Put Down the Smartphone During Parenting Time!

Smartphones- Time Suck to Avoid #3 (or, I’m Going To Texting From DisneyLand!!!)

While checking work emails on my phone, I almost missed out on this!
While checking work emails on my phone, I almost missed out on this!

My family and I flew down to Disney World the first week of January. We’re a Disney family and love being in the happiest place on Earth.

The first week in January is a very slow work time for me- it is just after the holidays and still two weeks from the beginning of the spring semester. I am filling in for our department chair this semester (she’s on a well-deserved sabbatical) so I did have things to get done, but there was nothing super-pressing for me to finish until I got back from Florida and back on campus.

However, while waiting in lines with Amy and Nick, I found myself checking for work emails on my ancient Blackberry (seriously, I think I’m the last Blackberry customer still out there- 2% market share of new phone sales!!!). Well, that’s not so bad, I’m just waiting in line.

But then I was checking the phone while walking through the park.

I even found myself pulling the phone out at dinnertime. Lots of people do this, but I was with my family, my in-laws and two family friends. Pretty rude. Worse still, Tigger and Eeyore were coming to our table and I almost missed it! (at least I didn’t check emails from Space Mountain!)

And, you know what? I didn’t even have very many emails (I confess I was also checking in on the blog and my blog twitter account- talk about a Time Suck!). And even if I did, it’s not like I work in a nuclear power plant. So what if it took me until the end of my trip to reply? People knew I was away, and no one at work would have cared that much. And, hey, I have tenure, so what are they going to do about it anyway!

I’m sure I’m not alone in checking the smartphone for work emails and texts when I really should be focused on family time. Most of you have more demanding work situations that I do, and I understand sometimes this is necessary.

However, I’m convinced we do this to ourselves even more than our employers do. Sometimes, we are our own strictest taskmasters.

As friend, blog reader and great dad, Dan, commented on FWF a while ago:

“I find that another BIG issue when it comes to flexibility is imposed by the individual who is seeking it. That’s right – have a look in the mirror before you lay blame on the boss or the corporate culture. It’s been my experience that most men who have worked hard to build the reputation of being a hard worker have a substantial amount of difficulty dealing with the inevitable by-products of working more flexibly.”

After my two and a half days in the parks checking emails on my cellphone- I took a long look in the mirror (no, not that one– I know I’m the fairest of them all!) and kept the phone in my fannypack pocket, where it belonged, for the rest of the trip.

How do you resist the temptation of smartphones? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

PS- a future post will look at how, when used wisely, smartphones can actually open up more time for working flexibly and spending more time with family

On Monday, look for an article about how Tide laundry detergent is targeting dads in their forward-thinking ad campaign. On Thursday, look for a GREAT guest post as part of FWF’s Sharing Experiences series. 

14 thoughts on “Put Down the Smartphone During Parenting Time!

  1. Scott,

    Guilty as charged! I use my smartphone a lot! As a stay-at-home dad I have found that it is handy to use whenever my son is busy or playing. I don’t have the time to spend all of my day on the computer so I try to manage my time by using my smartphone too. It is a lifesaver when it comes to trying to gets things accomplished for my blog. I really try though to put it down when we are actively engaged as a family (and yes there are times I will take a picture and have to post it or share it right then….sigh)

    Aaron Brinker aka DadBlunders

  2. In order to keep from checking emails, playing Words with Friends, or generally being distracted while preparing and eating dinner with my 3 year-old son, I’ve starting putting it in an iPod player dock and listening to music. It makes the preparing and clean-up more fun with a soundtrack, my son and I can talk about the music or sing along while we eat, and my phone is otherwise occupied so I can’t pick it up. Of course then I later start scurrying around the house wondering where the hell my phone is!

  3. Checking my iPhone is tempting, but I have been much better lately at just putting it away when I’m with my family. I also keep it in silent mode when I’m at home because I don’t want to hear the ringing or the text alerts. I use my phone as my MP3 player which allowed me to ditch my iPod.

  4. This is one I still need to work on…and the worst thing about it is that I don’t have the type of job where I need to be on my phone from home…it legitimately happens maybe two or three times a year and other than that my work takes place in my office. So I don’t even have the work excuse, but I still do it, mainly to check espn, texts, twitter, and Facebook. I have used the strategy of leaving the phone somewhere else and it works when I do it, but I still don’t always do that. It’s a “suck” in multiple senses of the word. There’s a fatherhood book I really like by Etan Thomas and in there he talks about this issue and said that one time one of his kids hid his phone under the bed. I also remember seeing a children’s drawing when asked to draw his family. The kid drew himself and his siblings playing, mom in the kitchen cooking, and dad sitting to the side on his phone. When I saw that I swore my son would never draw a picture like that and so I need to do better to make good on my word.

  5. Scott,
    My kids are two and four. They already learn what they see me living. Sometimes I take work calls while we are in the car. I was simultaneously appalled and amused the first time I saw my son driving a toy car while talking on his imaginary phone. I don’t want him to learn unsafe habits but I am also cognizant that my kids may grow up to see me as someone who is never unplugged. That is my biggest worry.

    • I hear you, Matt. Kids learn so much be observing us. I’m sure you are a great dad, we all need to be reminded from time to time about how we are constantly on display for our kids, and how they will follow our example. For me, I really try to monitor my behavior- getting angry or frustrated- when I’m with the kiddo.

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