using my iPhone well :: 5 changes for my kids & home


It arrived last week.

I opened the white box to reveal a sleek new iPhone, lying there before its new owner with a history yet unwritten. Within a few moments, the phone was programmed, and I set up my email and chose my favorite ringtone. I snapped a sturdy case onto it for safekeeping. I slipped it in my purse.

Welcome to my life, iPhone.

But I was a slightly different person than the distracted young woman who lost her iPhone three weeks before. Getting my iPhone stolen from under my nose both dismayed and provoked me. In the ensuing three weeks, I thought a lot about my phone use and tried to change a few habits.

I’ve slowly written this post over the past week, wanting to be honest as well as not too optimistic. I’ve tried to be vulnerable and thoughtful about all of it, and I’d love to know your thoughts. Here are a few things I realized while I had no iPhone, and therefore a few things I’d like to change:

1. I don’t need to carry my phone around the house.

Before I lost it, I would generally carry my iPhone from room to room with me, usually in my back pocket. In theory, this was so I could grab it if someone called or texted me. But my life in Sicily is not full of calls or texts. My friends and I just use email unless it’s urgent. Pretty much the only person who calls me is Elliott, and he rarely texts because he doesn’t have a smartphone. Because we live overseas, I can’t call or text my parents or siblings, so that cuts out a lot of fun everyday communication that I am really looking forward to when we move back to the States!

In summary, I didn’t carry my phone around in case someone called. I carried it around to a) take pictures and b) check various social media outlets.

After I lost my phone, I borrowed my friend’s very simple flip phone. Because there was nothing to do on it, I started to leave it in my purse all afternoon, or on my bedside table all morning. When someone (Elliott) called me, I could usually hear it and go retrieve it. (Usually. There were some missed calls.)

In the meantime, I felt surprisingly free. “Where’s my phone? In my room. I haven’t heard it, so no one’s called. Maybe I’ll check it in awhile.” I lost the itch to have it in the same room with me at all times.

When my new phone arrived, I had already diagnosed this change and wanted to keep it this way. So far, I’ve been successful. Case in point: while writing this, I realized that my phone was still in the backpack from our picnic hike today, meaning I haven’t looked at it in eight hours. That would never have happened before.

However, Elliott read over my shoulder when I was writing this and said, “But when I call you, I want you to answer. It’s good that you aren’t as attached! But we’re paying for a phone so that when people call you, you hear it and pick it up.” And he’s right.

So maybe the phone still does need to travel with me, or maybe I just need to live with a louder ringtone instead of the vibrate setting. I’m still figuring this one out.

2. Putting my baby to bed is not a time to look at my phone.

Gil currently nurses four times a day, always before he goes to sleep. Before I lost my phone, I would often bring it with me to read in the dark when no one could “see” me. But Gil often did turn around to see where the light was coming from, which then turned into a game of me hiding the phone every time he turned his head. In the end, I often felt more frustrated than relaxed. “Just let me finish writing this comment, Gil!”

After I lost my phone, I didn’t have anything to do while nursing Gil except… sit there. So I closed my eyes. I rocked quietly in the rocking chair. I let my mind wander. I rested.

By the time my new phone arrived, I had really learned to value those few minutes with Gil. So I decided not to even bring my phone into the room with me while putting Gil to bed. Now those minutes are quiet, peaceful times for both of us. Our breathing slows, our heart rates decrease, our minds rest. These minutes are also preparatory for both of us: Gil prepares to sleep and I prepare for everythingIneedtododuringnaptime. It’s a time to snuggle together. It’s a sweet time, a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of our lives.

So this change may not last long (because Gil is 14 months and I’ll be weaning him soon), but this is at least one change I’m making: no phone while putting my baby to sleep.

3. Instagram takes a lot more than it gives (at least for me).

I love the glimpses into people’s lives, the ordinary moments and life-defining shots all shared in a simple forum. I’ve reconnected with friends and even made some new ones thanks to Instagram.

But wow. I spent a lot of time on there. Over time, I watched myself begin to spend 10 minutes editing each picture, and then fret over how many likes it might garner. I started to follow people I didn’t know, including a lot of popular bloggers with pretty photos. The more people I followed, the more updates I had, so the more often I checked Instagram. Multiple times a day. Or every hour. Or sometimes – especially right after I’d uploaded a photo – multiple times an hour.

After I lost my iPhone, I missed the updates from my friends, and I would Google various feeds to check in on their photos. But that started to happen less and less. At the same time, I stopped worrying about taking the perfect photo, or thinking about other Insta celebs perfect photos (and food and houses and lives), or getting that nagging itch to check my feed again. These changes gave me more peace and more time.

So I don’t know. Clearly Instagram had a strong hold on me, and perhaps my story is unique. One blogger I know said that Facebook was always getting her down (so she got off Facebook), but Instagram always built her up. Maybe that’s true for a lot of people, but for me Instagram offers more comparisons and time drains instead of encouragement.

After I got my new phone, I tried to establish new habits. Now I only check Instagram about three times a day instead of 10 or 30 times. I stopped following the blogger celebrities that were filling up my feed. (This also means fewer updates in my feed, and fewer updates means I don’t feel the need to check for updates as often.) I’m also trying to never check Instagram around my kids. We’ll see if these changes last, hah! Wish me luck!

4. Taking care of your email in blocks of time saves you time.

With no smartphone, I used my laptop to check my email. And my laptop — unlike my phone — couldn’t travel all around the house with me. Thus, instead of checking my phone every hour (or multiple times an hour), I could only check my laptop when I had a few free minutes in my room by myself: before the kids were up in the morning, during nap time, and in the evening after they’re in bed.

As my time on my email became more limited, I found that I could be more productive when I focused on one thing – “now I have a quiet hour, and I am going to respond to as many emails as I can.” This is so much more productive than trying to email a friend in the corner of the kitchen in the few seconds before Lena came back to find me!

Responding to email only at certain times of day is a time-management tip I’ve heard about, but I’m still figuring it out. Is it realistic to say I am only going to respond to my email at 7am, 2pm, and 8pm? Probably not. But I have found that focusing on my email responses in blocks of time instead of scattered minutes has made me calmer throughout the day. I’m still thinking about this one. I’d love to hear if you have made this work for you.

5. I don’t need to photograph or video every hour of my children’s lives.

Like I mentioned before, I wept when my phone was stolen because there were several months of photos and videos inside that phone. I felt like I lost part of my children’s childhoods. There were iconic moments and memories that will fade away now.

For the first week after I lost my phone, I would mentally reach for it all. the. time. Surprisingly, that was not because I wanted to check my email or look things up on Google. I wanted it so I could take a picture. I saw Gil’s conundrum, Lena’s silly dance, or a beautiful corner of our Italian neighborhood, and my knee-jerk reaction was to reach for my phone and capture the moment.

But after a week or so, the urge faded. I picked up my DSLR a little more and played around with some manual settings. Mostly I just got used to enjoying the moments instead of freeze-framing them.

After I got my new phone, I started using the camera again slowly. I’ve been trying to be more judicious about the photos I take. To delete extra photos as I go.  To think more about what I’m trying to capture. To not take a photo and instead just to enjoy the moment. To look at my children and laugh with them and enjoy that moment with my own two eyes and not necessarily from behind an iPhone.

The result, I think, will be fewer photos and probably just as good photos. Maybe better photos, if I’m being more thoughtful. The result might also be children who don’t feel like every moment of their lives is being filmed and recorded.

And these are all good things, I think.


What are your thoughts about all this? If you have a smartphone, do you try to regulate your usage? If you have kids, how do you use your phone around them?

I feel like I’m beginning to set battle lines for a personal war I’ll be fighting all my life. What are your strategies so you use your phone efficiently… and not the other way around?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

18 Responses to using my iPhone well :: 5 changes for my kids & home

  1. Courtney April 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Wow, Bekah! So good to read this! I have been thinking a lot about my use of technology (phone and laptop) and what the appropriate balance can be. I think having a forced break, like you had, can reveal a lot. It’s so hard to know how to appropriately use these technologies that are so omnipresent.

    I especially appreciate your point about not over-documenting your children’s lives. I think I struggle with finding a balance there, especially since I want to have the everyday moments captured for the years to come.

    Do you keep your laptop off or away when your kids are up?

    • Becca April 11, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

      Thanks for your encouragement, Courtney. I imagine you’re thinking along similar lines with your parenting, so it’s fun to be in the trenches together!

      I keep my laptop in my room in a corner, and so if I need to, I can check it during the day. I try to do that only a couple of times a day while the kids are up, and only when they’re distracted elsewhere. I try to keep it out of sight and out of mind. In the evenings, I often need my computer for a recipe, so it might be on the counter while I’m cooking dinner, and the kids and I will listen to music and talk and play throughout that time. I try not to get distracted by it!

      Screen time with our kids is a whole topic that Elliott and I have thought long and hard about, so I hope to address it in a post sometime soon!

  2. Eden April 11, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Very interesting! Seems like good new habits. I think paying attention to the moment itself rather than capturing is a great thing!

    • Becca April 11, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      Thanks, sis. :)

  3. Sarah Hutchinson April 11, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    Hey Becca, since moving to Sicily it has been very freeing to not have the constant texts or even being in a similar time zone where social media is buzzing in the phone. I often find myself now, even with an internet package on my iPhone, without my phone. I have found that also I get frustrated with my kids if I’m distracted by my phone because they’re not allowing me to “focus”. I have noticed that and have now made a point to only check FB and email in the mornings, nap time and the evenings. The days when I succumb to the dinging of the phone or computer I get completely off schedule and my kids are craving interaction or play time. So, with all that being said I am glad to have moved here and realized I don’t have to be a prisoner to email or social media because it will still be there when I have time to get to it! It allows me to be a mother and wife who is present.

    • Becca April 11, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

      Life moves at a slower pace in Sicily, doesn’t it? Even though Sicily has been the place where Elliott and I started our blogs (which equals a lot of time online), I think our amount of time online has not changed… it’s just become more purposeful. At the same time, the general sense that life here is more “unplugged” has been GREAT for our family and for our priorities! I also find that it really helps me in my mothering and it’s a good place to stay focused on “the good stuff.” I’m so grateful for Sicily.

      Let’s talk more at our next playground date… if we can get a word in edgewise over the kids’ activity, right?!

  4. Emily April 12, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    Oh Becca! What a timely post. I’ve been trying to make changes re: iphone usage lately, too. It has always driven me crazy when people have their phones out at restaurants, and I found myself guilty of it last weekend. “Be present!” I tell myself. “Enjoy the moment!!” I say. But oh, wait let me just see what adorable picture my sister-in-law posted on instagram… It’s bad. It’s a bad bad habit. So, this week I’m trying to keep the iphone “parked” when we’re home, i.e. charging in the kitchen. Like you, I now only follow people I know on instagram, following bloggers makes me play the comparison game and it’s just not good for my soul. It’s hard to balance all of this — we are more connected than ever before, but sometimes I feel more disconnected from my immediate surroundings, all because of this technological surrogate. For me, being a kind and loving mother and wife often means resisting the temptation to fall into the social network black-hole (and that means, putting the phone AWAY!) It’s good to know you struggle with it too, as always, thanks for being candid!! Good luck, Momma.

    • Becca April 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, Emily! I also love the idea of “parking” my phone in the house somewhere where I know I can find it. If anything, this post and discussion has made me more thoughtful, and hopefully less guilty and more proactive. That’s the point, right?!

  5. Rebecca April 13, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    Hi Becca, I started following your blog a few months ago and like reading it. Mostly about your mothering and your life in general. I didn’t follow you on Instagram but added you just now.

    I bought my iPhone a few years ago because I wanted to be able to take snippets of my life. I didn’t want perfect pictures, I just wanted to capture the moment and remember the feeling I had right then when watching the pictures again. I have Instagram now and will occasionally post a picture there. I don’t care how good or professional it looks, and that’s generally not why I add other people either. I just love the little snips of life. Most of the people I have on Instagram I don’t know at all but from Instagram, and if I find myself scrolling past a lot of their pictures I’ll delete them. I only use it to bring a smile on my face. Coming Summer, when my first little one is born, I still hope to use my phone to capture moments. And maybe, in a silent moment, sit down, shift through the pictures and write down the memories I want to keep.

    I do keep my iPhone with me at all times because I need to be available for work. It sometimes annoys me. I do not turn on the noice, which keeps it more private and not everyone has to see I got a message. I every now and then will take it out on boring social events, but not often. I’m totally annoyed with my “addiction” to FB and have been thinking about deleting my account. But I keep in touch with a few long lost friends that way so I don’t want to delete it. I do try to limit my use, like I try not to go on FB on Sundays and will try to limit my use even more.

    In general I think it’s important to find the good things about a smartphone. And use it for those. It’s not all bad, we just have to be very aware of what we do. Thanks for your post!

    • Becca April 15, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

      I’m so glad that you found so much here that you liked, Rebecca! It sounds like you are trying to be very thoughtful about your phone use, and you’re also trying to be realistic and fit your phone with your life, which is really important!

      Congrats on your little one coming this summer!

  6. Monica April 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    What an inspiring post! I’ve been struggling with this too as of late. I actually stopped using the BabyConnect app I’d been using to track my baby’s feeds because I realized it was making me glued to my phone with each nursing session. Now nursing is often a time of quiet reflection and I love that. I also recently took Facebook off my phone and that helped. Now to curb my Instagram addiction… You just inspired me to unfollow about 20 people!!

    • Becca April 15, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

      Hooray, Monica! Glad it encouraged you! And I’m also glad that I wasn’t one of the 20 people you unfollowed, haha. ;-)

      I am trying not to look at Facebook on my new phone, but I finally caved to respond to a comment last night. I need to get rid of that browser window (I don’t have the app, but that doesn’t stop me from checking it) and try to just check it on my laptop. Easier said than done.

      • Monica April 16, 2014 at 1:33 am #

        I, too, was checking Facebook on my browser once I took the app off my phone. I find it helpful to log out each time so that if I am tempted to look, I am hit with the log-in screen and it reminds me that I don’t want to be checking it on my phone! It at least makes it harder to check out of habit.

  7. esther April 15, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    Your thoughtfulness and willingness to continue improving yourself blows me away!

    • Becca April 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      I would say the same for YOU, friend!

  8. Abby April 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Becca,
    I love reading your blog and especially posts like these that highlight challenges that we all struggle with. One of the main reasons I check my phone so much is because of loneliness. Not a sad, droopy loneliness, but a general “stay at home mom – no adult to talk to during the minutiae” type of feeling. Staying at home with kids is great, but knowing that other moms are out there posting thoughts online makes me want to read them and connect and feel like I’m part of something during the day. It fills some kind of void. I try to realize that these feelings are all temporary and of course this time in our lives will pass so quickly that putting the phone down and connecting with the little ones is much more important than the silly status update a friend just posted that somehow makes me feel validated. Kind of hard to explain, but maybe you know what I mean. The other thing I think about is how would I want my children to use this technology and social media? They are too young now, and will probably have all new gadgets to play with in a few years, but I look at it as if they see me using it when interacting with them, then they learn that to be acceptable behavior. Yet when they are older, I will not want them checking facebook and texting when I am trying to talk to them! So I try to put the shoe on the other foot and remember that I should be modeling behavior that I want them to learn from for the future. So hard in this day in age when everyone has their face in their phones and that has become the new norm. Am I crazy for wanting to keep them from some of these things? I struggle when I think about how to balance their technology use. It is everywhere – how do we keep them from succumbing to it the way that we have? Sorry for the random comments…but this is such a big issue! Thanks for bringing it up and sharing. Enjoy your remaining time there!

    • Becca April 16, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

      I loved all these thoughts, Abby. Thank you for sharing! I don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to keep your kids from some things, but I do agree with you that we’ll have a lot of regulating ahead of us as they get older! So far just saying “no” and keeping our devices out of their way has been pretty straightforward. I sense that will change, though… especially as peer pressure becomes a thing down the road!


  1. Unplugging and Restarting Your Parenting Overseas (or Right Where You Are!) - Becca Garber - May 20, 2014

    […] wrote more about my decisions to limit my iPhone usage here. (Elliott doesn’t own a smartphone right now, so it’s a lot easier for […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes