I love to read magazines. They have always been a little indulgent treat for me. Not that you would know that if you looked at my nightstand. Sitting beside my bed is quite a stack of unread magazines, ones from gifted subscriptions that I have had little more than a chance to flick through. Some are even still in their plastic wrappers, and not just the ones from this month 🙁
I just don’t seem to have the time for any form of indulgent me time at the moment. In fact, any spare time that I have these days (and by spare time I mean time that is not spent being a mum or wife or throwing another load of washing in the machine) seems to be spent online.
As modern day mothers most of us turn online for shopping, information (hello Dr Google!), entertainment, support, community, inspiration and work. Where once the search for these things would have seen us turning outwards to our family, friend and community networks, the online world turns us inwards, away from the real world around us. Email, Facebook, forums, blogs, stores, Twitter – there always seems so much to keep up with, to deal with, to be part of. And who wouldn’t want to be part of what is for the most part, a fantastic community.
The problem, at least for me, is when my online world threatens to overtake my real life responsibilities. When I am sitting at the dinner table with my family and my mind is wandering with thoughts about Twitter or writing deadlines, when I am out at playgroup with Immy and can’t seem to help checking on my phone to see if that email I am waiting for has arrived yet, when my three year old daughter insists that I get off the computer because she needs to get on to make a hotel booking for a holiday or pulls on my arm with pleas of “Come play with me now, Mummy” – then I know that life is out of balance.
Tell me I am not the only one…please!
Finding Balance and Setting Limits
For me it is time to reclaim some balance between online and real life and I think putting in place boundaries or limits is an important part of this process.
Finding balance is about recommitting to priorities and answering the question ‘what matters most?’
For me, our family comes first every time. I want my daughter to learn that her family and friends and real relationships are the most important things in the world.
And that means being present when we are together; things like putting my iPhone into my bag and zipping it up when we are at playgroup or out with friends, no electronic devices at the dining table for any meal of the day, no sneaking off to check my email under the pretense of going to the toilet (maybe I AM the only one?!?)
Just as I commit to prioritising my family, I also need to remember to prioritise my online time, making a commitment to spend my time wisely and where it best suits my purpose.
So online work commitments always come first, whether for my blog or other writing commitments. For me, the Childhood 101 Facebook page is next in terms of importance as I love the wonderfully supportive and interactive community on the page. Then there is visiting other blogs and Twitter where I connect with other bloggers and a few other forums and networks. With the time I have available I work down the list and if that means most days I am not on Twitter or not commenting on blogs or forums as much as I would love to, then this has to be okay.
I think scheduling my online time as part of our daily routine is something I also need to do better. Making specific times for when I work and *gulp* turning the computer off outside of those times (and not using my iPhone instead!) I recently heard of LeechBlock from another mama blogger and although I haven’t tried it yet, the idea that it locks me out from sites I nominate during times I specify is something I am honestly considering, especially if setting my own routines doesn’t work out so well.
Hopefully by recommitting to my priorities and putting in place these boundaries I can find more time to live in my real world. After all, sharing motherhood online is wonderful but nothing can replace seeing my small girl laugh and play with her friends, or sharing a coffee with a friend rather than seeing her status on a screen, or finding five minutes to indulge myself with a hot cup of tea and a magazine!
Do you find it hard to balance your online time? What strategies do you use to help you set limits? What part of your daily routine does your online time fall into? I really would love to know.