Facing into a bout of temporary solo parenting, I had one and only one worry on my mind. It probably should have been mornings – how I’d get them in to school on time. My husband does most of the morning stuff while I amble from room to room telling various children to get up, then stand on front of my wardrobe confused about what to wear (what to wear to work from home incidentally, so it doesn’t matter at all, but at 7am, all decisions are difficult). Anyway, that wasn’t it.
I probably should have been worrying about doing bedtime – when I have deadlines looming, my husband gets the kids to bed while I work – but that wasn’t it either.
Maybe I should have been worrying about how to get everyone to football and gymnastics and hockey at the weekend, because we usually divide and conquer to achieve bi-location. But that wasn’t it.
The only thing on my mind was how to go to bed at a reasonable hour. My husband is the sensible one at night. The one who gives me a look when I ask for another episode of Mind Hunter at midnight on Monday. The one who gets up to switch off lights and unplug plugs and call time on Tuesday. The one who remembers that staying up late on Friday night is pointless when the kids get up as early as ever on Saturday morning. So with no husband here to tell me to go to bed, I knew I could be in trouble.
And that’s exactly why at quarter past twelve on Wednesday night, I was still on the couch, scrolling through Twitter. Compulsively. Literally unable to stop. And at the same time, completely consciously aware that I should stop. One part of brain was saying “Okaaaaayyyy, that’s probably enough, you should really go to bed now” while the other part was saying “Ah, just one more minute” over and over. Like the six-year-old child I very much no longer am.
My fingers scrolled, my eyes inhaled, my brain ignored my inner voice. Is it because Twitter and Facebook have such bite-sized pieces of information and entertainment – because there’s no investment? It’s not like opening an article that will take five minutes of effort or switching on a thirty-minute TV show – the smart brain would then say “Too long, don’t start, go to bed”. But with Twitter and Facebook, there’s no beginning and no end. So no impetus to stop, no line to cross, no credits to roll.
And still I scrolled. On and on through photos of friends and people on nights out and stories about Trump and Brexit.
And unable to unglue my finger from the screen, eventually I did the only thing that made sense – I whatsapp’d my husband and asked him to tell me to go to bed.
During the day, I’m reasonably good at staying off my phone when I’m with the kids. And when I need a ten-minute timeout with tea and Instagram, I tell them I’m on a break. But at night, when I’m not responsible for anyone else but me, that’s when I lose all sense. TV is manageable, because it comes in handy episode-size pieces, especially in a Netflix world where channel surfing is unnecessary, but the internet – the internet never ends.
So my newest resolution is to put down the phone at night. When TV is over, and it’s time for bed, but I’m not quite ready yet – when I’m savouring the precious me-time, and staving off the next day (because as soon as you go to bed, the next thing that happens is morning), I’ll pick up my book instead of my phone, and get lost there instead.