What My Social Media Blackout Taught Me About Parenting

I didn't realize my Newfoundland vacation would be a vacation from life

I am a total news junky. I was a journalist for over a decade. I start every day listening to talk radio and check news sites throughout the day. Then, it's back to talk radio in the car on the way home.

We are a busy family. My husband and I work long days. The kids go to an after school program. We walk in the door at 6 pm every day. Bedtime for the kids is 8 pm. Our lives sound hectic. I’m sure yours is similar. Many of yours are probably even more logistically challenging, chock-filled with competitive dance and sports. It seems like we are all hamsters on a wheel. It’s exhausting.

So when my family got on a plane to go visit family in Newfoundland this month, I shut it all down. I didn’t check Facebook for two weeks. I didn’t check a news station. I had no idea what Donald Trump was doing destroy the world. The result? It. Was. Glorious.

For two weeks, if I was bored, I went for a walk (you should see my step count!) My kids and I played card games. Card games! Countless rounds of Sequence (check it out. It’s pretty fun!) and War (Not so fun. I hate War—both the literal and card variety. Especially the way my six-year-old plays it. Try to tell him Jacks aren’t actually also nines. Just try).

There was no talk of life in the outside world. No stress at work or school, no schedules to arrange, lunches to make, places to be or events to worry about it. It was, for two weeks, a glorious bubble in which to forget that, in the outside world, so much more impacts our happiness. There, together, in those two weeks, we alone controlled it. Not even rain ruined a day. We just watched Angry Birds and Lilo and Stitch 2 on repeat.

I stayed off social media and didn't check the news once while I was away. We stayed in a town of 300. We had no cable or satellite. I sent my kid's next door to get bread and gave them money to go to the store across the road to grab milk. It was a literal vacation from the hustle and bustle of our suburban life back home. And it was amazing.

It’s not the fact that we live in a world of devices that keeps us from disconnecting. It certainly doesn’t help. But the reality is that life today, for so many of us, is controlled by a bunch of competing forces, pulling us and our sanity in a million different directions.

Summers can be long if you’re home full-time with the kids. That’s for sure. I started seeing memes about looking forward to the first day back to school the minute the last school year ended. But, if you’re not home full time, if you have to squeeze 7 days of summer enjoyment into two weekend days, the days of summer are far far too short. Two weeks feels like two hours.

It’s not that I don’t know that these days are short when my kids are young and want to be with us. I know that life, to some extent, is within my control. It’s a nice thought; if I don’t want to be pulled in a million different directions, then don’t do all the things. Seems reasonable, right?

The reality is, the world outside does exist. Bills need to be paid, kids need to learn to swim, the president of the United States is unravelling our civilized society. There is only so much we can do to mitigate exposure to the real world in which we live.

But for two glorious weeks, I gave myself permission to live in a world where it’s just me, my husband and my two children, surrounded by people we wanted to be surrounded by, and only them. Where the only news we cared about was the weather. Where the only real risk of war was a nine and a Jack being dropped at the same time.

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