Be Balanced: Mindless Time
When I was a teenager, I spent hours upon hours reading magazines like Seventeen and YM (R.I.P) and comparing myself to the tan, willowy models depicted therein. I am neither tan nor willowy, and although I’m no longer particularly bothered by the physical manifestations of my Polish heritage, those models really did a number on my self-esteem.
I can’t tell you the last time I bought a magazine, but there are some new magazines in town, and they are much sneakier: Instagram and my Google Now feed. By the time they became my media of choice, I had convinced myself that I had outgrown the body image issues of my adolescence, and was therefore impervious to messages about how I should dress myself, how I should decorate my house, and even how I should birth my children.
No one is surprised by what comes next: I’m not.
Recently, my husband suggested I delete the Target and Amazon apps, along with Instagram, from my phone. I was taken aback. These apps were my go-to when I need some mindless leisure time! His thought was that by deleting my two favorite shopping apps, I’d spend less money, and if I deleted Instagram, perhaps I’d feel better about myself – and also want to buy fewer things, because I’d see fewer photos of beautiful moms in Madewell jeans feeding their children organic fruit snacks in gorgeous minimal modern farmhouses.
I took him up on deleting the Amazon and Target apps and guess what – it worked! I can still access either site anytime I want, but typing the URLs into my browser is just enough of a hassle that I only go to those pages when there’s actually something I need. Ninety-five percent of the time, that something is diapers, wipes, or milk storage bags.
I began unfollowing the Instagram accounts that made me feel like I was “less than,” and tweaking my Google Now feed so that it surfaced more “news” of value (more “Is Baby-Led Weaning Right for Me?” – answer: probably not – and less about the demise of Brody Jenner and Kaitlynn Carter’s marriage).
But even with those changes the purchase of a sketchbook, I still find myself defaulting to scrolling through my phone at the end of the day. I berate myself for doing something that I know isn’t good for me, and for not being more disciplined. If I just practiced my hand lettering, I could open an Etsy shop! If I could just get my butt on the treadmill more than once a week, surely I could run more than 2 miles at a time! If I could just crack open a book, maybe I could finally finish one! But by the time 8 p.m. rolls around and my daughter is more or less down for the night, I am spent.
I’ve never been a big TV watcher, but I am a big reader. I can’t tell you the last time I read a book, but I do enjoy reading Instagram, the “news” I get from Google Now (which is really the modern day equivalent of People), and occasionally longer form stories from the likes of The New Yorker and The Atlantic. I’m sure if it was 1999 instead of 2019, I’d be flipping through a pile of magazines on my coffee table for the 2,000th time instead of through my phone.
The point is, I think we all need downtime. I think we need to recognize that it is hard to work 8 hours a day, spend another hour commuting, another hour and a half getting everyone ready and out the door, and another hour making and cleaning up dinner. That’s 11.5 hours out of 16 waking hours. During the remaining 4.5 hours, my focus is on spending time with my daughter and maintaining a happy, healthy marriage. It doesn’t leave time for much else. I keep a running to-do list in my phone and if I get one or two small things done each week, I consider it a success.
When I think of how full my life is – and it truly is full, because my little family means more to me than I could ever express – I no longer feel bad for flipping through the 2019 equivalents of Seventeen and People. But just like in the ‘90s, I need to remind myself that what I’m seeing isn’t real, and that the lives of those influencers aren’t perfect either, even though they may look that way. Moving forward, I’m going to be more intentional about the time I spend on my phone, and make an effort to inject some positivity into my day-to-day (gratitude journal, anyone?). I would love to hear your thoughts about Instagram – the good and the bad – and how you deal with the pressure to have an Instagram-perfect life.