We’ve all seen them. THOSE MUMS. Glued to their phones while pushing their little one on the swing. While walking with the buggy. At a playgroup. In a cafe. They are everywhere.
It makes us feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable. Seeing them tuning out from those kiddies. Robbing them of their undivided attention. Effectively ignoring them.
And you know why? Because we know that SHE IS US and WE ARE HER. At one time or another at least.
I would struggle to believe ANYONE who says she’s not checked her emails, read her messages, replied, looked at a Facebook notification and gotten sucked in whilst in sole charge of her kids.
(I’m saying “she” because my business is focussed on mothers, and I am a mother, but the same applies to men too, of course).
We are so triggered by it because we know that even if we play with our kids non stop for an hour, our partner will walk in once we’ve settled down for a 5 minute phone break and assume that’s all we’ve been doing. We are triggered because we know how we feel when we are in the company of someone who zones out from us and into their phone- not good.
And so we judge ourselves, and feel we are being judged by others, and that judgement seeps out into our views of others around us.
Before we go any further, let me say: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using your phone, for fun, around your kids. Sometimes it’s your only adult interaction that day- a window to the outside world.
It’s about picking your moment, right? When they are *briefly* content without your interaction. Or hiding in the loo. Or inside the fridge door so you can scoff stuff you don’t want to share with them at the same time.
What if those rare moments are not enough phone time?
What if you literally run your business from your phone? What if you know you can’t leave it all piling up until the end of the day because bed time takes ALL EVENING. And that once they go to bed you’re right behind them because they have you up ALL night. And by then your brain capacity is seriously diminished anyway.
This is my life. I started my business almost 4 years ago. In the beginning, apart from when I was with clients and baby was with Daddy, I spent minimal time working. I had very few enquiries to respond to, I had no real idea what I should be doing re visibility on social media.
The few things I did need to do could easily be done in the 90 minute nap time (normally with him sleeping on my chest- this is how I first fell in love with the capacity to work from my phone).
Then he turned 2 and STOPPED NAPPING. I know. WTAF?! This was not part of the plan.
Just as my business was really beginning to grow too. Just as I gained an awareness of how much I COULD be doing to grow and thrive.
So I tried putting him into preschool a couple of mornings a week. I spent hours, week after week, sitting on tiny chairs, unable to leave because he couldn’t take it. I wasn’t prepared to leave him hysterical when it wasn’t like I “needed” to go to work. I wasn’t answerable to anyone else, and I preferred to let the pressure build up on myself.
Then of course I resented it- why would he not JUST SETTLE?! Why was my work, my passion, so far down the list of family priorities?!
It was too hard on us both, the cycle of expectation and disappointment, so I canned it for a couple of months.
By the time we started the whole saga again, things were only marginally more optimistic, and I was struggling with a difficult first trimester of another pregnancy.
Truly, there was only a brief period where he was settled for a few mornings per week before baby number 2 came along. Everything that went on in between is its own never ending story, but an he summed up as follows- gentle encouragement, tears, tantrums, refusals (the last 3 on both sides), random good days, exhaustion.
During that turbulent time my phone remained my saviour. I would put a film on in the afternoon, drained by a difficult pregnancy, and cuddle up to him, pipe up the snacks and write my blogs, answer emails, do social media.
Once the new baby was here, my phone allowed me to work almost continuously. I had 10 weeks break from teaching, but kept my visibility and client contact up, and returned to a thriving business. All because I could get shit done whilst doing night feeds, day feeds, being a human mattress, etc.
Fast forward to these last few months- the baby is 1, Louis finished preschool for the summer, and I find myself increasingly irritated by my phone usage around them. And INCREASINGLY irritated by their displeasure at it.
“Mummy’s working”. I really am. My business is growing significantly, and over the 7 (yes, seven!!) week holidays, I’ve had a total of 9 hours of childcare. I will never do another summer like this. I’ve learnt a thing or two.
As much as I’m a bit uncomfortable with how often I reach for my trusty black lifeline, I know that without it, I’d be in one of 2 scenarios.
I’d be out at work. If I’d gone back to my old job, that would be 50 hours per week, and by the time I’d paid for the childcare for both of them… pointless. I’d be worrying about being around for these upcoming school drop offs and early pick ups. I’d be missing so much.
Or. I’d be full time stay at home mum. I’d be out of my mind. I have massive admiration for parents who devote all of their time to their kids, but it’s not for me. I need something else too.
Working from my phone allows me the flexibility to be physically present at pretty much every milestone.
It also means I’m not always entirely mentally present, and I have to be ok with that.
When Louis starts school next week, I’m hoping to have some nursery slots booked for Rory too, and I’m challenging myself to move into better balance when we are all together. When I actually have some time to myself, I think it will be easier to compartmentalise, rather than be constantly mothering and constantly, simultaneously having work on my mind.
People often tell me how lucky I am to be in this situation, being around my kids while they’re young, and still pushing my dreams, and that’s definitely true. But I imagine when I look back on this era, I’ll remember a lot of struggle too. Sometimes I wish I could just drop them off somewhere and work in peace like a normal person. Then if one of them is poorly I’m reminded of how much flexibility we have in our situation.
I’m both a stay at home mum, and a working mum. And that is thanks to my phone. So it’s a new thing, you heard it here first. I’m a stay at phone mum. Anyone else?
(written, in tiny bursts, on my phone- obvs) #doitlikeamother
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