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I’m a phone addict, and that’s okay

Before I had kids, using my phone was just something I did. I’d check my email, scroll my newsfeed, make some work calls, maybe send a message asking my husband what he was having for lunch.

Now my phone comes with a whole side of guilt.

If you read anything to do with smartphones and parenting, it’s all packed with how awful we all are for being glued to our screens. I see mums posting on online groups about seeing others at the park engrossed in their phones, or sharing judgey comments about people who check their emails when they are on playdates.

But I’d like to raise a flag in support of these phones.

In a world with no smartphones, life would be very different for my family. Sure, my husband and I wouldn’t get caught looking at them when we should be watching kids navigate the slide for the 13th time.

But we probably wouldn’t be at the playground in the first place.

I work from home so I can pretty much do my job from anywhere. If my son wants to go to the park, I can pack up my notebook, my pen and my phone and do that. We might take his little sister in the stroller and slowly walk there, stopping to investigate the neighbour’s garden and talk to a couple of cats on our way past.

But my phone will be with me, and I will – unapologetically – be keeping an eye on it, answering calls and replying to emails.

The occasional glance at the screen is what gives me the peace of mind that we can be out having fun, and that I am on top of work. If I did not have my favourite little device, I would have to stay home during any and all business hours, just in case something came up that needed immediate attention.

My phone actually increases the amount of time I get to spend with my kids. I can do the minimum required to keep things running during the day, conduct my interviews and arrange my ideas, and then plough through the bulk of the real work once the small people are in bed at night.

I also manage my sanity through my phone. If my son’s having a massive meltdown, I might take a minute to log on to my coffee group’s Facebook page and vent. I’ll get a couple of supportive messages in reply, and usually a good suggestion to calm both of us down. A couple of minutes later, we’re back on our way again.

Without my phone, I’d miss that connection and feel much more adrift and unsure of myself.

I would never advocate ignoring your kids in favour of your phone – I do my best to make sure that they never feel I’d rather focus on the piece of technology in the palm of my hand. Both my husband and I always put our phones down when we’re having dinner together as a family. At the weekend, I do my best to make sure my phone is in my bag as much as possible.

But I think it’s time to cut parents some slack. We need to stop bashing parents for their connection to the outside world.

Sure, they didn’t have cellphones, but my own parents were not 100 per cent focused on us all the time when we were children, either. Sometimes we would play alongside them while they did chores, read a book or watched TV. Heaven forbid, sometimes they were talking to each other – not to us.

How is the occasional glance at a phone any different? There is so much pressure for modern parents to focus on nothing but their kids, devising new and exciting ways to stimulate them for every waking hour – it’s patently unrealistic.

Anything that gives us flexibility and connection has to be good. For our kids to see us having fulfilling careers and juggling that with a family life that is clearly very important to us can only be positive.




Is it worth buying: Miracle Blanket

When I was pregnant the first time round, I did a bit of research on swaddling.

I decided I would not do it because – so I read – wrapping a baby too tightly could be bad for their hips.

I only realised about four months later how hilarious this idea was. I cannot even wrap a baby tightly enough to contain the arms, let alone even think of constraining hips.

It didn’t matter too much with number one, because he wasn’t particularly fussed about being wrapped. But when number two responded well to being swaddled, I had a bit of a problem.

I tried the velcro-style swaddle but found it would ride up over her face in the night – meaning I hardly slept, watching for it to wriggle up.

A friend recommended a Miracle Blanket. It’s fairly easy to use – you just lie the baby on it and then wrap, basically. One bit is shorter and goes one way, and the other long bit then wraps around and around until you baby looks a bit like the smallest in a set of Russian dolls. You then lie them on the loose end so it does not unwrap.

It’s not foolproof, she could still get her arms out quite often over the course of the night. But I never felt it was unsafe and it was much easier than wrestling with a flat wrap.

Good value, especially if you get a second-hand one on Trade Me.

Is it worth buying? Yes.



Having a baby? Here’s five things you don’t need

You always hear how expensive it is to have kids. In my day job I wrote recently about IRD estimates that it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to raise a small person to adulthood.

It seems one of the pricier times is before the baby is even born.

When I was pregnant with number one, I was desperate to know what I could buy that would make it easier.

Would a magic gadget help my baby sleep through the night? What bag did I need to make trips stressfree?

Bad news, former me: Nothing you buy makes it any easier.

But here’s some stuff that I think you can definitely drop if your budget is starting to get a bit tight.

A nappy organiser.

It looks super cute to have nappies stacked away in an organiser next to the changing table. But you don’t need one. I never remembered restock mine, so I was always pulling them out of the box anyway, and I found I still needed somewhere to store the nappies that didn’t fit into the organiser – and that was usually under the change table. So that was $40 I could have kept for wine.

A nappy bin.

Some of my family swore by these contraptions. You pop the nappy in, twirl the handle bit and away it goes, with most of the smell and mess contained. But most of them are too small so you end up having to empty them all the time – or if you’re like me, you don’t, and the nappies end up piled on top of the bin until your dog eats them and reminds you you’ve got a problem. And there’s all the plastic – I feel bad enough anyway about using so many disposables, wrapping them in more plastic just seems to make it even worse.  And at $80 just for the bin and  $50 or so for the refills? That’s money that could be spent on something that doesn’t involve poo.

Newborn clothes.

Yep, when they’re born they’re really REALLY small. I had forgotten just how small and when number two came along, she was swimming in a 0-3 months outfit I had thought would be totally fine. But I made it through with just three newborn onesies because within a couple of weeks she was into the next size. They’re so, so little and so, so cute but too many newborn-sized clothes are just a waste of money.

A baby bath.

We had an elaborate baby bath contraption for number one, complete with drain bit so the water could run away through a plug hole. We used it once. It’s hard to wash a baby without getting wet yourself, so I figure you might as well get into the bath or shower with them and make it fun. They’ll grow out of a baby bath before you know it, anyway.

Baby shoes.

If your kid isn’t walking or crawling, they really don’t need shoes. Socks are fine, much cheaper and last much longer.