A video came up on my facebook timeline today with a “YOU MUST WATCH THIS OR DIE” kind of clickbait title. Normally I’d just sail on by, but it was posted by a friend who doesn’t often share things so I assumed it might actually be worth watching. It only took a couple of seconds for me to realise that it’s a video version of an outworn meme that’s been trolling round the internet for a couple of years now.
I refuse to link to it, but let me give you a precis – there’s a man on a bench and he’s playing on his phone. He is, in fact, so damn busy on his phone that he doesn’t see a woman with a bag full of groceries trip and fall on her face at his feet.
Then there’s a mum playing on her phone while her kid tries to ride her bike, but the kid gives up because, obviously, ‘mommy just doesn’t give a fuck’. (Yes, that was sarcasm).
A dad misses his kid’s football goal because he leaps up to take a call on his mobile, apparently little Jimmy means fuck all to his Pop.
A teenage girl getting ready for prom and coming down the stairs, but her mum is typing away at the old computer keyboard and doesn’t even realise she’s left. The girl shakes her head sadly then leaves with her date. Oh it’s so sad – mommy doesn’t give a shit here either.
Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.
Yes, modern life is very connected, we have smart phones and devices that allow us to be online 24/7 if we so wish. But you know what – those devices allow us to disconnect ourselves from our desks in a way that we just couldn’t previously. Perhaps the dad at the football game was only able to be there at all because he wasn’t having to wait in the office for CEO Blogs to call about the big deal he’d brokered.
Perhaps the mum was only able to be out there with her kids, letting them ride their bikes, because modern technology had enabled her to run her own business from home, but she still needs to actually do some work even though she’s out there with her kids.
The video massively over-exaggerates these peoples’ focus on their devices – of course you’d notice someone faceplanting on your Converse and let me tell you you’d damn well hear the kid whining for some help on the bike, and there’s no way a mum wouldn’t be there helping her daughter get ready for prom, no matter how urgent the work.
It just really rattles my bars that there is a constant overwhelming pressure on parents to be entirely focused on their children at all times to the exclusion of all else and that a parent using a mobile device must, therefore, be neglecting their child in some way.
Modern technology is an absolute lifesaver in this age of modern disconnect. Quite apart from the flexible working opportunities it offers, it allows you to find other people who can offer support that’s often not available in this very insular, isolating modern society where you mostly live surrounded by friends and family who you grew up with.
I’ve joined online ante-natal groups with both my kids. The first group I am heavily dependent on for advice and support, the latter group I am one of the more experienced parents and can often offer some suggestions or support to the newer mums. (I am still very proud of my ‘breastfeeding guru’ status that was awarded during the early months.)
Being able to contact these other mums at all times of day or night, sharing disaster and triumph, has been incredible. It’s seen us through feeding, weaning, teething, tantrums, chicken pox, tonsilitis, grommets, sick bugs, A&E trips, club foot, sibling rivalry, PND, PTSD, family bereavements, breast cancer, surgeries, second and third babies, secondary infertility, miscarriage, multiple relationship breakups, domestic abuse, toxic parents & in-laws, mental health crises, weight loss, financial issues – just off the top of my head. When you see a parent on their phone you can’t know what the story is behind it, they may be seeking or offering support that is vital to the person who needs it.
Even ignoring the big stuff, often I’m sending photos of the kids to The Man, so he can feel involved in their day to day life, or I’m asking his advice on how to deal with a current parenting issue – or even checking for professional advice. Maybe I’m booking tickets to an event or checking whether toddler group is on next week. Just because the way we organise our life has changed it doesn’t mean it’s for the worse. Perhaps in the past I’d be flicking through my filofax instead of checking my Google Calendar – don’t you dare judge unless you know the circumstances.
My children are well fed on wholesome food, they’re clean, healthy, cared for by a mother who is with them every second of the day and cares deeply about their well being. Even if I was taking 5 minutes out while they’re in the playground to read a blog post or play a game of solitaire that does not mean I’m failing to connect with my children, it just means my tank is empty and I’m trying to fill it back up with a snatched moment of mental solitude.
So, fellow parents, unless your child is juggling knives while you merrily, obliviously play Candy Crush then please don’t feel guilty about using your phone. All any of us can do is our best and for me and, I am sure, many others, being able to work part time, on the move, whilst caring for our kids is the very best situation. And being able to do it as a team, with our co-parent and with other parents? Even better.