They are sitting at a picnic table drinking their coffee when I plonk myself down on a seat near by.
They look over when my boys race up and asked me to push them on the swing. I tell the boys ‘in a minute’ and they race off screeching.
I notice one of them frown, and then I actually hear her make that ‘tut tut’ sound.
I wonder if they might be bothered by my wild kids making lots of noise and racing around like hooligans, but then I catch the end of her sentence
‘…parents have always got their faces in their phones’.
Are they really judging me for using my phone while my kids play at the park??
My kids are not tiny. They are old enough to negotiate the play equipment and manage most social situations. They can even push themselves on the swings and are more than capable of coming to me for help, should they need it.
They do not need me, or want me, to helicopter parent them when we are at the park. So while they run off as much energy as they can in 30 minutes, I sit. And while I sit, I use my phone.
You can give me all the dirty looks, and do all the tut tutting you like, but it won’t make me feel guilty for using my phone while my kids play happily at the park.
You don’t know me.
You don’t know my kids, or our life.
You don’t know why I am on my phone, or what I am doing.
Maybe I’m writing a shopping list, or paying a bill.
Maybe I’m texting a friend to see if she is ok after a rough day.
Maybe I am emailing my child’s teacher to organise a meeting about a problem we are having.
Maybe I am connecting with people in a support group on facebook so I feel a little less alone.
Maybe I am telling my eenager that she is brave, and smart, and can do anything she puts her mind to.
Maybe I am making a doctors appointment for myself instead of putting it off for yet another day.
Maybe I am checking my calendar and wondering how on earth I fit everything in.
Maybe I am texting my husband to say I love him because we haven’t had chance to speak in days.
Maybe I am googling ways to cope with the latest kid crisis.
Maybe I am doing something important, something meaningful, or worthwhile, or maybe I am playing candy crush, or scrolling mindlessly through facebook.
It doesn’t matter if I am using my phone to cram one more important thing into my overstuffed day, or if I am using my phone to escape for a few minutes and not think about all the things that are weighing me down. Both of those things are equally valid.
It’s ok not to be 100% tuned into your kids all the time. Sometimes it’s even good for our kids not to be so closely scrutinized every waking second.
It’s ok to use this time, when you know your kids are happy and don’t need you, to do some work, or tick off something on your to do list so that you can be there for them later, when they do need you.
It’s ok to need a break every now and then, or a laugh, or to connect with someone else.
It’s ok to put yourself before ‘creating memories’ and ‘not missing a single second’ every once in a while.
I know my kids are ok.
I know my kids are happy.
I know that I spend plenty of time with my kids with no screens in sight.
I know that I am not a perfect parent, but that using my phone while my kids play happily at the park does not make me a bad one.
So you go and ahead and judge me for enjoying a bit of time on my phone if you want. I don’t mind. But don’t expect me to feel guilty, because I know better.
Have you ever had your parenting judged?
What happened? How did you cope with it? Do you say something to the person who was judging? Should I have said something to these women?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Once they are past those precarious toddlers years they don’t need us to be hovering at their elbows – and I reckon when I was a kid my mum probably pushed us out the gate on our bikes and told us to go to the park so she could get some work done… so hey, the fact that you’re actually nearby is a bonus! I’ve read books, read the paper, written 20 page text messages while stuck in the playground… it’s seriously the. most. boring. place on earth once you’re over the age of 13… maybe the tut-tut’ers could’ve said hello so you didn’t have to play Candy Crush ;-p (or do work)
It’s funny, I don’t ever remember my parents taking us to the local park when I was a kid. I remember riding my bike to the park with friends when I was 8 or 9… but my Mum never came! LOL I wonder if these older women would have had the same reaction if I was reading a book?
Well said Kate. Can we please just stop judging each other. Besides i for one am saddended by the amount of overindulged, cant entertain themselves , i should always come first epidemic i see in our youth and children nowadays. What we need is a little more “benign neglect” when raising our children as far as i am concerned.
Hey I’m one of “those” – a free-range Mum and my four were allowed to run up to our local park (ie our local school 5 mins walk away) whenever they liked.. I knew they were safe there, two teachers, 1 office staff, 2 Education Assistants all lived across the road, my best friend lived 3 houses up, we knew everyone on the streets to and from and around the school and my then 9yr old – No2 child – would take my mobile (just in case).
I never cared then what others thought, especially as I was single coping with a Special Needs child, precocious Miss and the twins.
Nothing wrong with any of them then or now (twins are now 16). And if I did happen to wander up to check what the mob were doing, I would take my book, water, snacks, hat, suncreen and blanket too. They’d all bugger off and I could lay there and relax – to have them, and half the neighbourhood kids come visit, only when they were hungry.
The joys of living in a small community in a small coastal country city.
As you said Kate – your crew are getting older and they’re quite capable of entertaining themselves – just like we had to “back in the day”… haha (oh and now I do feel old )
Well done Kate great article, I hate to admit it but I might have been that person awhile ago… That was back when my kids were young and I thought life resolved around every moment my children asked or needed something! But I have learn’t being there for everything at a drop of a hat is not at all good for my kids for there growth and well being.. I must admit sometimes I struggle and think I’m a bad parent as I didn’t come to their aid when they asked for help or to spend time with them but then I remind myself of all those other times I do :-)
So next time maybe drop them and go to the local cafe and enjoy a coffee and time on your phone ?! I know where I am living its nearly looked down upon when parents go with kids to playgrounds etc. over the age of 6-8!
Great reminder to not judge and just love each other. Sounds like your kids had an awesome time at the park!
I always enjoy reading what you write. I have to admit that I often am seething inside while outwardly being polite when old ladies reposition the hat that’s fallen over my sleeping baby’s face or talk to my kids before talking to me etc…..but I also remind myself that it does take a village to raise a child, and that we are a bit disconnected from each other. I live in Belgium where old ladies often feel free to comment, fortunately positively most of the time!
That said, I am saddened by seeing so many parents on phones when with small children by them and do think that we can often fall in the trap of being distracted by gadgets. As a teacher I see I need to work harder than ever to help my class develop their listening skills too. I don’t want to judge, or be judged, but will use this as a reminder to stop and think, and see what’s most important at this time. I persuaded no#3 and no #4 to come for a walk with me yesterday. No#3 had his headphones in. I couldn’t hear the music so wasn’t too worried about any possible damage to the ears (one of my bugbears)……but didn’t realise how much he was missing of what we were talking about. Another missed opportunity?
I think there is a difference between being ‘distracted by gadgets’ and using our gadgets in positive ways. As I said, my children are no longer small (6, 9 and 13) so they don’t need me to supervise them all the time, and while I may have missed something here and there I can’t possibly be focussed on my children every single moment and in these moments I chose to use my phone to get some things done so that later I could do things with my children. It really is a balancing act isn’t it :)
It’s so refreshing to read this. When our kids are of school age it is important to build their independence and move further beyond us. It’s awesome that at the age your children are that you ARE at the park in the first place! You are there and if they need you, you will be there for them. You are absolutely right about the time is a great opportunity to catch up on tasks that you keep putting to the side. I am constantly amazed at the to-do’s that pop into my head while I’m watching the kids at the park and I am always thankful my phone is nearby to add these thoughts to my notes.
If I were at a park alone, I would totally be on my phone and my kids are a bit younger than yours! I usually go with friends and their kids to parks and such and when my littles continually ask for attention, I usually remind them that the idea of a play date is for the kids to entertain each other so the moms can relax and talk.
I appreciated this post. My children are still relatively young, but they know that mama spends at least part of the time at the playground writing lists or a card to a friend, reading a book, and occasionally on my phone. Doing things I need to do – if only for my sanity! And at least my kids are outside wearing off energy while I do it. ;)
I, on the other hand, am afraid of being judged by other mothers because I can’t stand their fiery stares so I might as well don’t take my phone out.
Perhaps it’s time for me to consider using the phone whenever I want to, however I please, take pix of my kids … I get to own my space because it’s all mine ! ?