"What a minute, I've just got to check this."
"Hold on a second while I just send this message."
"I'll be with you in a moment, I just need to answer this."
"I have to respond to this email, then I'll be with you."
Sometimes it feels like I'm a slave to my mobile phone. Every ding, chime, beep and trill grabs my attention and sucks me in. Facebook alerts, tweets, texts, Skype notifications, Whatsapp messages - each one demanding I check it. Each one dragging my attention away from what I was doing. Dragging my attention away from my son. It doesn't matter what we're doing, we could be baking a cake, playing a game, making Play Doh monsters. If my phone goes off, I'll check it.
Now, in general, I'm good at multitasking. But when my phone has my attention I switch into a trance-like state, eyes fixed to screen, the world around me fading into the background. If my son tries to call me back to what we were doing before the interruption, I'll reel off a dismissive comment, one like those above. And even if it's just for a few seconds - though seconds so easily turn into a minute, a minute into five minutes - I've left the moment I was in with my boy.
Of course this wouldn't be too big a deal if it was an unusual occurrence, but too many times we've been in the middle of a game or activity and it is suddenly abandoned while I attend to my device. A commitment I had made to be present with him is suddenly broken. I can't even imagine how frustrating it must be for my son, as his four-year-old brain learns that I will drop everything - including him - for my phone.
I love being with my kid, but I know I'm not the only parent who struggles to enjoy playing endless games of make-believe, Lego, dressing-up, hide-and-seek, so I'm sure I won't be the only one who finds the excuse of checking a message or email irresistible. Sometimes, it feels like I'd prefer to be anywhere other than sitting on the living room floor making two Hot Wheels cars plan a birthday party for a plastic tiger. So when an alert goes off, I'm on it before I realise it. And as far as my son is concerned, when I've got my phone in my hand, mummy has left the building.
Which is why one week ago I decided to switch off all the alert sounds on my phone. And, I am pleased to report, it's been great. I've been more present with my son in so many ways. In the playground - a place I go to spend time with my boy not check my mail - I am free to be the troll under the bridge, the propulsion behind his swing, or just the mum on the bench responding to the stream of: "Watch this!", "Look at me!" with cheers and encouragement. The endless games with his toy cars that have rules only he understands continue, and I can't say I love them any more than I did before, but his joy at having me play them without distraction is evident.
I'm self-employed and I do need to keep on top of emails and messages from clients even when I'm not strictly speaking at work, but turning off the alert noises means that I can check them at a time of my choosing, allowing a clear separation between being a parent and time working. And so just as he respects my rule of not interrupting me with requests to play while I'm working, I think it's only fair that I offer him the same respect and no longer permit my work to interrupt the time I've promised for him.
So if you are a slave to your phone and find it constantly pulls you away from being present with your children, give it a go and switch your alert tones off. I wish that I'd done it sooner.
I'd love to hear about your experiences of turning the alert tones off in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, please 'like' or 'share' it above, and join me on one of my social media channels below.
Victoria is a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Coach at 1 Harley Street in London. Formerly a magazine editor in the city, she left that career to travel through South America, before settling on Easter Island to start a family. She's now back in the UK, writing, blogging and helping people to live the lives they'd love to live.
"I want people to have less fear, more fun, less frustration and more freedom. Change is always possible - in fact, it's inevitable!"