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Thursday
Jun172010

Oh those technology obsessed neglectful parents...

We all have good days and bad days. Some days are full of smiles and laughter. Other days are full of arguments and frustration.

There are always moments when the kids come first and moments when something else has to come first. That happens on both good days and bad days.

We cannot make our kids disappear when we are having a bad day. They get to see us struggle, whether we like it or not. There are bad sides to that and good sides to it. But ultimately, it is life, which is not all roses all the time. Pretending that it is, does our kids a disservice.

We also cannot always make our kids disappear when we have something else to do. That can be as simple and short as going to the bathroom, signing for a parcel, or tying a shoe. Or it can be longer and more involved like hanging up the laundry, doing the grocery shopping, or participating in a conference call.

Some people keep their kids and their life as separate as possible. They do whatever it takes to ensure that the time they spend with their children is focused 100% on their children. If they need to or want to work, do errands, clean the house, go on a date night, or hang out with friends, they have school, day care, nannies, babysitters, play dates, sleepovers and more all lined up to ensure that their kids are not around.  But how many minutes does that really leave in a day or in a week for parents to spend with their children?

Other parents prefer to have their kids around as they go about their lives. They may do this out of necessity (cannot afford to call on others to care for their children) or they may do it out of preference. They may believe that it is useful for their children to see them going about their day and that they may learn a thing or two about real life as they do that. They may feel that it is easier to find those special moments with their children and to connect with their children when they can happen at any moment, between other activities, rather than at prescribed parent-child bonding time.

Most people, at least in my socioeconomic cohort, probably find themselves somewhere in between. They often take the kids to the grocery store, but revel in the opportunity to go alone every once in a while. They frequently have kids underfoot when cleaning the house or preparing a meal, but seize the opportunity to have the grandparents snatch the kids away for a day so that they can get things done. They use a day care service or school to care for their kids during the main hours of the work day, but may still need to fire off an e-mail or take a call or two outside of business hours. They plan "me time" where they can go on a date or visit with a friend without the kids, but also enjoy connecting with their partner or socializing with their friends in the presence of their children.

Why am I telling you all of this?

The vilification of parenting and technology


It used to be the soaps, now it's twitter on the iphone.  Mom should tune out and focus on the kids. It used to be the big game on TV, now it is checking the sports stats on the Internet. Dad should turn off the computer and focus on the kids. It used to be long hours at the office, now it is daring to bring work home. Parents should work fewer hours, leave work at work, turn off the gadgets, and focus on the kids. This is the mantra, from the media and from know-it-all onlookers. Whether they are using an extreme example as a strawman ("This could be YOU!") or wagging their finger at anyone who dares try to touch technology in the presence of their children, it exists (and the two approaches feed off of each other). This is the mantra of those who do not understand how important technology has become.

I'm writing about this because I've seen friends discussing articles in well respected newspapers that were a full on attack on technology use during family time. I'm writing about this because a number of my friends have recently been feeling guilty about the role that technology plays in their lives. I'm writing this because (un)helpful commenters on this blog have suggested that I focus on my kids instead of spending so much time at my computer and even suggested someone should call Child Protective Services. And, I'm writing this because a friend has had multiple strangers make comments this past week about her using her blackberry in the presence of her children.

Our kids are part of our lives and not always conveniently tucked away when we have other things to do. Technology is part of our lives and is not always conveniently tucked away when we are with the kids.

Technology and the working parent


Technology has allowed a lot more parents to re-enter the workforce and still manage to have a significant presence in their children's lives. Without technology, more parents would be forced to choose between being present or having a career. Parents manage to balance the two by starting their own at-home business or by taking on flexible jobs that allow them to work some or all of the time from home. Employers and clients often expect people, including parents to be checking their e-mails and voice mails outside of regular business hours in case something urgent comes up. In return, a lot of them will allow employees to take a few hours, a day, a couple of days, or a week off to spend time with their family when that may not otherwise have been possible.  My career depends on technology and has allowed me to spend the spring and summer as a full-time mom with my kids in Berlin, Germany while still doing work for a few key clients. My father's career (and probably many of our fathers careers) depended on him being at work almost all of the time and made it difficult to escape for even the shortest of family vacations. Parents should not feel bad for having to check their gadgets while in the presence of their children, if it means that they can keep their job and spend quality time with their families.

Technology and the human parent


Technology is a lifeline, in both practical and emotional terms.

Whether using a reputable website to find out whether your child's fever warrants a visit to the hospital, finding out what time the lactation consultant drop-in clinic is, registering for mom and tot yoga, or ordering clothing for your children, turning to technology can save parents lots of time and hassle. Instead of dragging your kids to the mall to buy clothes, you can make a few clicks on the computer while they happily play with their toys. The number of car rides, line-ups, phone calls, and other time sucking activities that can be saved by quickly checking something online is amazing. This creates more time for parents and kids to spend together.

A lot of new stay-at-home parents feel isolated. Especially if they have a child who is dependent on a specific routine (nap has to be at home at a certain time), those parents can feel trapped. Technology creates an opportunity for them to connect with other parents online. Having the opportunity to speak with other like minded parents on the Internet over the course of the day often provides a welcome break from speaking with a two year old. As much as parents love their tots, going 10 hours or more without any adult conversation can trigger loneliness, depression, anxiety and more, especially on the bad days.  Technology also provides parents with the opportunity to record their feelings, which can be therapeutic. Whether this is done in a private journal, a public blog, or something in between, computers are a more efficient way of capturing information than in a hand written diary (although those certainly do have their own appeal too).

Why do people judge parents and technology?


How is technology different from anything else that may take parents' attention off of their offspring for a couple of seconds? Is it more acceptable to take my attention away from them to bake them cookies than to do paid work? Is it more acceptable to talk to a friend in person than online? Is it okay to read a romance novel while my kids play quietly at my feet, but not okay to read a feminist blog? I think part of the problem is that technology has invaded our lives, but people's image of what a parent should be and look like has not evolved with it. Technology is no longer something we do just when the kids are in bed or just when at work. Technology is a tool that we use for all aspects of our lives, all day long.

Yes, there are some people who use technology more than others. In some cases that is a combination of necessity and convenience. Someone who has a tech job, who gets most of their information online (instead of in newspapers, phone books, cook books, and encyclopedias), whose friends are all online, and who prefers to online entertainment to tired old TV programming (especially in the summer...yawn), will spend a lot of time online without it being abnormal to do so. That person is not necessarily addicted to technology, they just rely on it for more different parts of their lives.

There are people with technology addictions too. But if those people were not addicted to technology, chances are they would be addicted to something else. Their addiction may need treatment, but that doesn't mean that everyone who touches a blackberry in the presence of their children is going to spiral downward into a tech addiction any more than someone who has a glass of wine in the presence of their children is going to become an alcoholic.

Connecting with our kids

We all need to take time to connect with our kids. We need those special one-on-one uninterrupted moments. But we also need to live our lives and our children need to see us living our lives. The way that they learn how to become adults is by watching us be adults.  The image of a normal adult that I want to pass on to my children, is of a mother who cares deeply about her children and takes the time to connect with them, but who balances that with a rewarding career and personal interests. I don't want to model the perfect mom who doesn't exist and hide the rest of my life from my kids. I want to model the balanced (and sometimes unbalanced) normal mom who loves them very much. And today, part of normal = tech user. It is time for society to realize that.

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Reader Comments (103)

Thank you for saying this with such clear and simple words.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiza

Hear hear!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Well thought through post, completely agree...

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliet Eccleston

Hmmm, I am a working parent. I use technology. I love my Twitter and Facebook. But I read the articles and didn't feel wracked with guilt. However, I certainly know that I can be guilty of too much tech time. Do I really need to read my email as soon as I hear the notification? No. Do I need my blackberry on me at all times? No I don't. I think I can be distracted from my kids by technology, so I try to be mindful that it doesn't interfere when I should be focusing on them. I don't dismiss the articles totally because I think I am already aware that technology COULD be a problem. Like many other things could. But it certainly doesn't have to be.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMom2HandR

Thank you for your writing.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal

You make some amazing points that I've never considered. I've read your blog for a few months and always read the comments. When I come across someone saying "get off the computer and focus on the kids" all I can think of is some evil jerk saying "get back in the kitchen." It's b.s. and I think you do a fantastic job of putting that whole "argument" to rest. You are not just raising your own kids but helping countless others raise theirs' with confidence and strength. The personal is political, the political is personal. Thank you for not shutting up!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Since the dawn of time, parenting skills have been criticized. Focus too much on your kids and you're hovering or spoiling them. Take your eyes off them and you're neglecting them. Bed-share and you're setting them up for a lack of independence. CIO and they're ruined for life. It's a human sport, criticizing parenting, and specifically mothering. It's never going to go away. Everyone's an expert, and everyone's a critic. The combination of parenting and technology is just the latest manifestation.

I have made some really important friends through technology - some local and some across Canada - and we use technology as our bridge. I've met up in person with the local mums, but my life is very enriched by the mothers who I haven't met in person yet. My children have benefited from my being able to hear and internalize these mothers thoughts about parenting.

I'm learning to ignore the criticisms. Take what I can use, and move on. Perfection doesn't exist.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

I am so thankful for the role technology has played in my life- as a woman and mother- it's how I found support when my son was diagnosed, and eventually found us his cure. It has allowed me to make lifelong friends, and given me an outlet for my writing- both personal and freelance. I feel so fortunate to be able to work at home, and I do not feel the guilt when I am working.

It's all those other "stolen" moments that are NOT necessary that I feel like I need to check my phone TOO often, to Twitter, answer an email that can totally wait.

I envy parents that have found the right balance. The reason I http://www.adventuresinbabywearing.com/2010/06/readthebook.html" rel="nofollow">wrote about the NY Times article about Plugged In Parenting and my thoughts here is because I need to make a change. I am not going to go offline at all times around my children. I still Twitter, check emails, but I want to do it like a normal person. Not obsessively. I need to find some reasonable balance and I don't know where the heck it's hiding because it is HARD when technology is right at my fingertips and so easy to access... I know I can't be the only one that truly feels this way.

Oh, well said. Well said. I'm going to send this link around about the place!

I agree with you that technology is a permanent part of most of our worlds and that, addiction aside, most parents are able to use it in ways that are not detrimental to their parenting but enhances work opportunities, hobbies and social contact.

I have a personal line in the sand which is that I do not have a mobile Internet device - no web on the phone, no Blackberry etc - so when I'm not at home, when we're at the park or the shops or the library or friends places, I am tech-free. But at home my daughters see me working most days for a while (I do 15 hrs paid work a week from home), and sometimes, yes, they see me emailing, tweeting, blogging, and reading online. Not constantly, not even close; we have regular screen-free days, we read books and play and cook and do housework and play music and so on. But it *is* part of my life and part of theirs, and I don't feel that it's wrong that it is.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

I'm writing this right now with Sesame Street on the TV and my two kids drawing at their table. I wouldn't call myself "disconnected" from my kids, I'd say I'm getting out of my kids' way since they want nothing to do with me right now. :D

And while your entire article is spot-on, the graphic you included with the mothers outside and the two mothers at their laptops was possibly the most impactful part of this for me. In that 300px wide space, that graphic summed up exactly what had been bugging me about this whole debate.

Good job. And thanks for presenting a calm analysis on a snarky subject.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy @ Taste Like Crazy

Fully agree with you and I feel that I fall right in the middle.

When I was at home with a newborn baby and breastfeeding many hours a day, being able to chat online through Twitter, Facebook and Blogs allowed me to remain sane and learn lots about being a parent. When my daughter was a little older 6-12 months, and she could "play" by herself, I think that while I would go online for a few minutes at a time allowed her to take some time to herself and explore and play with her toys.

Today, as an 18 month old, she is very dependant on us (obviously) but she is one of the few kids that I know that can play by herself, wether it's looking at her books, playing at her kitchen or just in general with her other toys. And it allows me a few moments of either reading, folding laundry or whatever.

I was able to walk walk walk walk walk walk off the weight (PLUS an extra 15lbs!) while wearing Lily and by walking and twittering/texting on my phone! So, I looked at technology as a weight loss tool. haha.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

I was feeling the same way back in February... I had been back at work for a couple of months, had an active 14 month old, a busy live, was about 8 weeks pregnant and super tired. So, something had to give... and since I had a little of a twitter addiction, as much as it killed me (not really!) I just quit going on it. I haven't been back on it in a few months now and some days I miss it, (most!) but now, with an 18 month old, being almost 6 months pregnant I have no time. I still read about 50 blogs though :-)

I'll be going back on mat leave soon and will rejoin Twitter soon!

Good luck finding your balance and like Annie said in her post, we want our kids to see what real parents look like and not hide the day to day stuff and if you are working and need to use technology, then this is it. Good luck! I'm off to catch up on your blog!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

I try and un-plug during the daytime hours when I am with my children only to pop in online when they are having breakfast (like now) or resting (in front of the TV).

A couple of years ago when I started blogging I was online all the time. It consumed me. I realized that I was spending less time with real life friends and more time with great online friends. I struggled to find a balance. And believe I have found it now. I pop in when I can - my kids are older now and require even more interactions so my online time is very limited during the day. Homework. Reading. Biking. Swimming. Playing. Hiking. Etc... They are no longer okay with sitting quietly in a corner with a tub of play-doh.

I have no problem saying to my kids, "Give Mommy a moment to respond to an important email for my 'job' and then we can go out and play." I love that they see a SAHM working with PR agents - making online connections - and writing. It's important for me to show them that I have a hobby that's important to me. I do love the community and it is important to me.

But, I've found that as the older the kids get the less I want to be on the internet. I think about this everyday.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOHmommy

Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading this with my month-old baby sleeping on my lap. I've been spending so much time this last month nursing, pumping, and talking to experts to try and get my breastfeeding problems sorted out that I really can hardly leave the house to socialize. So the internet has been crucial to keep me sane (not to mention the hours I must have spent on Dr Newman's website).

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChanna

Recently, we won a small, low-end computer (really, it is a piece of crap) - we have designated this computer for my 4.5 year old. No one has said anything, but by the silence from some folks, I can tell some folks are judging. My husband and I also don't care. Our life, literally, is founded on technology - it is our business and our livelihood. To pretend it does not exist would be hypocritical.

My husband is a serial entrepreneur and workaholic, but technology has allowed him to do much of our business from home. Our kids go to him for food and diaper changes, they come to me for entertainment and other things.

Folks have been neglecting and ignoring their kids for millennia - they did not need technology to do that.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercagey

I'm shedding a little tear Juliette ;) but you make a really good point. Some of the best parenting decisions I've made have been because I had the support and insight of a great group of moms online. This has been good for my children in some very up close and personal ways.

Should I put my iPhone down a bit more often? Yes, probably. But you are right, I'm not perfect. I do in fact make an effort to limit certain online activity until my kids are asleep (but I do that with TV too, when and if I watch MY shows, it's not around my kids). Actually, come to think of it, I don't read for pleasure as much as I'd like when they are awake either, and yet the "experts" say parents should read around their children to show they value reading. But wouldn't that mean leaving the kids to their own devices sometimes? Gasp!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Well said. Technology is a part of modern day life, and no amount of hand-wringing is going to change it. Children will see parents using it, and they will use it themselves throughout their lives.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Amen! I am a better, more informed parent because of technology. Would I be breastfeeding past infancy if not for the information I learned online? Would I be sharing that information with others all over the world? Would I be anywhere near as educated about important issues like vaccinations, circumcision, prenatal care, and more, without the Internet? No. A resounding no.
And while I agree with the poster above that we should be mindful of our technology usage (as we should with anything in life), I see absolutely no need to keep my laptop completely separate from my child.

I would surely not be the mother that I am (which is to say I fucking RAWK IT OUT, MAN) if it weren't for technology. And I mean that in more ways than one.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFoxyKate

Balance. Moderation. These are good things.

I don't think it's right to dismiss concerns about overuse of technology on the basis that 20 years ago people were criticising mothers who sat around and watched soaps. Neglect is neglect, no matter the catalyst. Maybe it's harsh to call it "neglect," but how easy is it for us to keep putting off our children to read one more blog post, answer one more email, look at one more website? I've had times where I'm so engrossed in whatever it is I'm reading/writing that I barely register my toddler saying, "Mama? Mama? Mama?" This isn't right. I am not teaching my daughter anything at that moment other than "Mama thinks this box of electronics is more important than you." She is not learning how to run a household, which is the big benefit to having children hanging around while you clean or cook.

I remember as a high-schooler feeling ignored by my mother when our household got connected to the internet. If I could feel that as an almost-grown-up, I don't want that embedded in my children's psyches when they're small.

So, yes, I do think that it's not fair to demand that parents step away from technology entirely, but knowing how I use technology at times, I can only assume that other parents use it the same way, and it's not a GOOD way. We needn't abandon technology, just step back from it a little and maybe save it for those times when our kids don't need us.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTipper

I will admit to having a giggle seeing two moms pushing strollers side by side while talking on cell phones (presumably not to each other), but I am trying to keep a more open mind and not assume they normally spend every moment on the phone instead of interacting with their babies. Perhaps they are combining WAH with SAH, perhaps they are making quick calls to their partners to arrange plans for dinner, perhaps they plan to turn the phones off when they reach the park, maybe their meet-up was the first adult interaction they've had in days. Whatever. That moment in time doesn't necessarily indicate "neglectful parent". And it's not really my business anyway.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

One more thought.

What are we modeling to our children? What will happen when they get their own phones? "But Mom - you are on twitter all the time talking to your friends. Why can't I?" Sure you can pull the "I'm the adult here" flag but with everything else - we try and model being a good citizen to our children. I see my son's friends at age 8 with their nose stuck in video games. That's not okay with me. Either is a tween being on a phone texting all the time. There should be a balance.

I guess my point is the same. As my children grow older I find myself less online.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOHmommy

Hear hear!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

Thanks for this. I recently was able to move away from the city and reduce my work thanks to technology. It allows me to have my daughter in daycare part time instead of full time, and home with me more often. To do that, yes, I have to check messages on my laptop or iPhone to maintain the illusion with clients, but it's worth it to me and her!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I have found that my online life is my therapy. I am a better mother and wife because of the processing I do in my writing, the support I garner from people who read and comment, and the information I find online. My husband and I both work in technology fields and we are constantly surrounded by it. Our son is just now 4 and has a computer set up in the kitchen area just for him. His favorite toys have always been our old cell phones. I think that technology can truly enrich our lives. Also, I am a LLL leader and every call I get starts with "I found your name on the LLL website". So many women turn to the internet for help... just like the rest of the world nowadays.

I do make sure my son gets the time he needs. He is my priority. This is evidenced by the fact that when we are going through difficult times (like dealing with behavior issues and potty training craziness) I am woefully absent from my online life. It is hard because those can be the times I need to reach out the most, but I just can't find the time to do it. After we cross our hurdles and life settles, I reach out again and reflect with my online friends. I make sense of the chaos and move forward.

I agree so much with the comments that criticism of parenting is a sport and always has been. The key is to ensure we are doing the best we can. We need to be honest with ourselves about our shortcomings (AND successes!!) and then move on. We can't dwell. That isn't going to benefit our children either!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Verve Path

Wow. Thank you SO much for this post. I'm a new young mom and have been made to feel guilty on several occasions for using technology to help me cope with the the stresses of motherhood. When my mother in law came to stay with us after we brought baby home and my little one was nursing every 1-2 hours around the clock I would occasionally read a book during the 20-40 min nursing sessions through the Kindle app. on my iphone. My M.I.L went so far as to say that I was neglecting my son and that it came off like I didn't care about bonding with my child by doing this. When really I was just so stressed out and exhausted that I needed to just get away into a good book for 15 minutes to bring me out of my slump. I guess my story doesn't exactly relate to being a WAHM - but I really appreciate this post, it really helped me let go of some guilt I've been carrying from it.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Wow! Thank you for saying this.

I've been feeling very guilty about not spending more time with my 6 month old. I work a flex schedule, part at home and part at the office, so that I can be with my child more. While I'm working at home my child is either napping or quitly playing on my lap, which makes me feel guilty for not being more present with my child. Thank you for helping me feel not so guilty.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Nice post, Annie, and very well said. I have used technology as a personal escape, as a means of finding like-minded parenting friends, as a means of staying connected with family and friends while living overseas, and as a means of working occasionally from home - all of these things make me a better mother, not a worse one. And modeling appropriate use of technology and accompanying social interactions is important to me, too.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

First time commenter, occasional lurker. Great post.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfaye

Amen!!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterK

Right on!

I had my daughters in the 1980s. My husband and both worked (still do) in the IT industry and we always had a computer at home but of course the internet was not a viable method of communication for the average mom in those days. If it had been, I’m sure I would have been one of the original “mommy bloggers”. I use that term in jest. In reality, I am fascinated by the ways that today’s parents have embraced the internet to write, connect, share information and resources, make money (or not), and all of the other things you have mentioned.

We may not have had to balance our use of technology with our children’s needs in those days but, like you say, every era has its own form of distractions. Balancing our lives is not a new issue. And technology does indeed make a lot of things easier to do, for instance, taking care of errands online vs. dragging a cranky toddler all over town. I wish “we” would all stop judging each other on our parenting choices. Every child is different, every parent is different. We all have different styles and needs and choices to make.

That said, I have to add a story one of my daughters looooves to tell about a time her baggy old parents visited her at college. We took her out to breakfast and promptly got out the three (yes, three) laptop computers we were traveling with. Oh, and our iPhones. A little balance needed there? Yes, we put [some of] them away when she called us on it (-;

Not sure if this ultra-long comment made much sense but great post!!!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkayak woman

I agree with much of your post, but was wondering whether you actually read the NY Times article? It included some unwarranted criticism, but I felt that one of the strongest points it was trying to make was that parents (not just Mums!) were overusing technology at the expense of their kids. They were responding immediately to the ding of the phone/text that had nothing to do with work or anything else they needed to respond to promptly. At the same time they were ignoring the needs of theor children - responding to the technology "ding" and not the child "ding". That bothers me. And I see it a lot at the park and on the streets.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

i loved the comment about criticising parenting being as old as the hills - it certainly is and you've managed to construct a thoughtful post on what the 'latest target' is. in my experience sadly it's usually been other women/mothers who make the accusations as part of their own martyr complex, and yes, i've been called on it too and have commented on it in my own blog. i think i equated asking mothers to stop doing things other than mothering as akin to asking office workers not to use their lunch hours to pick up some groceries.
i don't see why my son should only experience scheduled 'quality time' with me or see a parent that is constantly available for him and his whims. i want him to grow into a capable, reliant and reliable human being, not someone who is used to being served and spoonfed, and certainly not someone who expects the stay-at-home parent to be a doormat.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

Again I love you! I have been having this issue with my husband lately (OK all the time). He says I am always on the phone or computer (if so I wonder how everything gets done around here). While I see him zoned out watch TV when he's home. The difference? When DD asks me a question, I stop what I am doing and I answer it. When she needs to go potty, I get up to help her. When she wants something to eat I get up and get it for her. Her needs will always come before technology, and yes, there are times I get frustrated about it, but that is usually when DH is home doing nothing. The reason being: DH will be so sucked into the TV that he wont know that DD is talking to him.

There is a BIG difference.

I don't feel that DD needs me to be down her neck with my attention. I feel that if she does not need me, I can do my own thing. I don't totally shut off though. I give her, her personal space and she allows me (sometimes) mine.

OH also forgot most of the time when I am on the computer (like now) I am nursing LOL...

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOur Sentiments

Fiona:

I did read the NY Times article, which was really just the latest in a trend of similar types of articles and arguments.

You mention parents responding immediately to the ding of the phone/text that had nothing to do with work while they ignore the needs of their children. What if that same parent was sitting with a friend on the bench at the park chatting and told their child to wait a minute while they finished a conversation? Would that be acceptable?

I also think it is important to keep the "needs" of children in context.

For example, I am trying to teach my children to be more independent. I know for a fact that my son is able to propel himself on the swing. I know that my daughter can go down the slide without me holding her hand. Does that mean that I never push my son and never hold my daughter's hand? No, it doesn't. But if they are yelling demands across the playground every 15 seconds, when I've already been responding to their consistent demands every 15 seconds all day long, then I think I deserve a break too. I may have told them before we left the house that we are going there so that they can play and mommy can have a break. My break may involve a smart phone.

I'm also trying to teach them patience. So if they are happily playing alone and then suddenly want something from me, I'm not going to drop everything and run (unless it is an emergency). I may ask them to wait until I finish my message or wait until I finish reading this page, and then I will do whatever it is that they are asking.

So yes, my child does go "ding" and I don' t always jump up immediately. But I don't think that is a bad thing.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Oh, I soooo second, third and fourth that this is a wonderful post!

I go back and forth most days between feeling like I'm hovering over my little 9-month old, and feeling horribly guilty because I'm ignoring him. All the guilt is induced by outside factors that make me feel like I'm not the perfect mom. But there's no consensus on what the perfect mom is, so how on earth will I ever live up to it?

Most days, my son toodles around the family room pushing his favorite little toy car, and is just thrilled to look over at me and get a big smile, then go back to what he was doing. Is there really any difference to him if I'm sitting on the floor watching him, or sitting on the couch at the laptop glancing back at him every minute or so? I don't think he knows the difference. And he's become such a little independent soul, always off exploring every new place we go to. I'd like to think that's a good trait, not some horrible by-product of neglect on my part!

I really liked one poster's comparison of the "get off the internet" comments to "get back into the kitchen" -- it really does seem to put things into perspective.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I'm guilty of the double-standard. I think my husband (who is gone from the home 6A-7:30P daily, with frequent travel) should log off and pay more attention to the kids. I think I, as the at-home parent, have more leeway with my technology use. My computer is in the family room. I can't avoid the kids while I'm absorbing my tech each day even if I want to (more true in the summer. During the school-year I do make an effort to have my more mentally-involving tech tasks complete before I pick them up.)

But it's true, the kids are being raised in a tech-rich environment. Even at age 2 when she was asked if she wanted to look at pictures, my daughter didn't run to a bookshelf or a photo album, she ran over to my computer and sat on the chair, eager for the slideshow to begin. :D

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Your post addresses many of the sentiments that have been rambling around in my head of late. Yes, there has always been something to pick at and no, (Juliette) that's not likely to change. Does that mean we should disregard cautionary warnings? Certainly not. Enter the kitchen timer...

This handy dandy little device is available to help you negotiate oh so many attempts at moderation...

"Yes, you may play outside for ten more minutes. When the timer goes off, it's time for a bath."
"Ok, mama needs send an email but I'm really excited about that book you want to read. How about we set the timer for 15 minutes and when it goes off we'll read it together?"
(My favorite): "Ok, you can play on pbskids.org for 20 min and while you do that mama will work on her computer. When our time is up, no more computers. What do you want to do then?"

I suspect the reason technology, soaps, whatever else has been criticized in the past is because these mediums can suck.you.in. Before you know it, you've just spent half an hour reading a thoughtful post, it's comments, and scripting your own comment instead of the ten minutes you'd intended (you know who you are:)). It never hurts to set a little timer in the outside world to bring you back to the brick and mortar in due time. Moderation is key - in technology, in distraction, in vice, in life.

Great post...so glad a friend sent me here! I'll be adding you to my RSS reader!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth (Pot Luck Mama)

I love this post. My rule has always been that if I'm working and my kids need me, I'll answer them promptly, but it may sometimes be to tell them I'll help them in a minute. They can ask for stories, show me something, ask me to play, whatever. I stop when the timing is right, which is sometimes right away, sometimes in a few minutes.

My kids know that I won't ignore them, and they know why I'm on the computer. If my husband is home, I may tell them to ask him instead.

No guilt. They get a LOT of my time. I have to make a living somehow, so my care for them gets mixed up with working.

They all play great together. All 3 are very independent and highly interactive with each other. Just now they're sitting and playing a game together at a level the toddler can deal with, and they're all laughing. No need for me to interfere.

Family time is definitely family time, and I think that makes a big difference. Like some others here, I don't have any sort of a smart phone. Matter of fact, half the time I forget to bring my cell phone with me when we go places. Not like I really need to be connected that way with the world all the time anyhow.

Very good point Amy. My in-laws would say "where did you hear that? Your twitter friends?" YES - why do I ask them? Because you know nothing and want to know nothing about breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping.

We parent almost completely different than our families (who are in a different city!) and having access to high speed technology, research, online friends, resources, blogs, forums, even twitter made my life, and my husband's life, SO MUCH EASIER!!

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

80s mom here again. Maybe a bit off-topic but a couple comments touched on this and I'm curious about it. Outside of a few very low-tech games (Sticky Bear ABC, concentration) on our old Apple machines, there wasn't a whole lot for little kids to do with computers when mine were small. When they were in middle school, we still had only one family computer and email address to share.

What is it like raising children who were born in this century and have never known a world without hi-speed access to the internet? Maybe a future post someday?

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkayak woman

I really agree with OhMommy. I've been blogging for 3 years now, and in the beginning, it did absorb a lot of my time. To the point that my husband was resentful that I took my laptop to the couch to blog every night after the kids went to bed. And just this year, Verizon lent me a Palm Pre Plus that I used for 2 months and then returned. I've never had a Smart Phone before, and I miss it, but I'm also sort of glad it's gone and don't plan to upgrade my "just a phone" any time soon. I was amazed and a little disturbed at how addictive it was, and it all boils down to how easy it made it to access the Internet, to text instead of having an actual conversation. So yeah, it was great that I could use it to find a gas station when I accidentally forgot to fill up and was running low, but there was no reason to be using it while at the playground with my kids.

There has to be balance. There's not much difference between two moms talking over the internet and two moms talking at the playground, and I don't see a difference between blogging while breastfeeding and reading a book while breastfeeding. But it IS very easy to get sucked into it all and lose that balance.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

kayakwoman:

I'll save that post for the day when I do get consistent access to high speed Internet. Here in Germany I'm using a rocket stick with a limited amount of high speed Internet, so I get switched to low speed when that is used up. At home in Canada, we don't have access to high speed Internet at home (but I do at the office).

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think we're actually on the same page here. I didn't mean to imply that the second the child goes "ding" a parent must respond. Children need their needs met, but if they're always met immediately we're like to raise pretty self centred adults. I guess I still feel the article (I've only read the NY Times one, so don't know to what extent the others are more or less critical) had a valid point at two levels. First, what resonated with me was the failure of some parents, consumed by their phones (in particular) to be engaged with their infants. So here, I'm talking about a baby under 12 months. Research shows that prompt (though not necessarily instantaneous) response is a significant factor in building attachment. An infant who does not receive prompt responses learns that his/her needs won't be met. There may be many reasons for lack of response, varying from perfectly legitimate (I'm a single Mum, so I'm well aware of those) through to far less legitimate. Technology is not the only cause of the latter, but from my observation it's an increasingly common one. I see quite a lot of parents and a startling number on nannies at the park talking on cell phones or texting while their infant cries or otherwise gives some indication that they need their needs met.

My second concern is with the lack of "presence" that distractions such as technology CAN cause. The image that accompanied the Globe and Mail version of the NY Times article was the one that caught my eye. It was ostensibly a family dinner, but the Dad was staring at his computer, the Mum was looking at her phone, the son was playing a game boy and the girl was staring blankly off into the distance. My impression was that the photo was of a real family that had participated in the study. I found the image disturbing. No one was engaging which each other and the parents were possibly engaging with people other than the people they were actually physically with. The latter particularly irks me as I find this happens a lot these days. For example, I was at a small, cosy new years eve party a couple of years ago and when the clock struck midnight everyone began madly texting. I made a comment about it and got a couple of snarky responses about wanting to share the event with people who weren't at the party. Fine, but in the rush to do so they'd neglected to celebrate the event with the people they were actually with. The virtual world replaced their real world and those of us sharing the same physical space were cast aside for what I can't help but see as some sort of addiction to the virtual.

To bring it back to children, failing to be "present" with our children is something people like Gordon Neufeld talk about as being detrimental to their attachment. We don't need to be present all the time (so I agree with a lot of the posters and yourself wholeheartedly on the anti-woman presumption behind a lot of the accusations in the NY Times article), but the problem with a lot of the new technologies is that they present constant distractions as each new post/email/call/tweet arrives. You can easily find yourself half-present for significant portions of the day. Dealing with that takes a lot of self control.

I should conclude by saying three things: 1) I'm posting here because I think there are times when emails and blog reading are addictive for me and I'm trying hard to be conscious of what that might mean for how present I am with my daughter; (2) All of my concerns can be easily managed while still participating fully in the virtual world. My concern is not with everyone who uses technology but with what I see as the small, but increasing, number of parents who find it highly addictive and distracting; (3) I teach university students who have grown up with so much technology that they have the collective attention span of a gnat. They think they can multi-task but they can't. Research shows it and I see it in their work. So yes, our children are growing up in a technological world, but I'm not convinced it's all good and I believe it's important that we model appropriate behaviour.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

Whenever and if ever :-) :-) :-) It's a wonderful blog whatever.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkayak woman

Mom2HandR:

I think each person should be aware of their own technology use and regulate it as necessary to achieve balance in their life. But when outsiders judge based on incomplete information or when the media makes people feel guilty when they shouldn't feel guilty, then I get riled up.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

amy:

Technology is vital to work at home parents, but it is also vital to a lot of people as a lifeline. Your example is different from the ones I gave in my post, but is valid too. We give up so much of ourselves when we become parents. I think we deserve a 15 minute break here and there throughout the day and technology can facilitate that for a lot of people.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My thoughts exactly! I hate the vilification of things - makes people seem self righteous.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershasta

Sandy:

I think it is wonderful that you've found a way to be with your baby more often. You might be interested in some of the work of the http://www.babiesatwork.org/" rel="nofollow">Babies in the Workplace Institute.

Our babies certainly do benefit from plenty of focused bonding time. But all parents, whether working or non-working, have to do other things during the day and I think that babies do benefit from being there and doing those things with us.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

OHmommy:

I agree that modeling appropriate behaviour for our children is important. I hate it when people pull the "I'm the adult here" flag.

There may come a time when I have to pull away more in support of my son. We do not have video games at our house, but he uses them at other people's houses and gets obsessed very quickly. We borrowed one from my sister for a while and it was the only thing he ever wanted to do and he was miserable whenever he couldn't play it. In the end, we decided it wasn't something we could have in our home. So just as I would cut back on having sweets in the house if my husband was trying to lose weight, I may also have to cut back on technology use in the presence of my son if I find that he is becoming obsessed.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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