I'll admit, I am not that mother who skips around the house blissfully calling to her children to come do the next lovely family activity, carefully prepared and ready to go on the dining room table. I don't know if these mothers actually exist, but I know I'm not one of them.
No, in lieu of Maria from the Sound of Music, my kids got the workaholic mother who has to consciously close the computer and step away from the keyboard. I'm that mother with the kids who make big sweeping pointing motions to their open mouths while they silently scream in slow motion "Feeeeeed meeeee!" while I silently mouth back, "Hold on, I'm on a conference call!"
It's not that I love to work so much (I'm not sure that I do) as much as that there feels like there's so much work left to do. As a work-at-home mom, I can never quite get away from it. The next meeting, task or to-do item is only as faraway as that little tone on my iPhone. I don't feel great about this, but I'm also aware that if I went to work at an office every day my kids would see me about 50% less of the time. For all my phone calls and my appendage like attachment to the computer, at least it's me and not some babysitter mouthing back in silent slow motion, "Okay, okay!" as I make peanut butter and jelly for lunch or pour everyone a drink of their own.
Enter the New York Times which recently reported that researchers are concerned that parents are so plugged in that they're in danger of profoundly neglecting their children. I know I should have read it as a warning, but I mostly felt bad for the parents in the lead photo instead of the kids (one of which was surfing on an iPhone by the way). Most parents I know who can't let go of their iPhones during non-working times are plugged in because they desperately need some kind of escape to recharge and don't know how to take it. They, like me, salve their guilt, by telling themselves "at least I'm here" even when exhaustion, commitment and work-demands probably more accurately necessitate saying good-bye to the kids (and the iPhone) and taking a day or two to check into a hotel where no one--not the ringer or the five year old--can dare interrupt them.
While the researchers prepare the latest study to heap guilt on our heads, my guess is what parents really need is to read the research on the effects of parental burnout (not excessive use of technology) before they decide to do things differently. Every parent I know wants more time with their children; we just don't have the confidence or the willpower to carve out our own private recharge time when both the needs our kids and our work never really stop.
What do you think? What's the solution here? How do you monitor your own screen time when it comes to being with your kids, work and parenting?