The other day, Strollerderby blogger Danielle Sullivan shared her top 5 parenting pet peeves and asked readers to weigh in. Predictably, one reader named parents who text or look at their cell phones while in restaurants or at the park as one of her top pet peeves.
I say “predictably” because it’s one of those things I hear other moms complaining about pretty often.
It’s even something I found myself feeling judgy about last time I saw a mom texting at the park, until I realized, oops, that could be me!
Here’s the thing: I know it’s rude to Tweet during dinner or yap obliviously on the phone while the cashier is trying to make an actual human connection as she gives you your change. That’s why I rarely answer my phone when out and about, and almost always leave it in my purse when I’m doing something that requires concentration or conversation.
That said, sometimes sitting on the park bench, or while waiting for the school play to start? I have my phone in hand.
Here’s my defense: as a work-at-home mom with a child-friendly, flexible schedule, the fact that I have a smartphone is what allows me to be sitting at the park with my kids at 1 in the afternoon in the first place. It’s what makes those afternoons playing hooky at the beach or zoo or gardens possible. Once the majority of my “thinking work” is done for the day, I’m free to take off with my kids because I know if any little issues come up, I can handle them on the fly.
Sometimes that half-hour on the park bench is actually the best time of day to attend to email or other little work details. None of the kids notice that I’m not paying complete attention to them, because none of them are paying any attention at all to me.
That’s not to say I sit glued to my phone texting away while my kids play in traffic or perform Sleeping Beauty. But yeah, if I’m waiting for them at the playground, I check my email every few minutes. If we’re at the zoo, I’ll check my messages at least once every half-hour or so. And if we’re out to dinner, I might even give my missed call record a surreptitious glance under the table.
And what’s so wrong with that, working or not? Is there any parent alive who is fully present at every single second of every single day: never distracted, never thinking about work or new curtains or that annoying comment she read on a blog earlier? Have none of us ever read a blog post lambasting parents for ignoring their kids while, well, kind of ignoring our own kids in order to read the post?
I spend plenty of time engaging, interacting, and conversing with my kids, but I promise you, they do not need to be the center of my universe during every waking moment. We are not bad parents if we don’t spend every single second reveling in our child’s mad monkey-bar skillz, and I don’t really see the harm in checking Facebook from the bench, whether you’re doing it for work or play.
Yes, a mobile technology culture has its downsides. Everywhere I go, I see people looking down into little screens instead of connecting with the people in front of them. On the other hand, while technology is a double-edged sword, it’s definitely made it possible for me to combine work and family life in a way my mother could never have imagined.
And honestly? Sometimes the park is boring, and a little Words with Friends helps pass the time so my kids can play a little longer before the five-minute warning.
Do you text, tweet, play games or check email from the park bench? Do you ever feel bad about it?
More about moms and cell phones! I need my cell phone, but that doesn’t make me a bad parent