Are You An IMum?

smart phone.
smart phone.

Three months ago life was easy. I would play with my daughter when it was play time. I would work when it was work time. The two rarely collided. I felt I was juggling my dual identities of Work Mum and Play Mum really rather well.

And then I got an iPhone.

The walls containing my two lives came crashing down. Work Mum and Play Mum started to blur.

When Play Mum was at the park, Work Mum would get a very important email that had to be answered right away. Play Mum would vanish while Work Mum took over and my daughter would melt into a screaming tantrum, angry at being denied my undivided attention.

This is a regular feature of life now that I have my modern phone. At the time, I thought embracing

technology and discarding my brick device would make life easier. I would no longer be drowning in a sea of unanswered emails, tweets and Facebook messages. When I arrived at my computer I could do actual work rather than all the other stuff.

Instead, my formerly neat, separate mum identities have merged into something else. I am now an iMum.

As I attempt to do 10 things at once, at a hundred miles an hour, it can only mean one thing: my daughter is the one who suffers.

The time we used to spend together is being gradually eaten up by my demanding phone. The more emails I answer immediately, the more tweets I respond to and Facebook notifications I check, the more I get in return. It never ends.

Does this sound familiar? According to parenting expert Sue Atkins, my experience is a common one. "I regularly get parents asking for help dealing with behaviour that is, in all likeliness, caused by attempts to multi-task on their phones during what should be quality time with the children."

"You need to think about the message you want to send out to your kids. If you're on your phone while you're meant to be playing with them, you're effectively telling them they don't come first."

According to Sue, this can lead to naughty behaviour - something I know only too well. When I rush to answer an email in the company of my daughter, I'm often rewarded with a thump on the head, a ripped page in a book or crayon smeared on the carpet.

At the time, I thought this behaviour was a result of the Terrible Twos approaching. But there may be another explanation - one that lays the blame firmly at my own door.

"Naughtiness," explains Sue, "Is just another attempt to win your attention."

And, it seems, it's a self-fulfilling cycle. My daughter draws on the carpet – she's told, "No". She hits me – she's told, "No". She smears ketchup on the walls – she's told, "No". But when she waves a book at me, chances are I might be too engrossed in an email on my phone to notice.

It's no wonder my child continues with this challenging behaviour, it's the only type she's rewarded for when iMum's around.

While I now realise my constant attempt to multi-task isn't doing anyone any favours - least of all my walls - I'm at a loss as to how to deal with the problem.

Now I have a phone that lets me answer emails, go on Facebook and be available for work and friends 24 hours a day, I'm hesitant to return to my former brick. There are times – during commutes, waiting for a meeting, when my daughter's in bed – that my phone doesn't cause problems.

But I really don't like being an iMum.

Harley Street coach Sandra Roycroft-Davis says there are ways to avoid it. "Set aside certain points of the day to answer emails and make it known you won't be available during particular hours, such as dinner and bedtime. Once people know you're not around, they won't bother trying to get hold of you."

As a mum to teenagers, Sandra's familiar with the lure of the phone. "We have a rule in our house that sees no phones at the table during mealtimes. It means we actually speak to each other, rather than looking at a screen."

All this practical advice is useful, but it's difficult to get away from old habits and the constant ambition to succeed.

So perhaps that is why Sandra's last statement strikes such a chord. This is one iMums everywhere should take note of: "There are many different ways to measure success."

And there it is. Because while my iPhone addiction can be blamed on my desire to succeed with my work and friendships, I seem to be forgetting the other thing I do. The thing I want to succeed at more than anything in the world: being a mum. And, for me, this is something I'm not willing to fail at.

So if that means waving goodbye to iMum and welcoming back the separate Play Mum and Work Mum, then I'm in.

Goodbye iMum, it wasn't nice knowing you.