I’ve felt the pressure for a while now. People going on Instagram strikes, others blogging about the virtues of a digital detox, the constant reminders that too much screen time is bad for us, the rants about mothers picking up their phones in the park and ‘neglectfully’ ignoring their kids…
The pressure to put down my phone and ‘reconnect’ with the real world has been ever present in my mind for a while now, making me feel like a bit of a crap mother whenever I scroll through my Facebook feed or upload a photo to Instagram during their waking hours.
So this holiday, I had a plan.
I’d have a digital detox.
It would clear my mind, make me feel like a good mother again, and I’d come out the other side feeling much better for it. It would be the digital equivalent of heading to a strict Thai detox resort for a month – and whilst I wouldn’t have the skinny thighs that living on a liquid diet under palm trees would bring, I’d be glowing from the inside like the virtuous, digital-free, totally-present mother I’d become.
I couldn’t wait to feel smug about it.
But when I got here, holed up in this beautiful Umbrian villa for two weeks, do you know what?
I didn’t want to do it.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realised the pressure had got to me. I realised that I’d started to believe that those moments of ‘time out’ scrolling peacefully on my phone when the kids were happy playing, or scoffing their tea, or watching an episode of Peppa Pig made me a bad mother.
Other people’s opinions had got to me – because whilst I knew I wasn’t neglecting the trio at my feet, I couldn’t help feeling like I could be doing something more productive for their wellbeing. Perhaps preparing a craft activity or organising a drawer of clothes. Sitting lazily on the sofa with my phone felt nothing less than naughty – and if anyone had walked into the room unexpectedly, I’d probably have hastily dropped my phone behind a cushion and adjusted my face to a fake smile that said ‘oh look at the little darlings – I’ve been simply sitting here and watching them for hours!’
But having given it all some thought out here on this Italian holiday, I have realised it’s all utter nonsense – because when you work a 24-hour shift as a mother (and some days, I really do attend to their needs every hour of the day and night), it’s OK to have some escapism. It’s OK to have a moment to connect with friends, to check what is happening in the world – or even, god forbid, play a bit of candy crush on your phone.
I’m pretty sure mothers throughout history have had moments of escapism, well before the days of social media. Reading papers, picking up the phone to give Aunt Susie a call while the kids play, watching an episode of Neighbours during nap time, getting stuck into another chapter of that Jilly Cooper novel while their kids ate dinner, or having a good old chin wag with friends over coffee at play dates. There have always been ways to zone out and get through the day – but I bet none attracted the wrath of the sisterhood quite like a mother scrolling on her phone.
So now back to my holiday – and the very nature of two weeks in the sunshine means that I’ve looked at my phone 80% less than I usually do, but I’ve enjoyed those rare moments of solitude. Having a browse when I’m sat in the passenger seat of the car, lying next to Mabel at nap time in a cool, air-conditioned room and picking up my phone for a while, or scrolling through pictures and videos with a glass of wine every evening before dinner and sending to family and friends.
It’s not cool to admit that your hobby is scrolling through social media on your phone, but I am going to say it.
I enjoy it. It helps me to escape for a while. It keeps me in touch with friends. And sometimes it’s the only thing keeping me sane when there is play dough all over the floor, untouched dinners on the kitchen bench, and a baby refusing to sleep unless I’m lying alongside her.
And I’m not going to bow to pressure to stop.
After all, it’s my life – and I’ll pick up my phone and scroll through social media if I want to.