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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dear Mom with the iPhone, revisit.

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:

A photo posted by trinicapini (@trinicapini) on

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?


  1. I agree with most of what you said here. Except I'm nosy and totally spy what people are doing on their phones. In most cases it was games. Though after a conversation on Twitter, several people said that they are too anxious to read on the plane and so they simply play games to take their mind off the flight.

    Fair enough. I guess the moral of the story is we shouldn't judge anyone.

  2. I am totally ready to turn my smartphone in for a regular phone. i am so sick of always being ON. The other night at rehearsal, this kid was playing handball on the side of my van and her mom was sitting in her own car with her phone completely oblivious to what her kid was doing. I wanted to rip that phone out of her hand. I drove to another spot in the lot and the kid followed me and the mom still didn't know she has left. Not judging you personally because we all jump on our devices at times but what I see is way too much. I go to track practice and moms don't talk to one another anymore! If I start a conversation they looks so startled. That is freakin' sad!! SADNESS I say.

  3. And yet at the same time we're judged if we don't let our kids roam free. We're helicopter parents dooming the next generation. So I guess if I take my kids to the park but don't let them go by themselves I have to watch them EVERY second? No. My kids are supposed to play and entertain themselves (not misbehave) and know that I am nearby in case of danger. If I want to read or go on Facebook or take selfies of myself who cares?

  4. You know, Lisa, I also agree with a lot of what you said. The judging thing. And I was and am guilty of it as well and commented that way on Trish's post. I don't think I judge any more harshly when it is a mother though. I was just judging people in general. And I shouldn't because you are right. They could be reading a book and how could I judge that. But I find myself thinking, well, it's probably a social media or email or a game. Horrors! The only thing I will put forward is that I do get a little annoyed when someone doesn't pay any attention at all to life around them while doing the phone stare - like in a line and I'm next and hey, it's your turn lady - put down your phone. Or hey, do you see your kid over there beating on that other kid or throwing things or whatnot. I have had a good time lately just putting my phone away while waiting for whatever and looking at what others are doing. The people watching quite interesting these days.

    And on a whole other topic that will likely have people sharing opinions - Austin has made it illegal to have an electronic device in your hand while you are driving. You can be on a bluetooth, so you are not banned from talking on the phone competely. You can pick up your phone while stopped at light. But if the car is moving, your device is to be put away. Or, you get a ticket. Has it stopped people from talking, texting, staring at their phones while driving? No, it has not. My husband has a long commute through Austin and he says you will not believe what people are doing while driving on the freeway. Not just phones - iPads propped on their steering wheels or Kindles or even a laptop beside you. While driving. He has a big truck and so can see more that way. So, if you come to Austin, don't talk on your phone without a bluetooth connection. You'll get a ticket or that's the idea. What do you think of that? LOL

  5. Seriously I felt my blood pressure rise just reading the title of this post. I hated the condescending judge-y Dear Mom on iPhone letter. The only difference is I think I interpreted it a little different from you. I saw it as a preach-y little slam that the mother was doing anything but watching her little darlings slide down the slide or spin in circles or pick up 95 rocks or all the other things kids do on playgrounds that they frankly don't need our full attention for. While Dear Mom on iPhone was catch-y to me it could have just as easily been Dear Mom on Kindle, Dear Mom with a book, etc. The thing that really gets me going is I saw a few teachers (who I didn't really care for to start with and this didn't help) share it on Facebook and I know that these same teachers have complained about "helicopter" parenting or over-involved/indulgent parents. Hello!! That's just a smidge of hypocrisy. Basically we're damned if we do damned if we don't. If we don't clap every time they successfully go down the slide we're horrible mothers who are neglecting our children and of course they will have no self esteem because of that. If we do clap than we're helicopter mothers and our children will be needy and unable to do anything for themselves when they're 30. I definitely try not to judge (unless you're on your phone and your children have been running circles in the restaurant for 20 minutes and knocking into me - then I judge) and just try to do my best and try not to think very nasty thoughts about Mr. Dear Mom on the iPhone.

  6. I think we all judge too much, women in particular. When I was growing up, my mother never worried about playing with me but for some reason parents think it's their job now. I think they're doing their kids a disservice - how will they ever learn to entertain themselves?

  7. My hubby and I were just having a conversation that ended with me saying to him "judge not, lest ye be judged." Which is totally appropriate for this as well. If you're so buried into your phone (or your book or your conversation), that you're not paying attention to what your kids are doing, then it's a problem. Otherwise, whose business is it? My kids got to stay at the park a lot longer if I had something to do while they played. Like you, I never felt like it was my job to entertain them - that's what the playground equipment is for! And there were plenty of times I saw gaggles of moms so busy in conversation that they never once noticed what their kids were doing. How is that better?


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