Motherhood, Screened Off

Excerpt from this article:

Parents today are often chastised for being distracted by their devices, for devoting more attention to their phones than to their children. I concede that Twitter provides, at times, a more witty conversation than the one I might have with a 6-year-old; that there is, in fact, always some excuse to turn to the device and tune out a small child’s rant about the problem with peanut butter; that the feeling of productivity the phone engenders is as addictive as it is false.

But it seems safe to say that our own parents probably gave more attention to their myriad daily tasks than they did to their children, too, and even did so in their children’s presence. I see my mother, circa 1982, the bills spread out on the kitchen table, her checkbook in front of her; I hear her on the phone as she is writing down directions to someone’s house. The difference is that those tasks, by virtue of not all transpiring on one opaque device, were tangible and thus felt legitimate.

I have started to narrate my use of the phone when I am around my kids. “I’m emailing your teacher back,” I tell them, or, “I’m now sending that text you asked me to send about that sleepover,” in the hopes that I can defang the device’s bad reputation, its inherent whiff of self-absorption.

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