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I Radically Changed How I Parent — For a Day

Last night I woke up from a dream where I lost my new iPhone. The dream was so vivid that I had a panic attack and immediately woke up like you do in a dream where you are about to die. My shiny, beautiful, smooth new phone was gone, and it was unbearable. I was so embarrassed that my subconscious is even sick of my addiction to my cell phone.

Since becoming a real estate agent, a cell phone — especially the types we have now — are my portable office. I can reply to a client at the speed of sound, not miss a $20 million listing call from a stranger (as if!). I can text my kids back when they are at their other mom's house. And, most importantly, I don’t feel lonely (there are many solo lunches when you are selling homes).

That’s how I justify it.

At this point it is my security blanket, and I like to keep it around. I could cut down on Instagram and Facebook, since they distract me from what is important. But I do my best to only check 10,000 times a day. Following people that workout isn’t really going to help me get in shape, even though I think it will.

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So I decided for the next 24 hours, I will not keep my phone nearby. I will only check it once. I am not sure how that is even possible. I’m thinking everyone can wait: emails, my clients, strangers whose lives I follow and my online shopping.

The first hour was eye-opening. I started to sweat, so I had to keep myself busy cleaning. I worried I would miss something so important that it would be life changing. My twins and girlfriend had something to say about it, since they all noticed pretty quickly. How sad is that?

My track record isn’t great with quitting something I am very fond of, like all the times I have tried to quit Oreos.

Daughter Dautry: “Mama, where is your phone?”

Son Niko: “Mama, probably lost her phone.”

Mama: “No guys, I am not using my phone for the day”

“Good luck with that, Mama,” my 7-year-olds said simultaneously, after laughing for a few seconds. At first I was offended, and then I appreciated their quick wit. They were speaking the truth. I am a bit addicted, and I did feel crappy about it.

My girlfriend placed a bet with the kids on how long I would last. She said I was being brave for trying, but she’s not sure if a bad dream would be able to keep me away from my beloved iPhone. I will show them. I refuse to be a creature of habit for these next 24 hours.

My track record isn’t great with quitting something I am very fond of, like all the times I have tried to quit Oreos. I start so strong, but then I’d go to Target for a few things. Before I know it, Oreos are in my shopping cart. I know I am a weak human for this, but I swear there is a drug in Oreos that keeps me hooked.

I’m thinking this no phone for 24 hours is a little more power, because I was starting to think I was a bad parent. Who wants to feel like that? Is there anything worse than that feeling? (Well, maybe not fitting into your favorite pants.) I mean, it's only 24 hours. I should do a real challenge, like 72 hours, but I know my limits.

24 hours goes by quickly when you don’t complain.

I was determined to win. I would change the normal habits I have grown so fond of. I would start my day with correct posture and with my eyes looking out and not down. I would eat breakfast without reading Twitter. I would stop texting 10 people in 30 seconds. I will stop liking kid pics on Facebook. I would listen to what my girlfriend was saying (and remember the conversation later). I would watch TV on my own and with kids without checking Instagram, build Legos with my son Jagger without looking at the time and pee — go pee! —all on my own. Basically, I would only do one thing at a time. How absurd does that sound in our multi-tasking, wasting-your-time-on-nothing-that-really-has-meaning world.

Sounds so easy right?

Well, guess what? I did it. These are some of the benefits I found:

  • My world did not end. I didn’t receive nasty emails or texts from angry clients or friends. Oddly enough, I didn’t miss a single thing.
  • 24 hours goes by quickly when you don’t complain.
  • My kids really enjoyed having my full attention. Cuddling was off the hook. I was available and present, and they loved it. I am a great parent again!
  • I didn’t get suckered into watching any sort of social media videos.
  • I didn’t have to constantly charge my phone.
  • My girlfriend was proud of me (score!!), and I was able to spend more quality time with her after the kids went to bed.
  • It was amazing what I could accomplish with two free hands. Yay me.
  • I didn’t spend any money ordering online. Sorry, Amazon.
  • I spoke to a friend over the phone from my house line. How cool is that? I have a house line, and I used it.
  • I didn’t need the phone. I realize I am used to it. But at the end of the day, I didn’t need to access it the whole entire day.
I would change the normal habits I have grown so fond of. I would start my day with correct posture and with my eyes looking out and not down.

So what I have realized is I need to set boundaries. We all have to control various parts of our lives: how we eat, how we exercise, how we drink, how to raise our kids. How we use our phone needs to be added to that list.

I don’t necessarily feel like adding this to the list since I enjoy it most of the time, but my life is begging for me to put the phone down. I know, one day, phones will be as dangerous as cigarettes. I am looking forward to those ads coming out. But, until then, I will enjoy my time with my family and friends without it.

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Try it, and let me know if you survive.

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Image via Twenty20/JavierABellag

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