A couple years ago there was a post on Facebook that went viral that was completely critical of parents (mothers, in specific) who were using their iPhone while in the company of their children. I was pretty offended by this. The writer was judging mothers (me) by looking at one brief moment in their day, and he had no idea at all what they were doing with their phone. I ranted about this for days and commented every single time one of my friends (overwhelmingly MEN) shared it on Facebook. Honestly, writing this one paragraph I can feel my blood boiling again. I am often on my phone at the park and out with my kids. He's talking about me.
When the weather warmed up a couple weeks ago the kids and I started walking down to the playground. My Kindle fits in my jacket pocket, and of course I took my phone as well. My kids are all finally old enough to play on the playground without my full attention. (HALLELUJAH!) I don't think playgrounds are meant for parents to play on. I have no desire to go down slides. I don't have to anymore. My kids have siblings to play with and the two younger kids are so incredibly social that they will happily ask (force) any other kid their age to play. (The oldest one would rather be alone in his imagination anyway.) They do not need me. In fact, they are WAY more able to play alone at the playground than at home. I sit someplace where I can see and hear them, and where they can see and hear me, and I pull out my book. On my Kindle.
Only, and here's my entire point, I recently got an iPhone 6. The screen is plenty big enough for me to read on it without strain or issue. My Kindle and the Kindle app on my phone sync. The weather got warmer and I don't always need the jacket with pockets big enough for my Kindle. So I go to the park and I stare at my phone. I sit in my car on long waits and I stare at my phone. I stand in the aisle at walmart when my daughter takes 30 minutes (literally) to choose which $5 toy she wants and I stare at my phone. (There's no hurrying a 4 year old, and if you think I could make this go faster, without tears (mine) you'd be wrong.)
So last week Trish went on a business trip. (I swear I'm not picking on Trish. I LOVE YOU LADY!) While in the airport she posted this very nice Instagram pic:
And I felt a little twinge. Ok, more than one twinge. First, so jealous of that #alllllllllllbymyself hashtag. Then when I got over that, I thought, "Wait. I don't read paper books. Ever. Is this a criticism of e-books?" because frankly, there's a good bit of judgement out there of e-books. Yes, still. Don't make me go find it, just trust me. And then I realized she's probably just referring to the people who aren't reading at all, right? And I can mostly get behind that sentiment, I mean why wouldn't you whip out a book at the airport??
Then Trish came home, and she commented that no one on the plane seemed to be reading. That people were on their phones, but probably not reading. If this was the case, then yes, it's sad. But (scroll up if you've already forgotten) how would she know? This has been bugging me since way before her trip, it's not about HER, not really. But I am also sad that when I pull my phone out and read the exact same book I'd be reading on my Kindle, that I ALWAYS have the thought "oh that guy on Facebook is SO judging me right now... and maybe Trish is too?" And by "Trish" I mean "everyone else at the park." If I were holding a paper copy of that book, I'm sure people would think "oh look at that mom, stealing a moment from what's probably a hectic life, to get some quality reading in." Right? No really, think about it. What is your assumption if you see a mom reading a paper book somewhere? You want to know what she's reading. Your first thought is NOT "Oh, she's ignoring her child."
The world likes to talk shit about people always being on their phones. Society is so anti-social now! Always staring at devices! And I agree, many people go too far. But I try really hard to not assume what they are actually DOING on it. The kid walking to school with his face down? How do you know he's not FaceTime-ing his mom? The woman who is sending a quick text as she goes into a meeting? How do you know she's not putting out volunteer PTO fires at her kids' school? (That was me, yesterday. And yes, it WAS time sensitive, and yes, it WAS important, to entire classes of 5th graders.) The mom on her phone at the park?
When did it become ok to decide if other parents, other people, are wasting their own time? Sure, if there were gross neglect, if my kid were beating up some other kid, if my dog were starting fights, but if everyone is happy? I see this All. The. Time. in the reading blogging community. Don't make me go find examples, it's there. I'm sensitive to it, because of that ridiculous Facebook post years ago. I feel irate and criticized every single time. I notice it, every time. Why on earth am I not allowed to "waste" my time reading at a park I've been to a 100 times? I've seen it. I AM enjoying the beautiful day. Or I'm using reading to forget that I'm at the park on a gross day. If I were there alone, on a pretty blanket with my iced mocha and my paper book, and had instagrammed the occasion, I'd get 100 likes. But if I'm on my phone on the bench, doing the exact thing, it's assumed I'm on email. If I were home on my couch watching American Idol while my kids played on the swingset would anyone bat an eye?
There's no easy way to end this post. No neat way for me to close it up without sounding even more defensive. So what do you think? Do you see an unfair assumption about moms (parents) in public? Do you feel hyper aware every time you dare do something of your own? Is it just me?