Mayim MishegaasMayim Mishegaas

Mayim steps away from the cellphone to be a better parent

After reading the new book 'Time to Parent,' Mayim decides to renew her commitment to putting the cellphone away
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 10/30/2018 at 2:02 PM EDT
Mayim with her two boys

I was skeptical about reading Time To Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You. After author Julie Morgenstern spoke with Grok Nation contributor Suzan Colón for an interview, she sent me a copy with such a lovely note that I felt bad for being skeptical.

You see, I knew I have been doing something wrong. I spend too much time on my phone. And we have the evidence to prove it. I’ve written about it here for years. I’ve mentioned it in YouTube videos for years. I’ve complained about myself to my therapist for years. I’ve made changes for years, but I slip back. This is my pattern.

And so this book with its double edged title–“It’s TIME to parent, Mayim” and “MAKE TIME TO PARENT, MAYIM”–made me defensive.

The amazing thing about Time To Parent is that Morgenstern doesn’t make you feel bad; you know what you do and why you do it and when and how; she simply helps you identify your target areas so you can stop hating yourself and acting skeptical when you really feel defensive. Ahem.

The basics are that parenting takes time. It takes time to take care of your kids, teach them stuff, prepare them for the world, and keep your crap together. It all takes time. And the notion of perfectionism that some of us fall prey to stops that. Technology obsession stops that. Self-hatred stops that. Wanting to be like other moms stops that.

It’s time to get this all straight. And I read this book like my kids’ life depended on it. And I think it kind of does.

I made a list as I read. Here it is.

  1. Phones and tablets need a home within my sight when we walk into the house. This amorphous state of tablets and phones upstairs in the boys’ bedroom is not working for me. I turn around to load the dishwasher and the boys have disappeared. I say “Hello?” and I hear them rummaging about pretending to not be on their devices. Do they think I am stupid? Apparently. I want transparency. That way I can see when they are checking things and then I can better assess what’s necessary in terms of tech boundaries.
  2. I need to lead by example. Yes, my job involves reading texts and slacks and emails. But I do not need to have constant access to my phone. Nothing is ever really dire. If it is, it’s usually handled by a phone call. That’s on me to manage my anxiety about things “building up.”
  3. I need to greet my sons every time they walk into my house. No face in my phone. The last time they came over before I read the book, I was peeved at their dad over a dumb conversation earlier that day and I buried my face in my baking. I missed out on that moment, which Morgenstern says is critical. I apologized to my boys after I read the book and my older son said he noticed I didn’t even look up. They notice. It matters.
  4. Transitions are important, especially for my younger son, who is very sensitive. Between activities, between homes; I can not underestimate the importance of giving him time to shift his place and his energy. He may tantrum and that’s okay. I can hold him through it.
  5. Oh my gosh. She said to not make everything a teaching moment. She explains why. Less teaching. More fun. I totally needed to hear that. I try to make up for being a working mom by constantly teaching. Ugh. I kind of hate myself for that! I thought I was doing the right thing, but I was doing it for ME. For my ego. To make ME feel better, it’s not about me. It’s about THEM. They need more playfulness. Especially as we enter the teen years. Totally.
  6. I need to listen better. Look them in the eye. I don’t always do that. Because of that phone. Argh! It’s so simple. Listen. To. Them.
  7. No more phone in the car. I’ll say no more. But you can imagine what goes on. I am stopping. Now.
  8. I need to model responsibility with technology. See #2 and #7.
  9. More playing. See #5.

I discovered that my children do chores at the 3-5 year old level. I laughed out loud hard and teased them about it a bit before seriously explaining to them we need to shift this. Enough with the kvetching and complaining. Their dad and I agree: the time is now for more food prep, more cooking tutorials. 

We used to take walks every weekend. Sometimes twice a weekend. Just in the neighborhood. We live in urban suburbia. We would find bits of nature among the cars and freeways and smog and construction. We need to find those things again. 

Thank you, Julie Morgenstern for the kick in the tush. I needed it. It is time to parent the way I want to. Let’s do this.

Purchase Time to Parent on Amazon.

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