It’s happened again. Another well-meaning mom’s post about the negative effects of screen time has gone viral. You know the one—a mother keeps track of how many times her children look to her for attention while playing and she notes that, had she been on her phone, she would have missed those moments.
I nodded along while reading, agreeing with her at first, while simultaneously feeling the guilt creep in—an occurrence that’s become all too familiar since I first embarked on the journey into parenthood a little over four years ago.
To be fair, she’s right. I’m sure I’ve missed many a precious moment while working on my laptop or browsing Pinterest on my phone. But I’ve also missed moments because I was folding clothes, or reading a book, or washing dishes, or working, or perusing a catalog—things parents have been doing for decades.
And, honestly? I’m tired of being made to feel bad about it. Bad about using my phone to text a friend. Bad about sending work emails while my child entertains himself. Bad about allowing my son to use the ipad to play alphabet ninja. Bad about not being present for ALL THE MOMENTS.
The whole “screen” issue is hotly debated in the parenting world: Why we shouldn’t use our phones and computers around our children, how much time spent on tablets and phones is too much for kids, where and when it is appropriate for children to use electronic devices (definitely not in restaurants, you’ll get judged for that… but don’t let your kids become distracting in restaurants, you’ll be judged for that too). I read stories about celebrities who brag about strictly following the “no screen time until 2 years” rule or don’t have TVs in their home. I suppose in a perfect world I too would have the money for a housekeeper and a nanny to do work for me or engage in play with my children when I feel like I need a break. But I don’t. And I’m still bombarded daily with stories regarding the horrors of our electronic devices.
Here’s the thing—We KNOW. We know the recommendations. They’ve been beaten into our heads by the AAP and our own pediatricians and parenting articles and family members and strangers at the post office (that was a fun conversation). We know it’s about finding balance. But sometimes balance is going to mean zero screen time one day and unlimited the next because that’s life. Real life. You expect the unexpected and when the going gets tough, the last thing we need is to make it harder on ourselves or allow others (I’m not referring to doctors and the AAP; I know guidelines and recommendations are necessary) to make it harder on us.
It’s normal for generations to look back through rose-colored glasses and reminisce about the good ol’ days when they were younger. Each generation thinks they did or had it better than the next, even though “better” usually just means different. Time moves on and we need to accept and embrace change as it comes because times are changing (the AAP even changed their recommendations regarding kids and screen time to better reflect this). Does that mean we toss our kids an ipad for the day or spend every second of playtime checking emails and texting our friends? Of course not. But if I want to use my phone to “escape” for a few minutes, the same way my mom used to call Karen from down the street to chat when staying home with four children became a bit overwhelming, or let my child watch a few minutes of Daniel Tiger on a tablet at a restaurant while we wait for our food so that I can actually have a conversation with my husband for the first time in days, I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it without feeling guilty about what I may or may not be missing out on. Because for every moment I’ve missed, I’ve been there for so many more.
So to all the parents out there—you’re doing just fine. You can use phones and tablets and miss out on moments and still be an amazing parent. The moments you’ve missed while taking a much-needed break likely pale in comparison to all the ones you’ve been there to be a part of. And that’s what your kids will remember.