Everyone complains that technology has made our lives busier, louder, and less engaged. Parents lament that their kids are addicted to their screens and that our kids have deserted neighborhood yards in favor of video games and texting. Restaurants are filled with couples and their screen-lit faces as they wait for their dinners to arrive, and subway cars are filled with people who never look up from their phones.
But for all of society’s complaints about technology and its dangers, I have to be honest: As a mom, technology has made my life so much easier, and frankly, I don’t know how moms in the ’70s survived planning a PTA party without email.
When I think back to the things my mom had to do to get through her day, I am stymied by how much time and energy she had to expend. Frankly, I don’t think I’d have survived the toddler years without Google. If you ask me, technology is empowering parents. Here are some other ways technology has made my life easier:
1. Classroom Party Planning
Old School: My mom made 25 phone calls to plan a simple classroom party. Her friend Jane’s phone just rang and rang. Snotty mom Sandy’s phone was picked up by the 4-year-old and put down on the kitchen counter as the sounds of a dog barking met my mother’s ear. Hippy mom Roberta’s son took a message but failed to convey that hard-boiled, not raw, eggs were needed for the Easter party. The party took three weeks to plan, and my mother was headed for the funny farm by the end.
Now: I send one email listing the classroom party needs to 25 people. Aside from the two morons who reply all 15 times, the party is planned in between stoplights on the way to dance practice. And I don’t have to talk to snotty mom Sandy.
2. PTA Meetings
Old School: Meetings were held once a month and attended en masse by well dressed, highly coiffed women. Dues were collected, parliamentary procedure was followed, and homemade refreshments were served. Meetings were filled to capacity, because if you missed one, you had no idea what was happening in the school. And how else would you find out the local gossip?
Now: I follow my kids’ schools on Facebook. I can read the PTA minutes online in my car as I wait for soccer practice to end. Pfft, does anyone actually go to PTA meetings anymore?
3. Grocery Shopping
Old School: My mom trolled the aisles of the local grocery store for items like Wonder Bread, fluff, and bologna. And Tab, so much Tab. She hauled all of it home in her un-air-conditioned beater station wagon and screamed for us kids to unload everything. Of course, none of us were helpful and the entire process took approximately five hours.
Now: I sit in my pajamas on my couch with a glass of wine and order my groceries online. A nice delivery person shows up at my door and deposits the bags to my counter. A tip, a thank-you, and a door slam later, all I have to do is put everything away. The whole process takes 20 minutes, and I secretly laugh at my mom. I still order Wonder Bread though.
4. The Workday
Old School: Back then, my mom went to a job and stayed there all day. She wore grown-up clothes, got to use her real name instead of hearing a chorus of “mom”s, and functioned all day in her professional role with minimal interruptions. She had a lunch break, actually got a paycheck, and was respected in her field.
Now: I get to work from the comfort of my home in my yoga pants while my sticky kids demand snacks and I have to drown out the sounds of the Disney Channel so I can think clearly. I have to remember to shower before video conference calls, and my workday never really closes thanks to email. Come to think of it, my mom might have had it better in this respect.
Old School: My mom didn’t have email, texting, online support groups, social media, or an answering machine. She had to have face-to-face encounters with anyone and everyone in order to get her daily work done. She had to “people” all day long in addition to being trapped at home with three small kids. She’s still friends with everyone she knew in high school and attends her reunions.
Now: I don’t have to talk to a single human all day with modern technology. And I can be very selective about whom I actually talk to, thanks to Caller ID. Playdates are worked out via email, and I interact with my friends via text. I attended my high school reunion via a Facebook group set up by our president.
Yes, my mom had it harder, and technology, for all its faults, has allowed me to balance work and home better than my mom could. Has technology made my life feel a little impersonal and lonely some days? Maybe. But at least I don’t have to show up fully dressed to a PTA meeting and miss Grey’s Anatomy.