I’m late to the party in responding to the viral blog post called Dear Mom On the iPhone: Let Me Tell You What You Don’t See wherein a writer oh-so-gently admonishes a mom at a park to look away from her phone in order to participate more fully in the fleeting, idyllic moments of childhood. I tried to ignore the piece but I can’t. It’s making me so mad that I need to say something about it.
First of all, it’s a syrupy concern troll piece of buttinsky-ism designed to elicit maximum guilt (if you’re reading it on a smartphone while your kids are around) or maximum smugness (if you waited until the kids were in bed to read it). Second, it violates my most sacredly held rule of dealing with other parents: You Don’t Know.
What do I mean by You Don’t Know? I mean I see strangers do stuff that I may think I don’t approve of but I don’t actually know why they’re doing it so I need to check myself. Here’s an example of my You Don’t Know inner dialogue.
Judgy Voice In My Head: Gosh, that kid seems awfully big for a stroller. Why doesn’t his mom make him walk?
Smack Down Voice In My Head: Shut up, Judgy Voice. You don’t know why that kid is in a stroller so pull your panties out of that wad and move on.
You don’t know why a parent is doing what they’re doing. You don’t know and you shouldn’t condemn them for it. Want examples? Ok. A friend of a friend left a restaurant in tears after multiple people made remarks about her daughter’s weight. What they didn’t know is that the daughter is in treatment for cancer and her appearance is due to the effects of steroids she takes. This was the first time in a long time that she’d been well enough for a nice outing and it was ruined by people who don’t know insulting her.
Or the piece my friend Joslyn wrote about grief a mother and her son got because he was using the women’s restroom. Why was he in there? I don’t know. And neither does anyone besides that woman and her son. There was probably a perfectly good reason and making them feel bad serves no purpose.
So, when you see a mom on her phone at the park, you don’t know what’s going on there and you shouldn’t immediately leap to judge her. Maybe she’s texting her brother about care for their mother with Alzheimer’s. Maybe she’s a Sheryl Sandberg devotee “leaning in” to some opportunity that will make her family’s life better. Maybe she’s arranging for a friend to meet her at the park. Or maybe she’s just plain fed up and she knows if she tried to interact with her kids she’d just yell at them so she chose fresh air and a few rounds of Candy Crush Saga because it’s the lesser of evils. You. Don’t. Know.
We have all got to give each other a break. Modern parenting is hard. We’re isolated, overextended, and bombarded daily with information that undermines our confidence in what we’re doing in. We don’t need to add troll-y blog posts and judgy strangers to our list of stressors. And we sure as hell don’t need to become trolls and make other parents feel worse. Assume the best about other parents. None of us know enough to do otherwise.
Photo credit: photo stock
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