The other day I was surfing the radio and I landed on a discussion on talk radio about parents who text when they are with their children — in the park, at home, wherever. The debate centered around one mother having witnessed another mother sitting on a bench texting on her phone instead of interacting with her child on the playground. The eyewitness mom had a real problem with the texting mom — she really felt like the texting mom was neglecting her little one. The radio host was inviting people to call in and give their opinions. Texting while parenting: good or bad? I couldn’t call; I had reached my destination. But my first thought was this: parents need to stop judging each other. Just. Stop.
We should know better! Being a parent is hard. Every parent is different, and every parent needs to determine a way of parenting that works for them and for their children. It’s not really for the rest of us to say what that should look like. If children are fed and cared for and if there is love — the rest is really up to each family to decide. (Yes, there are exceptions to every rule and no, I’m not going to discuss them here.) As a Geek Girl, and a parent, I am so deeply appreciative of how technology has enabled me to be a more present, available mother that I want to talk about it here.
I was raised in a home where both my parents worked. I grew up in a relatively small town in Michigan where most moms (or at least the mothers of my friends) either did not work, or did not have jobs that kept them very far away from their families. Not so in our house. My mom is a physician, and when I was a kid she was at the height of her career. I know that my mother’s career shaped my view of the world and, more specifically, my sense of what the world had to offer me. I never doubted my potential. But when I look back on my childhood, I don’t remember my mother ever coming to a playground with me. When she talks about me as an infant, she says she changed maybe a handful of diapers. My father and other caregivers did the bulk of the diaper changing. My goal, as a parent, was to be more present for my little guy. Technology: my laptop, my mobile device and wi-fi, has allowed me to do exactly that.
My work is such that, if I don’t have client meetings scheduled, I can do it from just about anywhere. Deadlines are my only real time constraints. Certainly, the world expects me to be available and in my office during general business hours, but there’s a lot of flexibility there. Thanks to technology, I am not tethered to my place of business, or a desk, or a desktop computer, or even hours in the day. My mobile device allows me the freedom to be physically present for my son, while also being easily accessible to my staff. Am I ever entirely focused on my phone while I am with my son? I really hope not. But sometimes I have to strike an unpleasant balance. Sometimes I do have to answer a call or a text or spend more time dealing with an issue than I would prefer. But that’s the deal: I get to go to the playground, or take off early to go play, or stay home and take care of him when he’s sick. And our family has worked out a schedule that means limited daycare time for him in any given week. We’re comfortable with daycare, too, because of the social interaction with other kids. I feel good about the balance we’ve been fortunate enough to strike. But here’s the deal: I can only speak for what works for ME and MY family. I have no business judging anyone else’s choices. It’s also probably not healthy for me to compare myself to other mothers. There are always mothers better than me, more available, making cupcakes, or scrapbooks or knitting hats. I can only do the best that I can do.
My 3-year-old has opinions. It isn’t unusual for him to slam my laptop shut if I am working on a Saturday and he’s had enough. I get frustrated, sure. But I also listen to him. I walk away when he needs me to. I guess it’s just like anything — balance is critical. It makes no sense for me to go to the park and entirely ignore my child. There are times when I owe my son and my family my complete attention. Mornings, mealtimes, bedtime: those are sort of sacred around here. (Again, there are exceptions to every rule, and no, I’m still not discussing them here.) There are also times when I owe my business or my clients my complete attention. The rest of the time my life looks like something in between. Because, it’s about that balance.
So, if you see me in the park with my kid, cell phone in hand, texting madly just know this: I’m doing my best. I’m conscious of my choices. And technology has allowed me to be present for him. I am paying attention to my life. And other moms (especially the judgmental ones) should just pay attention to theirs.