Are you with your kids right now? Then you're practicing some distracted parenting. Whether it's the computer, the iPhone, the TV, or any other tech gadget that we're addicted to, using while parenting has come under fire more than once. Most recently, by a dad who was admonished by his 4-year-old who was fully aware that she could get away with anything during one of his smartphone distractions. The author of the piece asks if these little "stepping outs" could add up to a big problem, not unlike when dad goes out for cigarettes and never comes back.
While my initial reaction to his story was a sinking feeling in my stomach, knowing my kids have had to ask for my attention more than once when I was deep into an article or IM session, upon reflection, I realized, "So what?"
As the author points out, parents found ways to shake themselves out of the grind of child-rearing long before the advent of blogs and text messages. Parents used to just tell kids to go outside and play. Today's helicopter variety, however, makes you feel bad for not staring into your child's eyes 24/7, whether encouraging a new skill or just to make them feel how much you love them.
But kids need space. Even my almost 2-year-old doesn't need me watching him like a hawk as he eats lunch. If I can check my email while he's chatting to himself about pasta, we're both pretty happy. Additionally, as comedian Louis C.K. once pointed out, being able to get some work in while your child is running happily on the playground may be the only reason the two of you can even be there right at that moment. I know my smartphone allowed me to spend more time with my newborn -- as I returned emails while he was nursing -- because I had to get back to work or lose my income.
I do advocate Internet-free Sundays, and unplugging when you're attending a child's recital or birthday party is crucial. But checking email, looking at headlines when your little one is absorbed in play, or just taking five minutes for yourself -- that's not going to hurt your kids. And it might just help your mood.
Do you practice distracted parenting?
Image via paul_irish/Flickr