Now I know I told you this would be a continuation of the Mental Health topic, and it will be, but I just want to pause for a moment and talk about a link I've seen going around Facebook. This blog post, called "Dear mom on the iPhone: Let me tell you what you don't see," has been getting shared by my friends who, I notice, largely don't comment about the share. Now I was curious about it so I read it.
Oh. Wow. Okay, now I agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise, the "we need to let our kids know that they are more important than our smartphones." Yes. Absolutely. But I do not agree with this blog post at all. In fact, reading it made me angry and annoyed because it is exactly these kinds of blog posts that are feeding into our neurosis. It is bad enough that weigh ourselves down with layer upon layer of guilt; we don't need to do it TO EACH OTHER.
Last time I was talking about all the different pressures that women have in America today, to work and to stay home, to keep a clean house and to play with our children, to be strong and productive in society without losing our femininity while at the same time not being a slave to false stereotypes about women. I was talking about us forgiving ourselves and was going to get to focusing on the good things we do and how talking about it can help, and why learning cognitive behavioral therapies can help us balance our lives and like ourselves.
And then we get smacked with judgements like these. "You are doing a great job with your kids: You work hard, you teach them manners, have them do their chores. But Momma, let me tell you what you don't see right now..." and then the post proceeds to say that by taking the kids to the park and then not responding to their desires for attention you are damaging their self-esteem. Like this one, "Your little boy keeps shouting, "Mom, MOM watch this!" I see you acknowledge him, barely glancing his way.
He sees that too. His shoulders slump, but only for a moment, as he finds the next cool thing to do."
And we pass it around because we don't want to be the one to argue with it, we don't want to be that "Mom on the iPhone." But we don't comment on the story when we share it, either, because secretly we're resenting it. We don't have to secretly resent it. The author of the blog post does say, "I am not saying it's not OK to check in on your phone, but it's a time-sucker: User beware!" so we have permission to check our phones but not to use them. And after we're given permission we get this smack in the face, "You've shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are. They see you looking at it at while waiting to pick up brother from school, during playtime, at the dinner table, at bedtime."
Why are we doing this to each other? Why do we think it's okay to be down on other women, other mothers, like this? Again, yes, I agree with the premise of the article. I even agree with the caution the author is trying to convey- your phone shouldn't be more important to you than your kids. But you need time to be yourself, and being a parent is harder now than ever before. Generations before us would drop us off at lessons and go do something; we're expected to wait, and watch, the entire time. Kids used to be sent out to ride bikes or go play without parental involvement. Now, tell me you've never seen a group of kids playing and thought, "Where are their parents?!" because parenting has become a 24-7 thing. We center our lives around them and take them everywhere with us. Sometimes we need a break from each other so they don't become dependent on us for their self-worth and so we can be reminded that there is a person inside the job description.
I have something to say to that mom on her iPhone. Good job for taking your kids to the park. Thank you for going with them. Thank you for looking up to check on what your son is doing, dressing your daughter in dresses she can twirl in and combing her long hair so that it shines in the sunlight. Well done pushing your baby in the baby swing. I don't know what's going on in your life; you could be checking your email because your mom wrote all about the serious surgery your sister just had and you want to make sure she's okay. You could be looking for a new home in a nicer neighborhood with better schools for your kids. You could be networking for the business that you run from home so you can be at home with your kids. Or you could be playing Angry Birds, because you've been with your three small children all day and need a mental break so you don't have a mental breakdown.
I don't know why you're on your phone. But you know playtime at the park won't last forever, so you brought them to the park where they can be outside and with other children while you take a mental break instead of parking them in front of the TV. Don't feel bad about yourself. Being on the phone at the park doesn't mean you're on the phone during dinner or texting while you're driving.
And for everyone else at the park, good job for taking your kids to the park. Isn't the sunshine beautiful? Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the day. We need to give ourselves a break and extend that same courtesy to others. Remember that I agree with you, that we need to live in the moment and not through our phones, but we need to cut each other some slack. Our mental health and well being depends on it.