Dear Mom on the iPhone,
I see you at the park with your kids, phone in hand. Your cherubs are running around playing and calling out “Mommy, watch me!” They go down the slide squealing in delight, yelling “Mommy, watch this!” As they climb the ladder to go again, they shout “Mommy, I want you to watch me!! Mommy, watch! Mommy! Mommy!! MOMMY!!!!”
But you’re not watching. Because you’re on your phone, checking Facebook, email or Pinterest.
You’re not watching because you just spent every waking hour before arriving at the park watching everything your child did. Every. Little. Thing.
You watched as he ate his breakfast and “drove” his waffles around his plate. You watched as he held the fork upside down and stabbed at bites with the handle and said, “Mommy, now watch me do this!” And then he picked up his napkin and put it on his head. And you were watching.
You also watched as your daughter picked out her clothes—only the shirt with the monkey on it would do today. Then you watched as she got dressed. You watched while she struggled to put on her socks, determined to do it herself. You watched, sometimes helping and guiding, but knowing that letting her figure it out is an important part of learning and growing.
You watched when she twirled around her bedroom. You watched as she played with her stuffed animals. You watched as she put away her toys. Slowly. Stopping to play with most of them on the way to the toy box. You were watching it all.
You watched as your kids brushed their teeth and hair. You watched as they played blocks and Play-Doh and had a dance party. You joined in because you love being a part of their fun. You watched while they pooped, and you helped wipe their bottoms. You watched them wash their hands with too much soap—or maybe not enough. You watched as they splattered water all over the sink. You watched them jump off the stool and run around the house with wet hands.
You’ve been watching your kids, playing with them, helping them, singing and dancing with them all morning. All day. And now, at the park, when they can run around and play, you’re taking a few minutes for yourself on your phone.
Maybe you work from home and you’re still actually working, checking email, responding to clients, sending a proposal. Your lucky kids have the benefit of spending some of that time playing outside, making new friends, burning off steam, enjoying the sunshine. Kudos to you for giving your kids such a fun way to spend part of their day while you take care of business.
Maybe you have a friend or family member who’s been ill and you’re taking some time while the kids are happily occupied to send some texts to check in on them, arranging the timing to know when you should drop off dinner at their house. Or you might be looking for the email follow-up for your own test results you’ve been waiting on. Maybe you’re writing or reading kind messages on Facebook, offering condolences for the loss of a loved one. All while your kids are outside, enjoying some free time to play.
Maybe you’re on Pinterest looking for ideas to help your kids adjust to their dad’s latest deployment, finding tools to help them stay connected or searching for party ideas to welcome him home.
While parenting might be our most important and rewarding job, it’s not the only one.
Maybe you have an older child in school and his teacher emailed you about a behavior concern that you need to address, and now that you have a few minutes with your younger kids happily playing at the park, you return a message.
Or maybe you realize that watching your kid every second of every day isn’t necessary and that it’s totally acceptable and actually good for everyone involved for you to have a few minutes to yourself. At the park. On your phone.
So, to you, dear Mom on the iPhone, I say this:
I’m not going to judge you. I don’t know you. I don’t know your story. But I do know that you don’t need to watch every hop, skip, jump, twirl, swing, bite, song, dance, blink or breath to be a good mom. There’s a lot that demands our attention in this parenting life, and a lot that we want to soak in and enjoy. There’s also a lot that happens in our lives outside of parenting that we cannot neglect. While parenting might be our most important and rewarding job, it’s not the only one. We’re all working on balance and finding that area where we can be satisfied that we’re making enough time for it all. For the record, we’re all failing at that. Every single one of us wishes we were better at juggling our responsibilities … and many of us spend time beating ourselves up for how we’re doing. You’re doing fine. As long as you’re doing your best to make it all work for your family, you’re doing just fine, and that’s what matters.
It’s actually good for your kids to know they’re not the center of your attention every second of every day. It’s good for them to learn to play independently and do things on their own without accolades for Every. Little. Thing. That’s good parenting, allowing them to learn that some things are satisfying just for the fun and enjoyment of doing them, not for the praise or attention that comes with them.
So, find your balance. Be a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, mentor, employee—wear all the hats you need to wear. Do what needs to be done, which sometimes includes taking a little time for yourself, even if it’s just checking Facebook while your kid runs around playing at the park.
This Mom with an iPhone who isn’t judging you for yours
This piece originally appeared on reallifeparentingblog.com