Screen time

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Screen time is the new term defining the time we spend paying attention to a screen of any kind: phone, tablet, e-reader, computer, game console or TV. Theoretically I have no qualms about using technology, but practically I’m becoming an skeptic of its benefits versus its issues. There are mainly two issues that I’m concerned about:

– When I’m sleepless and I turn to my phone to pass the time, I become more sleepless. Whereas if I picked up a book, the sleepy dust that has gathered on the shelf through the years of vertical abandonment has an immediate effect and I’m traveling dreamland before I turn the second page.

– When I’m bored and I play a phone game, read whatever I encounter in Facebook or Twitter or watch a series of a film in any of our many devices, time goes by like a high speed train but unless the post or film was inspiring, I feel empty.

The reason why I’m using the first person here is because I know there are people that need this downtime of passive indiscriminate consumption regularly, and while I am not trying to criticize that, i am not like that. I wither and crawl under my skin if my day hasn’t been touched, even if just remotely brushed, by creativity, connection and quirkiness.

Now, let me tell you. Breastfeeding an infant in a house you just moved in with your partner and his teenage daughter can kick creativity and quirkiness out of the window. This particular infant sleeps on mum or mum’s arms or lately by mum and dad’s side. She’s four months and a half. [I am prepared at this stage to take all your criticism as I have heard it all already- she should be in a cot, you let her fall asleep at the boob, really?, why don’t you express-. I thank goodness that I did a PhD before this and learned that no matter what the logical course of action seems to be, you can only do what you know how to until you learn otherwise so yes, yes to all your criticism and I am sure that until you tell a new mom useful practical information to overcome those obstacles, neither praise not criticism will help]

In other words my independent time, the time I have to do the things I enjoy doing: open a book and learn Irish, go for long walks, swim, write, play guitar and sing (I still sing), lay still looking at the ceiling in silence, make bread, eat, go for a massage, let my hair down (literally), mountains, spend time hanging out with a friend without a concrete plan or Skype them, make things, knit, decorate our space, plant stuff, play… anyway, all those things that I know of and the many that I hope I will discover in time…that time available for ‘pleisure’ (allow me the neologism) has been significantly reduced, if not vanished completely. Suffice it to say that I’m swipe writing this on a tablet while my daughter is asleep on my arms after a sleepless night of gas and teething, in the darkness of our bedroom.

The way I had carried my life up until now based my identity mostly on these activities so I think that’s the crux of postnatal depression. If we aren’t capable of having a flexible identity that not only becomes something else and doesn’t feel threatened by this change and possibly enjoys it too; if we can’t appreciate the efforts we do to try an incorporate those activities that defined us, even when we don’t succeed or just succeed a little; we won’t be able to overcome becoming mothers. We live in a society that has either reduced self sacrifice to useless or elevated it to sainthood. It’s time to reclaim self sacrifice as a daily activity we all engage into for the wellness of the one significant other of the many. It’s time to be aware of when we practice self sacrifice, not to boast about it or to use it as a weapon, as my own mother used to do; but to notice when and how we neglect ourselves for others and it’s beneficial for us too or we won’t allow us any other option.

And you are thinking that I was going to talk about screen time, so what is all this rant about maternity doing here? Well, my portable devices have kept me sane so many times that screen time has increased to levels I never intended. At the beginning when I was more housebound recovering from the caesarean section, they kept me in touch with friends and family abroad, and I read and reread constantly. Lately the time I spend in Gummy Drop or waiting for someone to post something funny or inspiring on Facebook is shameful. I don’t lift my eyes from the family group on WhatsApp while my daughter sleeps on my lap. I worry about the teenager living with us because her school through an agreement with Microsoft bases all their learning materials on multimedia platforms and yet here I am.

And this morning my brain caught up with me and whispered: don’t let go off her hand to hold the phone. Get bored or sleep. So after breakfast, I promised myself I would write this and make an agreement with myself to cut down my screen time and preach with my practice. Bleep.

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