I have a confession to make: I use my iPhone to cope with the stress of parenting.
I’m not proud of it, I can tell you that much.
Here’s what usually goes down: one or both of my kids is losing their shit. I attempt to calm them down and soothe whatever their needs happen to be at the time. I try the tried and true list of hungry, angry, lonely or tired. However, none of those things appear to be the problem or if they are the problem my kid(s) don’t want to admit that they are.
I want to refrain from losing my shit, because I can’t control the situation and feel like a parental failure, so I bust out my phone and check Facebook. I take out my iPhone and look at the news. I text a friend of mine “my kid is going nuts and I’m gonna lose it. Arg! Frustration!”
I think the reason that I do this (revert to obsessively checking the phone) is that the level of emotional intensity I’m surrounded by is so high that it’s extremely uncomfortable. I need to distract myself from this highly charged emotional environment so I disassociate and look at my phone.
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who does this. In fact, the other day I was in a restaurant with my son and I looked over at totally caught another mother looking at her phone while her kid was throwing a tantrum.
Sometimes, we don’t know what to do as parents and so we zone out as a defense mechanism. I know for me, I’m surrounded by an incredibly uncomfortable feeling that I’m failing my child and hence I look to this neutral device that is in the back pocket of my jeans chilling, waiting for me to click on it.
So, how do I stop this iPhone obsessive behavior? I think it’s about staying in the moment, no matter how uncomfortable that might feel for me. Yes, my child is upset, yes I’ve tried unsuccessfully to calm them down, and no, none of my efforts have worked. And you know what, that’s okay, because I tried.
I’m not a failure if my kid is having a tantrum. Kids have tantrums. We try our best to handle them as parents, but all else fails, the tantrum will eventually pass. My kid will cry, he will scream and he will realize that life is challenging and he cannot get what he wants in that particular moment.
Most importantly, I need to forgive myself. I can’t solve every problem. I can try my best to be emotionally present for my children, but ultimately, they are who they are as individuals.
The next time I feel like taking out my phone in a moment of panic, I’m going to try breathing instead.