With so many responses to "Dear Mom on the iPhone" zipping around the web these last few months, I figured that I should go see what all the huff (counter-huff and supportive-huff) was all about. Last November, a blogger named Tonya Ferguson, who writes her family blog 4littlefergusons, wrote a post that she title, "Dear Mom on the iPhone." And all was quiet for Ferguson, until it wasn't anymore.Ferguson shares later, after getting all the attention, that it was a hypothetical situation with a hypothetical mother. That she wrote to herself as much as she wrote it to any woman. She doesn't explain this until after the fact, after garnering the attention and responses, but even that seems reasonable due to the unlikelihood that it would matter much to anyone but her then small readership. She blogs for herself and isn't, or at least wasn't, on the radar of other "mommy bloggers" until recently. Here is a portion of Ferguson's original "Dear Mom on the iPhone" first posted on November 14, 2012. Click here to go to the her post in full.
Dear Mom On the iPhone, I see you over there on the bench, messing on your iPhone. It feels good to relax a little while your kids have fun in the sunshine, doesn’t it? You are doing a great job with your kids, you work hard, you teach them manners, have them do their chores. But Momma, let me tell you what you don’t see right now….. Your little girl is spinning round and round, making her dress twirl. She is such a little beauty queen already, the sun shining behind her hair. She keeps glancing your way to see if you are watching her.
Your little boy keeps shouting, “Mom, MOM watch this!” I see you acknowledge him, barely glancing his way. He sees that too. His shoulders slump, but only for a moment, as he finds the next cool thing to do. Now you are pushing your baby in the swing. She loves it! Cooing and smiling with every push. You don’t see her though, do you? Your head is bent, your eyes on your phone as you absently push her swing. Talk to her. Tell her about the clouds, Mommy. The Creator who made them. Tickle her tummy when she comes near you and enjoy that baby belly laugh that leaves far too quickly.
Put your eyes back on your prize…Your kids.
Show them that they are the priority. Wherever you are, be ALL there. I am not saying it’s not ok to check in on your phone, but it’s a time-sucker: User Beware!I had actually only heard of original post after reading Fried Okra's (Megan Cobb) response piece that a friend shared on Facebook. I really liked Fried Okra's letter to that attention-getting, but yet again, hypothetical mom on the iPhone. Here is a portion of Fried Okra's post, "Dear Mom on the iPhone, I get it." Click here to read the original post in full.
Dear Mom on the iPhone -
This morning at 6 AM I checked Facebook and saw a letter re-posted by a friend and addressed to you. As I lay there in the grey dawn, listening out for the sounds of my own two kids waking, I pictured your tiny girl spinning in her pretty dress as you completely ignored her, staring transfixed at your phone. What an image, right? An image I think was meant to bring you guilt and shame, written into a "kind" letter under the guise of giving you a gentle reminder that your kids won't be small forever, and that if you don't stop using your phone instead of focusing all of your attention on them, all of the time, they're going to think your phone is more important than they are to you.
Listen, Mom on the iPhone, I've met you a million times. You're my best friend, my sister, the other mom at the bus stop every morning, waving until the bus carrying our kids to school drives out of site. I see you everywhere I go, we smile knowingly over the heads of our kids in the grocery store check-out lane, and you struck up conversation with me at the mini-gym while we watched our 4-year-olds play together last weekend. I read your blogs and empathize with your Facebook posts and talk to you via text and Voxer. We get together for coffee so our boys can play together. We help out at classroom parties together and sit in the lobby of the dance studio while our daughters take ballet. I know you, hundreds of you, and I know your kids aren't confused about their place in your life because you're planning next week's meals while they have some free time on the playground. Don't buy into the shame and guilt, friend.
From our many interactions, Mom on the iPhone, I've seen that you're smart, capable and resourceful as well as being loving and caring and giving where your family is concerned. So I trust you to know when you and your kids need to give one another your undivided attention, and when it's okay for you to take a few minutes while they're occupied to attend to one or two of the myriad of other things for which you're responsible. I trust that you talk to and laugh with and teach and cuddle your kids enough that they know the difference between being neglected and being allowed a bit of independence to figure out they're still important and valued even though your world, and the world at large, doesn't always revolve around them. I trust that when you have doubts or worries or need advice, you use your resources to find answers and solutions to care for and protect your family. You're an adult with adult responsibilities and you handle them well, Mom on the iPhone, so you've earned my respect.
You use your phone to do all the things our Moms did with paper and pens, stamps, recipe files, checkbooks, clocks, timers, typewriters, fax machines, calculators, calendars, phones with cords, newspapers, books, thermostats, televisions, radios, and cameras. Your phone helps you plan, manage and communicate with regard to your job, your household, your family's schedule, in short, your life from the park. Or the library. Or the pool. Or your child's hospital room. Or the commuter train. Or Disneyland. You have a phone because it makes you more portable and productive, and that's beneficial in a hundred ways for you and your family. It's funny - the author of that letter saw you with your phone and judged you to be "messing." I wonder if she'd have bothered to write you a cautionary letter if instead of an iPhone, she'd seen you at the park with a video camera or a cookbook or a handwritten note from your mother? I'm willing to bet not. I wonder why your having that phone in your hand makes some people so uncomfortable? Why does a simple piece of technology give a stranger license to accuse you of being a selfish, too-busy, disengaged woman who's threatening her children's self-esteem and self worth? We both know that's not who you are.
Who are you? I'll tell you who you are.
You're the mom with the critical project at work who is managing it from the park because the babysitter's child came down with chicken pox.
You're the mom, the dear friend of mine, who lives across the country from me but is as close to me as my own heartbeat thanks to our phones.
You're the mom who is also my sister. Between the two of us we have seven kids, so we've both long given up the idea of truly meaningful phone conversations that aren't interrupted constantly by the needs of our offspring.
And so, Mom on the iPhone, I say carry on. (And you too, Dad on the iPhone, although you seem to have escaped criticism again. And I wonder why that is?) You're showing your kids how a person can love them fully, take good care of them, get them out and about on a beautiful day, while still being successful in other arenas and managing her other responsibilities, and even take a few minutes to do something that she simply enjoys, just for herself. You have my respect and support. Text me sometime and we'll play Words with Friends while we wait in the carpool line.
With love and appreciation,
MeSo, there you go. Two different letters--a little of both sides and what overlaps between the two iphone'ing mothers. Honestly, I feel them both, and I can see myself in both. I try to stay aware any time I am using my phone. Whether I am using my phone to run our home and financial worlds, or skyping with my best friend who lives on another continent while both of our babies nap, or when I am texting with my mom who learned to text in her 70s so she could receive near-daily photos of her grandbabies. My phone keeps me connect in important ways and it also helps me get my work done quickly and while I am with my son, rather than leaving him with a sitter. I can zip off items to the accountant, transfer funds at the bank and reserve library books for an later pick-up all in 5 minutes flat. I can make quick edits for my clients and turn my work around fast and without being chained to my computer. I see myself actually freeing up time to be with my son by spending some quick, smart minutes on my phone. And I absolutely use my phone for some "me time" during my day too, because who is anybody kidding, it is great for that. There is no doubt about it. I like to check out recipes while I am cooking, or to take a few minutes to learn how to prune my raspberries properly, or just to take a spin through Facebook for some quick social relief. All of it is valuable in my book and none of it too much, until it is too much. And we all know when it is, so when we do, it's time to get really honest with ourselves and straighten up our priorities. (I am taking about our real priorities. You know, the ones you are always answering to, regardless of what you may say your priorities are. Yup, those are our real priorities.) If your phone use is something that you don't feel good about, then make a change. If your use is cool? Then phone on, my mothering friends, phone on.