I think that every parent has felt that guilty feeling before. Have you told yourself any of these things? ”I’m not doing enough. I’m not doing as well as I should be. I get burnt out quicker than I should. Why can’t I be more patient with my kids? Am I doing anything unknowingly that could be doing a disservice to my kids? My house should be cleaner. My house is too clean; I should spend less time cleaning and more time with my kids. I should be better at coming up with educational things to do as a family. I can’t balance my responsibilities and my motherly duties as well as other people seem to. Am I a “fun” parent? How do I know if I’m meeting my kids’ emotional needs?” The list goes on and on and on.
For me, most of these things cross my mind on a fairly regular basis. Being pregnant, slightly anemic and due in less than 2 months, I have suffered from an extreme lack of energy. Being busy with my 2 boys, I frequently question my abilities to keep up once boy #3 arrives. My friends and family know that I constantly suffer with the “mom guilt” of not feeling accomplished enough and that I don’t have the energy I should to spend playing with my kids. These days, just getting the laundry washed and put away seems to be an insurmountable task. In addition to the house tasks being more of a drain, winter here in Minnesota seems to be hanging around for longer than usual, which makes it a more daunting task to get outside regularly with the kids. We’ve all got a case of cabin fever, and I think all of us parents do the BEST we can with what we’ve got to offer ALL of the time. So, one morning as I was looking at Facebook, I came across this gem, which was just a status that spread like wildfire written by a man named Marshall Miller.
“Dear Mom On the iPhone,
I see you over there on the bench, messing on your iPhone. It feels good to relax a little while your kids have fun in the sunshine, doesn’t it? You are doing a great job with your kids, you work hard, you teach them manners, have them do their chores.
But Momma, let me tell you what you don’t see right now…..
Your little girl is spinning round and round, making her dress twirl. She is such a little beauty queen already, the sun shining behind her long hair. She keeps glancing your way to see if you are watching her.
Your little boy keeps shouting, “Mom, MOM watch this!” I see you acknowledge him, barely glancing his way.
He sees that too. His shoulders slump, but only for a moment, as he finds the next cool thing to do.
Now you are pushing your baby in the swing. She loves it! Cooing and smiling with every push. You don’t see her though, do you? Your head is bent, your eyes on your phone as you absently push her swing.
Talk to her. Tell her about the clouds, Mommy. The Creator who made them. Tickle her tummy when she comes near you and enjoy that baby belly laugh that leaves far too quickly.
Put your eyes back on your prize…Your kids.
Show them that they are the priority. Wherever you are, be ALL there. I am not saying it’s not ok to check in on your phone, but it’s a time-sucker: User Beware!
Play time at the park will be over before you know it.
The childhood of your children will be gone before you know it.
They won’t always want to come to the park with you, Mommy. They won’t always spin and twirl to make their new dress swish, they won’t always call out, “WATCH ME!”
There will come a point when they stop trying, stop calling your name, stop bothering to interrupt your phone time.
Because they know…
You’ve shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are. They see you looking at it at while waiting to pick up brother from school, during playtime, at the dinner table, at bedtime…..
I know that’s not true, Mommy.
I know your heart says differently.
But your kids can’t hear your words, Mommy. Your actions are screaming way too loudly.
May our eyes rest upon those we love, first and foremost, and may everything else fall away in the wonderful, noisy, sticky-fingered glory of it all.”
So after reading this, my initial reaction was more GUILT. And based on a lot of the comments on this post that I saw, I was not the only one who felt this way. Some of the best moms I know shared my sudden and overwhelming feelings of guilt! I do this! I HAVE IGNORED MY KIDS to play on my PHONE!! I should just get rid of this iPhone. Or at least Facebook, and all the games that I waste time playing. The kids will only be little once! I am missing it!! OH MY GOSH! Aaaaaggghhhh!! (Overwhelming, right!?)
But then I had a second feeling. I was mad! Who is this guy to judge me, or any of my wonderful mommy or daddy friends? I mean, I totally get that this guy’s main objective here was simply to raise awareness for parents who aren’t as “plugged in” as they should be, but I also really think that this is exactly what’s flaming our mom guilt fires! The judgment of others is like the lighter fluid on the already overbearing flames. So what!? You might be sitting there at the park when I’m there with my kids, and the whole reason we’re there is so mommy can get a stinkin’ break! Maybe I’m having a bad day! Maybe my kids have been acting up, or maybe I just don’t feel well. You have no idea if I’m a single mom who is desperately trying to keep my head above water. Maybe I was just in a car accident, or am suffering from depression because I just suffered a miscarriage. Maybe the reason I’m on the phone is because the bank is trying to foreclose on my house. You don’t know if my husband got hurt at work, if my father just died, or if the three kids at the park with me weren’t all my kids… maybe the 4th is in the hospital right now and I am just desperately trying to keep my kids distracted and happy. Maybe I am required to answer emails from work around the clock if I want to keep my job, and keep feeding my family.
I could keep going, but you get my drift. Let’s join together in building each other up, and not make assumptions about other people or other parents. Chances are, everyone is doing the best they can, and you’re certainly not going to help anything by adding more guilt to the guilt they likely already are consumed with. And on the other side of the coin, as parents, we need to remind ourselves that YES, they are only little once. Before we know it, we will blink and they’ll be grown up and gone. But you know what? We deserve breaks from time to time. We are people too. Our kids need to learn that they cannot always be our sole focus. They need to learn that we matter too, and that we deserve space and peace sometimes. We can’t take care of them the right way until we take care of ourselves first… and if your way of unwinding is to play a nerdy and unproductive game on your phone at the park… I say “go for it!”