The other day as I was standing on a street corner looking at my phone, a woman smoking a cigarette and wearing some sort of dead animal on her coat instead of a hood, shoved past me with an annoyed “Excuse me!” and teetered off on heels much too high for reality. “Have nice day!” I yelled, out of spite. Of course, I probably was in her way, standing there looking at my phone, oblivious to the pedestrians streaming by me. But, I had a really good excuse: I’m a stay-at-home mom.
Have you ever seen a woman walking down the street pushing a stroller with one hand and holding her phone in the other? Of course you have. You noticed her because she made you fear for your life just a little bit, since you had no idea whether she’d look up from her phone in time to see you walking toward her and swerve out of the way. Or, if you weren’t actually in her way, you may have cringed a little on her behalf as you watched her walk directly toward a telephone pole, or some other obstacle, and wondered if you ought to yell “Watch out!” or just let her crash right into it. Try not to worry about her, though. She knows what she’s doing.
If moments like these are the only time you have the opportunity to observe a stay-at-home mom, chances are you’re under the impression that we’re constantly on our phones. I can see how you might make this assumption. Gee, you might be thinking (if you think things like “gee” in the first place), these moms are so addicted to their phones, they can’t even walk down the street without looking at them! But, in fact, it’s the total opposite. Walking down the street is the only time we can look at them!
Just because we’re stay-at-home moms doesn’t mean we don’t have lives outside our homes. Our phones are our conduit to the outside world. Lots of us have freelance work, or volunteer projects we need to stay on top of. But even those of us who don’t are getting emails from friends and family, making grocery lists, checking in with friends on Facebook, and doing all kinds of other things that help our lives run smoothly.
At home, at the playground, in the grocery store, or all manner of other places we end up with our kids, using our phones to do anything at all is pretty much unfeasible. You can’t check your email when you’re spotting your kid as he climbs fearlessly up a ladder so tall it makes you want to puke a little. And you can’t make a grocery list when you’re changing a dirty diaper, or refilling bowls of cereal endlessly. And you definitely can’t respond to an important text message while you’re building a fort, or reading The Cat in the Hat for the eight millionth time.
And, yes, before you say it, I know that some moms actually do check their phones while doing those things. Because phones are addictive and it’s hard to stay off of them sometimes. Especially when the only human being you see all day has a vocabulary that’s limited to “Mine,” and “I want.” But phone addiction is another topic for another day. So, for the rest of us, our phones aren’t really available while we’re with our kids (except maybe to snap a quick picture, or check the weather to make sure we’re putting on appropriate outdoor clothes).
But, when our kids are strapped into their strollers, immobilized and safe, we have a moment to check in with the world. To set reminders for ourselves so our mom-brains don’t forget important things like picking up the laundry from the laundromat or buying more diapers. To return an email from the coordinator of our volunteer organization, or our landlord, or our mom. To laugh at a funny picture our best friend we hardly ever see any more posted on Facebook. To text our other friend we haven’t seen in a while to say hello. You know, to be a grown up person for a second.
And, yes, we know that moms have survived for centuries without iPhones. And we’ll certainly survive without looking at our phones. But we won’t be able to function as well, as moms, wives, friends, and daughters. Because we live in a world where everyone does have a smartphone. And email, text, Facebook, etc. are all acceptable and expected methods of communication. You don’t have to like it (many don’t), but it’s the world we live in.
So, if you see a mom pushing a stroller and checking her phone, cut her some slack. Or, even if you happen to bump into a woman standing on the sidewalk staring obliviously at her phone, remember that it’s possible she’s just dropped her son off with her husband and is on her way to choir practice and hasn’t had a second to check her email all day. We promise to try really hard not to crash into you. And to apologize profusely if we do. But, in general, you should be safe. We’re moms. We can do two things at once.