Every once in awhile, I will open my email and find a new story or article from my father about the dangers of parents spending too much time on their phone. “Did you see that article I sent to you?” he’ll ask, as I scroll through my Facebook feed. I give him a bemused smile before going back to Facebook. My son plays on the floor, completely oblivious to what’s happening around him.
Yes, I know that it may seem that I spend way too much time on my phone, and that may be true, but guess what? I’m with my kid 24/7, and my only connection to the outside world most of the time is where? You guessed it, through my phone.
My friends and I are always busy. We have kids and jobs and lives that prohibit us from spending a lot of time together in person. So naturally, the easiest way for us to talk is via text message, Facebook Messenger, or Snapchat (I know, it makes me feel like I’m young again, so leave me alone). Plus, a lot of my friends live in other states, or we only know each other online, so the only way I can interact with them is by using my phone. I like to see what they’re doing throughout the day and let them know that I’m thinking of them, either by commenting on a Facebook status or liking an Instagram post or tweet.
My phone has become my lifeline to other adults, my connection to the outside world, which is what naturally happens when you spend all of your time with a toddler who is only marginally interested in you for short periods of time sprinkled throughout their day.
So when a friend sends me a snap or I get a text message, I’m more inclined to answer it immediately because well, let’s face it, I’m probably bored — or need a break. Being with a 3-year-old all day is boring. I can tolerate about 20 minutes of playing trains with my son before I’m checked-out. He wants me to show an interest in what he’s doing sometimes, and I do, but more often than not he simply wants me to be seen and not heard. So I’ll grab my phone and scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed or check my emails. He rarely minds, and if he asks me to put my phone down and play with him, I always do.
I’m always that mom at the playground who is buried in her phone. My kid pretty much abandons me as soon as he gets out of his stroller unless there are no other kids around. If it’s just the two of us, I will let him do his thing. Sure, I will put my phone down and chase him around to keep him happy and engaged, but then I tell him to go find something to do with himself because I’m not going to entertain my child 24/7.
If we’re out together having dinner, I never look at my phone (unless it’s to check the time because who wears a watch?). I view those meals as sacred and spend that time having conversations, telling jokes, and encouraging him to try new foods. In the house, it’s often a different story even though I’m trying to be more conscious of not using my phone during mealtimes.
What my family doesn’t understand is the sense of community I have found online and that having my face glued to my phone is sometimes because I am trying to find out information about things like potty training, getting a child to eat or sleep normally, or a litany of other problems. There is a real sense of community there (though I do avoid the comment sections), and it helps me feel connected to other parents who are in similar situations.
All of that aside, I would still have to spend time on my phone each day because my job lives inside my phone. As a writer, it is my job to stay on top of what’s going on in the world. I need to stay apprised of trending news, breaking news, celebrity gossip, and other relatable topics, so I am able to produce content and pay our rent. I talk to my co-workers during the day online to exchange ideas or get some help with whatever we’re working on that day. And sometimes it’s nice to be able to bitch with my fellow writers about how I literally can’t come up with shit to write about and bemoan that this will be the day when my editors realize that I am a total hack and completely write me off. (Again, there is that sense of community that I crave.)
Yes, you can tease me about being a millennial and say that we all spend our entire days with our noses in our phones, and you’d be absolutely right. But there are reasons for it. We aren’t just narcissists who take selfies all day; social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Spending time on my phone doesn’t make me a bad or neglectful mother; I am always keeping an eye on my child, and providing for him, and taking him on adventures that are made possible by having a flexible schedule and a remote position. Taking breaks from parenting to check in on social media brings me back to my son more refreshed.
Phones have become a necessary evil in my life, for work and socialization, and I choose to embrace it. I’d appreciate people (cough, Dad, cough) staying off my back about it.