Guest blogger Adam Lanigan considers how family needs to come above phone.
We’re firmly into 2022 and therefore it’s time with our best foot forward to try to implement a resolution that we think can improve our lives. Mine is probably one that would benefit all of us, but it is proving difficult to achieve. But what is my resolution? That’s right, it is time to put my phone away, or at the very least, put it down!
In modern life, a mobile phone is taken for granted as a necessity. It is now rare for a person aged between 11 and 70 to be without one. It has become as essential an item as a wallet, a set of house keys and a bank card. But the big difference is those items do not have a trance-like hold over us. We do not keep taking our wallets or purses out of our pockets to check if we still have the same amount of money in it as ten minutes ago.
As working dads, we have all made the conscious decision that we want to both work and take an active role in childcare. But that throws up obvious challenges. And with modern technology the way it is, as we carry our mobile phones everywhere, we are often carrying work everywhere, too. So how can we separate work time from family time? It’s the easiest thing in the world to say, ‘I’ll just check my emails’ or ‘I’ll just do this’, but is it creating the worst of both worlds? You’re not all there with your kids and you’re not at work. So, can I follow through with my new year’s resolution to use my phone less, but more productively?
Wednesday is my regular day to look after my children and that has been set in stone for nearly three years. But Wednesday is the middle of the week and other work carries on. My work is often fluid and last-minute and I do not always know what I am doing in the days immediately following Wednesday. Therefore, the desire for a little bit of a clarity or an update can often be overwhelming. But seriously I have to ask myself, from looking at my phone, how many times do I find out something useful? Very few. And how often do I get distracted by social media chats or a quick scroll around the internet for no particular reason? Far too often.
Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to put my mobile away and leave it in my bedside drawer for the day. Remember, until about 20 years ago people coped perfectly well without being constantly contactable. However, you know there are a few things that can be useful. If you are meeting up with other friends with small children, you may need to send a message to let them know a time and venue. You may need to use your phone for directions to a park or a playgroup that you have not visited before. While it is nice to be able to send a photo or two to Mummy or Grandma of the children enjoying themselves on Daddy Day. There are also the obvious necessities of if you have an emergency.
Like most things in life, the key is finding the middle ground. My children are entitled to and deserve my fullest attention when I am with them. There is nothing worse than the unsatisfactory feeling of being caught between two stools, when you are not concentrating on your work, but you are not throwing yourself wholeheartedly into your activities as a dad. The children sense your distraction and that you are not fully engaged in their games or play because you are checking for a text message or an email that never comes. If you are too distracted, the children can even get angry if they feel they are being ignored.
Daddy Day is sacrosanct. My oldest starts school this September, so he will have less special time with me and therefore he deserves his best dad over the next few months. Nobody wants their children’s lives to become too overwhelmed by technology and screens, but how can we preach that if we cannot practice that ourselves?
I know I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times already. It’s not easy but I will beat this. Daddy Days have to become as much of a mobile-free zone as possible. Wish me luck – but please not by text!