This blog has been passed around numerous times on social media, and I understand why. People are disconnected. Folks are glued to their technology. The other day I saw a young boy on a swing. He was simultaneously using his iPhone, possibly updating his whereabouts: “Swing.”
It may be true that some parents pay more attention to their electronics than their children. Child abuse and neglect are real issues. But not every parent on their phone is as guilty as the author suggests. It’s important to understand that if you see a mother on her phone, you’re getting one tiny glimpse into her world, not the full picture.
I’m not trying to give the author a hard time; she clearly meant well and was writing in defense of children and attentive parenting, which is great. But when I read her blog post, the main sentiment I feel is: Give me a break. Give us all a break.
I must offer some perspective:
I am a “stay-at-home” mom. Except that I don’t actually stay at home much. I am also a homeschooling mom, and we don’t school at home much either. We go out and about, run errands, go out for lunch, meet up with friends, take walks, visit playgrounds, and play at parks. I have a 5-year-old son and a newborn, and my oldest is the kind of child who needs a lot of outdoor activity to function at his best. This means we are often at parks and playgrounds for hours at a time. This also means that when he does a cool trick or wants me to push him on the swing, it’s probably happened several times before.
As a work-at-home mom, I teach online classes and run a blog and Facebook page that empowers parents with inspiring and evidence-based information. This means staying on top of emails is a necessity. I check my phone fairly often to avoid an unconquerable pile-up in my inbox. I stay in contact with my clients via phone when I am out and about, because my work is important to me.
I was a single parent when my first son was born. I never got a break. When he was a toddler, I almost dreaded going to the park because it’s a huge open area, there is tall playground equipment, and I felt as though I couldn’t blink without endangering his safety. It was stressful, not relaxing, as I chased him everywhere. Now that he’s almost six, taking him to the park is blissful. I get to play with him without worry, I can exercise at the park, or sometimes I sit and use my phone, for business or personal reasons. When I was a student I would sometimes bring my laptop to the park so I could do homework while my son played. I’m sure I got judged for it, but it was one of my only chances to get work done.
I also use my phone to take lots of photos of my boys. With my first son, I didn’t have any of this technology. I didn’t have a smart phone or a computer or Facebook. And I also don’t have a lot of pictures of my first son from that time. And it’s unfortunate. I am very thankful for the technology I now have that allows me to take record of so much of our lives.
I practice Attachment Parenting. It takes a lot of effort. With my new baby, this means breastfeeding on demand, cosleeping, responding to his needs, etc. With my older child, it means I don’t control him with threats or spankings. I teach him, every moment that I can, by getting down on his level and using my words to impart a lesson that I hope will stick and help guide him throughout his life. I am gentle and patient — even when I don’t feel like it.
So, please, give me a break. All of us parents trying our best — give us a break.
If you see me at the park glancing down at my phone, don’t assume I am so absorbed in technology that I’m failing to see my little ones’ childhood as it goes by. It’s much more likely that I’m making note of an important work email, or checking in with a homeschooling friend to see if they’ll be meeting us, or perhaps I just took a cute picture of my boy playing and I’m sending it to myself so I don’t forget. Because now that I have an iPhone, I have hundreds of pictures to sort through. Thankfully.
If you see me staring at my phone in the grocery store, telling my 5-year-old to wait a minute, please don’t assume that I’m taking selfies and neglecting my child. The more likely scenario is that I am scanning my grocery list, trying to remember what I’ve forgotten, and my son asking me for a snack for the tenth time is frustrating. I’m breathing deep; I’m staying focused on the task. And I’m just trying to get my groceries without leaving anything behind. I’m trying to be responsive to my child — trust me, I’m trying. But a mother can only do so much at a time.
Or hell, if you see me looking at my phone, maybe I’m doing something silly like checking Facebook or texting a friend. Motherhood is lonely sometimes. It can be very isolating. With a newborn it takes us an additional hour or so to get out of the house, limiting our social time significantly. Add to that naps, snacks, dirty diapers, homeschool projects, laundry, cleaning, meal prep, etc. and you’ve got one extremely busy mom. I like to take a break sometimes. I like to text my mama friends and see what they’re up to, or send my husband a cute photo while he’s at work all day. I check into Facebook because I have a huge community of like-minded mothers on there that give me hope and inspiration when I need it.
And I know I’m not alone. There are mothers glued to their phones because their partner is deployed and they are waiting on an important call. There are parents making lists, reading the paper, or managing a business with their phone. There are parents scrolling mindlessly because it’s the first time all day they’ve been able to take a mental break. The isolation that comes with motherhood can be painfully poignant at times, and social media can help keep us connected. I have friends all over the country, some in other parts of the world, and I love to see pictures of their kids, their daily activities, read their thoughts and empathize. It gives me a chance to feel like I’m something more than someone’s burp rag, food source, or cleaning machine.
So instead of casting judgment on a mom on her iPhone, please understand that you do not know her world. You do not know how badly she needs this break, this distraction. Maybe you see her absent-mindedly pushing her child on the swing. You see her child smiling, and you wonder if mom can see her smiling too, or if she even cares. Mom has most probably seen that smile many, many times. She very likely cares. But there is enough pressure in parenthood without having to worry about catching every single smile, seeing every single twirl, clinging to every single moment of childhood without blinking or taking a moment for ourselves. We do not need the extra pressure to be present every moment of the day, nor do we need the judgment.
Give us a break. And moms — don’t be afraid to take a break. You deserve it!