Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know technology-shaming is the hip new thing for moms. At the park and on your phone? Doing it wrong. Check your Facebook while your kids are awake? Worst mom ever. And now there’s a new message to add to the mix: a viral post that reminds us we should all feel super guilty if we’re not there to meet our kid’s gaze every time they attempt to make eye contact.
Earlier this week, a California mom did an “experiment” in which she sat and watched her twin boys playing and kept a tally of how often they looked at her. Turns out, they looked at her a whole bunch of times — for approval or disapproval or to see if she noticed something they did. She shared the results of her experiment in a post about technology and how “emotionally alone” her kids would feel if she had been looking at social media instead of
making tally marks on a piece of paper staring lovingly at them.
Since it was posted, the PSA has been shared almost 60,000 times with obnoxious captions like one I saw this morning that read, “Mamas. Put down your phones. Pick up your babies.”
Excuse me while I vomit.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the belief or the message: we should all strive to achieve balance in where we’re devoting our time and energy. Every single one of us wants our kids to feel noticed, loved, and secure. What really sets off my eyeroll-o-meter about this post is the way we lord this stuff over other moms, and the way these seemingly well-meaning “reminders” actually become fodder for judging the fuck out of people.
I set a goal for myself to read 30 classic novels this year, and I’ve been working my way through the list — using the Kindle app on my phone. I also use my phone as my sole means of communicating with family, friends, doctors, the preschool, and my job, which is almost entirely online as I live in Nebraska and write for two publications based in New York City. My presence online does matter because it is literally how I pay my rent and put food on the table.
Plenty of people use their phones and tablets for real, meaningful tasks, yet because people put such an insane emphasis on bashing technology, we all get swept into this swirling vortex of shame where moms who look at the phone are bad and moms who devote every waking moment to staring at their kids are good.
Maybe mom needs to make a grocery list or respond to an email. Maybe mom has to call her own mom or maybe she’s reading Kierkegaard. Maybe mom has Postpartum Depression and the ten minutes she spends on Twitter each day while the kids play with blocks are literally the only thing keeping her hanging on. Why is it anyone’s business?
“Balance” means different things to different people depending on what balls they’re juggling, and the last thing any of us needs is the added burden of yet another guilt trip about not devoting every waking second to our kids.