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By Jessica T

Distracted parenting

Uploaded: Dec 30, 2013

Ten years ago when my daughter was born, my husband and I lived on a hill in rural Virginia. We had a painfully slow dial-up internet connection. We didn't have cable TV and there were no smart phones.

I recall reading Anne LaMott's Operating Instructions while breastfeeding, but that is the only time I remember being consciously distracted from my daughter. Sure, I multi-tasked. I did housework with my daughter in the bouncy chair, I spent time with other mothers, and I talked on the phone. But a lot has changed in ten years.

Ten years later when I had the twins, I sent my team at work photos of the babies while I was still in the hospital. When I nurse the babies in the morning, I can check my email, social networks, and headlines with some strategic bends of my thumb. And we've all seen that sad sight, which I fear I will soon emulate, of the parent pushing his child in the swing at the park with one arm while he hunches over his phone.

I love the conveniences a mini-computer in my pocket has provided. And I know that Google's founders (my employers) have innovated in the smart-phone space to help save consumers time so that they can spend more time experiencing life and as Larry Page famously says, "loving."

But it is disconcerting how easy it is to be sucked up into technology and our "virtual worlds" while we block out smaller interactions with the little people in our lives. I'm not surprised that questions of how we as parents and people prioritize, stay present in our lives, and continue to cultivate face-to-face interactions and relationships are popping up left and right.

The most effective trick I have for this is leaving my phone at home or in my glove box and returning to an "unreachable" state for several hours each day and as much as possible on vacations. This means that I concede to returning to my correspondence as a distracted parent for an hour, when I'm away from my kids (when they are in bed or in the care of another), or on a Sunday evening before I return to work.

As we set resolutions for the new year, perhaps we should all set a goal for focusing on the here and now when we are with our kids (and everyone else in our lives). Our children are only young once and they will benefit from our time and undivided attention so much more than our phones.

What are your sentiments about parenting in today's world? What are your tips for avoiding being a distracted parent? What are the pitfalls you've encountered?