Taking care of children may be the hardest job on earth.
I’ve had the chance to spend some solo dad time with our kids as my wife headed out for various photoshoots (she’s a gifted photographer). The day would start off with smiles and laughs (as shown above).
But as the morning went on, I found my sanity melting away as each hour that passed felt like an entire day!
Between nap schedules, making bottles, temper tantrums, soiled bed sheets, and amazon prime deliveries (which always come at nap time #doorbell #dogs-barking) I felt like I was going insane.
During any moments of downtime, I found myself turning to my phone to catch a glimpse into the outside world. It went beyond checking social media and email. I found myself checking Slack, Skidmore’s internal messaging system for project updates, lunchtime banter, and random gifs that made there way into the rhythm of the work day. Anything that gave me a sense of connection!
Facebook, Instagram, & The Obituaries?
Although a quick glance at Facebook or Instagram appears to fill the social void of adult interaction, it often leads to feelings of envy and increased loneliness.
I recently asked my mom for perspective on what she would do when feeling exhausted and overdue for some social connection while raising 4 kids in the 1980’s. Her response was telling.
She would reach for the newspaper and read the obituaries.
Yes. The obituaries!
She went on to say that it made her feel better because she knew that she was alive — even if she was juggling the needs of 3 toddlers and a baby!
At first I found this strange.
But then I quickly realized it’s really no different than what motivates us to check our phone.
We crave connection.
We seek attention.
We need human interaction.
We were designed for real relationships.
But it’s not just stay-at-home parents that can feel lonely.
Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT and author of Alone Together says it best:
“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere.”
Although checking the obituaries seems like an odd way to combat loneliness, the act of picking up the paper and reading the the death notices probably takes a sum total of 5 minutes.
In today’s scrollable world, it’s easy to spend countless hours hoping to find meaningful connection in our day. And the more we scroll, the less likely we are to find time to be in relationship with those around us.
Deep down inside I know there is a way for us to truly find connection beyond our screens.
Here are a few suggestions to combat loneliness:
Seek involvement in community (join a small group, engage in mentorship, start volunteering)
Take a mental health day off work
Skip the email or text — Call a friend!
Find someone to talk too (a therapist, friend/family, co-worker, etc.)
Whichever ways you choose to combat loneliness, there’s a good chance it will have a positive impact on you and on someone else — which is a great way to start making a shift in the loneliness epidemic.
And for those parents out there, be present with your children and put down the phone — especially while changing diapers!
Mark is on a mission to help professionals, teams, and leaders connect with themselves, each other, and their collective purpose by restoring energy to organizations battling modern life’s non-stop pace and growing sense of disconnection.