Guess What? We Don't Always Have to "Put Down Our Phones"

I have come across several judgmental and preachy pieces that circulate the various social media platforms telling us parents to put down our cell phones when we are with our children.

You don’t know what my morning was like. You don’t know how much attention I have given my children in every other moment today besides this reprieve at the park. Maybe this time and space to virtually connect with other grown-ups is going to be the saving grace for me to remain patient with my child later. Maybe I am juggling “working from home” with childcare for some reason today, and I need to be available.

I remember being with my two daughters at a park one afternoon and I had dutifully been ignoring the phone in my pocket as I tediously pushed them on swings (confession: I hate swing-pushing). When they are finally off on their own, climbing whatever contraptions, I take a seat on the bench and pull out my phone because yes, I get bored when I’m with my children sometimes. My daughter yells over, “Mom! Put down your phone!” I wanted to yell to all the onlookers, “I JUST took it out and I have barely looked at it today!” Just because our children clamor for constant attention doesn’t mean it’s actually what they need from us or the best thing for them. They can entertain themselves!

I am not minimizing the documented, negative effects on family time of a bunch of cell phones at the dinner table. We absolutely need to be mindful of that addictive effect of compulsively checking Twitter or Facebook, and how that takes us away from real life and real interactions. But sometimes after being up since 6 am on a Saturday and arguing/disciplining/cajoling through hours of breakfast, getting dressed, cleaning up, getting out the door, a little escape from real-life social interaction with young children into virtual, grown-up interaction can keep us going.

So to the writers penning these opinion pieces, and to those circulating them, please don’t tell me to put down my phone. I can be a loving, present, awesome parent who takes a few minutes to scroll through Facebook at the park.