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July 22, 2008

Step Away From the Computer

Hook_3While I don't think it's clinical, nor does it need medication, I believe I have an addiction to the internet.  More specifically, I have an obsession with surfing blogs written by people who have way cooler or more dramatic lives than I.  Also, I cannot stop checking my email or the comments sections of my blogs.  Nor can I resist the endless links that lead me away from my intended path.  I sit down to write a post, for which I will be paid a certain amount, and 30 minutes and a numb rear later, I am reading about the scientific names for weeds.  (Curse you and your curious URL, University of Illinois!)

I finally realized this when my mental image of my one-year-old was him standing on the top of the step that is to the right of my computer.  That is, I remember him standing there, making little cute toddler noises to try to get my attention as I type.  This little snapshot of him is still with me:  when I look over and give him the desired attention, long enough to say "just a minute, honey, Mommy has just one more thing to do," he lights up with glee, his halo of wispy blond hair shiny and backlit by the lamps in the living room.

At that point I knew it was time to put him in daycare so I could get my work done.  That sounds bad, but it's actually good for everyone involved.  Now I handle all of my internet business when the children are in daycare or after they go to bed.  When they are home with me, I pay attention to them.  The battle is cast aside, and I am theirs completely.  Now I can start picturing my baby in my arms, not on the edge of my peripheral vision.

That hasn't stopped me, however, from other obsessive behaviors.  Some things just must be done on the internet, right?  When I appeared on the CBS Evening News, I wanted to shout it to the rooftops (i.e. the web) but on that day my wireless router stopped working, my husband took my laptop to work, and my desktop was 30 feet away from the modem.  Instead of dismantling the hulking mess and repositioning it across the house, I went to the library to check my email. 

I've read posts and articles by a favorite blogger of mine who struggles with the same sort of addiction.  The kind in which you can't walk by your computer without poking the mouse to wake up the screen and see if you have new email, or refreshing your blog to see the new comments.  "I'll just read this one and I'll go..." I think to myself, too many times daily to confess.  This blogger actually committed to certain limited amounts of internet per day, an idea which I am considering, but I have to warm up to it.

The truth is that on the days I can't access the web for even a half an hour at a time, I am much more productive in real life.  I am cranky and pissed off at my internet provider, but that wears off when I survey the empty laundry baskets, the gleaming kitchen table, or the bills written and nestled in envelopes, ready to be mailed. 

I get so much out of the internet.  I believe it makes me a better parent.  It certainly makes me a better friend and a much more resourceful and productive worker.  But there's a fine line between using it as a tool and it using me.  I'd like to stay on the right side of that line.  Having said that, I think I'll check on the sleeping children and go fold some more laundry.

This is an original post for LA Moms Blog.  Kim also writes whatever is on her mind at House of Prince, and a more focussed guide to SoCal activities at Being Savvy San Fernando.

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