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Christine Tompa

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Disconnected: What I learned from 24 hours without my smartphone

How often do you find yourself scrolling through your news feeds instead of observing the world around you? It’s a common scenario, you walk into a room and everyone is looking at their phones, so you get yours out as well. There is time to kill so why not take care of a few emails, catch up with family and friends, or simply keep yourself entertained while waiting for whatever it is you are waiting for. Smart phones give us the freedom to take care of business and socialize (digitally at least) wherever we are.

It has the guise of multi-tasking, however I’ve recently realized what it really is: habit. A habit that keeps us attached to our phones, and just might be causing us more stress than it takes away.

The other day my phone stopped working. It didn’t completely black out, but I couldn’t view any news feeds, it wouldn’t let me read my emails, and the screen saver kept flashing on and off. It was no longer useable.

I remember the panic creeping up; this is how I communicate with clients, my kids’ teachers, it is the device I use to do a significant amount of my work. Luckily, my photos, files and contacts are all backed up so that wasn’t an issue. But being disconnected was. There was a fear of being needed, notifications piling up and not being able to respond.

And there it was. The fear of missing out.

Isn’t that why so many of us are guilty of checking our phones as often as we do? It is the reason our phones are kept within reach; so that we are ready to take photos of the kids, respond to work emails, get in on the group chat, and keep on top of appointments, school reminders, and family schedules as they are happening.

While we are busy doing all these things, it is easy to lose track of the world around us.

I was stressed without my phone, particularly with regards to work (there also happened to be a power outage that day so I didn’t have my computer either). I was trying everything I could to get my phone to function just enough to ease my mind. Were there any new emails or missed phone calls? Those were my main priorities.

Later that evening, once the power was restored and I was able to get on the computer, I realized I hadn’t missed anything urgent. There were emails and notifications, but nothing that would cost me work or that couldn’t be dealt with later.

The realization hit hard. I spent the entire day stressing over a situation I had no control over, and honestly didn’t really matter. I could have enjoyed time playing board games, doing puzzles and reading with the kids. Instead, I was frantically trying to fix a phone. That was my focus.

Admittedly, I spend too much time on my phone, I think most of us probably do. But the twenty-four hours I spent without one provided a necessary reminder; that it’s important to disconnect every so often and allow yourself to be one-hundred percent present in the moment.

Capturing strength, confidence and beauty: Why every woman deserves to step in front of the camera

Taking photographs has become a customary part of daily life – from selfies to photos of the kids, day trips and vacations, interesting architecture, fancy meals, the list goes on. But how often do we go back and look at these through our phone, computer or social media channels? How many photos of ourselves do we print off and place on display?

My family has a photo shoot done every couple of years where we have family portraits done as well as various staged and candid shots of the kids, the pup, and my husband and I together. These photos are always printed and put out on display, then dated and put away in an album when the new ones are ready to be framed.

We have fun as a family doing these shoots, coming up with ideas and spending time together. These photos reflect where we are in life, our interests and show how we are growing.

I have thousands of photos of my family on my phone and computer, they aren’t organized in folders; there are hundreds of duplicates to sort through, some are complete duds, and only a handful include me or my husband.

That is why we have a photographer – so we can be with our children in photos that we love and are proud to display around our home.

It was these family photos that led me to a personal photo shoot. This isn’t an idea I would have come up with on my own, however the opportunity arose to have my hair and makeup done, wardrobe styled and photos taken. I jumped at the chance.

I’ll admit, at first I felt a little awkward about getting dressed up and being in front of the camera. After all, there was no special occasion and no exact purpose for these photos. But, my goodness, it was a breath of fresh air. As a mother I have no issue setting up elaborate newborn shoots and cake smashes, arranging portraits of our children to hang on the wall. The kids get all the glory, and you know what? I deserve a bit of the same.

Participating in this photo shoot was lively, fun, and honestly, empowering. I felt beautiful, confident and successful as the photos were being taken. Those feelings stayed with me for days afterwards, and came back even stronger when I received the images.

That shoot was a wonderful reminder of who I was prior to becoming a mother, and who I could still be outside of motherhood, my career, and other responsibilities.

Every woman deserves to feel the way I felt and continue to feel whenever I look at those photos. It isn’t just about the cosmetic or outward beauty that is captured. With the right photographer your personality shines through; you will see strength, perseverance, confidence, and the beauty within.

These photos can extend to your professional life as well, be it on your LinkedIn profile, business website or blog. Having quality pictures that reflect who you are and what you do will set you apart. They show that you’ve invested in yourself and that others should too.

When hiring a photographer their price and portfolio are often the main considerations. However, if you don’t jive with the photographer, the photos will reflect that. You want to work with someone you feel comfortable with and can even be vulnerable with. Ensure they are good with kids and pets if they will be in the photos as well.

Have a plan in place for what you want to accomplish, and ask if they can honestly offer what you are looking for. Are they available to come to your home? Can you have multiple set-ups? What kind of packages can they offer?

With any profession there are varying degrees of experience and price points. This is not something that should break the bank, however it isn’t something to skimp on either. Once you decide how much you want to spend, take time to speak with different photographers and get an idea of who will be the best fit.

Finding a photographer and having professional photos taken of yourself and your family is worth the investment. Even if you only do it once, you have the images forever.

 

Making time for you: The value of ‘me time’ and the sanity saver that is girls’ night out

This past weekend my friends and I had a girls’ night. It wasn’t anything wild, just a fancy dinner out on the town, sans kids. Every time we do this (which is never often enough) we promise to make it a regular occurrence – once a month is the goal. Of course, that never comes to fruition.

After each girls’ night, I always feel rejuvenated; and I’m not the only one to notice my improved mood. My husband, kids, and probably even the pup notice as well. My friends say the same thing, and it’s really no surprise why-hanging out with friends, good conversation, a fancy meal that you don’t have to cook or clean up after, and getting to eat while the food is still hot – it’s a dream scenario when you’re a mom.

So, why don’t we make this a priority?

There are a myriad of reasons to not make or keep plans with friends: one of the kid’s is sick, there’s too much to do around the house, the family wants to go on an outing and you don’t know if you’ll be back in time.

Not to mention that it really is hard to get out. One of us may have to stay late at the office, another has a deadline to meet but can’t get it done until the kids are in bed. Some of our husbands do shift work, so coordinating schedules between the group or even just between two or three of us can seem like an insurmountable task.

Then you need to be “in the mood”. I’m exhausted at the end of the week and usually want nothing more than my pajamas, a movie and a glass of wine as my big Friday and Saturday night plans.

There is also the fact that most of us see each other regularly anyway because our kids happen to be friends, we live close by, and are frequently meeting up outside, going for brunch or having play-dates.

The difference is, that kind of socializing isn’t about us – or at least not just about us. In these scenarios we’re wrangling kids, playing referee or constantly being interrupted. It is not relaxing. No conversation is ever completed. And if you’re the one hosting, you can pretty much expect to be cleaning up and re-organizing all the toys for the rest of the week.

We are better people, mothers, wives, workers and friends when we nurture our own needs. This includes taking care of both our physical and mental well-being. Go for that run, get a pedicure, or indulge in a luxurious bubble bath and truly take time for you. Schedule “me time” into your calendar. By making this a priority, will increase your happiness and decrease your stress and give you a needed boost of energy to take on the challenges and demands of motherhood.

Moms – and women in general – have the tendency to put others before themselves. We will arrange play dates, play taxi driver to and from activities, help with homework, cook multiple meals to meet everyone’s tastes, but we won’t stop to carve out time for ourselves. That is a big problem.

This is why girls’ night is different. It is about us. We can talk, confide, commiserate, joke, and brag all we want. We get dressed up, we feel good, and the effects are long-lasting. If you’re a mom who hasn’t made her own friendships a priority, you surely know what I’m talking about.

Let’s try to do better; foster our own friendships, make socializing a part of our routine. As a mom, you need to have a social life outside of your kids’ activities, and one that doesn’t always involve the whole family. I know it clears my head and leaves me feeling refreshed, confident and ready to take on any challenge that lays ahead.