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While we’re on the subject

April 20, 2011

So, I won’t bore you with any more of my pontificating about mommies balancing their time online, but what I will share is some of the fantastic feedback I received from a few of my fellow bloggin’ moms. I polled some smart, lady-wordsmiths who also happen to be doing the online vs. real life tango and here are some words of wisdom that I just loved.

When it comes to online friendships, first-time-pregger Elizabeth of E Tells Tales says:

Sometimes I wonder…are the friends I’ve made through my blog “real” friends, or are they a little like mirages that draw me away from my real life friends and family?

The truth is that both are real, but they offer such different (and vital) things. Sometimes my blog friends can be easier to get in touch with than my real life friends and family. Sometimes my real life friends and family owe me a good crying session because I listened patiently last time. The truth is, I need both. So how do I give equally of myself to both worlds? I unplug during the weekends and set that time aside for hobbies and husband (and soon enough, my child).  I  also set a time limit on myself for reading and browsing other blogs. But I’m careful with that last one–would we set a time limit on ourselves for making friends at a party? I’m of the “there’s always enough to go around” mentality.
Until there’s not; and then I just go crawl into bed with my husband and spend time with him.

On the same topic, mommy-of-eight, Danielle Bean, shared her smart take:

I firmly believe that my online friends and relationships are “real,” but I do my best to remember that the people standing in my living room and asking “What’s for dinner?” get first dibs on my time, energy, and attention.

I have recently made a conscious effort to touch each of my kids and look them in the eye when they speak to me, even if I am working at the computer. Doing this small thing helps me to remember that my family and their needs are not interruptions to my work, they are my work. I do worry that the ease of online connection can be a handy excuse to avoid the messiness and effort of fostering in-real-life relationships with other moms in my parish and community. Nothing can replace the “real presence” of friends and other women. The Visitation, where Mary made the effort to encourage and support her cousin Elizabeth in person, is an inspiration and reminder for me.

We women need each other. There is a place for online communications and support, and the computer can be a wonderful tool for struggling and lonely moms, but in-the-flesh relationships are irreplaceable. I find that just keeping that in mind and making the effort to foster friendships with the women in my life keeps my computer/phone use in balance.

Jennifer Fulwiler shares the questions she asks herself when trying to find balance:

I think we all agree that our families should come first, and that some amount of time online is fine.

So the crux of the balance question is: How do you know when you’ve crossed the line into putting so much time and energy into online stuff that you’re no longer putting your family first? There’s no one right answer, of course, but my personal litmus test is to gauge my level of detachment when I examine my conscience: Would I be prepared to walk away from all online activity if the Lord called me to do so? Is my time online making me more or less excited about serving my husband and kids in real life? Those are the kind of questions that help keep me in line.

And Kate Wicker provided this great mental checklist, ever so eloquently:

I’m constantly asking myself questions like:

1. Am I still making real, human connections? In a recent Faith & Family LIVE! podcast with Elizabeth Foss, she made an excellent point about how our children benefit from the in-the-flesh friends we make and invite into our lives just as we do. When we invite others into our home, the kids are more involved than if we’re “talking” to a friend with our thumbs on our Smartphone.

2. Am I guilty of sloth and avoiding necessary domestic duties all under the guise of being productive at the computer? I’m a total type A personality and quite efficient, so I don’t think of myself as someone who is tempted with sloth. However, sloth isn’t just being lazy; it’s ignoring your essential duties. Yes, the dishes can wait if it frees you up to fingerpaint with your child, soak up some sunshine on a beautiful spring day, or make important phone calls. But if you’re Twittering away or even writing poignant blog posts that are sure to edify and inspire and not getting anything done around the house, you may want to reassess your screen time.

3. Am I making sure my children get a little of my focused attention every day? Moms are multi-tasking mavens, and this is often a good thing. I also don’t think part of a mom’s job description is 24-hour playmate; however, we do want to make sure our children our getting our undivided attention at least a little bit every day. I’ve been guilty of curling up with a daughter to read a good book and pausing because my iPhone’s serenade of dings lured me in. Did I really need to interrupt story time to see that someone had just sent me a message on Twitter? I don’t think so. At the end of each day, I need to ask myself, “Did I talk to my children, my husband, and God more than I talked with my fingers flying across the keyboard?” If the answer is no, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about applying temperance to my technology gluttony.

One final rule of thumb for me in finding balance with specifically blogging and writing is to make sure I’m always living life more than writing about it.

Thank you, ladies. It’s conversations like these that help us all do better.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2011 3:17 pm

    Perfect job putting this together! I love the “what’s for dinner?” rule too.

  2. April 20, 2011 4:11 pm

    What a great compilation of quotes on an important subject. I’m honored to be in such good company. Thanks for tackling this important topic, Lauren.

  3. April 20, 2011 6:15 pm

    Danielle and Kate have articulated so perfectly thoughts I have had on this topic. I’m pretty passionate about this one. I think it can make or break us as a generation of mothers. The ideal, of course, is to reach out and meet in person the friends you make online. I’ve been committed to doing a great deal of that this spring–meeting online friends, with kids in tow, outdoors or in their homes. I’ve brought meals to mamas with new babies and gotten to know some of the most precious of children, who heretofore were pictures on my Mac screen. It’s been good. It’s been balance.

    I think our writing can run around in circles and grow rather stale if we don’t spend more time away from the computer, engaging in human relationships, than we spend in front of it. So, from a purely artistic perspective, those friends with flesh and voice are necessary to our craft.

    The time away from the screen brings more grace and joy to the time in front of it. But both are worthwhile.

    I also think it’s a matter of prayer. I consider Danielle Bean to be one of my dearest friends. We wrote a book together [that’s almost like birthing a baby together]. But we’ve never met in person. I hold her closely in my daily prayers and I know God has the perfect time in mind for an in-person meeting. I trust Him on this one.

    Keep sipping sweetness, Lauren. I think you are blessed to have a genuine understanding of the important.

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