A few days ago our two oldest boys were involved in a 4-hour history class. While they were doing their thing, I took the younger 3 kiddos to a doctor appointment, picked up some things at Target and Whole Foods, and went to the park to let them play for awhile. I brought my iPad along with me to read my Bible and hash out some of my Bible study for the next week. It was a beautiful day. There were some other moms there with kids, a couple of them sitting together, and a couple of them who seemed to be enjoying the day on their own. As I sat down on a large granite rock to settle in for some good reading while the kids happily played, I thought about a post I’d seen floating around Facebook called, “Dear Mom on the iPhone.” If you haven’t read it or don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read it here: Dear Mom on the iPhone.
If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, it basically addressed moms at the park who fiddle on their phones while life is seemingly passing them by, children practically growing right in front of their noses while they miss out on small moments because their eyes are glued to a screen. Missing glances from children and ultimately missing out on those special times with their kids, as they will be grown in the blink of an eye. I totally get it. How many times have I gone to bed at night thinking I could have spent more time engaging with my kids and feeling guilty for the fact that they played outside happily with each other all afternoon while I experimented with recipes inside or cleaned or just took a few moments to breathe? I sure don’t need someone else to remind me how guilty I should feel.
Anyhoo, back to the park. After having that blog post pop into my mind, I nervously glanced around me to see if any of the other moms were looking at me in judgment. I looked at my iPad. Then I looked at my kids. They were dancing around the play structure happily, chasing each other in circles and giggling gleefully when one was tagged. I looked back at the moms around me. The few that were there with each other were engaged in conversation, not even glancing at their kids for a matter of at least 6 minutes…I gave up trying to time how long it was before they looked up to see what their kids were doing. And I didn’t feel the slightest bit of judgment toward them. They were two moms, enjoying a rare moment of uninterrupted conversation with each other. Seriously, how often does that happen when you have young children in your home? One of the other moms was scrolling through her iPhone, and the other was just sitting. She casually watched her kids, and periodically took a sip from her Starbucks cup.
I pretty quickly realized no one was noticing me and my iPad. Phew. But what the heck? Why do we as mothers do that? Why do we allow seeds of guilt to imbed themselves in our hearts, making us feel as though we are subpar because we might be doing something someone else may look down upon?
I honestly don’t believe that was the intent of the original blog post written by this mom. I believe she saw what she perceived as an epidemic of unplugged parents who are more concerned with their Facebook updates than their own children. And I believe she has the best of intentions. And I’m sure some people needed to hear it. But, what is the difference between two moms engaging in conversation at the park, seemingly ignoring their kids, and a mom texting her friend or updating her Facebook status to share about the glorious day at the park she is enjoying? To me, there isn’t a difference. We’re moms. We need that. And just because a mom may be distracted by her iPhone doesn’t mean she won’t hear if her child has a need arise.
I am with my kids all. day. long. I get to hear about every little problem, every little triumph, and every big triumph. For me, going to the park is a freakin’ break. Yeah, that might sound kinda bad, but it’s true.
Pretty much every Thursday afternoon, I join a group of awesome homeschooling moms at the park. The kids don’t even realize I’m going to the park for ME. Yes, it’s for them too. I want them to have time with their friends, but man, that time chatting with other moms trudging through the same crazy life of homeschooling is like a fresh fizzy drink on a summer day. It gives me a boost of energy and encouragement for the next week…until we meet again. So what about moms who don’t have such a support network? Or what about the moms who just happen to be at the park alone with their kids? Texting with friends or commenting on Facebook statuses can be a life saver for them, too. Social media can be a distraction, but it can also be a sanctuary. When I don’t have my friends right here with me, I thrive off of seeing their status updates or chatting over text. That’s the beauty of technology now. I am a social being. I’m outgoing and absorb energy from being around my friends. When I don’t have that interaction, I miss it.
And there are weeks that go by when I have to cram my Bible study in all in one night because time has whisked by. Maybe the only chance I get to truly sit and relax and actually read and understand a book (without having to read the same passage 4 times because I keep forgetting what I read) is when I’m at the park.
I gave myself permission to read my Bible that day, on my iPad. I looked at the moms chatting and smiled inwardly. And I smiled at myself, knowing I was going to have a few moments to spend with my God, precious time when my kids were happily entertained, and I didn’t need to feel guilty for missing a moment or a side glance from one of them. They know I love them. I tell them every day. They know how important they are to me. I tell them all the time what a sacrifice it is to home school, but how I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s ok if they have experiences and moments as they’re growing that I don’t get to see.
One day they’ll be grown.
Yes, it’s true.
And there will be lots of moments I will miss.
And that’s ok.
I will do my best as their mother.
And they will know I have a life outside of them.
As much as I love them, I am also a wife, a sister, a friend. And those relationships are all important to me too.