Strengthening family relationships in the era of social media

Momhood_Phone Detox_Phone

Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. JulianoMarla DarwinMonica Eleazar-ManzanoRossana UnsonRonna Capili-Bonifacio, and Chrina Cuna-Henson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.

One of the 2019 year starter promises I made to myself and my family is to unplug more. This is one mindful parenting practice which I feel is high up the “challenge richter scale” because of all that the glorious smartphone can do these days. But I feel that it is well worth the huge sacrifice. 

Could you live without your phone and Internet these days? My husband panicked when Globe lost signal for an hour or so today. It is probably the first material thing humans reach out for upon rising from sleep. (C’mon, raise your hand, don’t be shy.)

A phone is no longer just a tool for calling people but your portal to an infinite world at your fingertips. I personally use my phone to make calls, check the time, calculate anything, look up recipes, research on Waldorf and Wildschooling, or get inspiration for whatever art and craftwork I want to make, and honestly, the most I use the phone for, is social media. Someone once said that, “Facebook is like reading the newspaper, except that all the characters is someone you actually know.” And of course, there is Instagram where you can totally customize your preferred version of your life.

As a super hands-on mother who home-schools, I am constantly with my children 24/7. I admit to liking and looking forward to my quiet and seemingly alone online time because then, I kinda tap out of my current reality which may sometimes not be desirable when my kids are having a bad day. When I say it this way, it reminds me of the film Inception or even Matrix. I remember one character getting addicted to “that other life.” It is so easy to get sucked in to this alternate universe but… at what cost? It saddens me when I see that the husband is busy looking at the screen, sometimes not even for important work matters, when my children want his attention and affection. But, who am I to criticize when I know that I am guilty as well?

I remember that my Waldorf Education mentors warned me to stay away from the phone because of the harmful radiation it may cause my baby. This was the only text message I got from one of the respected teachers I look up to. When I think about what she said, not only does it have health hazards, this tiny portal to an alternate reality does not keep you present and grounded for your child. I am aware of this, and yet I stumble and fall each day with every beep or notification I get. 

We think it is rude whenever someone looks down at their smartphones whenever we are in a lunch or dinner meeting with friends or family, but we still manage to do it in front of our children. When my kids tell me to put my phone away, I know they are hurting because they need me to be there for them. I need to promise myself to look into my children’s eyes each day more than staring in the cold cellphone screen. I need to have real face to face conversations with my husband versus texting or sending messages on Facebook Messenger. What actions do we do each day that will make us more human?

One tiny step into this mindfulness parenting practice is to stow away the tempting phone during meal times. That, to me, is just very basic protocol in raising empathetic children. Another step I am consciously taking is to keep the phone away during our precious bedtime ritual. Every night, I read a bedtime story to my two younger children. I used to reach out for my phone immediately after the story, even if my kids are awake. I regretfully admit that this is not good parenting practice because my energy is stolen from where it needs to be the most—and that’s with my little ones. How can they learn how to be respectful when I do not show them that they are worthy of my time and respect? When I weigh things down to what matters, my family means the world to me, the rest can fade into the background. My last and hardest attempt is to keep away from the phone when the children are awake and obviously need me. It gets harder and harder since the two younger children sometimes fight their afternoon naps. These afternoon naps are like my pockets of golden silence where I get to do what I want to do without interruption—which almost always includes online time. At the moment, I am trying my best to be physically away from the phone and prioritize things offline such as organizing the room, crafting for my daughter’s upcoming birthday, and others. I notice the shift in my own self. The less time I spend online, the more patience I have with my kids. And of course, the more loving and fun parent I am, too. Let’s see how this digital detox keeps up and blooms my family relationships more and more. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Art by Marian Hukom

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