I’m that mom at the park. The one who’s on her phone as her children repetitively hop up and down the playground steps, sliding down the tunnel slides between each lap. The mom you look at with judgment because you think I’m being neglectful. But there’s more to the story than me simply “ignoring” my children.
You see, I’m actually a bit of a paranoid mama when it comes to my littles playing at the park. My oldest child is four, but I still make sure to stand close by as he climbs that rock wall. And my littlest one is just two, so she can’t master those tall ladders on her own yet. Even though I’m sure she’d be ok climbing up the shorter ones, I still stand next to her, my hand lingering behind her back, as she does. Because it’s my natural instinct to want to keep my children safe.
So why are you allowing yourself to be distracted by your phone, you ask? Well, let me explain.
Well, let me explain. I’m a “stay-at-home and work” mom, which means I work from home part-time and stay at home full-time. The days my kids are in school, I work as a freelance writer. The days they aren’t in school, I work as a mom (which we all know covers a wide variety of titles ranging from chef to chauffeur to butt wiper). This setup has many benefits, as well as many downfalls. While I get to have a flexible schedule doing something I really love, I also have to make up for lost time by staying up late and squeezing work in on the weekends. Work that includes responding to emails. Researching writing topics. You know, things we often do on our phones.
Yeah, but can’t you do that when your children are napping so you can pay attention while they play at the park?
Actually, no. I can’t. My oldest stopped taking naps eons ago, and while my youngest naps, I try to get more work done, whether it’s around the house or for Life As Mama. And truthfully, I’m guilty of being on my phone when I’m home with the kids too. But if I wasn’t checking emails and browsing Pinterest for awesome DIY projects, I wouldn’t be contributing to the well-being of my family. Because when I’m finding personal fulfillment through my work, it makes me a better mom. It makes me a happier mom. It shows my children that doing something you love reaps great rewards.
I also believe it’s important for my children to learn to play independently. To spend time exploring on their own, without having to rely on me all the time. Even though I’m on my phone at the park, I still watch them from the corner of my eye. I look up every few seconds to make sure they are safe (us mamas are masters at multi-tasking, right?). I speak to them while I respond to emails and sometimes I’ll snap a photo of them for my Instagram page. No, I’m not “fully” engaged, but sometimes an hour at the park is the only break I get from my busy home life. Sometimes, checking out of my helicopter mommy habits to scroll my Facebook feed is the only adult interaction I get that day. Sometimes, the only time I get out of the house is to drive down to the park, and it’s the only chance I have to be free of little people pulling and tugging on me every.second. Sometimes, being at the park is the only opportunity I have to catch up on the local and national news. My phone is the main vessel to my sanity and the outside world sometimes.
But here’s what else you don’t see. Those emails I’m answering? They are going towards a paycheck that I earn so my children have clothes to wear to the park. That research I’m conducting? It earns me money to buy wipes so I can wipe their dirty hands and faces when we head home from the park. And that whole thing about me ignoring them? Even if that was the case, it’s only for about an hour- the equivalent of what a work outside the home mom gets for an actual lunch break (which I don’t get). But you don’t see me as the mother I am most of the time. You don’t see when I’m giving them a bath and teaching them how to wash their hair. You don’t see when I sit down with them to read a bedtime story, usually at least twice, before I tuck them in, say prayers with them and tell them that I love them. You don’t see me rush to their side and wipe away their tears when they’ve fallen off the coffee table. And you don’t see when I drop them off at school and give them a big hug before I tell them again that I love them and hope they have a good day.
Maybe I’m a bit distracted when I’m at the park. But that doesn’t make me a bad mother. The fact that I usually neglect myself should be a good indication that I put my children first. And I’m learning how important it is to maintain my own identity. The one that often gets lost among dirty dishes, poopy diapers and temper tantrums. The one that I can sometimes only find by pulling out my phone and escaping reality for a bit. I’m that mom at the park. The one who’s on her phone. The one who’s doing the best she can at this motherhood thing.