You probably know me, or might think you do. You may have seen me at the park—I’m the mom on the bench with her face in her phone while her kids play on the monkey bars. You may have seen me in line at the grocery store, flipping my finger over the screen while my kids clamor for my attention. I’m that lady who sits in a restaurant with her children, serving them with one hand while scrolling with the other. You probably know me as “that” mom—The Mom On Her Phone While Spending Time With Her Kids.
You may have wondered what kind of mother thinks her phone is more important than time with her kids. You might assume that I’m detached, distracted, unable to tear myself away from my self-serving screen time long enough to pay attention to what my kids are doing or saying.
But here’s what you don’t know.
When you see me at the park with my kids, that’s my break. See, we homeschool. I am with my kids, interacting with my kids, playing with my kids in various capacities all the livelong day. The park is one of the few places where I know all of the kids are busy and happy and rarely need anything from me. It’s actually a great place for me to kick back and catch up with some friends or get caught up on some work correspondence.
Oh, right. I haven’t mentioned that yet. In addition to homeschooling, I also work from home. I write for a living—a job that I love and which enables me to stay home and homeschool my kids. But the nature of that work and the structure of our life means that sometimes I have to proofread while my kids play at the park. Sometimes I have to respond to e-mails in the grocery line, ignoring them while they ask me for things I’ve already said no to. Sometimes I get a brilliant idea for an article while I’m at my kid’s karate class, so yes, I will peel my eyes away from my beloved progeny long enough to jot down some notes on my phone.
But that’s not all. As you can imagine, homeschooling and working from home can make it hard to get quality, sanity-saving adult time. So when you see me on my phone, I might be Facebooking old friends because maintaining relationships is healthy. I might be texting with my husband because my marriage is as important to me as my kids. I might be making travel plans to see my grandmother because she’s 90 and who knows how many more times I’ll get to see her. I might be having a Bitmoji conversation with my best friend because we’re silly that way, and those goofy interactions make the stresses inherent in my chosen life melt away.
This life I’ve chosen also requires a certain level of organization. So I might be using that time at the park to look up time management tips on my phone. I might be looking at recipes for quick and healthy dinners in the grocery store. When we’re at a restaurant, I might be checking my calendar to schedule one-on-one dates with each of my kids, because even though we spend every day together, it’s rare that I get quality time with them individually.
Some days, I might be going over our finances. I might be researching fun places to take the kids on a field trip. Or, I might be reading a book on my Kindle app—an indulgence I occasionally allow myself while my kids are occupied.
Essentially, my phone allows me to spend the majority of my time with my children without going broke or losing my mind. If I made it a rule to never be on my phone when my kids were around, I’d never be on my phone, and then I wouldn’t be able to live this crazy homeschooling/working-from-home life that I love.
Yes, you may have seen me. You may have internally shaken your head as I appeared to be more interested in my phone than my children. And in that moment, to be honest, I may have been. But you don’t know me, or any other stranger on her phone while her children are around. Maybe that mom just spent four hours straight interacting with her children. Maybe she’s doing the work she needs to do in order to afford to be home with her kids. Maybe she’s doing the self-care that we pay so much lip service to but have a hard time actually executing. I’m sure I’m not the only mom in those situations.
So when you see me on my phone, please don’t fret or judge my parenting. It’s all good. I’m not a detached mom, and my kids are not starved for my attention. They get plenty of me. In fact, they probably appreciate those phone breaks as much as I do.