Airplane mode can soothe toddler tantrums—yes, really


Motherly Collective

My new year’s resolution for less screen time is not going well. A late night followed by an early morning is just easier with Paw Patrol. But the real problem isn’t my 2-year-old son. 

I’m the problem. Touched out, tired and looking for connection, I scroll. Rationalizing by browsing recipes, but honestly, just looking at other people’s lives. 

THWAP! My toddler slaps the phone out of my hands. He roars like a dinosaur in my ear, releasing a spray of half-chewed crackers past my eyes, and hurls himself into my arms, smacking my throat with a rogue foot. 

I hate being interrupted and that hurt. 

I scream, “STOP IT.” 

He freezes for a second and then his sweet, little face crumples. He rolls away from me and toddles toward the tissue box. In between sobbing hiccups he hollers, “Blow nose.” I help him hold the tissue to his nostrils. He blows snot into it and then wipes his whole face with the tissue—wiping away his tears, and wiping on the boogers. 

He looks up at me, “Mad all done?” 

Mad? I’m not mad. 

I am…lonely. 

It’s mostly just me and the laundry during the day. Meal planning. Shopping. Trying to hang onto my personality when my life isn’t about me anymore. My brain is mush from arguing about wet diapers and negotiating who should clip the stroller seat belt—then waiting 45 minutes for him to do it. 

I wasn’t angry. I was sad. 

Sad that no one in my family lived close enough to visit for a quick cup of coffee. 

Sad that my body changed so much. Instead of bouncing back after birth, it sort of bounced down, way down. 

Sad that I have so little time to spend with the man who makes me so happy I chose to start a family with him.

Sad that even with 20 years of work experience, an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s, I feel so dumb trying to figure out how to be a mom. 

I hugged my little man. “Yes, mad all done. Do you want Mommy to put my phone away?” 

He nodded and said, “Mommy play tractor?”

Putting my phone away is not as easy as I hoped. 

It sits on the shelf and calls to me. Tik tok videos of cute cats, clips from “Mean Girls,” videos of people decorating cakes, that woman in Vegas who makes fancy donuts and that guy who has 15 dogs and puts hats on them for movie night. The neverending clips of Grey’s Anatomy (where is part 8, what happens next!). 

To be honest. I just want to be on my phone in case someone responds to my funny gif of the cat on a unicorn. In case a friend sends an Instagram message asking about taking a walk or going to the playground together. In case my mom calls on Whatsapp to give me an update on her garden. Ready to respond when someone reaches out to ask how I am. 

But no one does because they are busy with their own lives. So I have no choice but to get busy with mine. 

I tap the button for airplane mode. 

My brain stops wondering whether there is something new that I am missing on the internet. Now I am in this moment with this amazing little human who is trying so hard to be what we want him to be and find out what this world is about and who he is. 

The tantrums still happen but they are an echo, just a reflex. He doesn’t need to yell so much now that he knows I’m there. Ready and present. 

I still enjoy cake videos and cats with adopted squirrel babies. But only for a little bit. And I’m aware of how long I’ve been watching that guy who feeds racoons on his porch. 

Airplane mode helps me stay more connected—not with the news or the lives of strangers. 

Instead, airplane mode helps me stay present in my own life.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.





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