Dear Mom on the iPhone -
This morning at 6 AM I checked Facebook and saw a letter re-posted by a friend and addressed to you. As I lay there in the grey dawn, listening out for the sounds of my own two kids waking, I pictured your tiny girl spinning in her pretty dress as you completely ignored her, staring transfixed at your phone. What an image, right? An image I think was meant to bring you guilt and shame, written into a "kind" letter under the guise of giving you a gentle reminder that your kids won't be small forever, and that if you don't stop using your phone instead of focusing all of your attention on them, all of the time, they're going to think your phone is more important than they are to you.
Listen, Mom on the iPhone, I've met you a million times. You're my best friend, my sister, the other mom at the bus stop every morning, waving until the bus carrying our kids to school drives out of site. I see you everywhere I go, we smile knowingly over the heads of our kids in the grocery store check-out lane, and you struck up conversation with me at the mini-gym while we watched our 4-year-olds play together last weekend. I read your blogs and empathize with your Facebook posts and talk to you via text and Voxer. We get together for coffee so our boys can play together. We help out at classroom parties together and sit in the lobby of the dance studio while our daughters take ballet. I know you, hundreds of you, and I know your kids aren't confused about their place in your life because you're planning next week's meals while they have some free time on the playground. Don't buy into the shame and guilt, friend.
From our many interactions, Mom on the iPhone, I've seen that you're smart, capable and resourceful as well as being loving and caring and giving where your family is concerned. So I trust you to know when you and your kids need to give one another your undivided attention, and when it's okay for you to take a few minutes while they're occupied to attend to one or two of the myriad of other things for which you're responsible. I trust that you talk to and laugh with and teach and cuddle your kids enough that they know the difference between being neglected and being allowed a bit of independence to figure out they're still important and valued even though your world, and the world at large, doesn't always revolve around them. I trust that when you have doubts or worries or need advice, you use your resources to find answers and solutions to care for and protect your family. You're an adult with adult responsibilities and you handle them well, Mom on the iPhone, so you've earned my respect.
You use your phone to do all the things our Moms did with paper and pens, stamps, recipe files, checkbooks, clocks, timers, typewriters, fax machines, calculators, calendars, phones with cords, newspapers, books, thermostats, televisions, radios, and cameras. Your phone helps you plan, manage and communicate with regard to your job, your household, your family's schedule, in short, your life from the park. Or the library. Or the pool. Or your child's hospital room. Or the commuter train. Or Disneyland. You have a phone because it makes you more portable and productive, and that's beneficial in a hundred ways for you and your family. It's funny - the author of that letter saw you with your phone and judged you to be "messing." I wonder if she'd have bothered to write you a cautionary letter if instead of an iPhone, she'd seen you at the park with a video camera or a cookbook or a handwritten note from your mother? I'm willing to bet not. I wonder why your having that phone in your hand makes some people so uncomfortable? Why does a simple piece of technology give a stranger license to accuse you of being a selfish, too-busy, disengaged woman who's threatening her children's self-esteem and self worth? We both know that's not who you are.
Who are you? I'll tell you who you are.
You're the mom whose husband, due to a job change he couldn't refuse, has a 90 minute commute to and from work, which means he doesn't get to spend time with the kids except on the weekends. Thirty minutes ago, you got out the toolbox and took the training wheels off the six-year-old's bike, and then you grabbed your phone and captured a 20-second video of her first two-block solo flight to this very park on her two-wheeler. You're sitting on that bench texting the precious video to her Daddy at work, and receiving his return text -- a video of him clapping and cheering for his baby girl. You'll have both of these videos (and hundreds of great pictures, too) forever. When that same daughter loses her first tooth two weeks from now, you'll capture that moment with your phone, too, and her Dad will be the second person in the whole world to see her newly-minted gap-toothed smile.
You're the mom with the critical project at work who is managing it from the park because the babysitter's child came down with chicken pox. You're on that bench emailing key talking points to your boss, who is covering for you in the meeting you're missing. I admire you. Your kids know you as a strong, capable, resourceful, flexible business person and the best Mom in the world. I love the positive messages this will eventually set them up to believe about themselves.
You're the mom who took your 3 year old little boy to see a specialist yesterday. He's been diagnosed with a spectrum disorder and you're scared out of your mind and absolutely reeling. You're on the bench today setting up appointments for initial consultations with recommended therapists. You'd do it on the telephone but whenever you try to speak his diagnosis out loud, you cry. But you're getting this done, and I think you're about the bravest person I know.
You're the mom whose grandma and best friend died of cancer. In addition to raising your three kids and being very involved in their school and extra-curricular activities, you work part-time as a nurse. In your spare time (ha!) you lead a team of 13 to 30 women who raise as much as $50,000 annually to help find a cure for cancer, all to honor your friend and your grandmother. You're on that bench organizing a 150-person fundraiser that will net over $12,000, which you will donate to a charity in the hopes of saving lives. I'm proud to be on your team, and proud of the work we've done together. More importantly, your kids are proud of you.
You're the mom who finds solace and inspiration in the pages of books, but you haven't read anything beyond a short magazine article in five years because you've had small babies and toddlers to love and care for. You live a thousand miles away from your family and don't have money to pay a babysitter. Your kids have finally gotten independent enough to play for a bit on their own without your full, undivided attention, so on sunny days you're on this bench devouring page after page of your first book back on your phone's Kindle app. It makes me so happy to see you caring for yourself a bit while your kids enjoy the sunshine and use their imaginations to entertain themselves.
You're the mom, the dear friend of mine, who lives across the country from me but is as close to me as my own heartbeat thanks to our phones. You're sitting on that bench far away and you just read the post on our private board about my nephew being sick again. You'll drop everything the minute you finish reading, and you'll pray with me. I know you will, because you've done it before. I do it for you, too. As much as we'd love them to be, our lives aren't arranged so that we can take our kids to the park together and sit and chat while they play, but you make time for me and I make time for you when it matters most because we love and need each other. You give me great advice, a listening ear, and connection during a time when, for a mom, it's common to feel very isolated and alone.
You're the mom who is also my sister. Between the two of us we have seven kids, so we've both long given up the idea of truly meaningful phone conversations that aren't interrupted constantly by the needs of our offspring. We're okay with it, because we're both pretty good writers and we can text a blue-streak. You're on the bench watching my nieces and nephews play while I'm watching your niece and nephew play, and we're Facebook chatting about recipes and paint colors and laughing until we cry just like we would if you were here. Sometimes we have the hardest conversations imaginable that way, and time stands still on both of our benches, and I want to throw my phone far away from me, but I hold onto it and so do you, because sometimes, Mom on the iPhone, our phones are our lifelines to one another. And that's okay.
And so, Mom on the iPhone, I say carry on. (And you too, Dad on the iPhone, although you seem to have escaped criticism again. And I wonder why that is?) You're showing your kids how a person can love them fully, take good care of them, get them out and about on a beautiful day, while still being successful in other arenas and managing her other responsibilities, and even take a few minutes to do something that she simply enjoys, just for herself. You have my respect and support. Text me sometime and we'll play Words with Friends while we wait in the carpool line.
With love and appreciation,