My children are part of the first generation for whom social media has always existed. When I was a child, the term “email” hadn’t even been invented yet. For my children, Facebook has always existed and email is regarded as old-fashioned. This has all kinds of implications for kids, of course. We’ve all seen the multitude of reports and studies about what screen time is doing to our kids, how the obesity epidemic is being linked to the explosion of computer-based gaming, and how computers are making new skills emerge as old skills decline.
Something that is not talked about as frequently is the impact of social media on parents.
When my mother was raising me and my brother, the only people she could call on for advice or opinions were people she actually knew in person.
If she needed help, she had to either pick up the phone and ask, or go and visit someone. In the event of a child getting sick or injured, she would take us to the doctor, trust whatever the doctor said and get whatever medication was prescribed.
My parenting experience has been vastly different. I have the same supports that my mother had – friends, family members, and especially my mother herself – but I also have the Internet. When my older son was born, I joined a parenting group on Yahoo, and developed a friendship with fellow members that endures to this day (the only difference is that the Yahoo group is now a Facebook group). When my son was diagnosed with autism, I joined an autism parenting group, with the same results.
Both groups are about requesting and receiving advice, sharing funny stories about our kids, and having a safe place to vent on our bad days. Through these groups – and through World Moms Blog – I have developed online friendships that are every bit as real as “traditional” friendships. We rally around each other in bad times, and we celebrate together in good times.
No matter what is going on with my kids or with myself as a mother, I always know that there is someone out there who understands. And if I can’t find someone who has the answers I need, there’s always Google.
There are downsides to parenting in the age of social media, of course. Sometimes I go searching for understanding and find judgment instead. I find stark divisions in the parenting community. I have been criticized for vaccinating my kids. I have seen homeschooling moms viciously attack those who send their kids to school, and vice versa. I was once an uncomfortable online witness to a discussion in which a breastfeeding advocate smugly told a breast cancer survivor that she would be able to breastfeed her newborn child if she “tried harder”.
So yes, ugliness is as pervasive on the Internet as it is in the physical world. But we respond to it in the same way: by trying to counteract the bad with the good, by being supportive of one another and by leaving the ugliness behind.
At the end of the day, I am thankful to have the world of social media at my fingertips as I navigate the mysterious world of parenting. And I am even more thankful that at any time, I can pick up the phone and call the person who muddled through it all without the Internet: my mother.
What differences have you noticed between your mother’s era of parenting and your own? Does social media play an important role in your journey as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.
Photo credit: StartBloggingOnline.com This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
It happens every night when I lay my head on the pillow. I replay many of the day’s events back over in my mind. “Was I good friend, wife, sister, daughter, etc.? Was I good mother to my children? Did I set a good example?”
However, the events which have been playing over in my mind more and more frequently are the times I am not sure if I really listened to my children. “What was it my daughter was telling me about a friend of hers at school as I was hurriedly sending a text to my friend? What was my son showing me that he learned on his new video game as I nodded and pretended to see him play it while I sent an email?”
I know we all get caught up in this thing called life, but are we really present for our children?
At any one minute during the day, I feel like I have a laundry list of things to get done. A lot of times, I find myself sitting listening to my daughter read, and I am making a mental list in my mind of what I need to get from the grocery store. When I’m driving the kids to school, and they are in the backseat laughing, I am thinking of the things I need to get done that day while they are in school. What were they laughing about? I don’t know because I wasn’t really listening. And, that makes me a little sad.
I know one day, I’ll look in my rear-view mirror and they will be in junior high and then high school and they won’t be my little children anymore.
I have read so many articles and talked to so many friends about our kids being able to pay attention to what we, as parents, say. We have talked and discussed how too much time on electronics isn’t good for their attention. What about us as parents? It became crystal clear to me a few weeks ago when I took my children to the park. My son was on the swing, and I received a text from a friend. I was replying to her text while my son was saying something to me and I remember nodding and saying “Okay.” It turns out that he asked me if I would pay him a quarter for every time he jumped off the swing. You can imagine how surprised I was when he told me I had to pay him $4.50 for jumping 18 times!!!
These past few weeks, I have been thinking about how I have approached mothering, and I think I had something wrong. For some of you this may not be earth shattering, but for me it was ground breaking. And here it is…I will never be done with a grocery list, laundry list, cleaning, cooking, etc. There will always be broken things which need fixing and plants needing to be watered.
I was approaching things in my mind as things to check off like a list. I was thinking of my days as a destination, and that just isn’t how life is. In my head I thought if I get that grocery list done, then it is complete. If I finish this load of laundry, then it is done. But, the truth is, neither of those tasks are ever done, and unfortunately, I feel that I have wasted some of my precious time with my children using that approach.
I have started to look at my life as a journey and to try to enjoy it more along the way.
Coming to this realization has freed me to sit with my daughter and just listen to her read for 20 minutes without my phone right next to me. I don’t have to answer texts right away. I am able to watch my son play his new video game and show me his new trick because the laundry will always pile up, and I can get to it after I take 10 minutes to listen to him. I am waking up 10 minutes earlier to get lunches packed so I can talk to my kids in the morning while they are eating breakfast. I am taking a little of the pressure off myself to get everything done. I am getting most things done, and the things I don’t get to can wait until tomorrow if it means I can have some extra special moments with my kids.
I have found that slowing down my mind and my “to-do” list have made me a bit more calm, and in turn, it has helped me to be in the moment with my kids. Every night, we have dinner together and there is a “no toy and no electronics rule” at the table. It’s a time for our family to really listen to each other and make sure that we have a few minutes to “check in” all together as a family.
The one thing that won’t always be there are my 5 and 8 year olds. They are only like that for one year and then they just keep growing and growing and there isn’t anything I can do about it. As I look at them in my rear-view mirror, I want to know that I have really enjoyed them and not regret not spending precious time with them.
Do you have a way to really be “in the moment” with your children?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
Photo credit to the author.
Ah, technology. When it’s running smoothly, life is good. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Skype, iTunes, You Tube, email, IM’s, blogs, games, news, videos…..whew, I need to take a break! Which is what I did, not voluntarily, mind you. My borrowed laptop crashed, and let’s just say the last week has been difficult.
Okay, that’s an understatement. I mean really, I had to write out my thoughts and ideas on actual paper. Paper?!? Do you know how hard it was to find paper around here? Or a pen, for that matter? I’m not really sure I can decipher the chicken scratch that has become my handwriting.
What did we do without computers and the internet and the instant gratification of talking with near strangers in real-time? It’s amazing, really, to think that we, as a civilization, have lasted as long as we have without such technology. Pony express? Please! Could you even begin to wait months for news from around the world?