Motherhood Online

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 πŸ™

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.

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43 Comments

  1. You most certainly are not alone i will admit im extremely guilty of spending too much time online.
    I guess just keeping busy works for me i dont have the time for all the social networking although somehow i can find some time πŸ™

    I think we just need to be strong and as you said set guidelines & allocate time a bit like a job perhaps?!

    xxx

  2. I’m guilty. Completely.
    No tips but interested to see how you go.

  3. You are not alone in this at all. I’ve found the balance easier to maintain now my girls are both at school full time. Although with the iPhone it is all too easy to take sneak peaks at email /facebook/twitter while out and about which is not great. I too have to make a conscious decision to put it away and leave it away.

    This week when I was needed to be 100% mum and drop all my me time activities I realised how much of my day I had started to spend online and how much I rely on my facebook / twitter / blogging friends for support. Made me think I needed to start setting office hours and turn the computer off before school pick up time and leave it off until after the girls were in bed for the night.

    Don’t take the iPhone to the toilet with you though – they are not good swimmers, mine drowned recently and had to be replaced.

  4. You are definitely not alone. I try to spend no more than 10 minutes at a time on the computer while the boys are awake- this means that I do most of my online stuff while bfing the younger one (since I have to be sitting down anyway!) and when the boys are napping or sleeping at night. They are both usually in bed by 7:30 and I am pretty much on the computer til I go to sleep about midnight.

    My older boy watches some tv in the morning (dvd) and I get the chores done and get ready for the day and then if the dvd is still going I will sit down with a coffee and check my emails if my younger son is sleeping or on his play mat.

    I am definitely guilty of spending too much time online or opening up my laptop when both boys are happy playing by themselves (or younger one is sleeping and older one is playing with blocks or something) but they are both still little and still need quite a bit of mama and me time!

    1. I find sneaking those little moments makes it worse for me, I feel like I have been on and off the computer all day and there are so many little tasks around our home that don’t get done which could get done in those moments.

  5. SquiggleMum says:

    You are SO not alone in this. Over the past year I have pulled back, and pulled back some more – not because I don’t love the community, not because I don’t get a kick out of checking my stats, not because I’m bored or I’ve had enough…. but simply because I love my family MORE than blogging, and my hubby and kids are my first priority.

    My stats have dropped. I tweet less. I comment on other blogs about a tenth as much as I used to. But, I’ve played more with the kids, and slept (a lot) more too. It might make me less cool online, but a way cooler Mummy.

    Oh, and iPhones and iPads are totally banned from the bathroom at our place…!

  6. Very guilty oops. My online friends are very important to me, I’ve met a lot of them and have had some of them since I had my first child 8 years ago. It’s like sitting down in a coffee shop but because I use a forum it takes longer to have the conversation! So I’m always checking for an update on the new opinion etc.

    Really really need to set limits with the summer hols looming here in the UK.

    1. Good luck with setting and sticking to your limits. It sounds like lots of nice summer activities and excursions could help πŸ™‚

  7. You are not alone, I am so guilty of spending too much time online. I definitely need to pull back and I have been trying over the last few weeks and it feels so much better.
    I try and schedule my time now and stick to it.

  8. I don’t have an iPhone for this very reason. I allow myself a quick 10 min check of emails/comments in the morning, then some reading if I can during nap-time. Once the kids are in bed, I spend an hour or so reading every other night. I don’t sneak quick looks, because it’s too easy to get sucked in and before you know it, the kids are wondering where mummy’s gone?
    I also only post on my blog twice a week: posting more regularly made it almost impossible to switch off. It was like I had my ‘bloggles’ on full-time, and they were too tight!
    Great post Christie. πŸ™‚

  9. Hehe, it’s great to hear about your weaknesses Christie, makes us feel a little less inadequate in the face of all the great stuff you do πŸ™‚
    My online time is during little one’s nap when bigger one is at daycare, and after dinner. I’ve given up trying to get online time with bigger one around, as he just pesters & pesters till I go nuts! He enjoys doing the online grocery shopping though, so that’s one thing I’ve discovered I can get done.
    I do check my iPhone more than I’d like to admit, but I tell them what I’m doing when asked. “Who are you messaging?” is a common question. I feel bad when doing this at the breakfast table, but can’t quite seem to stop myself yet…try to do it while preparing breakfast if possible instead.
    I think the lockout idea is a good one! Good luck πŸ™‚
    May

    1. I have many weaknesses, May, you should see our home at the moment! πŸ™‚

  10. In the same boat. Also guilty of taking my iPhone to the toilet with me (will bear in mind that tip from Marita). One of the reasons I was finally persuaded to put my little boy in day care one day a week was to stop saying “just a minute …” to him while I was on the computer – now I type and click like the clappers on that one day a week and don’t have to spend too much time working the rest of the week (at least during his waking hours). I also insist there are no iPads or iPhones during meals (my husband sneaks the iPad out at the slightest excuse). But I still want to be “better” and more offline. Working on it.

  11. Thanks for this post – I sorta thought I was alone in this dilemma, too. I schedule my online time into every day – usually first thing in the morning for about 30-45 minutes. I save the evenings after the kids have gone to bed for reading other blogs & writing posts. I take weekends off, and sometimes give myself a day off during the week, too. It’s too easy to lose sight of what this is all about — spending time with your family. Best of luck as you seek out your own balance. Let us know how it goes!

    1. It sounds like you are doing well at keeping your time balanced, Debi. I think scheduling is what I need to work on πŸ™‚

  12. What a great post – thanks for being so honest. You are definitely not alone – it’s just that none of us like to admit we are also paying far too much attention to our online life than our real life! I know i needed to be challenged on this one. It hurts to admit it but I really do need to prioritise the kids while they are awake – the blog and my readers can wait! I will be coming back to read this post when the balance gets off kilter again. Hopefully not too soon πŸ™‚

  13. Secret Water says:

    This is becoming more of an issue for me these days. I need to sit down and make more of a routine with designated time slots for it. It will come down to will power in the end I suppose. I have recently renovated the inside of my garden shed into an office in the hope I can keep things separate…as I type my three year old is sitting at her improvised work space (she moved in within minutes of seeing Mummy’s new office and now calls it her “office”) and the 1 year old is sat in the high chair next to me. I really better shut down now and head outdoors! (without my iphone…)

    1. I am hoping that including regular time as part of the routine is the key πŸ™‚ Good luck on your journey to keep the balance.

  14. I go on the computer when my daughter has her television time in the afternoon and after she has gone to sleep for the night. I am guilty of taking peaks at my Iphone when I’m in the middle of cooking dinner, but it doesn’t come out when we are socializing or playing with each other.
    My husband and I are more guilty of ignoring each other with our tech toys than our daughter which isn’t good either.

  15. Francesca says:

    Note for addicted iPhone users, never download the app Words with Friends. It is time suckage incarnate. Totally obsessive (it’s online Scrabble).

    I totally get this and I’ve had moments of complete online immersion to the detriment of my family. Only occasionally does it get like this. Like Squigglemum I now post less but I’m finally ok with it.

    This website (unpluggedsunday.blogspot.com) really seems to answer many of the issues being discussed here. I haven’t done it yet but it seems like a great idea. And the posts are really interesting.

  16. Belinda - Nest Design Studio says:

    I’m really trying to work out balance at the moment as well. With a 4 month old and a 2 year old and no daycare available for the eldest, I just try and work whenever I can (mostly during sleeps in the day but also when the elder one is playing happily by himself). I do need to have some shut down time though and more dedicated play time….

    1. It is especially difficult when your work is tied up online. I know that my work allows me to be home with Immy (and ultimately, this will all be a bit easier next year when she is in kindergarten part time) but I don’t want to spend all of our time together working πŸ™‚

  17. oh yes, the dreaded balance. I blog in intervals. Usually short little spurts – read some blogs, comment later one and write my own posts generally whilst the kids are asleep. I knew early on that I needed to create more stringent boundaries, so I don’t have facebook, and whilst I got a twitter account ages ago I don’t use it anymore. I also decided agaisnt getting an iPhone so that time out with the kids was exactly that – no checking for emails or quickly reading up on blogs. And I think i’ve found this enables me to have the balance i so crave.

    Good luck searching for yours xx

  18. I definitely spend too much time online. I love reading and I used to always read before I turned my light off at night. When I had my second bub 9 months ago I found I couldn’t concerntrate on a book as I was soo tired (same thing happened with my first bub) but thought I would get back to it once I started getting more sleep. But instead of reading before bed, I iPad before bed – facebook, emails and Words with Friends. I really should get back into reading a book as it is something I love!

    1. I used to read before bed as well, Ros. Now, after spending the evening online, I am too tired to!

  19. Phew. Yep, I hear you. My little one is sleeping and it’s almost time for me to get her up to pick up her brothers from school. And here I am (and have been since the moment she lay down). My kids really do save me from online overload, as at 18months, 5 and 8, it is all hands on deck in the whirl of our lives for every moment they are awake and here! BUT, I can see that they are also the REASON for my drive into the online world, as I so enjoy the rigor and community of other like-minded mother-first overworkers! I have found it is an amazing time of life combining an ongoing inspired work-drive while deciding to be based at home with my children but I agree it is a fine line to manage the endless online opportunitys to remain engaged with the world while remaining present in the playroom. My Ipad has saves me in that I can have instant access to urgent updates in the between moments and keep that longing for total work immersion at bay! And now time is up – the girl-child wakes, and I fly to the landing of a screen free friday afternoon with my three mini-universes. A discussion to be continued for sure.

  20. I also have an issue with personal/family boundaries and online time. I hate my kids spending more then 1/2 an hour on the computer but I don’t walk this talk cause I’m on it way way too much. I recently went off facebook for the month to get a deadline met and am still yet to finish this task as I worked out facebook isn’t my only procrastinator, I love blogs and forums too. I plan to be have a completely screen free September (NO TV or computer) and also Decativate December (deactivate facebook and other forums) and see what happens. Leechblock sounds like the go too.

  21. A timely post for me to read Christie… my blog seems to be hibernating lately. Amidst our daily comings and goings, the house work and the kids, I just can’t find the time to blog. I wonder if the swing of it will return once the days start getting longer. I wouldn’t be surprised!

    I am amazed at what you manage to achieve every day and I’m sure you’ll find the right balance.

  22. Christie, I was directed here by a mutual blog friend at House of Prowse, because I wrote about an aspect of what you are talking about as well (http://cookieschronicles.blogspot.com/2011/06/guess-where-i-am.html). I too am sorting out priorities and recommitting to my family. I’m a new blogger so I’m still learning as I go. I used to post every day and have two blogs, but have since scaled back quite a bit. I’m even contemplating taking a summer sabbatical. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone!

  23. LeechBlock only works for Firefox. But I have found stayfocussed.com and chrome nanny extension work extremely well for chrome and IE users.

  24. I find it VERY hard to balance online time. I restrict most of my blog reading to a Friday night binge and don’t do facebook, twitter or forums. I love blogging and reading other blogs, but that’s about all I can manage without computer time eating into family time.

    Oh and on finding time to read magazines – I still LOVE reading real books and mags. One of my favorite ways to spend ‘me’ time is reading a book in the bath. I’d hate not to have time to do that.

  25. guilty as charged. it’s that damn iphone! i really should put it away and not carry it around with me. maybe that’s a challenge i should set for myself and blog about? lol

  26. I’m reading/commenting via the iPhone in the car at my inlaw’s home while my 2 year old naps. It’s funny, right?! All these devices make life easier but can suck life away if we are not careful. It’s fun to stay connected. One thing I do (at my desktop) is I will keep a list of the things I “need” to do online (pay bills, e-mail someone, etc.) so that when I have a free moment (i.e. naptime) I don’t get sucked in (hello facebook!) and completely forget the more important tasks. That often helps me. It’s fun to see how fast I can do those things too and still have free time before the kids are needing me.

  27. loved your post. My life online has been one of the major lifelines of sanity for the past seven years. In addition to googling just about everything (including most recently how to teach a child to ride a bike) I’ve relied on my online community of mommy friends for support since I first got pregnant. My life online as a mother is so important to me that I actually editing an entire book about it, coincidentally called Motherhood Online πŸ™‚

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