Being present in the age of apps

When I learned our theme for MOPS was living life to the full, my mind immediately went to the idea of being present. Present for my kids, my husband, my friends…even being present for myself. I just knew that this fairly attainable notion was not the current reality in my life, and I’d venture many of you struggle with being present as well.

A better titled piece for me to write would be “How NOT to be present: An expert guide.” I could give you all kinds of tips on the art of ruminating on the past. Perhaps a paragraph about all the best apps for getting distracted throughout the day? And don’t worry, there’d be plenty of content regarding how to fear the future and unknown. Lots of time could be wasted on that, the possibilities are endless! My article would end with a tutorial on how to disengage the screen limit on your iPhone. That’s something I could write about and feel pretty confident about my knowledge.

But that wouldn’t be very helpful to you, would it? So instead, I’m going to share my struggles and how I hope to tackle them. I’m going to give some encouragement and practical steps to take. I’m going to ask you to set aside some time for your own reflection. Just maybe not in the middle of a conversation with your husband, okay?

Without a doubt, my trouble with being present revolves around my phone usage. My phone is the second thing I check when I wake up (baby’s monitor is first as it’s usually waking me up in the first place), the last thing I check before getting into bed, and it’s my go-to mini escape throughout the day. I enjoy long walks on Instagram, romantic meals scrolling through Facebook, and absentmindedly staring at projects I’ll save on Pinterest but never complete. I text, email, write for my freelance blog, call my mom, take numerous pictures of my beautiful children, stare at said pictures once the kids are in bed…daily. And yes, I am embarrassed to admit that.

Now, before you start engraving my “World’s Worst Mother” trophy, I should be clear that I am fairly good about limiting any phone use while my kids are awake and in my presence. I make a point to engage with them as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t sneakily checked social media while they’re around. And in the short bursts of time alone, I’m immediately on my phone. And when I really start to think about it, what a waste of my time and energy! It’s certainly not living life to the full.

Before reconciling this issue with being present, I needed to dig in about the root cause for my phone use (dare I say addiction?). I started auditing what times of day I used my phone most, and tried to remember to consider WHY I checked my phone each time I picked it up. Most of the time, I was mindlessly scrolling social media early in the morning and late at night. And the short checks throughout the day? When I stopped and wondered why I was checking my phone, I didn’t have much of an answer other than it had become a habit. A habit I’m ready to break.

Practically speaking, I needed to set boundaries for myself (and my husband) regarding phone usage. No phones during mealtimes, reminders to keep each other accountable if we have our phones out in front of the kids, and trying to carve out time in the evenings for meaningful conversations. In person. Without phones. I also have social media limits set for myself, and have become determined to not get that obnoxious hourglass icon indicating I had met the day’s limit. More mornings are spent reading my bible and being intentional about my day. It’s going to be a long journey, but I’m determined to be more present. Life just wasn’t intended to be diminished to staring at a screen.

When you imagine yourself living life TO THE FULL, what does that look like? Does it look like you right now, without having to make any changes? If so, congratulations! That’s honestly really great, and I hope to be more like you. But if you close your eyes and see a woman more alive and in the moment, and engaged with those around her, it might be time to meet her. I’m with you, and I am so excited to be on this journey alongside you.