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Maybe use the door next time?

1. Feeding the baby, I realise that this is a beautiful thing, that we’re lucky enough to do together several times a day.

2. At the park with two little preschooler friends. We all play together. I ride on the seesaw with my friend’s son; every time I check whether he’s had enough and wants to get off, he replies with a firm “No”, and we bounce for about 15 minutes, talking about planes and lawnmowers and watches. Baby is in the sling on my back and bounces off to sleep. Later we’re playing and my four-year-old friend pulls me around by the hand, looking for the pirate captain’s missing brother in jellyfish-infested waters.

3. Toddler’s new CD’s arrive. Instead of listening to Paddington in the car (again!) we have Winnie the Pooh, read by Alan Bennett. The children both fall asleep and I carry on listening regardless.

4. Teatime. More creative playing with food. Perhaps I should discourage this, but at the moment I love it. His pieces of fishfinger are arranged into a caterpillar, a bird, an elephant (“here’s it’s head, Mummy, and here’s it’s toes”), a frog, and a kangaroo. He’s so inventive and full of ideas.

5. Baby is becoming an expert at the “How big is he..? This big!” game. He finds it utterly hilarious.

6. I make plans for Husband and I to go for lunch in a couple of weeks, by ourselves.

7. Husband gets up with Baby and I sleep soundly until 9.00 am.

Silent Sunday

This post is part of Silent Sunday at Mocha Beanie Mummy.

Here’s something you won’t hear me (or any other liberal, leftwing feminist) say very often: I read an article that I liked and agreed with in the Daily Mail. The article, ‘Not now, Darling, Mummy’s Tweeting‘, unsurprisingly stirred up a lot of discussion amongst the mothers I follow on Twitter. Understandably, people felt defensive. The article has a strong headline and some of the tone is harsh. ‘Neglect’ is a very strong term and nobody wants to be accused of neglecting their children. But look beyond the moments of harsh rhetoric and I think that Liz Fraser makes an important point.

Since I acquired my iPhone around 2 years ago, my craving for constant information has become increasingly persistent. First thing I do when I wake up is check my email. Then I check Twitter. I look at the Guardian iPhone app, my RSS reader, and most recently, Instagram. Whenever I get a spare five minutes I repeat the whole process, checking all of these for updates repeatedly through the day. While I eat my breakfast I scroll through Twitter; sometimes I tweet, but often I’m just reading what everyone else is up to. The thought that there are people out there, conversing with each other, and that I might be missing out on the latest must-read blog post or bit of juicy gossip makes me a little nervous. As I potter through the day, my internal monologue converts my thoughts into concise, faintly amusing tweets.

All of this didn’t worry me too much. There are a lot of positives to being online: before I had my iPhone I just wouldn’t have had time to read the news (with a toddler who wants to be involved in everything I do and baby who likes to get up to mischief, using a laptop or desktop through the day with my kids is a near-impossibility). Twitter has connected me with some fantastic people: creative, funny, interesting and supportive. Blogging has given me a new layer of purpose and fortified my sense of self.

But recently there have been times when I’ve been sucked into Twitter too much. When my two-year-old is saying “Mummy, put your telephone down. Mummy, don’t send a message”, it’s a big reminder where my priorities should lie.

Coincidentally, just two days ago, I imposed a new rule in our house: no TV between 10.00 and 4.30. I’d been giving in to requests for Cbeebies too often and our TV time had crept up and up. It’s actually worked surprisingly well – giving a firm rule seems to have removed a lot of the “I want Cbeebies”, “No”, “I want Cbeebies”, “No”, “I want Cbeebies”, “No”… [repeat ad infinitum] that had previously plagued our days at home. But a side-effect of this has been that I can’t spend the time I used to hanging out on Twitter, or otherwise absorbed online. We’ve spent more time keeping each other entertained, and today has been surprisingly peaceful.

Dealing with demands for attention from your kids can become a vicious circle. Sometimes I find that the more they demand attention, the more desperate I get for five minutes to myself, but of course they sense this and their demands become more persistent. Sometimes trying to get that online fix causes more of the stress I’m trying to avoid. Snatching five minutes to catch up on Twitter while the TV blared in the background was supposed to give me a chance for peace and quiet, but the results are often more chaotic.

Some of the points in the article seemed exaggerated. The image of “playgrounds and toddler groups suddenly being full of parents not playing with their children, but texting friends, or chatting on the phone” doesn’t ring true to me – I was at toddler group this morning and can’t recall seeing one person on their phone; we all talked to each other and talked to our kids. The sort of ‘neglect’ and ‘damaged children’ that the psychologists talked about represent rare and extreme cases.

However, I really agree with the overall point of the article. It is important to spend time with your kids, and give them the respect and attention they deserve. Some of the conversation I saw on Twitter today seemed to interpret the article as “if you’re on Twitter, you’re a crap mother”, but that isn’t what I got from it at all. Liz Fraser admitted that she’s just as bad as the rest of us, and worries that she spends too much time online herself. I thought her tone was thoughtful and supportive.

It seems that spending time online is just one more aspect of the constant motherly conflict and guilt – balancing working with caring for your children, defining yourself as a person and fulfilling your role as a mother. Personally, I really appreciated the reminder to appreciate my time with my children and balance my priorities.

Even the most casual readers of this blog will have guessed that I’m a teeny bit obsessed with iPhone photography, or to use the correct terminology, iPhoneography. Having a phone with a decent camera has allowed me to document my life in a way that I’d never have considered before. I’m now more convinced than ever that good photography is much more about capturing an interesting image than about using high-tech equipment and getting everything just so.

I started out taking pictures with the basic iPhone camera, but was quickly seduced by the charms of Hipstamatic. This iPhone app looks like an old plastic camera, and takes photos with a beautiful retro feel.

The basic app price includes (I think) three lenses, with the option to buy more to achieve different effects. Be warned, this can get addictive – I have just about every lens going and get excited when I new one becomes available to purchase. I loved Hipstamatic dearly, and used it faithfully up until Christmas, capturing some lovely images.

That is, until I discovered Instagram. Ok, so it doesn’t have the fancy interface of Hipstamatic. It doesn’t have the flexibility to be as creative: in Hipstamatic you can combine any lens with any film, plus one of several flashes, whereas Instagram has a fixed set of filters. But Instagram has two big plusses.

1. You can ‘Instagram-ise’ existing images. So you can take a photo with your iPhone’s regular camera

then play around with it afterwards, zooming in and choosing the right filter.

You don’t even have to take the original image with your iPhone camera; you can use any image stored on your phone.

2. Instagram is social. At first I didn’t get it. I was a bit sceptical about the idea of signing up to another social network. I wasn’t sure if I wanted people to see my photos, or what the point was. But I started seeing more and more people posting photos on Twitter, with these instagr.am links, and I decided to give it a go.

I linked Instagram up with my Twitter account straight away, which meant that I could see which of the people I follow were using the app. Following them on Instagram means that I see their photos in my feed. I absolutely love it – I see little works of art each day. Because the app is on your phone, people are taking photos all the time, of their day-to-day lives. My feed is full of witty, beautiful snippets of motherhood, of hectic, fascinating lives and of the world around us.

I follow a lot of brilliant people on Instagram, and I’m taking this opportunity to recommend a couple of my favourites. @tiddlyompompom takes consistently excellent images, sometimes funny and sometimes beautiful. @cosmicgirlie, as you’d expect from the talented photographer who started Silent Sunday, is always entertaining and impressive. @youngmummyuk takes some classic images of motherhood, as well as the rest of life, and @softthistle always makes me smile.

The only downside of Instagram is that once you’re public, you can’t Instagram an image without sharing it with your followers. So if I want to take something and not share it, perhaps if I’m shooting something particular for my blog, or if I want to take a lot of pictures of the same place or thing, I go back to Hipstamatic.

I’m sure there’ll be another big thing along eventually to grab my photography attention, but my love of retro iPhone photography will endure for a while yet. Oh, and I forgot to mention, a big plus for stingy iPhone-users like myself – Instagram is free. (And nobody is sponsoring me for this post, I’m just wittering about apps that I love).

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