Mama Professor Writer

Work-from-Home Parents “Playing” on Their Phones

This morning, my son plopped down next to me with our book, Jellaby: Monster in the City, and said, “Let’s read this one!”

I was checking my syllabus and prepping a lesson plan on my phone. I told him we could read it in a few minutes.

He huffed and said, “Just get off your phone, and let’s read!”

First off, he got a talking to about being rude.

Second, that talking to came after my spluttering, “I… Did you… I can’t even…” for a good couple of seconds.

The tone really caught me off guard. My son, who is pretty accustomed to how much I work from home, still sees me on the couch typing and scrolling away, and thinks, “Mom is playing on her phone again.”

Now, he’s five, so my angst there is short-lived. However, I am a little sensitive to this type of disrespect in general, since I do work from home a lot.

You don’t have to go far to see the disrespect I’m talking about. At the playground, a mama is scrolling on her phone when one of her little monkeys decides to try jumping off the swings at the highest possible point.

(Whoever designs playgrounds should not actually be trusted around children, btw).

She rushes over and kisses booboos, but the moms on the next bench are already murmuring that if she’d put her phone down once in a while, she would have foreseen this problem.

With her fortune-telling mind powers, I guess.

I often see and hear the assumption that all parents utilizing screens are selfishly addicted to their fun-time, leaving their little ones neglected, lonely, and sad.

This stereotype has the potential to label almost all academic career parents and work-from-home parents as negligent. But, the truth is: we have homework, y’all.

I’ve read that paper (too many times) about how heavy phone use isn’t good for us in general- socially, emotionally, and physically. These arguments, though, tend to focus on the added stress cellphones give individuals who are now, all of a sudden, able to bring their work lives and social forums home with them.

Since people like me were already in that boat (working from home at least part-time), all I can say is that the cellphone has made bringing my work home with me easier, far more convenient, than ever in the past. I can’t regret that my job, my professional development, and home technology use are all tied together. I’m grateful for the time I can be home with my kids, even if I am often busy on screen during this “extra” time together.

Yes, we should take time to be in the moment. Yes, children need our attention.

HOWEVER, does that mean I have to save all of the reading, grading, and writing (that I could do while my kids play at the playground) for late at night, when everyone’s asleep? ‘Cause I tend to fall asleep, too.

I can be in the moment. I can give my kids attention. I can also grade papers on my phone while they build rockets out of legos. That’s why I wanted my huge-screen cellphone in the first place. My laptop was difficult to maneuver around little kids (in fact, they killed one a little over a year and a half ago. RIP, Lenovo).

My cellphone is a compromise. I can tag-team with Husband more, if my workspace is flexible. Since he is the full-time parent, if I just locked myself away in my room to work, the man would never have a chance to breathe. The phone is so important in this arrangement.

We have family time, play time, reading time, school time, and meal times. All of these times are phone-free.

But, then, there are still, like, 6 more hours in the day. And I have work to do. My kids have playing to do. So, we do our jobs at the same time.

I wish tech-shaming pop culture would stop telling my kids that by being on my cellphone/laptop I’m “missing all the important things.” Not only does it cast me in a bad light in my babies’ eyes, but it is bound to make them feel twinges of guilt in their future pursuits.

The future is looking like a big screen. Our kids will need to be involved in screen worlds, at least as much, and probably more, than we are. If we are going to keep repeating that balance between screen and non-screen time is important, then we need to stop judging people for using screens. The cellphone is the future. It isn’t just a toy.

I mean, my facebook app is always open (of course), but so are my gradebooks, syllabi, lesson plans, writing notebooks, camera, and email. I’m willing to bet that’s the norm for a good many of us, and that’s not changing any time soon.

We need to set a more positive tone for these work-from-anywhere practices, before our kids join us in them.






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