Yesterday I decided to try a little experiment. I turned my iPhone off for a solid hour and a half. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.
Awhile back my brother Jon wrote an article that really stuck with me. He wrote a review of the book “In the Long Run” by Jim Alexrod that essentially confronted our current day culture’s obsession with professional success, staying connected, staying relevant, our need to feel validated, and how, if we’re not careful, these addictions can very easily take the place of the things that should matter most: the people and relationships in our lives.
What my brother writes about validation is so piercing. It’s a little lengthy, but worth quoting word for word: “We are told, and believe, that professional achievement equals success. But what if you reach the end of your life a rich, famous or established professional, and yet your friends and loved ones say you were an asshole? Or a coward? What if your wife feels unloved and your children are unhappy? We can’t control those outcomes, but we certainly influence them, and it’s hard to argue that success can be achieved in a vacuum outside the realm of our interpersonal relationships. In fact, those relationships would seem to constitute the most important parts of our lives and so they should weigh heavily in determining whether our lives have been successful or not. But we want to be validated. And while we might get a smile or even some admiration for being a family man or woman, validation often comes primarily from the professional realm.”
For me, this struck home with how I treat my husband and my kids. Sure, I’m home a lot, I’m physically there, but how often is my attention elsewhere? It’s honestly ridiculous how often I check my phone for updates, “likes”, emails, or any other type of validation from the outside world so I will know I’m still important to someone. Yet, all I have to do is look up from the screen to find the three people whose opinions should matter most.
Don’t hear what’s not being said. The ambition for a successful career is not bad. But when it gets in the way and continually takes precedence over those relationships that will be there at the end of your life, that’s when it’s a problem. And this principle extends over just obsession with professional success; there’s social success, who’s-the-best-stay-at-home-mom success…it’s this rat race, competitive mentality rooted in 28 different outlets of communication tools that has the potential to leave us spinning and too exhausted to read our kids a book or have a meaningful conversation with our spouse.
I’m 100% guilty of contributing to this “age of playgrounds filled with blackberry or iPhone obsessed parents.” I don’t like admitting it, but there are days when I’m sure my phone and computer gets more attention than my husband or my kids. Sure, I can’t spend every waking moments giving undivided attention to them, laundry has to get done, they need to be fed, if I want to grow my business that obviously needs lots of attention, but I want them to know that at the end of the day, they are my number one priority. Jon puts it in perspective so well when he says, “What mundane moment is my son going to remember years from now? I need to make them all count as much as possible. Now, ultimately, I’m a believer that the totality of moments is what matters. I don’t need to fear that if I lose my temper just once or don’t do my best every second then my children’s earliest memories will be tainted forever.” The totality of moments. It’s so true. As a child, I have very isolated and almost random memories that seem to define my childhood. One of the most poignant ones I have is kind of like an out of body memory: I am watching myself as a 6 or 7 year old child, sitting on the front porch of our Cape Jasmine Way single family home on an early summer morning with my dad as he reads the Psalms to me and the sun shines in. So simple, yet, as I think of my dad and my childhood, every time this comes to mind, and it makes me smile.
I can only hope that as my children grow and remember, they smile when they think of me, too.