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AmityD

The blog post that made me feel GUILTY

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AmityD

I just read something that made me feel guilty. Not just a little guilty, heavy grade, industrial strength mother guilt.

 

It was on a blog site someone alerted me to, suggesting I should read it. So I clicked the link, scrolled down and as the words sunk in I knew she was talking about me.

 

And my husband.

 

And possibly you.

 

The post was titled ‘How To Miss A Childhood’ by the blogger Hands Free Mama. You can read it here. It began with an email she received from a concerned reader, who has been caring for babies since 1977. It read…

 

“I can recall a time when you were out with your children you were really with them. You engaged in a back and forth dialog even if they were pre-verbal. You said, ‘Look at the bus, see the doggie, etc.’ Now I see you on the phone, pushing your kids on the swings while distracted by your devices. You think you are spending time with them but you are not present really. When I see you pick up your kids at day care while you’re on the phone, it breaks my heart. They hear your adult conversations. What do they overhear? What is the message they receive? I am not important; I am not important.”

 

Urgh. Hit me where it hurts, why don’t you.

 

Reading this made me think of being at the park with my daughter last week, when I pushed the swing while checking my emails. It made me cringe as I thought of my son pulling my face to look at his as he spoke, instead of at my phone. It made me feel bad.

 

It went on to spell out a check-list on ‘How to miss a childhood.’

 

- Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority.

 

- Carry your phone around so much that when you happen to leave it in one room your child will come running with it proudly in hand—treating it more like a much needed breathing apparatus than a communication device

 

- Take your children to the zoo and spend so much time on your phone that your child looks longingly at the mother who is engaged with her children and wishes she was with her instead.

 

- While you wait for the server to bring your food or the movie to start, get out your phone and stare at it despite the fact your child sits inches away longing for you talk to him.

 

- Go to your child’s sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she won’t notice that you are not fully focused on her game.

 

- Check your phone first thing in the morning … even before you kiss, hug, or greet the people in your family.

 

- Don’t look up from your phone when your child speaks to you or just reply with an “uh huh” so she thinks you were listening.

 

- Give an exasperated sigh when your child asks you to push her on the swing. Can’t she see you’re busy?

 

- Use drive time to call other people regardless of the fact you could be talking to your kids about their day—or about their worries, their fears, or their dreams.

 

- Read email and text messages at stoplights. Then tell yourself that when your kids are old enough to drive they won’t remember you did this all the time.

 

At that point I almost had to stop reading, as it dawned on me that I am guilty of not all, but most of those things. On a daily basis. Having it spelt out like that made for uncomfortable, guilt-ridden reading.

 

The rise of smart phones has brought about one of the biggest changes in the daily lives of parents, and kids, in the last few years. In the time between my first and second child being born the iphone was launched, and with it the way I go about my day has changed drastically.

 

When my son was a newborn, when I was with him, I was focused on him. Sure, I had a phone and I would text people. I had TV and the net to distract me. But not like I do now.

 

I got my first iphone just before my daughter was born. With it I took photos of her in the hospital and posted them on Facebook. I checked my emails and EB comments while I breastfed. I read SMH and EB while she slept in my arms.

 

I loved that I had a handheld connection to the outside world in those isolating days of new motherhood. But I didn’t realise then how much I would come to rely on that connection. And how much it would disconnect me from her and her brother.

 

I’m not saying I never give my kids attention, of course I do. I’m an engaged mum and they have my attention in spades. But I know there are times they should have it more. Times when they want my focus and I am busy replying to an email, or checking Twitter. And I know I’m not the only one.

This is also a tough area to negotiate for those of us who work at home or find being online or connected to social media is part of our job. Thanks to smart phones we never leave our work anymore, it follows us wherever we go.

 

So how do you switch off? When should you switch off? And how much is it affecting our kids? All questions we may not want to think about, but probably should.

 

I know my kids will grow up too quickly. They already are. And I don’t want to miss their childhood, I want to soak up every moment. I know this isn’t always possible and my life and work can’t stop for them. So I’m not saying I will suddenly throw my phone away. But I will certainly stop and think about how much I use it around them and turn it off more than I did before. Maybe I’ll even push the swing with both hands.

 

Will you?

 

Does this post ring true for you? How much are you on your phone or computer around your kids and do you think it affects them?

Edited by AmityD

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Butterfly*77
:unsure::cry: Another one here feeling like a bad, bad, BAD mother. I do however put my phone on silent when at home but have been guilty of checking my messages etc when out with DS including at the park.

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bakesgirls

Honestly, what a silly article. Way to go, trying to push the mother guilt. As if mothers don't find enough to feel guilty about, why not lets try to find a few more things that a parent may not have thought of before, so they can add to their gulit.

 

As for do I think that my use of my phone or computer affects my children?No, I don't think I'm depriving my kids of love, attention and affection as the article makes out. If I'm using one or the other, then that's life, and I also have a life besides my kids. I certainly don't live my life using these items, but I'm not going to stop or reduce using them, just incase I'm on them too much and so depriving my precious petals of my full attention 100% of the time. Don't get me wrong, my love for my children is endless. But, I also have and want to do things for myself.

 

Phones and computers are just newer distraction devices, I'm sure generations ago, there were other things that distracted parents from their children.

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Expelliarmus

My mother managed to do all these things just fine while holding a novel.

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*birdie*

It reinforces my decision to not have a mobile & facebook etc (yes, i'm a ludite!)

 

I think the social and cutural effect from constant connection to the net is yet to be seen and will be profound. Because superficially it seems like we are more connected, and yet that isnt actually the case, in fact real conenction is lost due to this preoccupation.

 

I'm guilty of hiding behnd the laptop when i need some space, so I get it. I have to consciously write myself notes to remind myself to make a choice to be present with my children.

 

I also dont think the purpose is to induce guilt, but rather to wake people up to the lack of real presence with the people they love, otherwise isn't t just about going thorugh the motions?

 

 

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Guest holy_j

I don't think it's silly at all, it's something that needed to be said. You know straight away if that applies to you after reading that.

 

I don't have a mobile, I use my husbands if required for emergencies, so I am definitely not guilty of that, but I do have a tendency to overuse the computer at home which is just as bad.

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Fluster

I honestly remember a generation where mothers yapped on the phone all day, had friends over for long lunches and banished us to the play room, sold avon & caught up on the gossip with neighbours while children twirled boredly around lampposts, had us sit quietly on the bus and train so we weren't a nuisance, and turfed us into the backyard when they'd had enough of us. I haven't even started on three hour drives to the beachhouse for holidays and the 'would. you. all. just. stop. fighting. and. be. QUIET!!!'

 

It's so easy to romanticise the past, especially when you are drawing upon snippets. I'm not going to feel guilty because I cut short a twenty minute conversion on the attributes of different Pokemon, a subject so excruciating that even typing this pains me.

 

 

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WildWhirl

Sorry I don't relate at all. I play with my children properly at the park and talk to them properly. I usually let my phone go to message if I'm out with them. There might be people out there who are addicted to phone related things but from what I observe in the parks/ playgrounds the majority of parents don't do this.

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AmityD

Thanks for your comment.

 

I am ALL about lifting the mother guilt and have written about that plenty of times before. But for me, in this instance, I felt genuine guilt about something that struck a chord with me, and I knew it would strike a chord with other parents too. So I wanted to ask the question whether perhaps we SHOULD feel guilty about this.

 

I am not saying we should banish all distractions and stare at our children for hours of end. God forbid.

I need distractions as much as the next mum, especially on the days I'm home all day. But I do find these days I am using my phone constantly and I worry about what message that sends my kids. My toddler is already OBSESSED with the iphone and ipad. Is this a bad thing? I don't know. Will we end up raising a generation who can't communicate properly because they've grown up with their face constantly focused a hand held device?

 

Of course generations of past had other things to distract them. But not like this, not something that was with them 24 hours a day. So it is an interesting discussion to have and I look forward to more of your thoughts on it.

 

Amity

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, what a silly article. Way to go, trying to push the mother guilt. As if mothers don't find enough to feel guilty about, why not lets try to find a few more things that a parent may not have thought of before, so they can add to their gulit.

 

As for do I think that my use of my phone or computer affects my children?No, I don't think I'm depriving my kids of love, attention and affection as the article makes out. If I'm using one or the other, then that's life, and I also have a life besides my kids. I certainly don't live my life using these items, but I'm not going to stop or reduce using them, just incase I'm on them too much and so depriving my precious petals of my full attention 100% of the time. Don't get me wrong, my love for my children is endless. But, I also have and want to do things for myself.

 

Phones and computers are just newer distraction devices, I'm sure generations ago, there were other things that distracted parents from their children.

 

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mudskippa
I honestly remember a generation where mothers yapped on the phone all day, had friends over for long lunches and banished us to the play room, sold avon & caught up on the gossip with neighbours while children twirled boredly around lampposts, had us sit quietly on the bus and train so we weren't a nuisance, and turfed us into the backyard when they'd had enough of us. I haven't even started on three hour drives to the beachhouse for holidays and the 'would. you. all. just. stop. fighting. and. be. QUIET!!!'

 

It's so easy to romanticise the past, especially when you are drawing upon snippets. I'm not going to feel guilty because I cut short a twenty minute conversion on the attributes of different Pokemon, a subject so excruciating that even typing this pains me.

 

So agree. The difference is they didn't torture themselves about being perfectly normal parents living in the world.

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Datrys

I'm not a big user of technology, so it's not that which resonates per se. But I do recognise the habit of trying to multi-task while parenting.

 

I think bakesgirls is right, it's about the choices we make about what's important in life. That means that sometimes "conversations" with my baby are her gurgling and me commenting on the article I'm reading for an essay (I'm sure she's thrilled to bits), or me shushing her protesting at being bundled into the car at 6am so I can go to work. Perfect? No, of course not. But it's about balance; and I'm sure that any of us who aspire to be and do more with our lives than simple mothering recognise the tension.

 

There's a valuable concept in ethics of "neurotic guilt," or guilt which we feel for situations in which we are not morally culpable. My question here becomes how much is the guilt we feel for this kind of thing appropriate (how much are we morally culpable), and how much is it neurotic, reflecting situations and emotions which are beyond our control?

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Mpjp is feral

I do think it is easy to romanticise the past, and I dont necessarily think mothers were more or less engaged with tehir children then than they are now.

 

But I do know I am guilty of many of the things on that list, and that yes absolutely, I can see how my behaviour might make my children feel like they come second to other things in my life.

 

I read that blog and have taken that as a really good reminder that I need to ensure that I am giving my children my full attention. No 24/7, but when i am enagaged with them or doing things with them, that they absolutely take priority.

 

I still remember feeling ignored by my (poor) mum who worked FT and had a useless husband who did nothign and how rushed she was, and how I just KNEW she wasn't listening to me when I was dying to talk with her about things in my day.

 

It also hit a note - we are always saying to staff at work that it is the human being in front of you who takes priority - and if your mobile or desk phone rings whilst you are physically with a person - then that phone goes to message bank. Why wouldn't we afford our children that same courtesy?

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CallMeFeral

I think it's a valuable post, especially for those it resonates with.

Not so much me, only because I'm too unco to notice my phone is ringing when I'm juggling kids and food and the rest, but I definitely have the issue when I'm home on my computer. And, as PP's have said, when multitasking in general.

 

It's so easy to romanticise the past, especially when you are drawing upon snippets. I'm not going to feel guilty because I cut short a twenty minute conversion on the attributes of different Pokemon, a subject so excruciating that even typing this pains me.

 

Yeah, this is the problem. I feel guilt about it, but I can't help it either. Kids kind of BORE me. Their books bore the crap out of me - I can't wait till they are Harry Potter aged. I don't ENJOY being fully engaged with them during the day - I'd much rather be talking to other mums while our kids entertain themselves and interrupt as appropriate, or pottering around the house while my kids do the same and occasionally call me over for a look/help. Full on attention to the kids, I find really trying, much as I love and admire them.

So while the constantly diverted attention is, I'm sure, bad - I honestly can't manage anything else without getting bored out of my brain.

 

Will we end up raising a generation who can't communicate properly because they've grown up with their face constantly focused a hand held device?

 

Maybe, in the future, that IS going to be communicating 'properly' :p

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Liv_DrSperm_sh

Oh yes, back in my day it was all rainbows and unicorns!! Mother's never had anything else to do by joyously nurture their young! Phones and other contraptions of the modern age are the root of all evil!

 

Gimme a break!

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Expelliarmus
Of course generations of past had other things to distract them. But not like this, not something that was with them 24 hours a day. So it is an interesting discussion to have and I look forward to more of your thoughts on it.

I would argue that books - the main way in which my mother displayed this behaviour - are with you 24 hours a day. I think this is a behaviour and it is NOT in fact confined to today/technologies.

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Expelliarmus

I don't think the article targets the correct thing though. It target technologies/phones NOT the behaviour that accompanies it. Making it out to be a 'modern problem' indicates it is something it is not with solutions that will not work.

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Fifteenyears
I can see how my behaviour might make my children feel like they come second to other things in my life.

 

Either way, it's not good and sends the wrong message to our kids.

 

Really? I think that the message that kids sometimes come second to other things in life is absolutely the right message, as long as it's not the only message they get. There's nothing worse for a child than giving them the impression that everything is always about them.

 

As for the rest of it - it's worth thinking about. There's no harm in reflecting on the implications of one's behaviour.

 

I don't have a mobile phone, but sometimes I will take a book to the playground with me and sometimes I won't. That way my children enjoy a mixture of child-centred time where they have my full focus, and independent time where they are free to create all sorts of fabulous ways to entertain themselves.

Edited by Sevenyears

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Literary Lemur

I think being too busy to connect is an issue. But it's not a new thing. And I think parents expect so much more of themselves these days.

 

Gone are the days when having your children clean, clothed, fed, schooled and polite was enough. We now need to be our child's psychologist and need to ensure that we are raising an almost perfect human being.

 

We can't be "hyper connected" with our children all of the time and I don't think it would do them a great service if we were.

 

Yes it is good to be present with your children (and other people in your life) but it is also important for kids to spend time alone, with other children and other adults. There is a balance. I hope I can find it. It's a work in progress right now.

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ShoshieRu

This really resonated with me. I have been thinking for a while that I should downgrade my phone to one of those marketed for oldies - makes and receives calls and texts only! I am guilty of whipping the phone out whenever there is a quiet minute...which turns into "mummy, can you please put that away!"

 

Add to that, I don't want my kids to be fixated on phones/tablets... But I am hardly setting a good example!

 

Thanks for the post, Amity :) Off to research nanna phones!

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JinksNewton
I don't think it's worth debating whether it happened when we were growing up or not. Either way, it's not good and sends the wrong message to our kids.

What, that they are not the center of our universe every single second of every single day? I agree that being attached to an Iphone 24/7 is really harmful to the parent/child relationship, but I also think the same of being attached to your child 24/7 (past babyhood)

TBH I agree with Fluster, parents always did this. The difference is that when I was a kid we were out of the house first thing in the morning and doing stuff with our friends in the street all day while mum and dad had time to themselves. AND THAT WAS OK.

We entertained ourselves and didn't expect anyone else to do it, and because of that didn't grow up with the "I am entitled to the world because mummy/daddy say I'm awesome and gave me all their attention all the time"

Definite room for shades of grey in this situation.

FWIW I don't text or do things on my phone while doing activities with DS, but if I am having a phone conversation I don't put up with disruptions just because DS is jealous of me talking to someone who is not him.

 

ETA

We can't be "hyper connected" with our children all of the time and I don't think it would do them a great service if we were.

 

Yes it is good to be present with your children (and other people in your life) but it is also important for kids to spend time alone, with other children and other adults. There is a balance.

 

She said it much more succinctly than I could.

 

ETAETA I don't do guilt. If something needs changing, I change it and don't look back. Making mums feel guilty is just another way that society (and other women) tries to crush womens' spirits.

Edited by redkris

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AmityD

Howdo, I agree the behaviour, not the phone is the issue. But I also think the addictive nature of smart phones, internet access and hand held games are contributing to this behaviour.

 

Yes, books can be addictive, as one commenter has said. So can daytime TV (I may have been slightly addicted to B & B when my son was a baby!) And I have no doubt mothers in the past just distracted and entertained themselves with something else. I certainly don't think they were any more 'perfect' than we are. In fact, in some ways I think this generation of mothers is even MORE focused on our kids than in the past. (Another topic all together and one I think I've written about before.)

 

But I do think the way many of us never let our work at the office anymore is also a major factor. We check our messages when we first wake up, when we're out to dinner, when we're at kids sporting games and birthday parties. That is a modern day issue. Which is what this post relates to.

 

Interesting hearing your points of view, keep them coming.....

 

 

I don't think the article targets the correct thing though. It target technologies/phones NOT the behaviour that accompanies it. Making it out to be a 'modern problem' indicates it is something it is not with solutions that will not work.

 

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heffalumpsnwoozles

It's not something I do when out and about with the kids. My phone doesn't do data, so at worst I might text someone. This is definitely my husband's behaviour though - he does it to me, and I don't like it. And I really, really hate it when he thinks he's spending the day with the kids when in fact he's spending the day on the computer playing games and getting cross with the kids if they bump his mouse hand.

 

I was guilty of too much computer time too, although it cut into my housework time more than my kid time. I now set a timer for 15 minutes so that I don't spend too long on the computer. I still hate cleaning though.

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witchesforest

no guilt here.

 

I sometimes work from home, allowing my daughter to have a day off childcare. I sneak out to the park during the day, but I have to be seen to be working, taking calls etc. My smartphone lets me have the best of both worlds, pushing her on a swing while answering a query or whatever.

 

honestly, what 4 year old REALLY needs mum's 100% attention from a park bench to go and climb on some play equipment? I would rather be working just to make it more interesting!

 

We have a strict 'no work stuff after 6pm' rule at our place to ensure there are boundaries around technology but no way will I feel guilty for doing a full day's paid work, a bunch of housework AND having full responsibility for a kid who is running around a park and hopefully not being part of the obesity crisis.

 

I am guessing my husband, sitting at work staring at his computer with 100% of his attention, ain't feeling any guilt!

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F.E.B.E

I think it's a modern issue and yes it is about technology, not just about benign neglect, which I think can be fairly healthy.

 

I felt physically ill reading the blog Amity refers to. I am one of those always-online people. Much of it is my job, where dramas can occur around the clock and where I need to be on call. But there's also the addictive nature of the internet, and the little beeps and alerts your phone makes to tell you you've been tagged on a post in facebook, or you've been outbid on an item on ebay. Books don't woo you to pick them up like that.

 

I think people are expected to be contactable 24/7 these days, and it can be an issue if you try to push against it.

 

In a previous job a manager yelled at me on Sunday night because she wanted some revisions to a project and hadn't been able to get a hold of me all weekend. I left the job soon after! (Being on call definitely wasn't in my job description).

 

Anyway, thanks Amity for bringing attention to an issue quite a few of us are grappling with.

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bakesgirls
But I do think the way many of us never let our work at the office anymore is also a major factor. We check our messages when we first wake up, when we're out to dinner, when we're at kids sporting games and birthday parties.

 

Many people don't leave their work at the office, so they can actually get home to their families. It's the only way they can be physically present and see their children. If they left their work at the office, then work wouldn't be done and/or completed. If they stayed at work to complete things, then they would hardly ever get home.

 

The standard 9-5, Monday to Friday job is becoming a thing of the past. I think a parent who is distracted by work, phone, computer but shares that attention/multitasks child activities, is better than a parent who doesn't attend or pay attention at all due to other commitments.

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