You’ve seen her everywhere: standing next to a stroller at the park, waiting in line at the grocery store, or even in the car next to you at a stoplight. She is a mom on a smartphone. If you’re from an older generation, chances are you’re wondering if she even knows she’s there with her kids. That’s how deeply she’s involved in scrolling, typing and reacting to the phone in front of her. If you’re thinking that phone is impacting the way she relates to her children, especially the youngest ones, you aren’t alone. Psychologists are now coming to terms with the fact that smartphones are having a negative impact on interpersonal relationships. That doesn’t just include the tweens who text the friends sitting next to them. It’s parents, too.
Writing at the Family Focus blog, psychotherapist Erica Komisar observes that mothers are actually “suffer[ing] from boredom raising their young children.” This boredom is partially due to the fact that smart technology has rewired our brains to seek constant stimulation, something babies cannot possibly provide. Think about it: A woman who has pushed off having children until she is established in her career takes time off to have a baby. Her fast-paced work life governed by constant contact with her phone is replaced by the quiet presence of a baby who, outside of feeding and changing, pretty much wants to sleep all day. It’s the kind of change that is a literal shock to the brain.
Working moms on leave are already under a significant amount of pressure simply knowing that in a few months they’ll have to return to the office. They want to enjoy their time with their baby but instead spend it feeling guilty that they’re bored. Not long into a friend’s maternity leave, she asked me how I could handle what she saw as the tedium of being at home with an infant.
“Talk to your baby,” I responded. Then, I taught her the hands and fingers game I came up with when my own son was only a few months old. “Google milestone developments like finding hands and fingers. Sit him down and show him your hands, then his own. He’ll be fascinated and you’ll bond.”
What I thought was a pretty average thing to do is, apparently, quite out of the box for some new moms. Komisar explains:
From a young age we push our children to achieve academically, to read earlier and to become independent at an earlier and earlier age. We laugh and brag when our children are verbally or academically precocious rather than focusing on nurturing their emotions through play. This has created generations of young mothers who see little value in playing with and nurturing their babies, and in fact get little pleasure from physical and emotional contact. Rather they derive pleasure only from the work which involves cognitive processing and stimulation. They feel empty when relating to their babies which is instinctually backwards. Human beings have survived for millions of years because they put relationships first and yet here we are with a modern dilemma of overvaluing cognitive stimulation and feeling little from social emotional contact.
Forcing women to be “equal” to men in the workforce has done little more than cause a biological shift away from the mothering instincts that we need in order for our culture to survive and thrive. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the sad reality that a growing number of new moms would rather connect with their phones than their babies.