A couple of weeks ago, Jeff and I spent a morning running around after our children during a carnival hosted at their school. As hour number three approached, my capacity for other people’s children rapidly reaching code red zone, I pulled out my phone and hopped on Twitter for a few minutes. Of course, those few minutes happened to coincide with my bumping into one of my children’s teachers.
After she greeted me, she gently pulled the phone out of my hand and whispered “tsk, tsk” as she shook her head. My face turned red as she gestured to the surrounding children whom I clearly should have been watching instead. My phone shamefully remained in my coat pocket for the rest of the afternoon, while I found other ways to occupy the time, none of which included actually playing with the kids who blissfully ignored my presence while they ran around with their friends.
I forgot about the whole interaction (or, rather blocked it out) until I came across a post yesterday, Dear Mom on The iPhone. It begins…
Dear Mom On the iPhone,
I see you over there on the bench, messing on your iPhone.
It feels good to relax a little while your kids have fun in the sunshine, doesn’t it?
You are doing a great job with your kids, you work hard,
you teach them manners, have them do their chores.
But Momma, let me tell you what you don’t see right now…..
Your little girl is spinning round and round, making her dress twirl.
She is such a little beauty queen already, the sun shining behind her long hair.
She keeps glancing your way to see if you are watching her.
It goes on and on and on about the precious moments that a mother is missing while immersed in technology. “Now you are pushing your baby in the swing. She loves it! Cooing and smiling with every push. You don’t see her though, do you? Your head is bent, your eyes on your phone as you absently push her swing.”
Bad, bad mother, the comments preach. How selfish! How self-absorbed! How dare a mother absentmindedly push a swing when she could be relishing every single back and forth motion. What is our society coming to?
Well, I am that mother at the park on her iPhone, thank you very much. I’m the one who gets scowled at and pointed to and written about. Sometimes it’s the park, others it’s an indoor playzone or maybe it’s a birthday party. If I’m out with my kids, and they are entertained, it’s not uncommon that my iPhone is entertaining me. But that fact doesn’t make me a bad mom. In fact, I’d argue that it helps make me a better one.
Checking in on Twitter or Facebook allows me to collect myself and maintain a sense of humor about things that might otherwise set me off. It’s kind of the social media immersed mother’s version of a long drag on a cigarette. It helps ground me and gain perspective. The permanent marker covered Evan a few years ago would have been far more upsetting than amusing were it not for the ensuing hilarity in Facebook comments. Having my friends and community a simple click away is a much needed break at the very least, and a near lifesaver at the most.
I work from home, and part of working from home (FYI, Marissa Mayer) means taking that work with me, wherever my day may go. I am fortunate to have the freedom and flexibility to bring my kids into school every day and pick them up at three and spend the afternoon and evening hours with them. And I treasure that ability. If it means having to respond to e-mails or follow up on things while the rest of the working world is still behind a desk, I don’t see that as a problem. Would it be better to get a traditional desk job and have a nanny caring for them all day and night?
Besides, being on my phone in public, at places like sports practice where the kids are surrounded by friends and the park where they can run around and play, makes it more likely that I’ll be off of the phone when I’m home alone with them.
And maybe, I’m on my phone at the park because I don’t really feel like engaging with that preachy looking mother who, if not judging me for my phone use, would most certainly find something else about me to be appalled by.
I would never, ever claim to be a perfect mother. I have moments of stellar mothering and moments of complete crappiness, and they are usually separated by mere seconds. At the end of the day, I strive for two things: 1. To make my children feel loved, and 2. To have the proud parenting moments outweigh the regrettable ones. Adding “always place undivided attention on my children 24/7″ to the list really wouldn’t benefit my children and it sure as hell wouldn’t benefit me.
One small snippet that someone happens to witness at a park or a restaurant or in a parking lot hardly paints a thorough picture of any family, so judging based on what you happen to catch in a single moment is laughable. Almost as laughable as the notion of taking my kids to a bounce zone and having my eyes glued to them jumping up and down for four hours straight.