Hi there, Mom,
Yes, I saw you pointedly staring at me with pursed lips from across the playground as I scrolled through the e-mails on my iPhone while my kid played. And I know exactly what message you were trying to send my way. You were definitely a contender for the playground’s Good Mom award that day, helping your child go down the slide, laughing and clapping as she twirled in her dress, and serving up homemade bran muffins and sugar-free organic apple juice on a nearby picnic table for her snack. Good for you, Mom. I have absolutely no problem with that.
I kept a close eye on my kid that day, too, but he had made a few friends over at the swings and I wasn’t about to interfere with their Star Wars game. So I pulled out my iPhone and answered a few work e-mails. That’s how I got your attention, isn’t it? Trust me, I felt the heat from your laser beam gaze the whole time I was typing. You probably even went home and wrote a blog post about it.
Well, I decided to answer your letter because I was in your shoes once, Mama. I thought I knew not only what was best for me as a parent, but also what was best for everyone else out there– and I wasn’t afraid to let them know it, on my blog and in person.
But let me tell you, Mom, time has a way of changing your perspective. Between my stepdaughters, who lived with us until college, and my own two kids, I’ve been parenting now for ten years. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there is no foolproof formula for making kids turn out right. Every mom out there has her own set of strengths and weaknesses, her own style of parenting, her own way of relating to her kids and teaching them what they need to know. Every mom has her good days and her bad ones. Every mom desperately wants what’s best for her kids. Her way is not necessarily your way– and that’s okay.
Or at least, it should be.
It took me a long time to get past the pressures of appearing to be perfect. I tried hard to be like all the other moms at the playground, with their immaculate designer outfits and their unstained, monogrammed diaper bag and their organic puffs and their squeaky-clean minivans. But over the years, I realized that a mother could get so caught up in worrying about what everyone else thought of her that she wasn’t necessarily worrying enough about what her own kids thought of her. I certainly didn’t like the feeling of being judged by others for some of the small decisions I made each day as a mom. Who was I to judge other moms for their choices?
So let’s get back to that iPhone, shall we? When I used my iPhone on the playground that day, you decided that I was ignoring my child and not appreciating the golden, fleeting years of his youth.
What you didn’t know was that my iPhone is a key reason that I’m able to work from home and spend almost every day with my kids. I am extraordinarily grateful to be able to set my own schedule, spend hours and hours of quality time with my kids, and still have a career and bring in income for my family. And if that means that I have to answer e-mails here and there throughout the day in order to make it possible, I’m happy to do it.
Why can’t you be happy for me?
Let me give you another scenario. I know plenty of stay-at-home moms whose iPhones have allowed them to keep in touch with friends and family members, making them feel connected to other adults throughout the day even though they’re spending mind-numbing amounts of time with their little ones. Sure, motherhood is filled with poignant moments that pass all too soon. But let’s be honest- It can also be incredibly boring. If a mom wants to spend a few minutes texting about shoes with her best friend while her kid plays on the playground, that’s fine with me.
Why can’t it be fine with you?
Other times, I’ve used my iPhone to make a grocery list, get directions to a birthday party, reserve books at the library, and perform many other mundane little tasks that every mom throughout the day does on a regular basis. If I choose to do that on the playground, seriously, Mama.
What’s it to you?
Do you see all the ways I engage my child when I’m home with him for hours each day and nobody’s watching? Do you see the mornings I get up early and the nights I stay up late to do work so that I can focus on him while he’s awake? Do you see the thousands of photos I’ve taken of him and the hundreds of blog posts I’ve written about him, trying desperately to capture every fleeting wonderful moment of his childhood so that I never ever forget this time?
No. You see me on my iPhone for five minutes. And you make me, and hundreds of others like me, feel guilty about it.
Trust me, Mama. I have enough Mom Guilt as it is.
When I write about failures and shortcomings and bad parenting, I have learned over time to try and limit those discussions to my own mistakes– because really, that’s all I’m qualified to discuss. It took me a while to figure this out. Here’s hoping you get the message sooner than I did.
Been there, done that, over it,
Image via Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr