The tragedy of the device and our never-ending to-do lists.

In our every fast paced life of to-do lists and devices, there are moments in my life and moments that I see that make my heart weep.

2 months ago, I raced past this family in a café on my way to the grocery shops. I saw the child playing with his train while his parents both stared at their devices. The waitress put down their plates and no one looked up. My heart wept for the connection that was lost around that table.

1 month ago, I saw a dad sitting beside his younger son, both staring at their devices at a local soccer game. They were missing out on the joy of watching their child/sibling play soccer.

And more personally and on too many occasions, I missed moments in time when I nodded and murmured an “absent yes” when my boys asked me questions. I was busy replying to texts or work emails and in those moments, I didn’t even look up and focus on them.

For many years I felt that once I achieved my to-do list, cleared my inbox and check that latest social media notification, I would give them that time……a typical phrase of mine “in just one minute, I will be there…”…… but it wasn’t just one minute was it?

You see – there are always texts, emails, social media notifications to check but at what cost? Is our (including mine) over reliance on technology resulting in missing out on life? Missing out on what truly matters? And if we miss it – that precious moment in time with our child is… well gone and can never come back.

I know as a parent, sometimes life is overwhelming, and we reach for our devices to tune out the world and have our own moment. That’s not what I’m arguing here, as a busy technology mum – believe me I get it. I’m questioning if we are spending too much time on devices and missing out on life.

A little while ago, I started reading Rachel Macy Stafford’s “hands free mama” book and through her book, I started turning my phone on silent as soon as I finished work. On my non-work days, I also tried very hard to put the computer and phone in my bag and keep it there. That did mean emails and texts were not replied to straight away but work is never urgent, as much as we think it is.

Rachel Macy Stafford has a blog and a number of books that I highly recommend reading.

Instead I started consciously focusing on creating moments that mattered:

  1. Waiting for a doctor became a time for me to talk to my boys
  2. After the kids were in bed, I sat down and watched (truly watched) a movie with my husband rather than checking my phone while watching the movie
  3. Entering a busy café and not finding a seat, reminded me to smile and strike a conversation with the person waiting next to me rather than reaching for my phone.

I found that deliberately not reaching for my device (to answer that ever urgent email) and turning off notifications on all of my apps meant that I was better rested in my mind and more mindful of being “present”.

Nichole’s song “slow down” really reminds us to live in the moment with our kids: link

In Rachel Stafford’s “only love today” book, reminds us that if we don’t nourish our body, mind, soul, romantic relationship, parent-child bonds, faith and interest, we lose THE moments because we are emotionally absent FROM life.

So more changes followed once I made this conscious hands free step.

This year, I didn’t put my hand up to be the secretary of my younger son’s school again (I had been on that P&C for 4 years), I resigned from being the vice president of the P&F of my older son’s school and I started saying no more often.

  • No, I can’t catch up with you on my days off – I need time to get things done (like boring groceries, cooking etc) and time to nourish my health with exercise as well.
  • No I can’t help out at kids church or run a messy church activity every month – I’m going to spend that Sunday playing with my kids
  • No I can’t bring home made goods – store bought or packet mix is just fine

I released myself from my over-committed life. Do you know want to know what happened?

I started breathing… I was more calmer and I started “being in the moment” with my kids and family. I rejoiced at hearing their laughs, I smiled when I saw their smile and I reached out and held them when they needed reassuring and sometimes those “needing” moments were small and if I had been too busy (or had not even looked up from my device, I would have missed those small cues).

But I also gave myself the time to make a cup of tea and read in the sun… just for 20 mins a day – I nourished my soul.

But before you think I’ve reached some an amazing point, I have to burst your bubble and tell you that I slip up a lot. Just yesterday, I snapped all afternoon with my husband who looked at me and said “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong with you today”. It wasn’t him – it was me – I was ticking off that darned to-do list of tidying up the house again and he was getting in my way. Can you relate?

Washing and ironing does need to get done, cooking, gardening, homework, work reports and preparing clinical sessions are all part of responsibilities that we need to do. I have always and will continue to give my 100% at work and I do love helping at my church and school. But I don’t need to be the best at everything at every moment. Being in the moment at work and being my best is what I need to do when I’m at work. But when I come home, I need to “be” at home – around the dinner table, at the soccer field, tucking my kids into bed and really, pausing and listening to them.

Rush too fast and you will miss the small things in life. My son noticed these tree markings on a walk which were truly beautiful to look at. How wonderful is our world!

So I ask – will you join me in my hands free journey?

  1. Will you remind yourself that you “can do anything but not everything”.
  2. Will you stop and observe how many times you reach for your device? Social media just gives us more to compare us ourselves against and YOU are perfect just the way you are – remember that you are loved in your imperfection.
  3. Will you put away your to-do list, forgive yourself and give yourself the time to relax and rest.
  4. Will you put away those devices around the dinner table and share that connection with your child?
  5. Will you stop worrying about the fussy eating and remember that coming together as a family for a meal is more than the vegetables that they eat.

We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes, but we can also let go of perfection and hold true to what really matters.

Today – I try to say less of “hurry up”, “let’s go, we’re late” and remind myself – what’s the worst thing that could happen if we’re late?

Today – I let go of my to-do list and remind myself that an over distracted life robs me of living

Today – I don’t berate myself for not replying immediately to texts and emails. The NDIS dramas can wait for another day.

Today – I don’t sigh in the mirror and feel sad that those jeans don’t fit – I remind myself that my children love the warm cuddly me – I thank my body and my mind for getting me through each day, every day.

And today, I leave the pile of washing, dishes and stop and watch my kids play. I don’t rush bed time, I cuddle and breathe their little kid smells in. I tell them, my husband, my parents, siblings and friends – that they matter to me.

Rainbows on a rainy weekend – pause, breathe and enjoy THOSE moments, yes, even in traffic.

The world is going to stop for a moment while I cherish this moment with them.

Until next time,

Wishing you happy and connected moments in life


Paediatric Feeding Speech Pathologist @ Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology

This website and information on this blog post is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant or intended to replace Speech Pathology assessment and management nor medical or nutritional care for a child. It is recommended that you discuss any concerns or questions you might have with your Speech Pathologist and managing Doctor and develop an individualised team plan specifically for your child.

About the author of this blog post

Valerie Gent is an Australian based Speech Pathologist with 15 years experience in Paediatric Feeding. She has opened a private practice called ‘Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology’ in 2013 for Newcastle based babies and children with feeding difficulties. Valerie is passionate about working in the area of paediatric feeding and special needs and has been involved in the teaching and training of Australian Speech Pathology University students and allied health professionals. Prior to starting her private practice, she worked in acute paediatric hospitals in neonatal intensive care units, feeding clinics and clinics for children with special needs for 10 years. You can find out more about Valerie Gent and ‘Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology’ via her website and Facebook page SpeechPathology or email her on 

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