A few years ago, I was at the park with my toddler. It had been a hectic day of getting his big brother to school, cleaning up a million messes, wiping my son’s potty-training tush, soothing about seven different meltdowns—and to top it all off, a failed attempt at an afternoon nap. Of course.
By the time I got to the park, I. Was. Toast. But for the first time that day, my son was happily playing—without clinging to me and crying. So, I did what most modern moms do. I sat on the bench, took a few deep cleansing breaths, and took out my phone.
In addition to being a mom, I’m a lactation consultant and writer, and when my kids were little, the only way for me to work (and pay the bills) was to work alongside my kids. This is a very common situation these days, with so many parents being unable to afford childcare when our kids are little and yet unable to give up working entirely.
So, as my son was running around the playground, I had one eye on him, and the other on my phone. I’d had hardly a free moment that day and I had a ton of timely emails that needed tending to.
I was probably answering breastfeeding questions or writing to my editors about edits and deadlines when this older woman walked by the bench I was sitting on and said out loud, “Parents these days, always on their phones. Pfffffff….”
Oh my god, I thought, she’s talking about me.
She walked to the other side of the park and soon left with her grandchild in tow. But whatever the case, this woman was making a quick, annoying, but biting remark about “parents these days” who were always on their phones. And whether she was talking about me or not, she sure was referring to people like me.
In that moment, my eyes stung with tears. Whether I should have taken her remark personally or not, it hurt me.
An older woman walked by the bench I was sitting on and said out loud, “Parents these days, always on their phones. Pfffffff….”
It hurt because I was so freaking tired. It hurt because I was working so hard every second of every day—for my kids, my family, my career. It hurt because I hardly got any acknowledgment or thanks for all I was doing as a work-at-home mother. It hurt because I already felt such internal pressure to be the best mom I could be and having someone question that just felt awful.
But after the hurt wore down a few days later, I became angry. What the hell did someone like her know about me or my life—someone who quite literally was seeing me for a few seconds at all, ever.
She had no fucking clue what the rest of my day—before I took out my phone—had looked like. She had no idea what I was doing on my phone or the many millions of things I did all day for my kids.
This incident came rushing back to me the other day when I saw this meme that was being shared all over the interwebs.
How flipping perfect is that?
When you see a mom on her phone, you are seeing a few minutes of her life. You are likely seeing her out of her house. Maybe this is the first time her kids were sleeping or occupied. Maybe she has an important text or email to answer. Maybe she’s just trying to take a moment for her damn self!
It’s actually none of your business. And making a judgment about what she is doing—or worse yet, commenting on it, and degrading her for it—is hurtful and damaging for moms everywhere.
As The Leaky Boob commented: “Phone-shaming is one of society’s favorite ways to shame moms.”
It sure is. And it needs to stop.
Here’s the thing. Shaming a mom for her phone use is worse than just ruining her day. It’s sending that mom the message that taking time for herself or her career is not acceptable. It tells her that the only way to parent successfully is to be “on” all the time. It sets her up for failure, because there is no freaking way that moms can be attentive to their kids every minute of the day, nor should they.
Shaming a mom for her phone use is worse than just ruining her day. It’s sending that mom the message that taking time for herself or her career is not acceptable.
It emphasizes messages that moms are supposed to be superheroes or martyrs, that they are supposed push aside their need for self-care (or work)—which can exacerbate depression, anxiety and a whole host of other mental health issues. This is not okay.
Now think about this. When a dad is out and about with his kids and he gets out his phone to text or send an email, do you think he gets the same level of shit as moms do? Of course not. Because this “poor dad” probably has work to tend to. And oh, it’s so amazing that he’s out “babysitting” his kids—let him have a moment to zone out. <insert major eyeroll>
Honestly, if you see a mom on her phone, your best bet is to either say nothing at all, give her a friendly nod, or compliment her for being a great multi-tasker who’s getting it done. That’s all that’s needed in this situation.
For real: moms not only need less shaming and judgment about literally every damn breath they take, but they need a whole lot more compassion, high fives, and love. So go out there and spread it. Compliment moms. Commiserate with them. Let them vent to you.
And for god sakes, drop the judgments and comments about their freaking phones.