Haven’t you read the articles and blog posts about the importance of giving your full attention to your child and not to a lifeless electronic object? The ones about how much your child needs your active presence and not your passive oversight? The ones about your child’s precious personality and how that child thrives on your interaction which you deprive them of when you interact with your phone instead? What about the ones about the brevity of their youth and liveliness and how you better take advantage of all the moments now before they are gone forever?
I’ve read them. Several of them in the past year. They’ve been so inspiring.
And so guilt-inducing. They made me self-conscious every time I pulled out my phone when I was in public with my children.
But I know where you’re at. I’m there too. And I don’t think it’s wrong.
Looking at your phone instead of your child may not be the best thing you can do to nurture your child in that moment but it may be the only thing you can do in that moment.
It may be that you’re adding a reminder to your never-ending to-do-list that would otherwise vanish into the vast emptiness of your “memory” if you didn’t add it in those few seconds.
It’s quite possible that you’re Googling sleep-solutions because it’s the only way you can keep your eyelids pried open so that you don’t collapse onto the park bench and get mistaken for a bum (especially with all the baggage it takes to get from the house to the park with a couple of kids).
Or maybe you’re Pinning recipes, trying to find the one recipe you can make work for dinner tonight, using the hodge-podge of groceries left in the fridge between shopping trips.
You could be texting your husband (first chance to do so today!) to check in on his day (or if it’s been a really rough morning, to desperately check his ETA this evening).
Or maybe you do look like you’re semi-interacting with your child, because you’re snapping their picture to upload to Instagram.
How else are you going to let extended family know you still exist, since you don’t have time to answer their phone calls?
God-forbid you’re on Facebook catching up with friends. You’re already on a “play-date” with your mom-friends, aren’t you?!
…Let me just say, if you still think a play-date is opportunity for quality adult social interaction, you obviously don’t have young kids. Facebook may just be our only adult social interaction this week.
The fact of the matter is, sitting on that park bench, phone in hand, the screen’s warm rays glowing in your face, may just be the only five minutes of (relative) peace and quiet you get before bedtime. (Nap time isn’t what they promise you. Despite all the well-wishing older women who encourage you to use that time to “nap” yourself, you know that if you actually did, the household really, truly would finally collapse from utter neglect.)
That five minutes, inbetween breaking up a squabble over who gets what swing and kissing the owie acquired by falling off said swing, may just be the only moment you get to mentally and emotionally recharge (especially for those of us who are naturally introverts) before diving back into the carousel of motherhood with it’s incessant demands for not just mental attentiveness and physical exertion but also emotional outpouring, so much so that you begin to wonder who cries more: you or the baby.
Moms, you are the mender, the healer, the carer, the giver, the supporter, the cheerleader, you name it. Your child knows that. Five minutes on your phone is not going to change your child’s perspective of you. It’s not going to damage your relationship with them. It’s not going to stunt their development. It IS going to reassure them that you are there and that you do prioritize them because you DO put down your phone when your child needs you (or a band-aid, or a juice-box, or a potty-break). You DO look up at them when they call for your attention as they hang upside-down on the monkey-bars for the hundredth time that day. You DO allow your brain to overflow and become immensely scattered as you respond to every demand from every direction, (often via your phone): home, church, job, family, friends, and of course, those sweet, sweet children.
And you know what else? You DO take that five minutes to disappear into the land of Smart-Phonia (and, yes, even Social Media), to unwind, to reset. You take that breather so that when the bell rings, you can dive back into the game with as much gusto as ever. You know your limits and you do what it takes to not surpass those limits so that you can continue be the giving, caring, active parent that you need to be. And you pray. You beg for grace. You join arms (often electronically) with the other mothers out there on their knees, thankful when you’ve made it through one more day, when you’ve advanced your child one day further into this crazy adventure called life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting all those articles out there encouraging you to get off your phone so you can be a more active and involved parent. I think they provide an immensely valuable reminder of how priceless the role and responsibilities of a parent are. I have been sincerely inspired and challenged by them to sacrifice myself even more to be as much of a parent as I can be, by God’s strength and grace.
But I wanted to make sure you know there’s validity to the other side of the story. There’s validity to using your phone, even as an occasional escape, even in the presence of your children.
Now, let’s not use that to justify laziness or selfishness BUT let’s use it to become stronger women, more gracious to our children, and more compassionate to our fellow mom. Let’s recharge, let’s plan our meals, let’s build and fulfill our to-do lists but let’s also not neglect our true source of power and peace because Facebook and even parenting forums cannot provide the wisdom and grace parenting requires.
Let me remind you as I remind myself that five minutes of Scripture reading, meditating, and prayer can give us so much more than any Instagram update. It’s okay to let our children see us on the phone. But it’s empowering (to us and to them) to let our children see us pray.