I am not very good at living in the moment. Ask my husband. I’m only happy when I’m planning the next holiday or working towards a goal. I always need something to look forward to. I remember when mobile phones first started to become widespread. It became quite common to go to a party and see people talking on their mobile phones, talking about the next party while ignoring everybody who was actually at the party with them. Or you would find yourself having lunch with somebody who would be on the phone planning the next lunch with somebody else. At the time it seemed utterly ridiculous! Now it’s just normal. We accept it. But with smart phones we’re not just talking to somebody else, we’re also updating our status, checking tomorrow’s weather, catching up on emails, googling for information. We’re never fully in the moment. We’re never just with the people we’re with. We don’t give each other our full attention. Maybe I particularly feel this because I’m a ‘quality time’ person. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman). Spending quality time with people, especially one on one, is what makes me feel loved and connected to them. But to get ‘quality time’ people have to be fully present. And you just don’t get a whole heap of that from anybody these days. Except maybe kids.
One of the best and hardest things about having a baby is that it forces you to live in the moment. The real and present moment. You can’t plan ahead too much. You can’t put the baby on hold. You can’t make him or her wait. If the baby wants to be fed, they’ll get fed. If the baby wants to sleep, the baby has to sleep. The baby only knows the here and now. And children are the same. When you spend a day with a small child, you spend it in the moment. And that can be a challenge to our task oriented, list-making, adult way of thinking. But children at least give you quality time!
One of the reasons I decided it was time to have a baby the first time was because I wanted to spend more time with friends and family. My Dad had just recovered from pretty serious bowel cancer surgery and we all felt we were lucky to still have him with us. About eight years before that he’d had a triple heart by-pass. It was like we’d already been given a second chance and now we were being given a second ‘second chance’. Suddenly it hit home to me that family was the most important thing in life. I wanted my Dad to meet my children. But I also figured that work had eaten up way too much of my life and it was time to just slow the pace a little and spend time with the people I love.
Here I am now with a second baby and the world has changed. In just five years, it’s changed. People don’t spend as much time with people now, they spend it online, connecting through social media and blogging and emails and facetime and anything but face to face contact. This becomes more obvious than ever when you have a new baby or a birthday. When I had Birdy we were inundated with visitors. This time we were inundated with facebook messages. Nobody feels the need to come and see the baby because they’ve already seen it on facebook. Ten years ago, when you had a birthday the phone used to ring all day. Now those same people send a text or leave a facebook message. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems like these forms of communication are a bit less personal. They’re more immediate and it’s nice that you can have conversations with people on the other side of the world, but it’s also a more distant way of communicating. And more temporary. I know I’ll keep every single card that was sent to welcome Molly into the world. And when she’s older, I’ll get them all out of their musty shoebox and read them with her, whereas the facebook messages and texts will be lost forever. To me, there’s something unspeakably beautiful about the fact that those cards once ran through a physical printing process, travelled to a shop, were carefully selected, were held in the hands and homes of the people who wrote them, that they then travelled through real space and time to get to us, were delivered by another pair of hands to our mailbox and were held and read by us in another place and time. It’s like a big community effort to deliver those greetings and messages. One day when Molly is much, much older she’ll hold them again, even if it’s only to throw them in the bin!
We Mums have particularly embraced social media. When you’re stuck at home with a sleeping or feeding baby you can go online and feel like you’ve connected with somebody. You can put a question out there and a bunch of people will have something to say about it. But I think it can also make us lazy and, in a way, isolated. We’re less likely to pick up the phone and call our friends. We don’t bother to drive across town to visit. We don’t open up our homes quite so much as we used to and we miss out on spending really good quality time with each other.
Last weekend we had Birdy’s 5th birthday party at our house. We always have our parties at home. It was nice this year to include a few of Birdy’s pre-school friends who have never been to our house before. I always think you never really know a person until you’ve been to their house. Sure you can see on facebook what a person’s fave movies and TV shows are, but you learn so much more when you eat a meal in their home. You can tell what year they got married by the colour of their crockery (Blue & yellow, 1999, Square plates, 2005, Brown & maroon 2006, black & white patterns, 2010 and 2011)! When you visit someone’s home you see photos of their family and their travels, artworks they treasure, their CD collection, instruments you never knew they played, books on the shelf (or the fact that there are no books on the shelf) or whatever!
So my goal for this year at home is to try to reconnect with people face to face. To have more friends over to my house and to just pick up the phone and call, rather than always sending messages on facebook or by email. I don’t have a beautifully renovated home or a blitzed backyard and I don’t cook like a Masterchef, but hey, I’m aiming for reality, not reality TV. So if I blog a little less this year, hopefully it’s because I’m calling a little more often! And living in the moment. The fully present, real, right now moment. And hey, if you’re my friend and you’re reading this, maybe you could call me too, and we could catch up sometime… face to face, not on facebook or facetime. But right now, I’ve got to go. Molly needs a feed. And she needs it right now!
Do you use social media and technology to connect with other Mums and to the outside world when you’re at home? Is there a down side to all this interaction or do you feel it’s only a positive force in your life? Do you agree that children help you to live in the moment?