My phone is a pretty constant presence in my hand. I use it to check email, take pictures, share pics to Instagram, post updates on Twitter and Facebook, reference my grocery list, listen to audiobooks, text, make phone calls, look up passwords, check the weather, play Words with Friends…it basically has a function in almost every aspect of my personal, professional, social, parenting, and domestic life.
As a parent, there are very few times I feel guilty about this personal techie assistant that never leaves my side. How can I? It’s a large part of how I’m able to manage my life. Naturally there are times when my kids do not have my 100% undivided attention because I’m on my phone (or computer). When this happens—when the kids are home and mommy is working—they simply play on their own or sometimes (*gasp*) watch TV.
But I don’t feel guilty about this. There are a number of reasons why. First and foremost my kids are fine—they’re safe, they’re fed, they’re thriving, they’re learning, they’re happy. I also don’t feel it’s necessary for me to be 100% present with my children 100% of the time. I want my kids to have unstructured and unsupervised playtime, to know how to entertain themselves. Even if I am working, I’m still around to fix problems, mediate arguments, and console boo-boos. In addition, I make sure to make time for my kids. There are times I give them my undivided attention—I play with them, we read, we get our nails done, we snuggle. Plus, I figure if it weren’t for the phone, there would other distractions: books, newspapers, TV, cooking, planning, daydreaming…
If anything, technology has allowed me more flexibility in my work arrangements. If my kids get sick, guess what? I can work at home while they rest and recover. If we travel or want to take trips, I can take work with me if needed. I’ve worked on the beach, on the lake, on an airplane, at restaurants. All guilt-free.
An article was published in the New York Times this week that echoes my sentiment. Although the writer admits to feeling guilt (and using his phone anyway), he writes:
This is parenting; there’s no getting around the guilt. But thanks to technology, I was managing to do a reasonably good job at work while being a fairly adequate parent. It wasn’t ideal. But it was probably far better than the alternative, which would be to ship my son off to a nanny or grandparent for the week while I spent all day plugging away at the office, not seeing him.
For me, I welcome the fact that technology is allowing me the flexibility to be a parent and have a career. I hope it models for my children that there are times to play and relax, but also times to work. I also recognize that this choice is not for everyone. Others have different values and different life circumstances. Kids have varying levels of need at different developmental stages. Others will feel different levels of guilt.
Me, though? I am okay with not feeling guilty…and with not feeling guilty about not having that guilt.