How did my smartphone become my worst enemy?
Ask me what my biggest parenting mistake has been.
Go on, ask me.
Because I think you might be surprised by my answer.
It’s not like I don’t have plenty of gaffes to choose from. Believe me, I have a list as long as a marathon route.
I could have picked the time I failed to check that my then two year old had properly closed the stair gate behind him. I only realised how dire that mistake was when I heard his baby brother tumbling down to the bottom of the stairs.
(To clarify, baby survived without a scratch.)
That might have been the most traumatic mistake, but it certainly wasn’t the one I regret the most.
No, my biggest parenting blunder was…
Wait for it...
Leaving my smartphone next to the bed at nighttime.
See, I told you that you’d be surprised.
You’re probably thinking: why was that such a noteworthy error? Most of us sleep with our phones next to our beds, whether we’re parents or not. Well, in all honesty, I didn’t realise I was. Not to begin with.
My phone felt like a lifeline during those early days of motherhood. It provided me with a window to the outside world during the lonely, sleepless nights.
But that is why it became such a problem. I didn’t realise the damage it was doing.
Of course, at times my phone did feel like my saviour. When you're up at night feeding a newborn and your phone pings with a message from a fellow mum who’s also awake, doing the exact same thing, it certainly makes you feel less isolated.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s the person on the other end of the line who’s providing the comfort, not the piece of technology sitting in the palm of your hand.
Your phone does not care about you. It may be a smart device, but it’s not capable of empathy and, even with all the algorithms the digital universe can create, it will never provide you with the reassurance that you’re searching for.
For starters, it gives us access to far too much information. Sure, the web is packed with plenty of useful parenting advice, but any level-headed person knows that it’s always wise to err on the side of caution when consulting Dr Google.
Sadly, a sleep-deprived brain is less able to filter the good information from the bad. That’s why, when you type: ‘why won’t my baby sleep’ into a search engine at 3am, you’ll find yourself skipping past the search results which confirm that it’s perfectly normal for a baby to wake at night.
Instead you’ll get sucked in by that one web page that’s full of unsubstantiated claims about infant sleep patterns. Then, even when you do manage to settle your little one, you’ll be the one struggling to sleep. You’ll be lying awake for hours fretting about all the things you’re (not actually) getting wrong.
It’s not just your sanity that’s at stake either. All the information that you’re feeding into the search engine will soon start putting dents in your bank balance too. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at the ads that are popping up when you browse the web.
Google knows you better than you know yourself. It knows that you’ve been looking up ways to stop reflux. It also knows that when an image pops up on your screen, encouraging you to purchase that nifty little sleep positioner with a contented, snoozing baby snuggled in the middle, it’s going to be hard to resist the urge to click on the ‘buy now’ button.
Then, of course, on the day your new purchase arrives on your doorstep, you can guarantee that your baby’s digestive problems will have miraculously disappeared.
Either that or you’ll stumble upon an article informing you that experts strongly discourage the use of such items. So the only ones who benefit from your late night impulse buys are the ones who created the ad in the first place (incidentally, they’re probably getting a great night’s sleep).
Even if you’re strong enough to steer clear of the search engines, your phone is still packed with plenty of apps and features that appear to have been specifically designed to exacerbate your mum guilt.
Social media apps are the worst. No good can ever be gained from clicking on Facebook or Instagram in the dead of night. Unless you have a plethora of friends based in different time zones, you won’t find many new posts.
Yet these platforms know exactly how to hook you in. So if your friends haven’t posted any updates, they’ll happily direct you to plenty of other content.
Before you realise what’s happening, you’ve lost hours scrolling through strangers’ picture-perfect profiles, wondering why the hell your life doesn’t look like theirs.
It’s because their lives don’t look like that either. Those mums are enduring the sleepless nights too, they simply choose not to share those stories. And why would they? There’s no filter that can possibly make night feeds seem more appealing.
The problem is, a sleep deprived mum won’t stop and take a reality check. She’ll keep scrolling, and she won’t even realise how much she’s torturing herself.
The good thing about making mistakes, however, is that you can learn from them. That’s why, when my second baby arrived, I kept my phone out of the bedroom. It didn’t make those sleepless nights any easier, but I certainly felt less anxious.
So I urged all the new mums out there: put your phones down. Now. Your future self will thank you for it.