Dear Mom Judging the Mom on Her iPhone

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!

Dear Mom Judging the Mom on Her iPhone
Me and my two boys- — photo taken with my iPhone



12 thoughts on “Dear Mom Judging the Mom on Her iPhone”

  1. I heard a piece on NPR the other day talking about children being interviewed about their parents, and how most of them judged their parent’s use of technology pretty harshly, wishing they did it less. It was interesting to me, because I worry about that sometimes when I am catching up on email or something as my daughter runs around. How do you personally know when enough is enough? What are the warning signs that you are spending too much time on media?

  2. Wow. I can’t even tell you how much this blog hit home. I am as well am a stay at home mom an attachment parent. I homeschool 3 children. I run a photography company as well. I also sell itworks. I’m an admin for a parenting page on Facebook. And manage my photography blog.. Often sparsely because of lack of time. We are very busy. Since I am a photographer I obviously take way to many pictures to my kids dismay lol. Mostly on my phone. I get a lot of “mom stop not pictures again… lol”. I have to keep up on my email and. Messages because I end up with 500 emails by the end of the day and no time to answer them. Then I just spend all my time being emotionally drained from apologizing to everyone I speak to because it took me such a long time to get back to them.. And try to manage a house of 5 as well…laundry..oh the laundry that never stops. I’ve learned to take life as it come. Allow myself to leave the house a little messy or leave the last load of laundry in the dryer to deal with tomorrow. I try to decompress as needed and keep my heart open to soak up every second.

  3. This could have been written for me! I am a stay at home, attachment parenting Momma, in the early stages of homeschooling, a photographer, online business owner, blogger, etc. I manage 3 Facebook pages, keep up with 3 blogs, and not to mention my clients and customers’ emails. It’s busy and sometimes the only break I get to heck my email is when I take my kids to the park. I feel you

  4. I’d have found out what that playground mom was /doing/ on her phone, then judged. The ones I usually see around here are busy playing Angry Birds or are chatting away, or some other escape from the duty at hand. If you’re trying to get your kids some oxygen at the playground while you also have to juggle work & such – well, I’d say that’s a lot better than sitting them in front of a TV set while you do the same. But all too many parents I’ve seen would much rather be absorbed in their phone on non-essential doodlings than paying attention to their kids.

  5. I love your post! I agree that we often judge too quickly without knowing the whole situation, and parenting can already be a hard and lonely thing for a lot of moms.

  6. I try really hard not to judge others, I’m not raising someone else’s child, I am raising my own.

  7. Judging is a hard thing to do but I do my best to keep them in my own thoughts. I am a father with a lot on my plate and understand. I read an article from Dr. Wolfson that put a few things in perspective one of which is the way I hold my phone and how I use it, that is if I want to live longer

  8. Don’t forget we may be getting calls or texts from our other kids that are at other activities or just checking in with Mom.

  9. It sounds like people are taking on more jobs than they need to these days. Everyone says they are too busy, getting exhausted, have so much on their plates and children are competing with technology for time with their parents and loved ones. To a child whether it’s “work”or pleasure a person on a phone or ipad is just that…distracted from real life moments. Its hard for them to understand any differently. In any case there is only one thing that matters to me, HAPPY MEMORIES! I asked my husband his memories of his mother. He replied she was always cleaning, cooking, driving him somewhere or working (hairdresser out of their house). Memories he recounts with his father are incredible, fun and plenty. When I leave this world I want to leave fun, happy memories for my children and husband. I want to discover the world with them through their eyes. I want to leave this world remembering all of their littlest and biggest moments and discoveries. The funny and magical stories and conversations with them and knowing I couldn’t have tried any harder to participate with them every chance I get. When they are all grown up and living elsewhere I will have plenty of time to take on the rest of the world and endless jobs. By then hopefully they enjoyed our early years together enough to continue to include/invite me in to their adult lives/families not because they feel they have to but because they want to : ) Life truly is too short. Enjoy every moment you get with a loved one… it could be your last chance to make a great memory : )

  10. I just wanted to say as a SAH/WAHM attached parents with a tiny baby currently who also homeschools…I don’t even own a phone. While I understand completely the convenience of having the gadgets, mothers (and fathers) have gotten through all of humankind up to now without them…without cameras even & they still loved their kiddos & had fond memories of the past. I don’t have a lot of pics of my kids & I don’t regret it. I am busy doing rather than documenting. And this is NOT about passing judgement on whether you are spending enough time or the right kind of time or whatever…it is about getting real & figuring out how to find a real break, real peace, real connectedness to our kids, to each other, to ourselves. Taking a moment to just breathe. What bothers me, if anything, is the moms, some who even know each other, staring at screens rather than having a conversations with each other. We are more & more building communities online instead of in our own real lives.

    I model what I want my children to live. Who is in front of you matters…so pay attention to them. Never interrupt a conversation in person for one on the phone unless you absolutely must. Never talk on a phone during a meal or when out with a friend.

    I grew up with one telephone in the house. Many people I knew shared that phone on a party line with neighbors. We all still managed to live fulfilling productive lives even when we couldn’t stay connected 24/7. I am not suggesting we go all the way back to that, but maybe take a step back & ask ourselves if interacting via tech is truly a “break” or just mind numbing.

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