Yesterday at the park, an older lady complimented me.
“Well done you for paying attention to your kids,” she said as she passed, “and not staring at your phone like they all do these days.”
The “they” she was referring to at this point was another mum, who was sat on a bench scrolling through her phone as her little girl tottered around in the sandpit a few feet away. She didn’t hear – or at least she didn’t acknowledge the lady – and I smiled, half-muttered something about them keeping me busy, and resumed my game of who-can-find-the-biggest-stick.
And as I did, I sat and thought about what she’d said. And I realised it wasn’t actually a compliment at all.
It was a dig.
The thing is, if that lady had come past a minute earlier, she would have seen me scrolling through my phone – head bent in concentration as my two children played in front of me. And you know what? I wasn’t even doing anything useful. Nope. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed.
I know – not my proudest parenting moment, but hear me out.
Before you report me to Social Services, it’s worth pointing out that, before that, I was doing a Tesco order for the following morning, because I’d run out of nappies. And before that, I was on the phone to the hospital rearranging a dermatology appointment for my little girl’s eczema. And before that, I was sending a photo of the kids in the park to my husband at work, via WhatsApp.
But no – exactly one minute before the lady came past, I was definitely scrolling through Facebook, not doing anything particularly useful.
And here’s the clincher.
I don’t think that makes me a bad mum.
My thinking is this. If I deem the 60 seconds my kids are happily hunting for sticks to be the best time to get a job done without them noticing, that’s my call. Yes, they probably do notice. They probably can see me in their peripheral vision. And yes, in an ideal world I would spend every second of every waking day with my eyes fixed on them. I love them to bits and I think they’re flippin’ amazing.
But this is not an ideal world. This is the real world. And to a degree, I do think they need to know that the shopping doesn’t order itself. That appointments don’t get arranged unless someone arranges them. That no, it may not be very exciting, but admin is a necessary part of life, and not all of it can wait until after bedtime.
And that, yes, sometimes – just sometimes – the kinds of games that entertain a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old just don’t quite hold mummy’s attention, and she needs a brain-break. That those brief 60 seconds snatched on social media are a tiny reminder that she is still a grown-up, and that in a funny way that’s just as important as the life admin.
Now, I can’t finish this post without a bit of an admission. I am constantly moaning at my husband to get off his phone at the weekend when we’re spending time as a family, because it drives me nuts – so yes, I’m being somewhat hypocritical here. But my husband isn’t a stranger, he’s my ‘other half’. We’re in this parenting thing together, so it makes sense that we’ll discuss (alright, argue) about how things are done, between the two of us.
This lady? She didn’t know me – or the other mum – from Adam. She didn’t know why the other mother was on her phone in that split second, or why I wasn’t. She just decided to judge – and we all do it – and to have a little dig as she went on her merry way.
I didn’t get a chance to say anything to her, of course – she was long gone by the time I turned around. And it’s probably for the best, because I think she had good intentions, and I realise technology was very different when she was my age.
But whether or not she was right, her passing comment has made me think twice about judging other mums and dads and the way they get through the day-to-day job of parenting.
It’s not easy. And none of us has all the answers. So shall we just agree to cut each other some slack?
Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) says
It’s so easy to judge and just assume that if you see someone on their phone while the kids are at the park that they’re just checking social media and ignoring their kids. Sometimes the phone is a life-saver – that 60seconds of just checking in and being reassured that you’re not alone on those days when you feel like you’re pulling your hair out. Yes, there are times when I know I should put the phone down and engage more with the kids but I also think they need to learn to play independently – if we gave them our undivided attention100% of the time, I don’t think that would be healthy either. Great post and good luck to you with the MADs #coolmumclub
It really is a life-saver Louise – I’d have gone mad on maternity leave without my phone. No joke. Thank you so much x
Nat halfpenny says
I don’t take my phone out with me that often (I know, I know I might as well have a landline!) but if we’re at the park I DO NOT run round round after my kids giving them every ounce of attention. I find a bench and sit, and woe betide anyone that needs to be pushed on a swing. It’s my me time! Great post with a very good point
Thank you Nat! I’ve found pushing a swing with a spare foot works a treat 😉 x
An excellent blog. Very honest and I completely agree with all the points you raise – well put.
Ah, thanks so much Alison!x
All people see is the looking on the phone part – they don’t see the 1001 other things we do with and for our children throughout the day. Anyway, this is the world we live in, and tech is at the heart of it. I think the sooner people accept that, the better! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely x
Abso-bloomin-lutely. There are lots of advantages of all this tech, and maybe it even gives us *more* time with our kids in the long-run, because of the amount of time it saves us?! I’ll keep telling myself that, anyway 😉 x
I have the same discussion with my hubby at weekends about his phone. You are totally right there is a time and place to scroll through social media and catch up on civilisation and you can do that and not ignore your children! It definitely doesn’t make anyone a bad parent by sometimes letting them play while you check your twitter or facebook #coolmumclub
I’m glad it’s not just me, Kirsty! I like the way you’ve called it a ‘discussion’ though – much more civilised 😉 x
Sometimes when I’m at the playground I’m looking at my phone, sometimes I’m not. I do think that its OK for kids to know that their parents might be interested in other things and not gazing at them adoringly all the time. In ye olden days the kids would’ve been off by themselves and we would have been beating clothes over a stone (or something, how did people used to wash clothes again?)
And yes, for the mother with her head in the phone, maybe that is the only time she gets to herself, Maybe when the kids are in the house they drive her mad, so they escape to the playground for a distraction for them and a break for her. Good for her. Totally agree we just need to give each other for a break.
Too flipin’ right. Mainly I’m just glad I don’t have to beat my clothes over a stone any more – I’d take a quick Facebook scroll over that any day 😉 x
oh I’m all for cutting us some slack and being a little more supportive of each other! Well done for being so honest! Made me giggle as I’ve written a post about being addicted to the phone – it’s on this linky too – I think we all are a little but it doesn’t make us bad parents! #coolmumclub
Haha, it must be the week for over-using our phones 😉 I look forward to reading! Thank you x
Oh man I tie myself in knots about this issue! I feel guilty about checking my phone (worrying that when my little ones become teenagers they’ll have their head stuck in some gadget and I won’t have a leg to stand on!) but at the same time, like you say, there are things that need to be done. It has also eased my conscience a bit with your comment about the social media being a way to be an adult – being a SAHM, I don’t get much grown-up conversation.
A very honest, thought-provoking post. Thanks! #coolmumclub
Thank you so much for reading, Lucy! I think we’re all the same really – just trying to do our best, and sometimes that means multitasking!!x
Someone once dared to make a comment about my phone use to my face at the park, sadly for them on that particular occasion I was dealing with a massive work complaint, I was not in a good mood, she got to find out. I think the thing is you just never know what is actually happening, I’m lucky that I get to spend time taking my son to the park because I can work from my phone and I think him getting 60% of my attention is better than none of it and heavens above we all need some time out every now and then and our phones offer that in a very easy format! #CoolMumClub
Too right! I’m using that 60% argument from now on – brilliant 🙂 Thank you for reading x
Rhyming with Wine says
Very well said. How’s about we give that mum a high five for getting out with her kids and taking them to the park to let them play. So she’s having a look at her phone? I think that’s allowed. I remember my parents wouldn’t go anywhere without a newspaper and I don’t think anyone ever tutted at them for it? I am very guilty of spending too much time on my phone which has become a bit of an obsession since I started blogging. I make a point of taking the kids somewhere for a few hours every day and leaving my phone at home just so that I’m not tempted to pick it up, but otherwise I’m on it far too often. If I wasn’t on my phone though I’m fairly sure I’d find something else to occupy my fuzzy brain as exactly like you say – the things that entertain my 1 and 3 year old can only hold my attention for so long before I start to go a little stir crazy. Less judgement and more mummy love and cake I say. Great post x
Thank you so much! I think I need to start leaving my phone at home for a bit actually – that’s a really good idea (what’s the betting I get locked out and can’t call anyone the first time I do this?!) I’ve just clicked over to your blog by the way and I’m in love!x
Fran @ Whinge Whinge Wine says
I’d go absolutely mad without my phone. I am so so so so so so bored of playing shops. So sue me. I didn’t take my phone with me to the park the other day and it was hell. HELL. #coolmumclub
Ha! I’ve never braved it and I’m not sure I’d cope – not least because the last time we went to the park (Friday) I had to call my mum to let us back in the house as I’d left the keys on the table 😕 Thank you for reading x
the Pigeon Pair and Me says
I grew up in the days when it was acceptable for parents to leave their kids in the car outside with a bag of crisps while they went into the pub for a few drinks. I think an occasional glance at a phone is much better parenting!
So true Nell! Thank you so much for reading x
A brilliant honest read. There are some days I feel pretty attached to my phone (Thursday’s!) and other days when I forget to look at it for hours on end. Being at home with the kids isn’t all baking cookies and singing nursery rhymes, if the kids are allowed a little zone out time with CBeebies, Mummy is allowed a little zone out time with Twitter. 😉
Thanks for linking to #coolmumclub
Pre-kids I really did think it’d be all rhymes and baking! Alas, it’s really not – and zone-out time is essential. Thanks so much for reading x
Right Royal Mother says
I sometimes think I’ll leave my phone at home as we are getting ready for yet another trip to the swings but, even though I have a double buggy, potty and large straining dog (i.e. REALLY no spare hands) somehow it always manages to balance on top of the trusty Phil & Ted’s. I’m with Fran. It would be HELL without it …
(Sort of) only joking. Truly though, I think phones have made it more possible for us to be present for our children which can only be a good thing. Everything in moderation … especially comments from older ladies 🙂 #fortheloveofblog
We’re all about the Phil & Ted’s! 🙂 It’s true – there are so many things I can get done on my phone that would take me three times as long without it. And I’m pretty sure the kids would rather play in the sandpit while I do a food shop on my phone for ten mins, than sit in a trolley while I drag them round a supermarket for an hour. Thank you for reading! x
Laura Threesypeasy says
It’s so easy to make assumptions about mums on phones you never know what they might be doing. I find mine I life saver; ordering a food shop, Internet shopping, doctors appointments. I agree it’s the real world and you just have to do what you have to do and so what if you want to have a couple minutes o favebook – we all need a little time out xx fab post!
Thanks so much Laura! Time out = sanity saver in my book x
You Baby me Mummy says
I love this post and I couldn’t agree with you more. I work while my daughter is in the room and people would drag me over hot coals for it but I have to and I want her to see her mum working hard and also realise the toys don’t buy themselves. I think people are too focused on phones/tech being negative and as such they are quick to judge. xx
Yep, I’m absolutely on that page. I try to limit the social stuff while they’re around (I say *try*) but if I’ve got to get appointments booked and Life Admin sorted then I just get on with it when I can. Thank you for reading.
Sarah Rooftops says
Well said! The message at the moment seems to be to pay full attention to our kids 100% of the time… but, at the same time, we’re told to “set a good example by letting them see you read” and “let them learn to deal with their own boredom instead of fussing over them all the time”. It’s contradictory. I want my daughter to be able to function in the modern tech-heavy world; as long as she learns how to do that politely and sensibly, that’s the important thing.
Ha, so true about the contradiction! Sometimes I fear we can do no right… thanks for reading 🙂
Mummy Muckups (Anna) says
Well said! I totally use park time (some of it) as phone time. I am at home with my two small kids all day. I don’t get a lunch break, or a train ride to work to check out my phone; heck, some days I don’t even get a private toilet break. Amen for phones, that remind us that there is a world outside our little castles.