with Hannah Garland

  • Hannah Garland

Present parenthood in a digital age

Motherhood has revealed habits of mine that I don’t want my son to mimic. I am constantly working on myself and right now I am focused on reducing my screen time so I can be more present with my son.

Marriage has allowed me to see all of my flaws more clearly. It’s easy to avoid circumstances or people who push you to confront your flaws when you are single. However, living with someone you are committed to for life will open up your heart and your eyes to what you need to change. My husband is like a mirror, revealing every time I am offensive, hurtful, or selfish.

I believe, and have witnessed in my own life, that marriage wasn’t intended to make us happy; it was intended to make us holy. Seeing your sins affect the person you love most is an effective impetus to change your behavior. Over time, marriage sanctifies you, purifying you of your sins, if you let it. So far, it seems that motherhood is the same way.

In more simple terms, it helps you see what behaviors and habits you need to change. We don’t live separate lives, blind to how our behavior affects each other. Instead, we have spent years trying to live in a way that is compassionate toward and includes the other person.

After 8 years of marriage, I still have a long way to go. I mess up, hurt my husband, and we fight. But we are a drastically different couple than we were 8 years ago because we are committed to becoming better people for each other.

I could not have imagined how much more revealing and sanctifying motherhood would be than marriage. Children are sponges, soaking up everything you do. My son is only 8 months old and likely isn’t noticing my sins yet. However, he started mimicking me recently, clapping when I clap, and I realized that he’ll mimic everything I do in the future.

I wish I would have seen this coming and molded myself into someone worthy of being his mother long before he was born. But it is never too late to start developing good habits - habits that I would not be ashamed to see him mimic.

My main concern right now is that I have habits that I wouldn’t want my children to have. I know how long it takes to alter a habit and, therefore, I plan to start changing now so that, when he is old enough to mimic me, he’ll be mimicking a more disciplined person.

The first habit I want to tackle is my screen time. My son is already obsessed with my phone and it’s no wonder - phones are very exciting. They light up, have fun colors, fit in your mouth, and mommy is constantly using one. Therefore, I’m making a commitment to alter my phone habits.

Phones are very addictive because they are stimulating and provide an immediate reward. Every little notification sends a little “hit” to your brain and the reward of “likes” on social media can feel highly gratifying. In order to break the habit, I have to remove the stimuli.

If you are interested in changing how you spend time on your phone - for whatever reasons - here are a few new habits that I plan to employ to replace my bad ones.

  1. I will not pick up my phone first thing in the morning. By picking up my phone first thing, I am demonstrating that it is the first thing on my mind. I will do something else instead. Something constructive like praying, stretching, making coffee, feeding the baby, or reading the bible. Email, social media, and news can wait until later.

  2. I will shut off notifications to all communications apps. This includes text messages, emails, social media, news feeds, and more. I will have set times each day that I will check these apps and respond. In the event of a true emergency, someone would call me. So I am not concerned that I will miss anything that is actually important. By removing the stimuli of notification icons, it will be easier to ignore my phone. I have already been doing this for awhile now and it’s made a huge difference.

  3. I will limit my screen time each day. Previously I tried to use my phone for only 5 minutes every hour but it wasn’t practical. Sometimes, if I was researching something, I might need 20 minutes. Other hours, I might need none. Instead I have decided to set a cumulative time limit per day. I can view my screen time in the settings on my android. I have decided, for now, to set my limit to 2 hours. I will adjust that limit when I see how that works for me.

  4. I will not hold or carry my phone with me when I’m not using it. It is odd how we hold our phones so often, as though they’re security blankets. Instead of carrying it around, I will have a resting place for my phone. I will only grab it when it is time to do so.

  5. I will not be on my phone when I’m interacting with my son. If he is otherwise occupied, then it is fine to use it. However, I don’t want him to grow up thinking that I am not present with him or that it is polite to be distracted when interacting with others.

Keep in mind that it is very hard to change habits unless your reason for change is clear and strong. I dive into this in my New Year’s podcast “How to build habits that last.” In summary, motivation is fleeting and behavioral change starts with a strong personal reason. Instead of thinking about what I want to do, I should think about what kind of person I want to be. I want to be a mom who sets good examples for her son, who isn’t addicted to her phone, and who is present in personal interactions. This requires a behavioral change, which is reducing my dependence on my phone. Change will take time, but, if I’m consistent, I hope to be that mom for my son someday soon.

Hi, there! I go deeper into topics in my podcasts. Each are 20-30 minutes long and they drop weekly on Thursdays. Please check one out here!