Family life

Give parents on smartphones a break

Parents shouldn't have to apologize for tuning out the chaos and spending some time on their smartphones.

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Photo: iStockphoto

I was the last of my friends to get an iPhone.

I grudgingly bought one four years ago after my pay-as-you-go flip phone accidentally ended up in a pot of steaming marinara sauce while I was multitasking. My cellphone was useless after that, and having recently moved from Winnipeg to rural Ontario—where the nearest hospital was an hour away—being without a phone wasn’t an option. The cheapest iPhone on the market made the most sense for me, since we’d also recently cancelled our landline and our Internet service was unreliable.

To say that having a smartphone changed my life wouldn’t be an over-exaggeration. If I can make a confession, I was addicted to having the ability to run my household literally in the palm of my hand.

Read more: The screen-time debate: My kid used up our data plan>

Parents and smartphones—OK, specifically moms at the park—were in the news earlier this week. Jennifer Hicks’ Huffington Post blog Dear Mom on the iPhone: You’re Doing Fine touched a nerve with readers and went viral, with more than 400,000 likes and 72,000 shares and tweets. The topic isn’t new, with dozens of posts over the years shaming parents for using smartphones. But perhaps it was Hicks’ benign approval of parents ignoring their kids’ pleas for face-time rather than Facebook that caused the post to go viral.

Commentors on Huffington Post were quick to sound the alarm, claiming that kids could get kidnapped or hurt while a parent takes a breather from watching them at the park. Some were quick to judge that parents were missing out on the minutia of their kids’ lives by not watching them go down the slide for the hundredth time that day. I get that people were commenting from a place of concern but, as a free-range parent who doesn’t buy the notion of stranger danger and whose son broke a bone while completely supervised at a playground, I think the judgement is a little harsh.

Read more: Is using a tablet to keep your kid occupied lazy parenting?>

As a stay-at-home mom who has been solo parenting for the last eight months, my smartphone is my lifeline. Motherhood can be extremely lonely, especially in my case, when my partner is gone for months and I live in a rural area where my friends are at least 20 minutes away. So, yes, I’m on my phone a lot. Because when I’m not sending pictures of the kids to my husband (who has essentially missed out on the last eight months of their lives and loves the candid photos I send throughout the day), I’m banking, arranging playdates, booking doctors appointments, emailing our real estate agent, trying to identify a cool bug or plant we’ve found or working. Because when I’m not on my phone, I’m with my kids every single minute. I’m watching them play, I’m watching them grow up and I still feel guilty that the 20 minutes I’ve spent on my phone at the park is going to get me publicly shamed, just like Hicks was last week.

So, to all the smartphone parents out there, tweet me, and I’ll meet you at the park.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.