You see that mom on the bench at the playground with iPhone three inches from her nose? The one who glances up every 67 seconds to locate her kids before going back to her phone?
Yeah, that’s me.
I used to feel guilty about spending time on my phone when my kids are around. I worried I was ignoring my kids and missing important moments of their childhood. I’m supposed to be savoring every moment — gazing at my kids’ every move in constant, wide-eyed wonder. Instead I’m wasting these precious hours by burying my face in a gadget.
But you know what? I’ve decided it’s not such a bad thing that I spend a lot of time on my phone. I don’t think my electronic best friend is stealing my babies’ childhood. If anything, it’s making me a better parent — at least most of the time. Here’s why.
1. It teaches me about parenting.
I don’t think you should turn to experts every time you’re struggling with a parenting issue. Most of the time, the best thing you can do is listen to your own kids and your own instincts. But every once in a while, when you’ve tried everything you can think of and nothing seems to work, a suggestion from the outside world can work wonders. I’ve learned hundreds of creative parenting strategies online that have helped me with everything from discipline to sleep. And sometimes, being able to look up ideas on my phone when I’m in the throes of parenting is a lifesaver for my sanity.
2. It keeps me mentally challenged.
Being a stay-at-home mom is boring. If you’re an extrovert like me, being a work-at-home mom is only slightly less boring. It’s easy to get stuck in your house and in your head. You forget there’s a whole world out there of adults with ideas and interesting conversations. But with my smartphone, I’ve got the world in my pocket. With the touch of a button, I can access everything from the latest research on psychology and health to the latest book releases on Amazon. It exposes me to information that has nothing to do with diapers. That’s good for my mental health, which is definitely good for my kids.
3. It helps me connect with fellow moms.
Some moms wish they lived in a time when they could be part of a parenting village. Not me — I am in that village. Sure, I may not live next door to moms who help me parent, and our kids may not play together every day. But I’m in a Facebook tribe of fellow moms that I can depend on every bit as much as if they lived next door to me. When it’s 3 pm on a Friday and I realize I forgot to get childcare for the work phone call I’m supposed to do in an hour? I whip out my smartphone and type a post with my thumbs, and within a few minutes a friend is at my door, ready to hang out with my kids while I run downstairs to my basement office so I can talk on the phone without background noise. My phone has given me access to friends I can depend on, adults who support my kids and support me.
4. It helps me be adventurous with my kids.
I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have a smartphone, I would never take my kids out of our neighborhood. I have a terrible sense of direction, so before I had a smartphone, going to a new place meant getting lost at least twice on the way. And the only thing worse than getting lost in city traffic is getting lost in city traffic at rush hour with two small kids in the car. But with my talking GPS system, I can confidently take my kids to new places — and even spontaneously discover fun new activities nearby while we’re out running errands. I have an app to help me find playgrounds nearby and an app that lets me get groceries delivered to my house in an hour. So if I’m out and I realize I forgot to pick up food for dinner, I can take my kids to the playground while someone else picks up groceries. That’s a win for everyone.
5. It helps me not hover.
Helicopter parenting — hovering over your kid supervising their every move — is popular these days. I realize there’s a fine line between not-hovering and straight-up ignoring, but there’s also a lot of evidence that unsupervised play is good for kids. And it’s normal and healthy for parents to be busy with activities that have nothing to do with their kids. I don’t see anything wrong with letting my kids get bored (it stimulates creativity) or encouraging them to work out a problem themselves. But right now while my kids are still too young to be left unsupervised, my smartphone enables me to focus on adult things while still being there if they need me. I’m keeping an eye on them, but I feel less obligated to spend three hours playing trains with my toddler. It’s perfectly okay for him to play trains by himself.
Yes, I sometimes have to make a point of putting my phone down to make sure I’m not ignoring my kids all the time. I try to always be ready to turn off the phone and focus on my kids when they need me. But when they’re playing happily on their own, I don’t feel bad about browsing Facebook. And if nothing else, my phone is great for capturing my kids’ cute moments on camera, so I can someday look back and remember, with a sigh of nostalgia, how fleeting these days of their childhood were.