When I was little, I LOVED playing with dolls. I had TONS of them, too. Barbies, Disney princess dolls, the latest dress up doll......I loved to pretend to change, feed, and burp them. I loved brushing and braiding their hair and dressing them up. Sometimes, my mother would join in and we'd take care of them together. I still remember when my mom taught me how to swaddle a doll and braid their hair.

Now that I'm a mother, I often look back at this time and wonder where this natural desire to care for and nurture my little dollies came from? To some extent, I truly believe God wired us that way and it's one of the many powerful traits we're gifted with as women. I also remember many occasions where I would observe and admire my own mother as I watched her care for me and my fellow siblings or the very sick children she'd care for as a home nurse. I remember one particular night when I was very sick with the flu and she laid with me the entire night on the fold-out bed in the living room. She would hold a cold wash cloth on my forehead and would read to me or talk to me all night long since I couldn't fall asleep due to a very upset stomach. She was a very present mother in those tender years and I'm so grateful that when she was home with us, she was totally there.

One day recently, I sat in awe as I watched our little girl, holding her own baby doll, and cradling it in her arms while patting its bottom, saying, "Shhhhh shhhhhhh it's okay sweetie"......Just. Like. I. Do. I did the same to her when she was little and I do it now to our new little one. I mean, I am very aware that our little ones watch us and learn so much from us, but it really sank in at that moment that our parenting not only imprints on them for the kind of person they are going to be, but it came full circle to see how our style of caring for them, disciplining, and interacting with them impacts the type of parent they will be.

In my daughter's case, much of what I do and what she observes will impact how she herself will mother and interact with her children. It made me wonder: will she grow impatient with them when she's not able to do what she wants to do or complete the tasks she deems more important? Will she sigh with the silent wish that her children could just grow up already and stop acting like a toddler? Will she look down at her phone or sit at the computer constantly while her children scream at her in the background, yearning for her to play with them or join in on their tea party? Whoa.

That being said, I am constantly thinking about how my parents disciplined and interacted with us, and how that influences me in my parenting style. Thankfully, I never heard or felt these things conveyed to me. Did my parents think them? I'm sure every parent does at one time or another. There were many things I thought were very wonderful and effective that my parents did to raise us. Of course, there are going to be things I disagree with. But one thing for sure that I'm so grateful they didn't have to deal with during their era of parenting, was the terrible distraction we have in cell phones and screens.

Honestly, now that I'm a parent, I've grown to really despise the capability of getting web access on our phones. While I realize the benefit of being able to use our phones on-the-go to access email and do business on the road, I resent the damage it's doing to relationships-both inside and outside of our home. Not to mention the security and safety issues when it comes to our youth. I'm sure I'll talk about that another time:-)

How often throughout the day have we found ourselves with a few extra minutes of "free" time, only to jump on our phones without second thought? How many of us parents, bored of playing princess or trains for the 20th time that day, browse facebook while we let our toddler play alone, ignoring their pleas for us to come and play with them? Now, some unstructured and self-led playing is good for kids. But when we outright ignore them while in their presence? I hate to think of what message we are sending our children when our faces are buried in our phones while they are trying to speak to us or are in our presence. Not only that, but how dangerous it is to be distracted by our phones when they could get into something that could lead to trouble. How would we feel if a babysitter or relative was doing this while entrusted with our children? When we're interacting with people outside of our nuclear family while at dinner or another gathering, what message do we send our children when we are looking at our phones instead of into the faces of the other people we are visiting with? I think it sends a strong signal our phones are more interesting and important than the relationship. And that's not a good thing.

I remember visiting my high school band director while home once. They had just gotten back from a fine arts trip. He was telling me how sad the bus ride was and that because the students wouldn't even talk to each other. No more than half an hour into the trip and everyone was silent and buried in their phones. We came from a generation where a road trip was a blast because it gave us the opportunity to talk about things aside from school, swap candy/toys, talk about who's got a crush on who, watch/discuss a movie, read a good book, etc. He also told me how awful band rehearsals could be at times due to cell phones. When he called up a section of instruments to work on their part, it took twice as long to move through rehearsal because they all had to log off and put down their phones. Yikes!

I totally get that momming, especially as a stay-at-home-mom, can burn us out mentally when we're at home with little people all day. I totally understand that conversations with our little people, while they can be entertaining, can leave use desiring more adult interaction some days. So the temptation to jump on our phones so we can feel "plugged in" again comes often enough. But I've realized we have to be so mindful of when we choose to plug in. Can we wait until our little ones are napping or in bed? Can we push aside this temptation for just a few more hours? Unless it's an emergency, is there really anything more important than the work we're doing as a parent?

I'm not innocent when it comes to this habit and I know I have my work cut out for me, too. And, as I've been setting stricter standards for myself, I've noticed some things that I didn't expect would happen.

The first thing I noticed is that my "mommy brain" isn't as bad as it has been. My mental clarity is getting better and I truly believe it's because I'm giving my mind a break from all the goings-on, politics, news, etc. that I'm inundated with when I browse the internet on my phone. Not to mention, I feel so much more joyful and optimistic when I'm not reading all the negativity on social media and in the news. These little breaks add up over the course of the day and when I'm playing with my toddler, knowing I can no longer default to my phone if I'm tired of something we're doing. This exercises my mind so it can stay focused for longer periods of time instead of playing mental acrobatics going back and forth between screen time and parenting. Research has shown that even children show signs of attention span problems when they spend too much time on screens. Why do we think we're immune?


My correspondence, while it takes longer to get back to people, is more thorough and more mindful. Instead of getting out an email in those short bursts when I feel like being on my phone is more important than time with our kids, the time I do set aside to work on emails, thank you notes, greeting cards, etc., is more focused and deliberate. I'm not in a rush to get them done, so I'm able to really think about what I'm writing and I'm not juggling two tasks at once.

I'm finding more balance during the day and I'm becoming more mindful of time. I used to grow so frustrated because it seemed like I could never find enough time in the day to get anything done and the days were going by way too fast. But now that I'm not on my phone intermittently throughout the day, I'm soaking up each moment and being truly present. I'm also conveying that I'm truly present to my children and when I'm home, my relationship with them is most important. My hope is that when they are in and outside of the home, they will treat their relationships with others the same way. They will look others in the eye when they are talking to them and, when they are at special gatherings or at the dinner table, they will be truly present and won't be "escaping" on their phones.

Another thing I've learned is how dangerous phone distraction is. I already knew this, but since being more mindful of cell phone use around our children, I've been reading so many articles in the news about car accidents caused by texting, children drowning while their parent was just feet away, but too engrossed in their phone to notice. Once, while in the parking lot, my toddler darted away from me and I grabbed her hand just before she ran out in front of a truck. The driver didn't even notice her because they were buried in their phone. I grow ill thinking what would have happened if I didn't grab my little one in time.

Many of us think we're just glancing down at our phones for a second and before we know it, 15-20 minutes or more go by. Now, in our teeny 2-bedroom apartment, it's hard for a toddler to get into anything dangerous, especially when I'm right there. But what if she found something she could choke on and I hadn't seen it? Choking can be silent. There is an unlimited number of other ways our toddler could get into trouble while I'm not looking. What if this were to happen while we were at the swimming pool? At the park? Near a busy street? Parents, we've got to start being more present-not just for the social development of our kids, but for their safety, too.

Are you like me and are wondering how you can start breaking this awful habit? Here are some ideas for when you get the urge to look at your phone (or do something that's equally distracting):

1. Mix it up.

Change the scenery with your kids. Go for a walk. Get out a different toy or game.

2. Stretch.

Stretching is not only great for your body but for your mind, too. It can create a burst of energy that can give you a mental boost so you can remain focused and get through whatever is making you tempted to pick up your phone.

3. Look up hilarious 80s workout videos on youtube. Extra points if they have cheezy music.

Not only is this a great way to distract you, but it can be super entertaining to watch your little ones try out the various motions that were done for exercise back in the 80s! Even if you can't keep up, you're spirits will be lifted because you can't help but giggle at the big hair and crazy-colored leotards. I don't recommend trying out the fashion, though.....  Here's a hilarious one to get you started:-)

4. Pray

This is a great opportunity to stop what you are doing and join your little ones in prayer. Pray for help in getting through a particularly tough moment during the day where your little ones are having a hard time listening or obeying. Use this time to reflect on how blessed/grateful each one of us is (e.g. I'm grateful for the delicious breakfast we shared, or the rainbow we saw on our walk this morning). Our children are watching and will learn that it's a beautiful gift to incorporate prayer into our day.

5. Learn a verse

These little intervals where we would normally jump on our phones can be a great time to learn scripture with little ones. Just a short verse or sentence that can be revisited and memorized over the course of a few days or weeks can be a really great way to learn about our faith or teach our little ones some valuable scripture.

6. Put on some music and sing!

Singing and listening to music can provide such a mental boost-not just for you but also for your kiddos! You can stream various movie soundtracks on youtube for free or create a customized station on

7. Set "parenting office hours" and boundaries for screen time/phone use

Be vocal with friends and family that, while you have your phone on you in case of an emergency, you are unplugged during the day and won't pick up or be online. This relieves the pressure on you to get back to them right away. Also, set family rules for when cell phones can be out. For example, we don't allow phones at the table or while the kids are awake. Sadly, social media and the internet have created a sense of instant gratification in us and we grow so impatient if we don't hear back from people within the same day. Trust me. They can wait.

8. Offer it up

This is something you don't have to do with your children, but in those moments where you fee lonely or isolated under the cross of monotony, use it to pray inside your mind for those who are suffering. Offer up your frustrations of motherhood in gratitude for the gift of motherhood and your children. I've also seen some really cool bracelets that are actually a decade of the Rosary, so you can have a Rosary on you at all times!


No doubt about it--motherhood is hard and isn't always full of feelings of warmth and joy, but every single aspect of it is a gift in some way. Our phones and other technological devices too often distract us from these gifts because they steal so many little moments where we have an opportunity to be still, reflect, and recognize all the gifts around us. (Here's a fantastic article about phone detoxing from Jenny over at Mama Needs Coffee). We all need to take some time and think about what is distracting us from our vocation as spouses and/or parents. Will we look back and regret all the time wasted on our cell phones or browsing endlessly online? Chances are high. What about the time we "waste" with our children? These precious souls are going to be out of the nest before we know it and when that happens, we'll have so much time on our hands that we'll wish it all back. We'll miss these long but colorful days full of kissing boo boos, wondering how long a tantrum can physically last, wiping up sticky messes, the constant smell of poop and spit up (okay, maybe not this one), and belting Part of Your World or Let It Go at the top of our lungs while twirling until we're dizzy. Oh and that's another thing. Use those extra moments where you'd normally jump on your phone to jot down these things in their baby book. You'll be glad you did:-)