I didn’t buy a smartwatch because I thought it might make parenting easier — I bought it because it was cute and shiny and I like new toys. (I owned a Casio calculator watch long before they were popular. Oh, wait: They were never popular.)
It’s been fun to fiddle with — I can change the watch face and check the weather and I no longer have to get off the couch just to look up the date. What’s surprised me the most, though, are the ways in which this little device is helping me be more present and less stressed with my kids. Here’s how it can be used for good. (Note: I have an Apple Watch, but these features are available on most smartwatches.)
It can give you space from your phone
When my older daughter was six years old, she had an asthma attack at school and they called emergency services. I missed the school’s call because my phone was in the other room.
Although my daughter was fine, the subsequent fear of missing another important call kept me constantly tethered to my phone. The closer I kept my phone, however, the more I tapped and scrolled; the more I tapped and scrolled, the harder it became for me to focus or relax, whether or not my kids were around.
Now that I have my watch, I don’t worry about missing something important, and I can leave my phone in another room — which is really the only way to mentally disconnect from it.
I can limit the distractions even more by remotely enabling the Do Not Disturb setting. That way, only phone calls from numbers on my Favourites list (my parents, my in-laws, my sister, and the girls’ school or holiday camp) will buzz my wrist. No other calls, texts or notifications get through.
It can time your tasks
It’s easy to set a timer, and I love a good timer. I set timers to remind me to take the nuggets out of the oven and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I set them whenever my girls are fighting over a toy or a turn on the swing. (And yes, you can set a timer on your phone, but remember, the goal here is to stay away from that damn thing.)
It can get you moving
The fitness tracking features inspire me to exercise and make it easy to do. In addition to the built-in trackers, you can download apps to help you train for a race, follow a weight-lifting program, or get your downward dog on. (I use Couch to 10K and YogaGlo myself.)
And the more I exercise, the less cranky I am with my kids.
It can help you sleep (or be more gentle on yourself when you don’t)
I downloaded an app that tracks my sleep each night, which not only encourages me to get in bed at a reasonable hour, but it also alerts me when I’ve gotten a terrible night of sleep.
The visual representation of a crap night reminds me to lower my expectations for the day, slow down, and do one thing at a time as much as possible.
All of this reduces the likelihood that I will break, drop, forget or lose anything, including my temper or my mind.
It can remind you to breathe
The “breathe” app — which guides you through a series of deep breaths — reminds me to stop whatever I’m doing and inhale and exhale for a couple of minutes. Focusing on my breath helps me get space from my spinning thoughts and calms me down when I’m feeling stressed. It’s especially useful if I’m rushing or getting frustrated with the girls.
It can free your hands (which you need to parent)
Many smartwatches offer the option to pay with only a tap of your wrist. You can do this using store-specific apps or through Apple Pay, Google Pay or other similar services.
I don’t carry a nappy bag any more, but I do remember those days not at all fondly, and not having to dig around for my wallet while wrangling a baby and a toddler would have been nothing short of awesome.
Also, a number of apps, including Evernote and OneNote, let you record notes verbally. The app transcribes your words so you can review them on your phone or computer at a later time when you aren’t feeding the baby or chasing a kid around the playground.
A smartwatch — or any device — won’t magically make you a more present parent, and it’s easy for it to become yet another technological distraction. Resist the urge to turn on all of the notifications. The constant beeping and buzzing will distract you in unhelpful ways, thus defeating the purpose of the smartwatch in the first place.
And be honest with yourself. If you find that the watch is pulling your attention away from your children rather than helping you stay present with them, well, ditch it. There’s always the Casio calculator watch.