Parenting Without Technology: How The Hell Did They Do It?

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
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As delightful as parenting can be (stay with me here), as rewarding a journey, as enjoyable an experience, there are downsides.

Shocking, I know. Who’d have thought that dedicating the lion’s share of your life to preparing other, dumber, younger people to live their own lives would occasionally be a drag? Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is. Not all the time, but a fair amount of the time. Maybe even more than it isn’t. Of course, the peaks always outperform the valleys, and even if there are fewer of them, they still matter more and linger longer.

The key is surviving the valleys. And that’s not always easy. But you know what? It’s easier now than ever before! Because technology.

Even if you disagree with me and you think parenting is a nonstop cavalcade of joyous innocence, blissful memories, and perspective-shifting epiphanies, you can at least admit this: parenting can be boring.

When your kids are babies or toddlers, your time is occupied just keeping them alive, clean, and fed.

There is simply no way to keep your kids occupied and stimulated and happy all the time, and even if there were, there would be no way you could do that without wanting to hang yourself. Because the things kids love to do? Aren’t the things adults love to do. Sure, there’s some overlap. I love spending time with my two sons, building pillow forts, playing with Lego, chasing each other around the den. But not only does that stuff tire my adult body out — it gets old fast.

Sometimes I need a break. Maybe just to recharge; maybe to do some housework or pay some bills; maybe to do some actual work that I couldn’t get to at the office; maybe just to have some adult time. You don’t know my life, get off me! In those situations, you know what I do? Give my kid my phone, or the tablet, or throw on Netflix, and buy myself a half an hour or two. It’s not only a life-saver, it’s a necessity.

I don’t know how my parents did it. Or how their parents did it. (I do know how my parents’ parents’ parents did it though: They sent the kids out to harvest the crops, or to their shift at the factory.) Keeping kids occupied is a full-time gig. To wit: I’m typing this just moments after my son whined “I’m bored!” at 9:24 a.m. on his first day of summer break. Interacting with them is essential and fun, but there’s nothing wrong with bowing out once in a while to handle your own business. And all the gadgets we have at our disposal make that easier than ever.

Yes, there are some problematic aspects and ramifications related to relying too much on technology to occupy our kids (and ourselves), but there are also benefits — for both of us. When used in moderation, technology is essential and nourishing. And not only are their countless teaching apps and games for them to use, if you think knowing how to use technology isn’t going to continue to be an essential skill as they grow up, you’re insane.

Maybe you think that’s a rationalization, and if I were someone who let my iPad babysit my 5-year-old, I might agree with you. But I don’t. I limit his screen time, and I will continue to. But sometimes I’ll let him indulge, especially if it’s convenient for me.

I’d rather my rambunctious, clingy 5-year-old take my phone, play a game for a little while, and grant me a modicum of time to myself than find myself stressed and snapping at him merely for having too much energy for me to handle.

I’m simply not ashamed of occasionally needing a breather from my children, and nothing allows me to do that like a little technology.

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