Over the past couple of days I’ve seen countless people I know sharing the post aptly titled, “Dear Mom on your iPhone.” It starts off innocently enough, but within a paragraph it’s carefully explaining to mom all the magical moments she’s missing out on while engaged with her phone.
And I get it. LORD do I get it. I see families in restaurants where the whole bunch is engaged with an electronic device. I see teenagers who can’t make eye contact or hold a conversation because they’d rather text a person sitting right next to them. I completely understand that that we are a society obsessed with our phones.
But I don’t agree with that blog post.
I disagree with it for a whole host of reasons. Probably the most obvious is that it uses shame and guilt to make a point. In my opinion, there is nothing more insidious than mom guilt. It starts when you’re pregnant and permeates every facet of caring for our children. Don’t eat this. Don’t drink that. When Charlie was born so sick, so broken, I blamed myself. If only I had done something different. What, exactly, I wasn’t sure, but I knew that somehow I had failed.
Eventually, however, I had to accept that people who make a lot of “bad” decisions have healthy children. And people like me can give up every substance on the planet, make it to every appointment, take every vitamin, and still have children who aren’t healthy. We are a guiding force in our children’s lives, but we aren’t the only one.
This doesn’t stop people from trying shame mothers, though, and worse yet, we spend far too much time shaming each other. Not one father shared that post on Facebook. I didn’t see any of them sharing the companion post, “Dear Dad on the Recliner” either. Every decision mothers make is held up to the impossible standard of motherhood: the food you serve them, your music choices in the car, television watching, whether you work, vaccinations, breast feeding, and on and on. I notice no one is sharing posts on Facebook about Dads who go hunting for the weekend. Or about how Mom is missing precious moments while cooking dinner or scrubbing toilets. Why is it OK to engage in those activities, but it’s not OK to laugh at an E card on Facebook? Or send a text to your best friend? Must we sacrifice all joy and sense of self because we have chosen to be mothers?
I’m calling BS on all of it. It is our job to keep our children safe, to keep them fed, and warm, to care for them when they are sick, but it is NOT our job to subjugate every part of our being for our children, and frankly, I’m tired of people saying that it is. No child is served by having a slave for a parent. Children need parents–not another playmate. If you lean in the biblical direction, read it: a mother’s job is to mold and discipline her children–not to give up everything in their lives for them. As a kid, I explored and played with my friends in the neighborhood. My mom watched her favorite soap opera every day. I never received the subliminal message that I wasn’t good enough or wasn’t as important as Hope and Luke. That’s just ridiculous.
My opinion, I realize isn’t worth a whole lot, so I’ll add a few other little facts to this rant of mine. Last August a study was published that showed that “intensive parenting” actually makes mothers more depressed. This year another study emerged showing that helicopter parenting may breed depression and incompetence in children.
Let your daughter spin. Let your son swing. And let yourself look at pictures on Istagram. We all need a break sometimes–to enjoy the fresh breeze, to feel the sun on our faces and to take a few moments to be ourselves. Our kids will be just fine if we let ourselves enjoy the moment too.