Paying for Calm

On Tuesday evenings Becca goes out to work, so it’s just me and my boy from about 4:30pm through to his bedtime (anywhere between 8-8:30).

So far, regardless of the rest of his day, we’ve managed to get him into a pretty good routine in the evenings;

  • Dinner time at 5pm. Finishes whenever he announces he’s ‘aawww dunn’
  • Time to play – current favourite is to run from one end of the house to the other and crash into Daddy on the sofa!
  • Fruit at 6pm with strawberries and grapes currently the favoured options (I say favoured, he eats them so that’s all that counts)
  • More time to play, or sometimes we just lie on the floor rolling his toy cars around.
  • A glass of milk is offered at 6:30pm and drunk over the next 15mins or so.
  • Teeth get brushed at 7pm, right before his bath.
  • After his bath it’s straight to his bedroom for wind-down time. I’ll read him a story or two as he sits quietly on my lap…. hahahah not really, as is more often the case, he spend the time burning up the last of his energy, running up and down, giggling his head off.
  • From about 7:30 I’m watching for signs that he’s slowing down and getting tired again, as soon as I can it’s into his sleeping bag, big light off, and into bed (or sometimes we cuddle in the chair for a wee bit first).
  • He’s usually in bed by 7:45pm or so and asleep by 8:30 at the latest most nights.

When Becca is working, then during all of this my sole focus is him. No phone, no other distractions, even the dogs now just doze on the sofa knowing they won’t get any attention from me. Even if he’s at his toddler tantrum worst (which to be fair he’s never really all that bad with no reason) it’s still oddly relaxing, having a singular focus like that.

And I love it, but I wonder if I only cherish these moments because I work 5 days a week so I regularly have time away from Jack when he’s not on my mind every second of the day (just every other minute…) because I’m focusing on something else even if I still think about him often.

Recently someone posted this on Threads:

“something I didn’t realize about parenting before I experienced it is that you always have some sort of tether to your kid. if they’re asleep, you’re listening to the monitor. if they’re with grandparents or at school or daycare, you’re watching your phone. I don’t regret becoming a parent, and I also wish I could hyperfocus the way I used to.”

https://www.threads.net/@rebbiest/post/CxYOyf1uYff

I had to agree, that ability to hyperfocus on something was lost to me for a while but it’s definitely coming back, admitedly that’s mostly because my work is keeping me busy (my previous job, not so much) and, as I’ve recently mentioned, it comes coupled with the sense that I can start to plan to do things just for me, I can be my focus.

That said, there is something I find very refreshing about my evenings with Jack, the routine to be followed and the simple singular focus helps to clear my mind of the usual noise and I typically end my evening feeling very calm and accomplished (even if all of this has been in the midst of the tiny chaos agent running amok in our home!).

I don’t think it’s just because it’s wonderful and fascinating to spend time with Jack, seeing the world as he is seeing it. Rather I think it’s likely something to do with putting my phone away, and letting myself focus without distraction.

Becca and I joke about who spends the most time on their phone (probably me!) but it’s telling that Jack now demands us to ‘poot pone way’ at times when he wants our attention. It’s so easy to pick up your phone and get lost in something largely unimportant and whilst we both use our phones for important things as well – and those things tend to be about Jack which makes his demand a little annoying at times – we both know it’s better for him if he knows he has our attention. He is far far more important than our phones!

It’s also telling that iPhones now have much better ‘Focus’ controls, something I’ve been experimenting with to limit what I see on my phone throughout the day, which is where having a clear routine for Jack really helps, I can schedule my phone to turn off all notifications during his bedtime, for example, so my phone isn’t buzzing and lighting up whilst I’m trying to get him to go to sleep.

There is a balance to be found here of course, Jack is growing up in a world where these miniature hand-held computers are the centre of how we run our lives. We don’t always cede to his demands to put our phones away as he also needs to learn about boundaries and that, sometimes, Mummy and Daddy are allowed to say no, and no that doesn’t mean you throw yourself down and start banging your head on the floor (tellingly he only does this on carpet, not the laminate… just saying. Not daft this one!).

I’m enjoying my solo parenting evenings (and weekend mornings) more and more, and finding that quiet calm has definitely been something I’ve missed and there is no doubt that spending time with Jack is helping me find it easier to put my phone down and focus on one thing at a time.

It’s reminding me that I used to be able to this, and that I know how much it benefits me (and my loved ones) to have a calm mind and a clear headspace and all of these thoughts are prompting me to get back into a habit that I’d set aside for a while; Meditation.

I’ve mentioned my discovery of meditation and it’s benefits before and for a long time I used an app called Calm. It’s one of the better known meditation apps, and usurped Buddhify (which I loved) because of the simplicity of the ‘Daily Calm’ a 10 minute guided meditation.

It was possibly timely that I’d drifted away from meditating each day (hey, life gets in the way) as, when I got the subscription notification for the coming year, I was a bit shocked to see it was £50. I was immediately conflicted for, whilst I’m happy to pay for software as I recognise the effort that goes into building and maintaining it, I don’t consider meditating as something I WANT to pay for… surely it’s something I should be able to just DO, without an app.. yet I don’t and have used Calm as a trigger to remind me of the benefits I know I get from meditiation and… ok look, I’ll be honest, I struggled to properly understand my feelings here, I just know that something didn’t sit right with me when asked to pay £50 for an app.

And I’m absolutely certain I did not pay £50 for using this app in the past as anything over £20 gives me pause. I know it shouldn’t especially for an app like Calm that offers constantly updated content, and from which I have derived a good deal of personal pleasure. I think it’s simple because it’s an APP on my phone that makes me consider the price point this way. Weird.

Anyway, rather than splash the cash straight away I decided to look around for alternatives and stumbled head long into the world of ‘for profit wellness’.

Looking at the top hits in the App Store (and looking at the In-App Purchases available, which is in and of itself a complete clusterfuck of similarly named and priced options…), it quickly became apparent that Calm is not alone.

  • Headspace – £50
  • Balance – £63
  • Mo – £60
  • Breethe – £70

The good news is that there are, still free options available, Oak, Smiling Mind, and Medito.

I thought I’d start with Oak and whilst it’s the same 10 min meditation every day it was working ok for a week or so but I quite quickly realised I was missing having new content each day. Medito and Smiling Mind didn’t really land for me (aesthetics and UX just not ‘for me’ but might good for others), so I found myself a little stuck. I perserved for another couple of weeks but I was starting to ignore the ‘Meditate’ reminders more and more and the entire practice was slipping away from me.

AND THEN

Along came Black Friday and Calm had a 50% off sale and, £19.99 later, I’ve signed up for another year. Morals, what morals?

I did swither though, honest I did, and whilst part of me doesn’t really like the fact I am, once again, supporting the “wellness” market this way, I have to be honest and say that Calm worked well for me over the past few years so it’s nice to have it back. Sometimes we need to put ourselves first I think, compromise where you can, but given this is all about helping me find more calm (how apt) then it’s a compromise I’m willing to make.

Looking ahead to 2024 I hope I can keep carving out 10 mins each day to meditate. Just as I hope I can get back out on my bike more often, as it too brings a level of focus that brings a level of calm to my busy brain.

And of course I still have time with my son, existing in his world is a focus in and of itself. And when he’s not diving around burning off his toddler energy, we both enjoy little moments of calm. A hand held during a walk, a cuddle on the sofa , or just lying on the floor rolling his cars around.


P.S. The CALM offer is still on if you are interested. No, I’m not on commission nor is this a paid for post.

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