I’m watching my son’s Taekwondo class in the park. My three-year-old girl is sitting on my lap, colouring. Another mum sitting nearby comments how horrible it is that, “Most mums are missing out on their kid’s childhoods because they are always on their phones.” I listen closer. She goes on, “It breaks my heart to see Mums on their phones at the park when they could be playing with their kids.”
She looks at me, as if I’m going agree. Instead, I say, “No kid wants to play his or her mum at the park. The park sucks for mums. Personally, if I spend a few minutes on my phone instead of dying of boredom while my kid builds a sandcastle with another kid he met seven seconds ago, I’m comfortable with that.” This is clearly not the answer the woman was hoping I’d give. She shuts up and goes back to thinking she’s a perfect mother.
You should know that I try not to be on my phone when I’m with my kids. But sometimes when I’m with my kids, I do need to squeeze in a timely response to an email. It doesn’t make me a bad mum. It makes me a busy mum. I certainly don’t need another mum thought-bubble shaming me because I have to answer an email. She doesn’t know how much time I spend with my kids nor does she know my life circumstances. Plus, it’s really none of her business.
But more than the phone judgment, what winds me up about this mum is her assumption that she knows better and that she’s somehow superior. There’s a lot about being a mother that is incredibly difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking, exhausting and wonderful. There’s also a lot about being a mother that’s downright boring.
Me personally, I wasn’t crazy about the infant phase. And I can’t stand the park. Why? Because while my kids are playing Ninja with a brand new buddy or fighting over sand toys with a kid they just met, I’m doing nothing. It doesn’t mean I don’t take my kids to the park, but it does mean I’d prefer to do things together that we actually do together.
Playdates are also low on my list of activities to do. They rarely go well—at least with small children. And when a kid comes over so does his or her mum. If the mum is a friend, it’s a great chance to spend time together. If not, I’m stuck entertaining someone with whom I may or may not want to spend two hours. And of course there is the inevitable, “someone won’t share” fight that can bring any playdate to a screeching halt.
Every mum’s got her cup of tea. Some mums love to watch their kids play at the park while others, like me, would prefer to do something else. Some mums like to pass time on their phone. Others won’t even answer a call when their kids are around. There’s a lot of ways to be a mum. There’s even more ways to be a good mum. And if a Mmm’s worst crime as a parent is to distract herself with her phone a little too often, her kids are pretty lucky because she’s a good one.
I’m pretty sure more damage has been done by mum’s thought-bubble shaming one another, than a mum sending a random text to a friend while her kid’s play nearby. Sure, there’s a chance a Mum may miss a priceless kid-moment because she’s busy texting a friend, but she may miss more by spending her time judging everyone else.