, I felt pressured to capture each moment in my girls’ lives. Not only that, but to capture it so they looked adorable in every picture, were smiling and looking at the camera.
One day, as I responded to what felt like the hundredth text, I felt anxiety creeping up in my shoulders. This little rectangular, pocket sized object, had become more demanding than my 3 year old. I didn’t want to look at it anymore.
I shoved it in a drawer and didn’t look at it again until that night.
During the first couple of hours, I felt drawn to the drawer to peek–make sure no emergencies had happened that needed my immediate attention. But I held fast–if anything really did happen, my family could call or text my husband.
And then, I started living life in the real world. I framed and hung some pictures I’d been meaning to get on the wall for months, I gardened, and I played with the kids in the pool. I gave my full attention to whatever was in front of me.
It was amazing! In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to try a weekend without my phone. Like a retreat of sorts.
On Friday, I texted my frequent contacts that I would be off my phone for the weekend, and they could text or call my husband if an emergency arose. And on Friday night, I turned off my phone and threw it in my husband’s office.
That done, I settled into the couch to read a book until I drifted off to sleep.
The weekend ended up being just the break I needed. Since I couldn’t order groceries online, I went to the store, in person. I had a real conversation with the real checkout people.
My daughters had my full attention, and I was free from the pressure of needing to photograph and document their every move.
On car rides, rather than scrolling through Facebook, I talked to my real-life, amazing husband. My activities were not interrupted by the draw to check on my phone. I spent a lot of time outside doing yard work. I even read. And I realized that maybe it was not my kids who kept me from getting things done, but my attachment to my phone.
When I turned on my phone on Monday morning, I was greeted with 25 text messages and a long list of notifications. But I was refreshed, and able to respond to everything within 30 minutes. Not 4 hours.
Since then, phone-free weekends have become a regular part of my life.
They require pre-planning–coordinating and communicating any details prior to the weekend. But in doing this, I am able to fully unplug and recharge over the weekend. Some weekends, I feel the tug of my phone more strongly than others. But I never regret it afterwards.
These weekends give me a chance to creatively problem solve when I “need” my phone–in 97% of cases, I really don’t. I can be patient and wait to place my Amazon order until Monday. I don’t need to carry on conversations with someone who isn’t physically present. It is okay to sit. Or nap.
Without my phone, nothing is urgent. I don’t need to know the precise time my husband will be home. Nothing NEEDS to be photographed. I don’t have to send a billion texts to update everyone on the tiniest details of my life. I can simply live in the moment. And it is a rather freeing realization.
I’m not sure how long phone-free weekends will last. My kids are still little, which offers me the freedom of not worrying they will crash the car, or need to be picked up from a teenage date gone wrong. But I would highly recommend that you give it a go. Start small! An hour, half a day, a full day, eventually a whole weekend. Unplug so you can plug in to real life.
Tips To Ditch Your Phone
#1 Start small
Try an hour. Then try a couple of hours, half a day, then a full day. When you do, hide the phone. It becomes much easier if you don’t have a glowing phone screen within reach. Pay attention to the difference it makes in your ability to reside in the world.
#2 Plan ahead
Do you need to order groceries or make appointments prior to shutting off your phone? Get those tasks done before ditching your phone.
#3 Tell those who need to know
Have an alternate contact plan in case of emergency. Friends, relatives, grandparents–let them all know you’ll be away from your phone, and for how long.
#4 Fully commit
Set a specific goal and stick to it! Don’t forget tip #1, or you’ll over commit, and be unable to completely unplug.
#5 Make a phone to-do list
During phone-free weekend, make a list of anything you need your phone for. That way, when you turn it back on, you can knock out your list of phone-to-do’s quickly AND you won’t have anxiety about forgetting something.
#6 Plan what you want to do
Before your phone-free weekend, make a list of things you’d like to do over the weekend. If you find yourself craving your phone out of boredom, look at your list and pick something you love.
#7 Engage in face-to-face human contact
Feeling a strong craving or desire to use your phone? Creatively think of a way to get out of using your phone. Go out for some face-to-face human contact–this can be a little freaky for those of us who prefer technology over humans. But I bet you will find that you are happy you interacted with another human.
#8 Set phone-use goals on your return
When you return to your phone, have a goal for the amount of time you will spend with it. Continue using creative ways to avoid using your phone.
Ditching your phone may be the best thing you do for yourself. So use the tips I outlined above, and show the people you love they are more important than a phone!
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