Recently, a Facebook post, from a mom who insists that we all put our phones down when our children are around, has gone viral. She traded her phone for a pen and paper and tallied up her children’s glances in her direction.
28 times my loves would have questioned if they were alone emotionally. 28 times my kids would have been reassured that who you are online is what really matters
It made me think. Of those 28 times, how many times were they just glancing that direction? How many times were they just looking to make sure she was still there? How many of those 28 times would they have actually questioned their mother’s love, had she been on her phone? If they needed her, would they not have made noise or called her name?
Of course no one would argue that our children need to know we are there for them, that we love them above all else, that they are number one in our hearts and our lives. No one would argue that our kids do need our interaction but our children do also need independent play. There are many times in a day where our very presence in the room is all they need; to know that if they need us that we are there.
Like many parents, I spend 24/7 with my kids. Every day I homeschool, I play with them, I read to them, I bath them, I feed them, I clean with them, I clean up after them, I talk to them, I cuddle them etc. If they’re playing quietly with toys, watching some science experiments on Youtube or coloring a picture (which I will stop everything to look at when they come to show me) you are damn right I will take 5 minutes to get on Facebook and post some pictures, catch up with my friends, or just read some ridiculous comments under a political article. Some times I just need to give myself some entertainment that’s more adult than a 6 year old, 3 year old or two 7 month olds can provide me.
There are 24 hours in a day, 168 in a week, 3648 in a year. It would be a disservice to my kids to not allow them time to play on their own, without me guiding and affirming every single action.
It’s a balance!
I will drop everything in a heartbeat if someone tries to talk to me, if someone needs my help or attention. I will not shame parents who do not touch technology while their children are awake if that is their choice and how they want to parent. I will also not shame the mother at the park who’s checking her Facebook and occasionally glancing up to make sure her child is still okay playing with his/her friends, new and old. Sometimes, I am that parent. At home, I am often that parent.
As a stay at home mom, I am very isolated. With 4 kids, especially 2 being infants, and it being winter in Canada, there are times I go days without much adult connection. Social media is often my only way of getting that. It keeps me sane. Don’t shame me for that, because I am certain that my kids appreciate my sanity over the hour or 2 a day (broken up, at that) that I’m not sitting in the corner staring at them while they are playing together, or by themselves.
We’ve all seen the comment in just about every discussion thread on Facebook; someone gets frustrated with another comment and responds with “get off Facebook and stop neglecting your kids”. It’s the go to insult when an argument falls apart in a mom group. As if the choice is between social media and our kids and there can be no in between. I’ve even had friends message me about mutual friends to judge their TV watching.
She has three kids. How does she watch so much TV? I get an hour a day with 2 kids and that’s when they go to bed. She must be neglecting her kids
Here’s my second admission: I watch way too much TV. I have TiVo and pause my shows when the kids need help. It may take me 4 hours to get through this week’s Supernatural but I will get through it and find out what trouble Sam and Dean got themselves into this week. I am also an incredible multi-tasker; as I write this I am also messaging two friends on Facebook, I’ve texted my dad a few times and I am watching my daily re-run of M*A*S*H. I will be interrupted 50 times before I am done this or the show but I will get both done and will do so without my kids feeling neglected physically or emotionally.
My sanity requires my daily dose of Hawkeye and BJ, it requires my connection with my Facebook friends. Some days it just plain requires cat videos. Trust me when I tell you my kids will thank me for the breaks I took for my own sanity before I got over-worked, overwhelmed and cranky. If my greatest failure as a mom is that I watch some TV, or talk to friends on Facebook then I consider myself a huge success.
Like I said, this is a balance which means there are plenty of times when the phones, tablets and TV should be shut down.
Dinner Family dinner is such an amazing time to bond, to talk, to joke, to laugh. Something about conversing around food just makes it better. This is a great time to keep your focus on your family and nothing else.
When your kids need you Once they are verbal, or even just vocal, they’ll let you know when they need you. When a child is pulling on your shirt, or yelling “Mom, come play” put your phone down.
When your child is reading to you At a certain point in life, your kids will start reading. It will be slow, it will be tedious, you’ll likely be tempted to just quickly check why your phone just buzzed. They’ll notice. Put the phone down.
Bedtime Another great bonding time. Maybe you read and then cuddle, maybe you do bathtime first, maybe you just tuck them in and turn on the nightlight. These are all times where the phone can be left in the living room.
So next time you see a mom at the playground on her phone, occasionally glancing up to check on her child, don’t judge. She may be trying to encourage her child to be more social with other kids, her kid may be sick of mom and needing a break, she may be needing a break from her child. This may be the first time she’s texted her mom all week, this may be the first time all day she’s been able to check her bank account, maybe she has a job and needs to check in, she may even just be watching cat videos on Youtube; none of the above matters. Children need to know we are always there for them but they don’t need us to hover over them every second of every day. There is a difference between getting on Facebook and completely neglecting our children. Find the balance for your family and don’t judge others for the balance that works for them and their family.