"She was on her phone the whole time…"
Recently, I picked my daughter up from my parents. They watch her a few days a week while I juggle caring for my toddler son and trying to write. I ask my usual questions,
"What did you guys do today? What did she eat? How was she? Did she poop?"
My mom responds,
"She played. She ate rice. She pooped twice. We went to the playground."
"Ok cool. Sounds like a typical day."
As I was helping my daughter put her jacket on, my mom adds,
"Oh, a little boy kept chasing her, trying to touch her hair. There are COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions at the playground so I pulled her away as much as I could.
I tried to get his mom's attention but she was on her phone the whole time. You know my English isn't great. So we left early."
And the judgment starts…
I was annoyed, judging this mom whom I'd never met for not paying attention to her kid. Then I got angry. It's her fault my daughter had to cut her playground time short. If she looked up, even for a second, she could have told her son to distance himself. She shouldn't be allowed to use the playground if she doesn't follow the rules.
What kind of parent lets her kid do that, especially during a time like this?
A lousy one. I bet she wasn't even doing anything important on her phone. She was probably scrolling on social media, looking at make-up tutorials or mindless gossip instead of watching her kid. What a horrible mother.
Wow…I sound like a horrible person.
I take a step back from going further down Judgy Karen Lane, complaining about how it's always other people who screw up and I'm always the victim of their inadequacies. What's the best way to stop hate and prejudice?
Empathy and compassion. So I ask myself,
"How often do I go on my phone? Has there been a time when I was on the phone while I was watching my kids?"
Quite often and absolutely.
From books, calendars, watches, radios, CD players, pedometers, and cameras to GPS, the phone has replaced so many things in our lives. It's incredibly difficult to avoid using our phones. I even use the camera as a mirror sometimes. Therefore, instead of criticizing this mom's behaviour, I came up with a list of things moms do on their phones when they're watching their kids.
She's doing a million things even though it looks like she's not.
- Working (her job, small business, side hustle etc…)
- Researching how to fix a leaky faucet, running toilet, broken garburator…
- Scheduling appointments for hot water tank replacement, roof repair, exterior painting…
- Checking email to see where she is on the waitlist for her kids' swimming lessons
- Finding out when the pool, skating rink, play gym etc are open
- Finding out where to donate old clothing, shoes and toys
- Looking up a recipe for her kid's favourite chocolate banana cookies
- Looking up medical symptoms for herself, her kids, her partner, her friend, family member etc…
- Venting to her sister and best friend about life
- Comforting a mom friend about mom stuff
- Checking the weather to see if it's going to rain later that week in case she needs to postpone the outdoor kids' party
- Checking online flyers to see what's on sale
- Adding yogurt, apples, chicken and rice crackers to her grocery list
- Adding hand soap, dishwasher liquid and toilet paper to her "almost empty"/"needs refill" list
- Rescheduling a dinner reservation and arranging childcare for a well-overdue date night with her partner
- Doing online banking and paying bills
- Researching, buying and selling stocks
- Investing money in the kids' education fund
- Texting her tenant to see when they're moving out
- Texting the daycare to let them know she's going to be late picking her other kid up
- Texting the nanny to see if they can stay longer next Wednesday because a work meeting got rescheduled to a later time
- Reading an article about how to manage her stress as a parent
- Looking at photos and watching videos of people she misses
- Journaling to destress, to practice gratitude, to put words to emotions, to make sense of everything that is happening
These were just the things I could think of off the top of my head. It wasn't hard to come up with this.
I'm not saying the mom at the playground's behaviour is acceptable; it's definitely not okay to let your child roam wild, especially during a pandemic. And if I was there, I would have respectfully asked her to watch her son more carefully.
However, I don't know what I don't know and I don't know what her situation is or what she's going through that day.
Everyone has their good days and their bad days. There have been moments when I've shouted the F word in public out of frustration with my kids and strangers looked at me with disapproving eyes. They probably thought I'm a horrible mother. It doesn't mean I am and I know I'm not.
Parenting is tough; there will always be people on the outside looking in who will judge us at our worst moments. They don't see the moments when we held our kids tightly after a bad nightmare, the times we laughed until our bellies hurt, or that wonderful night we randomly came up with a game of bowling using empty milk containers and rolled-up socks.
Let's choose to believe parents are doing the best they can even during their bad days, giving them the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to judgment. Empathizing and showing compassion for one another helps us create a kinder world, a place I want my kids to grow up in.
So Readers, what are some things you do on your phone while watching your kids?
This was originally published on March 31, 2021.
Need help processing emotions and writing down your thoughts? Check out my 60 Feelings to Feel: A Journal To Identify Your Emotions
About the Creator
Sum (心, ♡) on Sleeve | Author. Speaker. Wife. Mom of 2 | Embrace Culture. Love Yourself. Improve Relationships | Empowering you to talk about your feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them | sumonsleeve.com/books
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