As a freelance writer and work at home mami, I’ve got to have my phone handy most of the time. I have deadlines that can pop up at any second and requests for content that, should they go unanswered, could quickly pay someone else’s mortgage instead of mine. My phone is really important to my work, and yes, it’s also important to my social life. As mothers, we’re often more connected with our friends via social media than we are in real life. Play dates can only happen so frequently and we’ve long bid farewell to weekly drinks with our girlfriends and brunch dates with our families, so we settle for maintaining our connections to the outside world through the use of our cell phones and computers.

I’ve written before about how putting down my smartphone made me a better mother, but what about a better wife? Better daughter? Better friend? National Cell Phone Courtesy Month inspired me to put down my phone in order to be more present in every moment, with everyone I care about.

I’ve read about a new game where a group of people dining out together place their phones in a pile in the center of the table and the first person to reach for their phone has to pay the bill. While it’s funny, it’s also a fascinating social experiment and a nod to how obsessed we are with technology as a culture. Most of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are addicted to our phones to a degree. When we’re not getting updates vibrating in our pockets, we’re checking Facebook or double-checking to be sure our email is still syncing properly.

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So, while we’re busy nurturing our friendships with the girlfriends we were cheerleaders with in high school, what happens to our loved ones around us now, today? My parents hate my phone with a passion. They know it’s my job to have it handy and to be on it for some time during each day but they despise my phone and they tell me so.

Since my parents are wonderful and also give me free childcare from time to time, I practice exceptional cell phone courtesy when I’m around them. I pull out my phone only when no one else is in the room or if everyone else is doing something equally non-interactive like reading or watching television (although, if you’ve ever been in a room with my mother when she’s watching MSNBC, you may reconsider how “non-interactive” TV really is…).

As for my children, my youngest (who’s only 1 year old) dislikes my phone. Every time it emerges from my pocket, she throws a tantrum complete with head buried into her hands. That’s a sign, if I ever saw one, that I need to keep the phone use to a minimum around my children. In order to best nurture my relationships with my family, and friends who are actually relevant to my life now versus my life in high school (think Facebook), I must curtail the use of my smart-phone.

Are you practicing good cell phone courtesy? Any thoughts on the addiction that seems to plague us all?