It’s a quiet Friday night as I write this, in an unfamiliar living room, my oldest son sleeping on the couch next to me, and the toddler in the master bedroom of the rental apartment that is our ‘home’ for 11 days.
We are on our first family-of-four vacation, in beautiful Australia, in the city my husband grew up in and where my oldest was born.
Our schedules are out of whack. We are mostly out and about, the boys enjoying brisk Spring weather, breathing in fresh air as opposed to the smog enveloping Kuala Lumpur. They are running around parks and beaches, rather than their little corner in our 27th floor apartment. The littlest naps in the car instead of in his crib, and bedtime is out the window. They sleep when they’re tired, and the first day we arrived, it was 10 o’clock. We are not minding this one bit.
We are eating as much of our favorite foods as we like, and yes, that includes ice cream. I am enjoying not having to cook (though I still have to clean and do laundry – sigh). I am loving the opportunity to practice my photography outdoors for a change (can you tell we don’t leave the house much back home?) and really apply all the great lessons my photography mentor Gina Kleinworth shared with me.
Surprisingly, I have not really felt antsy being offline as much as I have been.
It wasn’t planned. My husband relies on having 24/7 Internet access more than I do, simply because that is the nature of his business and work. By extension, I enjoy the the same access. However, we had various connectivity issues from the get go, and we could only manage spotty and short online excursions. I limited mine to Facebook. I did not have any blog posts lined up as usual.
If you know me, you would know this is totally out of character. I am a social media consultant, a blog addict. I tweeted during labor contractions. I blogged immediately after my second was born. I have never only written one post for the week, then set off with no plan in place.
But that’s exactly what I did. The lack of wifi was a blessing. I gave up trying to get any time on the computer or on my phone. Without the pull of the Internet, I didn’t get bored after 20 minutes of playing with my children. I jumped out of bed each morning, eager to get dressed and get out of the apartment, to do something with them. I was fully present all the time, and you know, that is not an easy thing to do. We get distracted so often by every beep on our phones. We are constantly ‘on call’. Something or someone always needs our attention online.
However, the people in our lives need our attention more. I am guilty more than once a day of wanting to get on my laptop than engage with my boys. I have stuck them in front of the TV just so I can get in some emails and Facebook time in the mornings. I have said, “wait”, “hold on”, “I’m coming”, “just a minute”, many, many times.
I am not saying I’ve discovered the secret to parenting perfection (I’ll just say it now – there is no such thing). We know that we should be more ‘there’ for our kids. We all know that time flies, they grow fast, if we blink we miss it. We surely know that our children should be our priority, that too much technology can’t be that good, that we need to make our children feel loved and cherished. We know these things, but we don’t always manage to do all of them.
As my friend Laura wisely pointed out, motherhood is not sainthood. We are not expected to be perfect. We are not even expected to be that good all the time. Some days, just getting through the day with everyone fed is enough. Other days, even if that is not fully accomplished, we don’t need to feel like we have failed. Some days, we just need to live, whatever that may mean to you. It may mean being fully present with your children all day, all the time. It may mean getting some alone time because that is how you recharge and the only way to not lose your shit. It may mean having your Internet taken away just so you can appreciate that there are things outside of it that needs your attention. It may be simple things like sitting on the couch late at night, with your child sleeping peacefully by your side.