Like most everyone I know, I was glued to my phone Friday night as the horrific events unfolded in Paris. As my children slept, I scrolled through the news, trying to wrap my head around this latest terrorist attack.
By Saturday morning, more details were emerging, and my phone was pinging with updates from various media outlets. My children, too young to know about the attacks, were proceeding with their Saturday with the unfettered consciences of the innocent. They wanted to eat snacks, play cards, and pick out a movie. All of these requests were reasonable from 4- and 6-year-old children. With one eye on my phone, I performed my motherly tasks.
When my kids were engrossed in an art project, I snuck to my phone to read more. And there was always more: an eye witness account, an OpEd about using the Paris tragedy for political gain, a minute-by-minute accounting of the attacks. As I felt the world spinning out of control, reading these pieces made me feel like I was still in control. After all, knowledge is power, right? When 9/11 happened, I was single and thought that camping out in front of the TV was exactly what a good American was supposed to do. And maybe it was, but it's not working now that I'm a mother.
My daughter had to call my name four times before I even registered she was taking to me. Somewhere along the way, my thirst for news, answers and control turned a dark corner into obsession. What was happening in Paris was more real to me than my own children sitting right in front of me with pipe cleaners and masking tape.
Being a mother was not compatible with staying up-to-date with the news coverage of the terrorist attacks.
It stokes anxiety, draws me away from my present moment, and takes energy I need for parenting.
Moreover, hours had gone by since there was any real news to report. Did it change my life to know that the suspect still at large was from Belgium? Did the precise number of the death toll mean enough for me to ignore my kids to read about it? Wasn't it more important for me to focus on what was happening in my life two feet in front of me?
I put the phone away for the rest of the afternoon, clear that knowing more information, at that point, would not serve me or my family.
But again, when the kids were in bed, I found myself scrolling through the news. In a flash an hour went by, and I'd read dozens of articles about Lebanon, Paris and Syria. Then, I was tense, riddled with fear and too anxious to sleep.
As midnight came and went, I realized that I had to make better choices. Someone like me, who is by nature anxious and fear-based, has to make mindful decisions about how much news to consume, especially in the wake of a horrific tragedy. While it's tempting to keep on scrolling to oblivion, there's a downside: It stokes anxiety, draws me away from my present moment, and takes energy I need for parenting.
Sunday, I screened myself from the news. I needed space from the images and the terror they generate inside me. I needed to restore balance, though I was tempted to dive into the endless stream of information.
While I do not want to bury my head in the sand, I want to make good choices about the amount of news I consume. It's hardest on nights like Friday, when the world is thrown into chaos and mourning. But that's when my choices matter the most. And next time I'll choose less news.