Scrolling through Facebook the other day, a photo caught my eye. It was a photo which showcased a letter that a daycare worker had taped up to one of their windows. The letter basically not so nicely demanded that parents stop their “appalling” behavior of being on their phones while picking up their children.
I get it. I understand what the daycare was trying to say. I know that kids are excited to see their parents after a long day, and honestly, I do make it a point to not be on my phone while I pick up my kids from school.
However, despite the fact that I understand the point the daycare was trying to make, the letter really rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly because I know all too well that sometimes busy parents HAVE to answer their phones.
For example, I was at the park with my three-year-old son the other day. We had spent the afternoon laughing and having a blast. As I watched my son quietly digging in the sand, I heard my phone ring. I dug it out from the bottom of my purse and noticed that it was a call from my child’s doctor that I had been eagerly waiting on. I quickly picked up the phone and listened carefully as I took in all of the information from the doctor about a specialist that my son was being referred to.
As I finished the conversation, I glanced up just in time to see two older ladies giving me the stink eye and judging looks for being on my phone while my son played at the park.
In that very second guilt washed over me. Their judgement made me feel insecure about answering that important phone call. However, I quickly brushed the guilt aside because I knew it was a call I had to take, and if I had missed it I would have been waiting a long time for another call back. The feelings of guilt instantly transformed into pure annoyance.
I’m sure the ladies who were busy clutching their pearls and judging me from a far assumed I was chatting with my girlfriends about things like soap operas, and I know they didn’t know that I was on a very important phone call.
My parenting was being judged over a three minute long phone conversation, exactly the same way the daycare workers judged parents at pick-up over their phone conversations.
A mom who answers an important phone call or a dad who replies to a text in the presence of their child is not a bad parent. There are times when answering a call or responding to a text can not be avoided, and I think it is important to extend grace to parents and give them the benefit of the doubt in these types of situations. More importantly, when did it become the norm to judge and shame other parents with passive-aggressive signs about their parenting shortcomings?
Do I think that parents being obsessively on their phones ignoring their children is okay? Of course not. However, I do think that it is key to remember that unavoidable important phone calls can come up at the most inopportune times, but that doesn’t mean that the children are unloved or are being neglected.
Phones are unavoidable these days. Important phone calls are going to happen. Texts will pop on my screen and I will reply. Sometimes I juggle things like playdates, Girl Scout meetings, little league sign ups, well baby appointments, and a million other things, right there from the convenience of my very own phone.
Obviously my phone does not take precedence over kids. I am with my kids every single day. I see first hand all of their successes, I answer their 5 billion questions, and I have been there for every milestone. I watch their cartwheels. I look at their paintings. We play hide and seek, and we do crafts together. And sometimes I answer my phone in front of my children because life happens.
Ultimately, I think it’s important to give parents these days a break from the scrutiny. So, the next time we are out and about and witness a parent on their phone in front of their children, let’s give them grace. Let’s be careful to not judge them too harshly over a three minute long phone conversation. We can never be too sure what’s going on on the other side of their phone.