There comes a time in every Mother’s life where our children let us know where we have erred. Quite honestly, over the past seventeen years, I’ve have had several awakenings that came to me in whispers. Recently, those whispers became a roar. My children have never held me accountable verbally, but I know that they have both suffered miserably.
Around 1996, we purchased our first PC. It cost an arm and a leg but I quickly learned the fundamentals to obtain an office job. I became enamored with the fact that I could chat with people around the World through MSN and ICQ. I would often find myself logging on dial-up just to see who was online. At that time I was a young Mother with two toddlers who were 100% dependent on me. So, I juggled my time between being a Mom, a housewife, and an online contributor. I remember anxiously racing downstairs when the children were asleep to hop online. I also remember being so angry when I fell asleep with them because I lost my “computer” time for another 24 hours.
As my kids grew more independent, I found myself spending more time online. No longer chatting but reading and writing. I was also a workaholic who would take their work home and do it on my “free time”. Until today, I suppressed the sickening feeling I had when I watched the several videos that my son took with his new digital camera where I would see my big butt at the computer every time. The most sickening part of the video consists of my son asking me something and I would grunt or give a one word answer. I was immersed in the screen that sat in front of me.
….This was my first whisper.
The invention of the Smartphone and Facebook drove me to the lows of all lows! I was fascinated that I was able to share all of the “I’m a great Mom” moments with family and friends on Facebook and Twitter. Again, family outings became a series of photos of a happy family doing their thing, which I would immediately share. Within those moments, if the children spoke to me, I’d give them a “Wait a minute” response, a grunt or a one word answer. My time with my family was more about sharing with others and less about them.
…..Hello second whisper.
Then along came my blog. I started blogging as a release. After my first conference and seeing the hundreds of mothers who were doing the same as I was, I justified my non-present moments with my children by being in the company of women who were like me. “Everyone is doing it” I thought.
I recall being amazed how these Moms could tweet and listen at the same time. However, if you talked to them, you’d get a grunt, a one word answer, or them being completely oblivious that I am talking. I thought to myself, You’re at a conference….shouldn’t you be present? This was the first time I was looking at the true likeness of myself. Of course, I pushed it back to the place where the images of those digital videos of me resides.
…..Whisper number three
So here I am, seventeen years later! I have been in the presence of my children approximately 24 hours a day for the past seventeen years. I have fed them, bathed them, cuddled them while guiding them through their trials…but I have rarely been present in the way that a young child expects a parent to be. Their innocence wanted me to acknowledge every silly face they make, every joke they tell, and every disappointment they experience. Although my kids assure me that I was present, they really don’t know the meaning of it like I do.
The reason I am writing this is to express my concern about the increase in mental illness and ADHD in our society. Today’s technology has allowed us to be such an “un-present” distracted group of parents. Whether its being online too much, blogging, gaming, or checking our work emails during the evening, much of our life is spent with our heads down with a blank stare rather than staring at those who mean the World to us. Why do we expect our children to be anything more than what we teach them to be?
I am not going to share my woes with the world, but I will say that my “un-presence” is part and parcel of the grief that someone in my life is experiencing. A person who tried for many years to make us accountable to being present in their company. People can try to convince me that they can juggle technology and kids until the cows come home. It doesn’t wash with me because I’ve been there and in the presence of other people who are there right now. If I was to guess, I’d say 1 out of 3 parents are “un-present” at this very moment.
So what is my advice to young Mothers?
Whether it is a laptop, Smartphone, or gaming device you hold in your hand right now, put it down. Go look into your children’s eyes, ask them what they are feeling at that very moment and be present as you listen. Listen deep and realize that there isn’t a person, a business, or a brand behind the screen that matters more than the eyes you’re looking into at that very moment. Then look at their pleasure of you being 100% present.
My advice: If you ever find yourself responding with a grunt or one word dazed response, then it’s time to put whatever you are doing aside and….
Just be present. For Them. It’s just that simple