Unwasted time

I couldn’t get phone messages all summer. Instead I got annoyed texts telling me my voicemail box was full.

Yeah, I know, my phone needed my attention. But it had to compete with activities and hours of planning for my kids, the quotidian load of mothering to-dos, and something different this summer: two long weekends of 50th birthday fun for me. My old iPhone4 (Gasp! I’m sure that seems retro to a lot of folks) had to wait.

Me with my BFFs on my birthday

Big birthday with friends

My cellphone had little memory to begin with. Its camera wouldn’t take another shot thanks to three years of photos taking up space, and I wasn’t clear where and whether my pictures were backed up. Somehow, a scroll-bar-worthy list of No Name contacts grew every time my 7-year-old’s little fat fingers left a sticky mess on the screen.

Of course, I didn’t want to delete data willy nilly. I wanted to make sure I kept the messages, contacts and precious kid pics I wanted, especially those few elusive shots where both kids were smiling and had their eyes open.

This meant backing up every image somewhere off the device and listening to each message to ensure I didn’t need to keep a copy on my storage-strapped telephone.

I soon learned that it was easier to rig a system to get a job done than learn the ins and outs of securing my electronic information via iCloud or some other unfamiliar-to-me means. With so many apps and opinions everywhere, how am I supposed to know the best practice for managing 1,000 plus pictures? I could search the Internet for answers, but experience cautioned me against tripping down a technology rabbit hole. Have you ever taken a moment to research something and found yourself three hours later with more options and less certainty than when you started? I have.

I was already using Google Photos because my children’s tablet puts photographs there, so I tried moving my iPhone’s images to the same place. Unfortunately, there was no way to tell whether they had all copied successfully.

Ends up, I had to set up a Google Photos folder on Google Drive, and that’s where things got confusing. One doesn’t want to backup pics in two places and use up too much of the free storage Google allows. And the two programs work differently. Delete a file from one, it may or may not disappear from the other. Edit an image in one, the picture may not update in the other.

But I really needed to let people leave me a voicemail, and it sure would be nice to be able to snap a picture from time to time, like the mom who snapped the screen shots my son’s teacher presented at Back to School night instead of taking notes, as I did, about field trip dates and when homework was due.

Besides, there is super important stuff to preserve digitally, like the bug my kids found climbing outside our garage.

close up of praying mantis climbing the house wall

Boys discovered this friend climbing our house. R asked where Mantis’s friends, Po, Tigress and Monkey (from Kung Fu Panda) were. Cute!

So after sending my kids to school one day last week, I spent tedious hours comparing the pictures still on my phone with those I had copied to the cloud to identify any that still needed saving before deleting the whole mess of them from my not-so-smart device.

Then I listened to every old message, made notes about significant ones, and cleared my phone.

It worked. I can now use my phone’s camera and let a call go to voicemail. Can I have a Hallelujah?

My husband is happy. He even acknowledged that his suggestion to bail on the whole time-sucking review-save-and-delete process and simply get myself an upgraded phone was overkill. I really don’t need so much technology. I mostly need a cellphone to make calls and texts, look up a number, and get directions. I have better things to do with my time than fiddle around learning cool new gadget tricks.

An interesting thing happened during my phone’s clean sweep.

While looking back on three years of pictures and messages, I gained perspective on how much I have been doing that is worthwhile. Although it feels like it at times, parenting isn’t one giant time suck.

Minute to Win It game at Eli's birthday party. Kids raced to move M&Ms from plate to plate with a straw.

Minute to Win It game at Eli’s birthday party. Kids raced to move M&Ms from plate to plate with a straw.

Most parents I know are overworked. But since I’ve only worked (for money, that is) part time these past few years, I feel guilt-ridden about my family’s currently bleak financial picture. I feel unworthy of comparison with full-time working mothers who still seem to volunteer at school, schlep their kids to soccer practice, and get family dinner on the table each night.

Then there’s that parenting paradox about doing so much but never getting it all done. As many a mother feels, I fill my head with all the things I wish I were doing for my kids instead of stopping to recognize that I am actually enough.

Seeing three years summed up in a montage of images and things I’ve been handling was eye opening. I feel justified. My kids got a lot of my attention – in a good way. And I seamlessly handled so much for my household that my husband never even needed to know details.

Here is a spattering of topics I managed according to the old saved VMs:

  • Getting the measurement and prescription right of my son’s new bifocals to be sent from one eyeglasses maker to another
  • Scheduling delivery of his wheelchair I had special ordered
  • Being reminded about vast amounts of doctor and therapy appointments
  • Helping an arborist find my house to give us a quote for removing the dead tree out front
  • Learning the car seat my son’s sitter used broke and needed replacing
  • Finding out when prescriptions were ready for pickup
  • Getting info about new treatments and providers we could take advantage of
  • Making sure fees were paid on time
  • Having my husband leave me a detailed message about his take on the advocacy work I was doing because we have little time to talk beyond texts and messages

Boring? Yes, but busy.

As for the images, there were first days of school and camp; dance recitals and student performances; difficult memories about the weeks my youngest spent in a body cast; classroom holiday parties and birthdays; soccer games; ski days; various broken bones on my eldest’s limbs; Halloween hullabaloo; weddings, bar mitzvahs and myriad celebrations; crafts; play dates; Pokémon cards; and a bevy of kid-friendly activities and places where I played with my kids.

Rapha's hip hop camp dance recital.

Rapha’s hip hop camp dance recital.

My husband often wonders why we need so many pictures that seem to waste space; he threatens to do a massive deletion. I think he’s announcing his frustration with the time and brain space that using technology takes in our lives. I get it.

Sure, technology is a time taker, but it’s also a memory maker.

I’m glad my tech time last week left me feeling blessed over the abundance in my life. I am relieved to have photographic testimony to jog my bountiful memories. It reminds me that time spent has not been wasted.

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About elizamom

Colorado mother of two small boys. One happens to have Down syndrome.
This entry was posted in Confession, Family time, Motherhood, Parenting Special Needs, Time Crunch and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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