Courtesy Megan Zander

I Parented Without My Phone For 1 Whole Week, & It Was Basically Impossible

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My addiction to my phone started four years ago, when I became a mom. Before then, I rarely used a computer. I didn't have a Facebook account, and I couldn't tell you the first thing about Pinning something. My phone didn't even do real emojis or texts. It was an ancient flip phone that I loved because the plan was like $10 a month.

All of that changed when I became a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly, I was home alone all day long, with two adorable but honestly often boring newborns. I found myself picking up my partner's shiny new iPad and looking up parenting questions on the internet. From there my fascination with the internet grew. I made friends in far flung corners of the world. I opened a Facebook account to share photos of my kids with distant relatives. I got an iPhone. I started a Pinterest board to keep track of homemade baby food recipes I'd never actually make. And, through a series of completely random and very, very lucky events, I started a fledgling career as a freelance writer.

The good news is that my editors praise me for being on top of my assignments and I'm the one who lets my friends know when Frappuccino happy hour is going down, because I always see the email first. The bad news is that my kids hate, and I mean hate, the fact that I'm my phone so much. They'll actually wedge themselves between my face and the screen and say, "Are you done with work now?" or "No more phone!"

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I feel like I'm constantly seeing headlines about how childhood goes by so quickly, and I've had moms of older kids tell me that I need to "live in the moment" with my boys while they're young. Between the guilt the boys give me and the advice of others I decided to put myself on a phone cleanse. For one solid week, I did my best not to look at my phone when I was with my kids. Instead of having it in my hand, I kept it on the mantle where I could still grab in the event of an emergency.

Day 1: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Supermom!

Courtesy Megan Zander
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I tell myself that I can check my email for five minutes every hour, and hold myself to waiting for the timer to buzz before grabbing my phone off the mantle. This way I don't miss anything major at work, but I'm still giving my boys the majority of my attention. They don't have preschool today, so I plan a full schedule of crafts, baking muffins, and having a picnic outside on the back porch. The boys love that they have my full attention and I definitely notice that I'm more patient with them when I'm not distracted by my phone. Remy tells me, "I love spending time with you, Mommy." In that moment I contemplate throwing my phone in the trash.

I'm honestly taking time away from my kids for nothing.

I realize that because my primary source of income is a writing job I do at night when my kids are asleep, I don't get that many urgent emails in a day. I might say I have to be on my phone for work, but the truth is I really only need to be on it early morning and in the evening. As long as I take quick breaks to check my email, the bulk of my phone time can be done once the boys are asleep.

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This is exciting because I don't feel as tied down as I did, but I'm also upset because it makes me feel like my work is not as important as I thought it was. I like feeling as though my work is important and that I could be getting a time-sensitive email at any second. But no one's going to die if I take an hour to reply to an editor. I realize that as much as I check my email, 90% of the time the only new email I have is about a 90% off sale at Old Navy. I'm honestly taking time away from my kids for nothing

Day 2: Less Mary Poppins, more Cruella de Vil

Courtesy Megan Zander
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The boys have preschool today, so you'd think putting aside my phone would be easy, since I only have a few hours with them. But it just so happens that I'm doing revisions for a timely political piece, so I'm under pressure both to hit my deadline and make my work kick ass. I hide behind my phone at the breakfast table, and I'm still anxiously looking at my phone for responses to my post on social media looking for sources for an article when I go to pick them up in the afternoon. I'm ashamed to admit my temper is short with them when they try to get my attention, because I'm too focused on the screen in front of me.

After a stressful day, all I want to do is mindlessly scroll through Instagram and catch up with my friends via text.

By early evening I'm done with work-related stuff, so I really should put the phone down and play Candyland or something. But after a stressful day all I want to do is mindlessly scroll through Instagram and catch up with my friends via text, so I do. They boys don't seem to mind. They read with their dad while I sit on the other side of the sectional. Part of me is relieved they're not all over me clamoring for attention, but part of me feels guilty, like they know I'm on the phone so they won't be able to get my attention even if they tried.

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Day 3: I can't be trusted

Feeling fantastically guilty over yesterday, I tuck my phone into my partner's car before he leaves for work so I can't check in online for the day. The kids are home again, and we spend the morning inside, since I don't want to go out without my phone in case of an emergency.

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I have loads of free time. It's just that I usually waste it watching the same Tasty video 19 times in one day.

I pull out these preschool sequencing cards I let them try a month ago. Last time I brought them out, I pretty much flung them at the boys with a request to "play nice" while I looked at makeup tutorials. They lasted less than 10 minutes before a fight broke out, so I figured they weren't ready for them intellectually. But when I sit with them and paid attention to what they were doing, they handled the cards no problem. Same with using their abacus to count to 100 and spelling three letter words with Boggle Jr. I realize they're actually a lot smarter than I thought. It's just that I wasn't paying attention to them because I'm always nose deep in my phone. This makes me feel awful, and I tell myself that I'm going to really work on using my phone less around them, not just for this experiment week.

Day 4: Unexpected side benefits

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My house isn't a disaster, but it seems like with work and the kids I never have time to do things like wipe down the baseboards or scrub whatever that is below the shelves in the bottom of the fridge. Same with finding time to paint my nails, read, or brush the cat.

Even when I'm using my phone for purely frivolous reasons, by scrolling Instagram or gossiping with my sister, I still don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. Parenting is tough, and taking mental health breaks is necessary for keeping it together from breakfast until bedtime.

It turns out I have loads of free time. It's just that I usually waste it watching the same Tasty video 19 times in one day. Now that I'm not on my phone all the time, my house has never looked better. The boys are getting a little bored with me so I enlist them to help me clean out from under the couches and give them directions on how to wash the glass sliding door and dust. They love getting to play clean-up and I love feeling like I'm accomplishing something. I realize just how much time I waste on my phone.

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Day 5: No, you can't have it all

I miss out on a work assignment I really wanted today simply because I didn't see the email fast enough. This is a time sensitive project and things like this rarely happen in my work. I'm trying really hard not to get upset about it but what I really want to do is scream, "SEE? THIS IS WHY I HAVE TO CHECK MY PHONE" and stomp around feeling sorry for myself. I also realize I'm way behind on what's going on in the lives of my online friends. I haven't replied to texts and I've missed a ton of funny jokes.

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I view my phone use as the equivalent to getting up from your desk job and going for a walk to stretch your legs once. I need my phone in order to handle being a stay-at-home mom.

It feels like I have no balance in my life right now between work, friends and parenting. I know I spend a lot of time on my phone when I don't technically need to be on it, but I view my phone use as the equivalent to getting up from your desk job and going for a walk to stretch your legs once. I need my phone in order to handle being a stay-at-home mom. Without my phone to keep me in touch with other adults, I find myself running into the bathroom and standing in the dark several times a day, just to have a moment alone. My phone may be a crutch, but everyone needs something to help them get through life. I don't drink or do drugs. Is it really so bad if my phone is a coping mechanism?

Day 6: The weekend is an internet wasteland

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Nothing important ever happens online over the weekend, so I'm usually pretty good about leaving my precious phone behind when we go out for a walk or run errands as a family. I feel flirty with my partner all day, and I'm sure it's because we're actually talking to each other instead of me saying, "Yeah," while not actually listening to him. Sure enough, when I check my phone late Saturday night I've missed nothing at all.

Day 7: Phooooone! Come to mommy

Courtesy Megan Zander
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It's the last day of my phone fast, and this may have been harder than any fad diet I've ever tried. I realize that while I could stand to cut back on my phone use (if only for the sake of my data plan) I'm not a monster for looking at the screen now and then. My job is important to me and it makes me feel good about myself independently from my role as a mom, and I won't apologize for doing what it takes to stay on top of my work.

Even when I'm using my phone for purely frivolous reasons, by scrolling Instagram or gossiping with my sister, I still don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. Parenting is tough, and taking mental health breaks is necessary for keeping it together from breakfast until bedtime.

I will definitely ease up on my phone use to give my kids more attention throughout the day, but if checking in with work occasionally or texting my friends makes me happier and more patient with my kids, I'm not stopping. Go ahead and call me a bad mom. I can't hear you anyway, because I'm playing with my phone.

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