What the ‘Mom on the Cellphone’ Is Really Doing

cellphoneThe letters always start out something like this: “To that mom on the cellphone” or “Hey mom with a cellphone.” The shaming begins quickly.

“Don’t you know what you’re missing?” “Your child is growing up on the other side of that screen.” And on it goes.

The arguments always have just enough truth to them that you might find yourself nodding along. Until you’re that mom with the cellphone. Maybe you’re at the park, and your child is playing not 10 feet away. Or you’re on a train, and they’re staring out the window. They’re occupied.

You pick up your phone.

In an instant, you’ve become that mother that the world hates. You’re ignoring your kid and playing Candy Crush.

Or are you?

Because our phones aren’t see through, it’s hard to tell what it is a mother is doing when she sits on the bench in the playground with a gadget in hand. Could she be playing a mindless game? Sure, and she’d have every right to do so if her kids are safe and having fun. Science has shown that our kids need some down time without their parents breathing down their necks. It helps them develop.

But let’s say she’s not. Let’s consider what it is she might be doing:

  1. Working. In this day and age, an estimated 3.2 million people do at least a portion of their jobs as telecommuters. Often that means being available on demand, answering emails even while taking their kids to the park. The beauty of telecommuting? We don’t lose precious time with our families to commuting. And yes, sometimes we can work while our kids are hanging off the monkey bars.
  2. Reading. I used to bring a physical book with me everywhere I went. Now I can take hundreds in the palm of my hand.
  3. Paying bills. Remember when your parents would sit over the dining room table, checkbook in front of them, papers scattered around them, and “ignored you” to make sure the electricity stayed on and the water still flowed? Now parents can do that anywhere, any time. But it still needs to get done.
  4. Texting. Communication with others around us has changed. The marathon phone calls between friends or family members are fewer and farther between. But staying connected to the people we love is just as important today as it was when your mother sat on the kitchen floor, looping the springs of the phone cord ’round her finger as she soaked in the affectionate tones of her best friend.
  5. Ordering dinner. It’s 2015. She doesn’t have to cook every night (or any night if she doesn’t want to). Besides, sometimes pizza night on the living room floor while the whole clan watches a movie is just what the family bonding doctors ordered.

So next time you find yourself nodding along to the “mom on a cellphone” piece, consider what it is that mom might be doing.


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