Contemporary motherhood’s big lie: if you aren’t suffering, you must be doing it wrong

Mothering boulder

Motherhood, Screened Off by Susan Dominus appeared in The New York Times several days ago. Ostensibly it is a piece about pushing aside technology to reconnect with our children. Dominus suggests that our use of technology has rendered previously transparent adult actions opaque to children and that is a problem.

My mother’s address book is one of the small visual details of my childhood that I can perfectly conjure, although I am sure no photograph of it exists… I knew when she was looking for someone’s phone number, which seems unremarkable, except that my own children do not know when I am searching for a phone number, because all they see is me, on my iPhone, intently focused on something mysterious and decidedly not them.

It is that loss of transparency, more than anything, that makes me nostalgic for the pre-iPhone life. When my mother was curious about the weather, I saw her pick up the front page of the newspaper and scan for the information. The same, of course, could be said of how she apprised herself of the news. I always knew to whom she was talking because, before caller ID, all conversations started with what now seems like elaborate explicitness (“Hi, Toby, this is Flora”).

Dominus is embarrassed to be caught using her iPhone during her twin sons’ soccer practice:

Children do not require the caress of the maternal gaze every waking moment of their lives.

…[A] woman a few feet away turned to me. “Look at us,” she said, with a sheepish smile, gesturing at a row of parents hunched over their devices. “Our kids are out there practicing, and we’re all on our phones.”

I flushed. I was guilty as charged! But I was almost as quickly indignant: I was wrongly accused! True, I was on my phone, and if my kids looked up they would have seen the same thing the woman did: someone slightly bored, distracting herself with some mindless electronic pursuit… I had unwittingly cast myself as a familiar, much-maligned character: the mom who is blind to the daily pleasures of parenting, focused instead on some diversion which, by virtue of its taking place on that phone, is inherently trivial.

I took something different away from the piece. I read it as an example of our contemporary obsession with artisanal parenting, the belief that our children are products that are rendered “high quality” by small batch production using traditional, labor intensive methods. Any moment spent not nurturing, teaching or connecting with our children is a moment wasted.

Simply put, if you aren’t suffering, you must be doing mothering wrong.

In the world of artisanal parenting (often called natural parenting), traditional and traditionally painful and inconvenient processes are required to produce artisanal children. The mother takes no shortcuts, and avoids all conveniences thereby producing superior children. Greater suffering = higher quality. Unmedicated childbirth is therefore “better” since it is a traditional method involving lots of maternal suffering. Breastfeeding is supposedly “best” since it involves lots of maternal time, effort, discomfort and inconvenience. Attachment parenting (baby wearing, family bed, no sleep training) is purportedly better because every moment of every mother’s day ought to involved a child strapped to, sucking from or draped across her body.

Adult activities must be transparent to children, hence the author’s lament that her children don’t know what she is doing when she is using her phone. Adult activities must be justifiable to children, hence the author’s worry that although she is physically at their soccer practice (where she is not needed and presumably not a focus of their concern), they might look up and see her on her phone and won’t realize that she is engaged in something meaningful (reading literature) rather than performing tasks or amusing herself.

I was impatient when my mother’s attention was occupied elsewhere. But my 9-year-old children, when they see me on my phone, feel something more intense, something closer to indignation. They are shut out twice over: They see that I am otherwise occupied, but with what, they have no idea.

I have started to narrate my use of the phone when I am around my kids. “I’m emailing your teacher back,” I tell them, or, “I’m now sending that text you asked me to send about that sleepover,” in the hopes that I can defang the device’s bad reputation, its inherent whiff of self-absorption.

Parents have private lives, private pursuits and need private time and that is a fundamental lesson every child ought to learn. Children are not entitled to a moment by moment accounting of adult activities.

What’s really the problem with a little maternal self-absorption?

It means the mother is not suffering enough!

My husband thinks no amount of narration will change the way our kids feel about the phone. The problem, he says, is that whenever I grab it, they know that I am also holding a portal, as magical as the one in Narnia’s wardrobe and with the same potential to transport me to another world or to infinite worlds. I am always milliseconds away from news of a horrific mass stampede near Mecca or images of great medieval art or a Twitter dissection of the pope’s visit. How far am I going, they might reasonably worry, and how soon will I be back? Perhaps they sense how vast the reach of the device is and how little they know of what that vastness contains; at any moment, the size of the gap between them and me is unknowable.

And it’s wrong for 9 year old children to be deprived of their mother’s rapt attention for an unknowable amount of minutes, because … why?

It means the mother is not suffering enough!

Recently, one of my sons has had trouble falling asleep… And so I lie in the dark next to him, as patiently as I can, willing myself to breathe deeply so that he will do the same. All the while I am fighting the ever-swelling urge to locate my phone, so that I can do something productive, feel that feeling of getting somewhere, at last, while my children sleep, wholly guilt free.

How dare a mother want to accomplish something that is helpful to her and not directly helpful to her child?

She’s clearly not suffering enough.

The ultimate irony of contemporary artisanal parenting is what is imagined as the “way things were” before technology could not be farther from the truth. When mothers had less technology at their disposal they had LESS time for nurturing, teaching or connecting with their children. And … here’s the kicker … they weren’t worried about nurturing, teaching or connecting with their children on a moment by moment basis; they were too busy simply trying to survive.

Prior to the advent of technology, children spent MORE time outside the direct purview of their mothers. They went outdoors for hours at a time to play with other children. They did chores (real chores, not making their bed) necessary to the family’s existence; in other words, they worked for their keep.

The truth is that children are not artisanal products whose quality is proportional to the time their mother spent suffering while ignoring her own needs.

They do not require the caress of the maternal gaze every waking moment of their lives.

They do not need constant maternal interaction; indeed they can be stifled from constant maternal interaction.

What children need is knowledge of their mother’s love and concern; her suffering merely reflects our conceit that children are our products and by suffering we can make them what we want them to be.

  • Inmara

    Aaand here comes next level of mommy shaming – texting and browsing Internet during breastfeeding will totally ruin your bond with baby http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/09/24/54595/brexting-impacts-baby-bonding-during-breastfeeding/

    • AirPlant

      There is literally no other reason to breastfeed than the possibility of hands free feeding paired with technology.

    • Gene

      So much for NAK!

  • fiftyfifty1

    Predictably all of the comments here are doom and gloom about how kids are so coddled today that they can’t even _____ (insert supposedly vital life skill that the poster herself had mastered by age 9).

    Come on people, the world changes. My grandmother could milk a cow by hand and render tallow. My mother won a grade school award for her lovely cursive and a high school award for fastest shorthand. How often are they using these vital skills now?

    Kids today can do a million things that we couldn’t. We don’t even NOTICE half of the important things they are learning because they aren’t on our radars.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I agree to a point that the world changes and that many skills that were once necessary aren’t anymore, like the excellent examples you gave, but I do think that some other skills are also timeless, and really needed if you’re going to be a functional adult.
      I graduated college four years ago. Most of my classmates, even at the junior/senior level, were incapable of even basic cooking or housekeeping/cleaning, including, in some cases, laundry. Most couldn’t communicate professionally via either the written or spoken word. I don’t care if my kid can make a six-course meal, but I do think that I’ll have failed somewhere along the way if my otherwise perfectly functional child can’t, say, pull together a simple pasta dinner, launder clothes appropriately, or write an appropriate email to a professor or boss by the time he or she’s 18.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        Sometimes this basic lack of skills even in cleaning worries me. Like the ones that try to learn how to clean by themselves and don’t read labels. And didn’t have parents that set the very, very important rule of never mix bleach based and ammonia based products…

        I also know way too many people who don’t know how to properly check their car’s oil. Or even where the dipstick is.

        • Roadstergal

          But all of what you mention come down to the single problem of not reading labels and manuals. That one lesson will cover all of those situations.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            That is very true!

            Maybe for the kids whose parents didn’t teach them or didn’t know how there needs to be a RTFM mini class at college. They already have those student success classes required at a lot of universities now. Would save a lot of headaches and bad roommate experiences.

          • Roadstergal

            Ha, you know – I had a wonderful PI when I worked in a neuro lab for a while. If anyone had a problem with the assay, he’d sit down with them and go through the entire manual for the kit/assay/etc they were using. I never saw that method fail to address the issue, and it was a powerful lesson to me! I only had to experience it once (a column with an unusual initial wash step I missed). I read every manual cover to cover, now, before touching the object in question. Drives my husband mad, even though he’s seen it work.

          • KarenJJ

            We’re the opposite. Husband goes through the manual methodically while I jump in. It makes for an interesting time building IKEA furniture. Don’t tell him but his method is actually superior…

          • Wren

            The problem there is that they have to know to look. If cars have always been maintained without their help or knowledge, clothes just get clean magically, rooms are similarly cleaned without their help, etc how would they even know to look for the info?

            Also, I really like chores for teaching some basic responsibility.

          • fiftyfifty1

            But then clothes don’t get cleaned, and they see those around them going down to the dorm laundry, and they go too. And their rooms become a mess, and then they have to decide how clean they want their rooms to be. And then the oil light goes on in their car, and they either bring it into the garage to be checked, or they don’t and they learn.
            As for chores teaching kids responsibility, I agree they can. But so can a lot of other things (schoolwork, teams, hobbies, etc). What I personally like about my kids doing chores is not that it’s somehow character building, but rather that it means less work for me.

          • Wren

            I like both. Teaching the chores is often harder work than doing it myself, but once they learn, it does mean less work for me.

          • Wren

            Actually, then clothes don’t get cleaned and some other student has to take on teaching laundry because the parents chose not to. And their rooms become a mess and some poor roommate has to teach them or suffer in a mess. That was a lot more what my experience was as a student anyway.

          • KarenJJ

            RTFM

      • fiftyfifty1

        Communicating professionally is certainly an important life skill, but is it one that parents have ever taught? I learned this skill from school, never from my parents.

        Cleaning and laundry are unskilled tasks that anybody can learn quite rapidly.

        Cooking is a harder skill. Learning to do it on a basic level is simple. Learning to do it on a gourmet level is an art. Still, the best gourmet cook/biggest foodie I know went off to college never having prepared a meal more difficult than a bag of microwave popcorn.

    • Wren

      Honestly, being able to prepare a meal of some sort, clean a room and deal with laundry are going to be needed for the foreseeable future and some kids are getting to 18 without those skills. A few did 20 years ago (I taught more than one fellow college student how to do laundry) but more are now.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I lived in a dorm at BYU-I that had a devotional at the end of the semester. One girl, a rather well off one, stood up in tears and cried out how thankful she was for her roommates because until living with them she didn’t even know how to turn on a vacuum. Not like embarrassed crying, like regular church crying that some people do. I guess she found that to be a profoundly spiritual experience but hey who am I to judge?

        Still, I am not a perfect human being and had some judgy thoughts and yet despite wanting to say something I kept my comments to myself as I’m sure they would not have appreciated my blurting out of “You have GOT to be shitting me!” for quite a few reasons.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “some kids are getting to 18 without those skills”

        But they are simple skills to teach. If a child can learn to do them, certainly an 18 year old can learn. These tasks are referred to as unskilled labor for a reason.

        • Megan

          There’s always youtube… Hell, I learned to quilt that way. Surely you can learn to make pasta or wash clothes.

        • Wren

          The same argument could be made for pretty much any skill acquired in childhood.

          The problem is that 18 year olds are being sent out into the world without those skills, and who is expected to teach them?

          • fiftyfifty1

            “The same argument could be made for pretty much any skill acquired in childhood.”
            Except, I would argue, the skills that are best learned in childhood (e.g. languages) or that take years to learn to do well (e.g. academic subjects, computer skills).
            But the simple tasks (housework, yardwork etc) are quickly learned. If a kid is sent out into the world without them, he or she can look up a youtube tutorial, as many here have already mentioned.

          • Wren

            Looking up a youtube tutorial may potentially teach the skill (they are of variable value) but it won’t teach any kind of responsibility. Expecting children to learn how to take care of themselves, including the basic tasks however easily they may be learned, is hardly unreasonable. It’s not about just being able to figure out how to do it.

            I do not expect my 8 and 9 year old to cook 3 course meals nightly, but at the same time I do expect them to be able to prepare something basic (a sandwich or scrambled eggs) if I am unable to do so for them and by the time they leave home I do expect them to be able to cook a decent meal for themselves.

          • fiftyfifty1

            As a parent it your prerogative to teach your kids what you like, and expect from them what you decide. Nobody has any problem with this.
            What I am arguing against is this ridiculous idea that if kids can’t do ________ (fill in my pet, supposedly vital, task), then they are doomed to a future of incompetence and lack of responsibility and their parents have failed to raise them right.
            Andy Rooney was a boring crank.

          • Wren

            But who has made that claim?

            You have created a beautiful strawman to argue against.

            I do believe that not teaching any of the basic skills mentioned above is not doing your child any favours, and in my personal experience it is leaving teaching that basic task up to someone else, but it’s not a massive parenting failure.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “But who has made that claim?”

            Read the comments. That’s what prompted my initial response. A lot of “Back in the day, children could make biscuits from scratch. Now look at them!”

            “I do believe that not teaching any of the basic skills mentioned above is not doing your child any favours, and in my personal experience it is leaving teaching that basic task up to someone else, but it’s not a massive parenting failure.”

            And it is here that we disagree. You see it as a parenting failure (although not a massive one) if “someone else” has to teach your kid to do laundry their first semester at uni. I respond with a big ol’ yawn.

          • Who?

            Half the time ‘everything was better’ and half the time ‘we had it so tough’.

            Depends what we’re comparing with from moment to moment.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I was thinking about this earlier.

            When my mom was young, every Saturday she and her sisters had to take all the dishes out of all the cupboards and scrub the cupboards clean. Every Saturday they did that.

            When was the last time any of you did that? If you haven’t done it within the last week, my Grandma would consider you to be shirking your responsibilities. Kids these days don’t clean the cupboards like they should! Grandma would say you are lacking in basic life skills.

          • KarenJJ

            That might have made sense back in the days where heating and cooking was using a wood stove/open fire. Like spring cleaning – it was necessary due to soot build up to strip the house and wash everything including curtains etc.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            That might have made sense back in the days

            But you can say the same thing about everything discussed in this thread. It might make sense under some circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.

            That’s exactly the point.

          • Wren

            I just view it as the parents’ job to prepare the child to be as independent as possible as an adult. A whole lot of unhappy roommate issues can be skipped by just teaching a kid to clean up after him/herself rather than expecting some magic fairy to do it. It’s far from the only skill I’d expect, but it is on the list. Cleaning, laundry and simple food preparation are all pretty basic skills, so why are people entering the adult world without those skills?

            No, learning those skills as an adult won’t lead to a future of incompetence and a lack of responsibility, but it does suck for whoever has to teach them and can lead to some pretty strained living situations. Given the tasks are so easy, why not teach kids? I lived, for a very short time, with a woman who had never had to lift a finger at home and the assumption I would be just as willing as her mother to do it all for her is the reason she went through 7 roommates in the first 2 years of college.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Oh for pete’s sake. Kids “know how to clean up after themselves.” They may choose not to do it, but it’s not like they don’t know how.

            This is getting silly. You act as if there is some secret skills involved.

          • Wren

            There’s a difference between knowing how and knowing that one should. Entitled kids who grow up without ever having to do any of this grow up to be adults who expect others to do it for them.

            And actually, at least a little guidance in cooking makes learning to do it significantly easier.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        My dad is 83 and can’t do laundry. The only meal he can make is eggs.

        Yeah, he grew up at a different time with different expectations. But that’s the point.

        • fiftyfifty1

          And your post brings up another point. It seems to me that the vast majority of these “vital” skills are traditional women’s work. And the majority of people tut-tutting about these lost skills are women. And that the tut-tutting gets especially loud when the children not learning the skills are girls.

          Giving up the role of “expert in vital skills around the home” is not easy. I think women are thus invested in believing that these skills are difficult to learn, and that those who don’t learn them will be doomed without us.

          • SporkParade

            I have the opposite sense. At least, I tut-tut about it precisely because these skills are so basic. And my husband is very aware of how strongly I disapprove of the fact that she never forced her sons to learn to cook and clean.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Well, if those skills are so basic, why does it matter whether your husband learned them as a child? If a child can be taught to do them, certainly a grown man can learn to do them.
            The problem wasn’t that your MIL failed to teach your husband important tasks. It’s that your husband somehow picked up the message (and decided to retain the message) that he shouldn’t HAVE to do these important tasks, because women ought to do them for him. That’s a very different problem.

          • FormerPhysicist

            standing ovation!

          • Roadstergal

            Perfectly put. I’m the primary breadwinner, so my husband does more of the laundry and cooking. And he can, because he’s a human with opposable thumbs and a brain.

          • SporkParade

            That’s actually not true. The message he picked up was that these things miraculously get done whether or not he does them. The main barrier to learning to do them is that, even though they’re easy, they still take time.

          • Wren

            Exactly.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “The message he picked up was that these things miraculously get done whether or not he does them.”

            So he thinks little elves do the scut work? I doubt it. He thinks women do it, case closed, last he has to think about it.

            ” The main barrier to learning to do them is that, even though they’re easy, they still take time.”
            Exactly, time he doesn’t wanna spend ’cause he’s decided he doesn’t wanna.
            No amount of teaching somebody how to use a broom and dustpan is going to make them clean if they have decided they are fine with sticking somebody else with the drudgery (especially if those around them go along).

          • Wren

            I think it’s actually possible to just not realise how much gets done. It’s all basic and easy enough, but that very fact makes it easy to underestimate.

          • fiftyfifty1

            It’s only possible when the people around the person overperform and thus enable it.
            The vast majority of men do not move directly from their parents’ house to their wife’s house. They live for a time on their own. They know what needs to be done.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            They know what needs to be done.

            However, as I note above, people can and do have different standards of WHEN it needs to be done.

            How often do you need to vacuum the rugs? Every day? Every week? Once a month?

            How often do you need to wash clothes? When the hamper gets full? When you run out? Or after buying more after running out? It’s not unheard of for people to buy new underwear before doing laundry. Not because they don’t know how to do laundry, it’s just that they’d rather not.

          • Wren

            True.

            Most of the couples I know well have had at least a few arguments over exactly those issues.

            My own husband keeps a good eye on when he needs laundry done, but it just doesn’t occur to him that the children might need it done more often. Well, it didn’t until I went out of town for a while. Yes, you could say that’s because someone else (me) does it most of the time, but it’s also just that he never got used to the idea of thinking about someone else’s laundry while one of my money-earning chores as a kid was laundry for the rest of the family so I got used to it.

          • Roadstergal

            And this is one of the reasons I’m a big fan of living together in sin before getting married.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “How often do you need to vacuum the rugs? Every day? Every week? Once a month?”

            Quarterly.

          • KarenJJ

            Depends if you a) have a sandpit or live near the beach and b) have a preschooler that has been given a craft kit with glitter…

            But c) schedule the robot vac to do it when you’re out and who cares.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            No amount of teaching somebody how to use a broom and dustpan is going to make them clean if they have decided they are fine with sticking somebody else with the drudgery

            Or if they don’t care as much about how dirty it is.

            That applies to laundry, too. Some people will stock up on underwear and socks, and figure the other stuff doesn’t need to cleaned after every use.

            I remember a discussion on WTE about how the dad didn’t know how to do things like vacuuming. Sure he did. He just didn’t do it to HER satisfaction, so she had to go do it herself. He thought he did it well enough. She taught him a great lesson, of course, which is that he can’t do it well enough for her, so leave it to her to do it herself (and then she complained that he never helped around the house, of course).

          • fiftyfifty1

            Agreed. Minimal standards is something couples need to work out for themselves. If you marry a neat freak you marry a neat freak. If you marry a slob, you marry a slob. Unless yours was an arranged marriage, you know what you are getting into.

          • KarenJJ

            Maybe. But my Dad taught me to change a tyre and change the oil in my car and drill a hole in the wall and are apparently essential life skills.

            The last two I’ve used, but when I’ve had a flat, I’ve rang for road service because they’re faster and better at it than I am. Plus these days with machines tightening the wheel nuts I just can’t get them off.

            But yeah – not many men are teaching their boys how to do laundry, clean a toilet and cook an omlette as part of essential life skills.

          • fiftyfifty1

            My father taught me to change a car’s oil, on 2 very different models of cars just in case. Since learning the skill, however, I have never actually used it. I always brought my car to the quicky oil change place. A few years ago I happened to see a receipt for the quicky oil place at my parents’ house:
            “Hey Dad, I thought you changed your own oil”.
            “Oh no, I gave that up years ago. It hardly costs more to have the professionals do it. It’s a big waste of your time to do it on your own.”

          • KarenJJ

            I did it when I was a student and it saved money by stretching between servicing at the mechanic. Haven’t touched it since.

          • Roadstergal

            Change a wheel, you mean? 🙂 For a car tire, the balancer to do it right is a severely expensive piece, so I just take it to a place I trust not to scratch the wheel. Motorcycle tires I’ll do at home; we have a balancer for those.

            When I have the tires done, though, I loosen and re-torque the lugs after they get hammered on with the impact, so they don’t get frozen on. That and a breaker bar in the trunk will ensure you can get the lugs off if it comes to a real roadside emergency.

            But then again, the most important skill isn’t that – it’s pulling all of the way off of the road and _staying very far away_ from the road when you do have to pull over. People suck at driving, and they target fixate, so too many people are killed changing their tires (or waiting for roadside assistance) because they’re too close to the road for the ability of other road users to avoid them.

            That does get to something that bugs me about ‘critical life skills.’ Who makes sure their kid takes a proper driving class, like a Skip Barber survival class? Almost nobody, and that’s a true ‘life skill.’ The joke about ‘donorcycles’ is always heard, of course, but I see a lot of donated organs coming from _car_ accidents for kids from teens to late twenties. Parents will spend tens to twenties of thousands of dollars, or more, for a ‘safe’ car for their kid, but won’t spend a grand or two on getting them D-K-busting skills from professionals.

            Okay, that was a rant. It’s my birthday, I’ll rant if I want to!

          • fiftyfifty1

            happy birthday!

          • Roadstergal

            Thanks! My hubby + GF sent me a beautiful bunch of flowers at work, and I’m feeling all warm-fuzzy and teary.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            See this! This is what we need! Teach people how to pull out of a bad turn without taking the entire freeway with them!

            Or just plain learn not to do the stupid shit they learned from non-professional drivers. “Oh if the light just barely turned red its okay to cross the intersection!” No. Please no.

          • KarenJJ

            Local dialect perhaps? Change a tyre vs change a wheel? “Changing a wheel” and using the “spare wheel” sounds weird to me.

            I’ve just had to do a defensive driving course for work. Loads of fun 🙂 I also had a driving assessment which was incredibly useful (I’ve been driving – on the road – for over 20 years – and around farms for more than that – but I haven’t had an assessment since passing my driving test). The assessor picked up that I’d learnt to drive on a car without power steering and was still handling the car in the same way. I haven’t driven a car without power steering for more than a decade. Old habits die hard.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Actually, if you think about it, when exactly were those Good Old Days when everyone learned to do laundry by the time they were 18?

            I mean, the old “college student comes home once a month with bags of laundry for his mom to wash” joke was around long before I went to college, even, and that’s a long time ago.

            In order for “18 year olds able to do laundry is a life skill that today’s youth have lost” doesn’t it actually have to be a “life skill” that they once had?

          • Daleth

            I taught a fellow student (female) to do laundry when I was 16 and at boarding school. I had known how and done it pretty regularly since I was maybe 7 or 8.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            OK. So what?

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            My family must have been weird then… My dad had to do his own laundry as a teenager along with his sisters. His younger brother didn’t because of my grandfather’s death shaking up the family very badly but that’s a different issue. Then all my uncles on my mom’s side also knew how to do laundry in their teens.

            Different culture I guess since they grew up in the Salt Lake Valley and being self sufficient and resourceful even before leaving home are highly valued traits.

            But I think it’s important to pass down all the knowledge you can before it’s lost. Knot tying is kind of an outdated thing now what with all the metal clips and things that replace knots. But it’s still useful when you don’t have access to all those nice, modern conveniences.

            My example is that my parents had an issue when they were first married when they were driving between cities and one of the belts in the engine broke and theu were stranded. This area is still a cell phone dead zone so even if cell phones were around back then it wouldn’t have helped. Mom was panicking. Dad just calmly pulled his shoe laces out of his shoes and tied them together with a knot he knew could take the tension and be low profile enough to use in place of the belt temporarily without completely ruining the engine. They were able to limp to a gas station and call for help and the laces held. They could have waited to flag down another car. But they would have been stuck out in the elements for quite a while as it’s not the busiest stretch of highway and the Utah deserts are brutal.

            Even now he uses his extensive knowledge of knots to create gorgeous hemp and twine jewelry. Some of them look like lace when he’s done. He could probably start an etsy if he wanted and make some good money. I don’t know anyone my age that knows how to do what he does but they all want to buy it. I’ve tried to learn a few times but being left handed causes me to accidentally reverse a lot of things since I want to use my dominant hand.

            You never know when you’ll need a skill you dismissed as useless.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Different culture I guess since they grew up in the Salt Lake Valley and being self sufficient and resourceful even before leaving home are highly valued traits.

            Bah, passive-aggressive bullshit.

            Some people grew up having to do those things. Others grew up in different ways. Drop the moralistic baggage from it.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Sorry didn’t mean it to come off that way as there are negatives to that cultural attitude.

            There are problems with too much too soon, especially in larger families. Some teenagers have massive mental breakdowns because their parents push the be independent and self reliant thing too far to the point where they feel isolated and can’t reach out for help without being weak or a disappointment. So there are negatives to that cultural expectation.

            The boys usually end up being “lazy” when it’s more that they get so discouraged that they basically just shut down. My uncle pushed his oldest boy to hard to be a perfect student, perfect hunter, perfect survivalist that he basically shut down mentally and dropped out of high school because he’d never live up to the expectations anyways.

            The girls are more likely to end up in the emergency room with suicidal thiights because they’re more likely to show their emotional distress in this culture than the boys. Which is another issue that needs serious attention as well. The girls are expected to just automatically know how to take care of children, cook, sew, do crafty etsy shit every day, make their own greeting cards, give gifts to neighbors that move in as soon as they appear, clean until there’s not a speck of dust and so on. They have a break down. If it’s their choice to take on all those things then that’s one thing. Having in forced in the name of being self sufficient is another.

            Both are expected to participate in some kind of after school activity and play and instrument, usually piano, on top of all that.

            So it’s good in some ways that a lot of kids will learn these skills early. It’s another when the parents give their kids a total inferiority complex. I didn’t mean to imply superiority. Just difference. Almost all cultures have their pros and cons from the type of culture a military family.kid experiences to the kids who still have to help run family farms.

          • demodocus

            I know nothing about the good old days, only that my friends and i brought laundry home because it was cheaper than the Laundromat, not because we didn’t know how.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Probably, but who cares why? If you can bring your laundry home and have mom wash it, why do you need to have to learn how to do it yourself before you leave home?

            At some point, they can figure it out. They don’t need to learn when when they are young. It’s not that difficult, they can figure it out when they grow up.

          • demodocus

            I washed, thanks. Mom’s too, often enough.

          • Wren

            My dad brought his laundry home, while my mom did her own. When she brought it home, it was because it was cheaper. I did the same.

            I did go to school with a couple of girls who clearly thought clean clothes just magically appeared in their closet before they got to college. I’m not sure about the boys, because I lived on an all female floor freshman year.

          • Wren

            I disagree. I hear just as much complaint about boys not learning these skills as girls. My son is older than my daughter, so he has more chores and as he learns new ones, she often takes over his previous chores.

            I rarely come across anyone who thinks these skills are special or particularly difficult. My kids are expected to help out with household chores as part of living in a household. And yes, I want them to be able to function independently when they leave home. Household chores are hardly the only thing required to do that, but they are also only a small portion of the skills we hope to give them.

        • Wren

          He grew up in a time when men were expected to have a woman of some kind (mother, wife, daughter even) taking care of those jobs. Nowadays I wouldn’t expect my son to have that expectation.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Yes, That’s the point. Expectations change.

    • Angharad

      I tend to agree. I think if you make it to 18 without knowing how to (for example) do laundry, you’ll figure it out. I had actually never done laundry until I went to college (my parents are great but that wasn’t something they ever taught me). So I read the directions on the detergent and the washing machine and the labels on my clothes and I was just fine. Especially with Google now being available everywhere, I think today’s kids will be just fine.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Exactly. People argue, for instance, that you should teach kids to do laundry so they will be able to do laundry as an adult. But if laundry is so easy that you can teach a kid to do it, surely an adult would have no trouble learning…

        • Who?

          It felt like a rite of passage-kid left school, here’s the washing machine: your clean clothes are now your responsibility.

          Kids here don’t leave home to go to uni, or not usually-if I didn’t draw a line I’d still be washing kids clothes and explaining why they aren’t done.

          I don’t iron, so my kids have been ironing their own-if they want them ironed-for years.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I’d be more worried about them ruining clothes they may not be able to afford to replace. I mean yeah they’ll learn the hard way but a lot of kids going to college these days can’t afford to learn the hard way. We want to say well now you’ve learned to read the labels but some of these kids will ruin all their clothes in one laundromat trip before they realize what they’ve done. Between the inflated prices of books, tuition, and housing some of them will be beyond screwed. I feel really bad for those ones that no one took the time to help them before they had to ruin a ton of their clothes figuring it themselves.

            There’s color bleed, shrinking fabrics, tearing clothes apart on the wrong settings, using the wrong products on the wrong fabrics, lots of things that can make clothes unwearable. There is Google and the tags but most college students I knew if they never learned to do laundry just threw everything in the washer, put in too much soap because more must be better, and then drying wool or angora sweaters on high heat because they were in a hurry. It’s not pretty… For the clothes or the meltdown the people had afterwords.

            Remember my generation is pretty used to having everything handed to them without any work, including reading labels, so they don’t always seek out answers when they should. And mine was just the tip of the iceberg.

          • FormerPhysicist

            Another reason for college students to just live in sweats!

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            No kidding. If university uniforms were sweats I’d see a lot less people crying at the laundry mat my junior year.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “I’d be more worried about them ruining clothes they may not be able to afford to replace.”
            I refuse to spend my energy worrying about other people ruining their fancy clothes. Even if those other people are my own children. Learning the hard way when it comes to laundry is just fine.

          • Roadstergal

            I have a simple rule for clothing – if a cold wash with normal detergent and a tumble dry destroys it, I don’t want it. Yes, I learned to do it ‘right’ as a child, but I don’t want to bother as an adult. 🙂

            (Two small exceptions – underwire bras – the tumble can work the underwire loose – and cycling/tri gear with chamois. So I hang those, and resent it.)

          • Who?

            Amen.

            I don’t do the tumble dry thing much these days as I’m less busy and we have lots of lovely fresh air and sunshine, but too right.

            I also don’t iron my own things-though I do huz business shirts as an act of love, and he does look good in them-so the care/fabric content label is the one thing I really look at before falling i love with a potential new item of clothing.

          • Roadstergal

            Sunshine! I seem to remember that.

            My husband and I have made a mutual pact that we will not buy business shirts for either of us that aren’t wash-and-wear. I’ve regretfully put away so many shirts that would look lovely on him… but ironing is another thing I learned to do ‘right’ as a child and just don’t want to do anymore.

          • Who?

            Fair enough-I used to iron everything then one Sunday night as I was ironing a pair of my pyjamas I realised I had one short life and this was not how I wanted to spend it. So I stopped.

            Modern fabrics are amazing-a short go in the dryer, or a good shake and airing on the hanger and most things look pretty good.

          • KarenJJ

            Yeah my mum irons tea towels. WTF.

          • KarenJJ

            Before I met him, my husband worked out an entire system of washing and drying work shirts (and a particular type and brand of work shirt) such that he didn’t need to iron them. It’s great. Basically buy the “non-iron” stuff and hang them to dry immediately on a coathanger with the buttons done all the way to the top.
            Anything that doesn’t go in the dryer gets hung straight onto hangers to dry. Anything that says “dry clean only” gets chucked into the washing machine with the rest and if it doesn’t survive it wasn’t meant to be.

            I know other people that use a dry clean service just for work shirts once a week which is pretty affordable locally. If there was a local service where I could get clothes picked up, washed and folded I’d use it. I read about it recently in a book but it seemed like it was only a thing in the US.

          • KarenJJ

            Ha! Sounds like mine. If anyone asks (and oddly they do – why do women talk about this stuff?) I call my method of doing laundry “survival of the fittest”.

          • Salad spinner is amazing for washing underwire bras.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            You are my new hero.

          • Who?

            Exactly. I have no problem with telling them once but encouraging learnt helplessness-among the most accomplished generation in the history of the world-is just plain silly. And disrespectful, in fact.

          • Angharad

            Ha (I probably shouldn’t laugh but it’s kind of funny). I guess that’s a life skill my parents did teach me – read directions and figure out a game plan that makes sense before you jump into things that may have consequences. It’s served me well to make up for all the chores I never did before leaving home, which are numerous and include lots of the things people here have mentioned that their children can do.

          • Who?

            We had a tutorial: this is the soap, this much of it goes here; colours in one load, darks in another, whites in another. These are the appropriate settings and temperatures. Don’t overload the machine. Do use bags for undies, socks etc lest they go into the out flowing pipe and make the machine go quiet, necessitating a call to the repair guy.

            Yet to have an accident as you describe-we’re six years in and counting.

            Though my friend, who claims her adult children are ‘hopeless’ has tried and tried to teach them to wash, but they can’t learn, apparently, so she still does it for them. And drives them everywhere because they are hopeless at driving. And cooks all their meals since if she doesn’t do it they might not eat healthily and might get fat. And pays for their overseas holidays because you can’t expect them to save up. If she wasn’t such a raving lunatic I’d get her to adopt me.

            One of my kids carries a gun at work, the other-when she starts work in a few weeks-will be dealing with Big Stuff on mine sites. Pretty sure even without my tutorials they could work out how to run a load of washing. But the tutorial was helpful I think.

    • 2boyz

      It’s not as simple as you make it out to be. I didn’t have to lift a finger as a kid, we had staff to do everything. I did learn to cook, but that was because I got interested as a hobby, so while I am an amazing cook, it wouldn’t have happened had I not gotten into it and asked for lessons. Laundry I figured out (as long as it’s straightforward; I’m lost if a difficult stain arises), but cleaning is a lost cause. Never learned it, still can’t figure it out. I cannot function with less than 3 days a week of cleaning help. Thankfully, we can afford this. But you know what? I feel crippled by it. If the cleaning lady cancels on me, it is a serious stress (I apologize for my First World Problem moaning). It’s not right that I made it to adulthood without such basic skills of daily living. I am trying to do better with my kids by giving them some age appropriate chores, but ultimately, I am not really able to model this particular thing for them, and one day they’ll be old enough to realize that.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “Never learned it, still can’t figure it out. I cannot function with less than 3 days a week of cleaning help. ”

        No, you don’t WANT to function with less than 3 days cleaning help. If you WANTED to, you could learn how to clean in no time at all. It’s so simple that a child can do it. But why would anyone WANT to do it? Cleaning is a drag.

      • SporkParade

        I learned to clean as an adult. It’s not too tough. Hit me up if you want pointers.

        • Who?

          The older I get the less I see the dust, so there is that to look forward to…

        • Amazed

          It isn’t that cleaning is tough! It’s just that it stinks! I can clean my house just fine, the battle is kicking my own lazy ass to start doing it. I vacuum, I wipe dust, of course I wash my floors… but I dislike it heartily, that’s why I do it once a week. Twice, if I am feeling particularly unlike myself. And of course, I do clean when I make rubbish.

          I sing my kindle’s praises. It’s hard to wipe dust from the 500 or so books that you can see (some are hidden from my eyes in all kinds of cabinets, cupboards, and huge bags.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        The most straightforward way of dealing with this problem is to pay your cleaners well and treat them like respected professionals. That will reduce the chances that they’ll quit or cancel on you and you won’t have to learn cleaning which, as has been pointed out, is no fun.

      • KarenJJ

        I don’t remember my mum or anyone else teaching me how to clean anything, I just grabbed chemicals and cloths and wiped stuff down. Haven’t damaged anything yet that I can think of. These days with robot vacs, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, self-cleaning ovens plus a hired cleaning service and online grocery shopping; I find “keeping house” (as the kindy assistant teacher called it when I said I was going to be working full time) to be pretty straightforward. And I don’t iron. Even when I was a “parent help” at school and the kids were doing syllables – none of the kids at my table knew what an iron for or even which way it went up when it came to gluing the iron picture on the sheet.

        I do like cooking, but have even found a local service that develops simple, healthy and easy to cook recipes and then sources quality ingredients and delivers it all to our house in the right quantities with their weekly recipe book.

      • Ash

        The book Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House and Martha Stewart’s book about home cleaning can teach you

      • Bombshellrisa

        The Flylady book is really helpful. It has a schedule that is 10 minutes of cleaning a day. Has kids chores too. It’s a very good basic system that goes a long way or being able to feel in control with house work. There are also sections for special occasion cleaning and being prepared for natural disasters and household disasters (burst pipe, clogged toilet).

      • Roadstergal

        Did your spouse make it to adulthood with those ‘basic skills’?

    • KarenJJ

      I imagine the kids will largely be OK. Dunno about the parents though…

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      At 9, my child had crossed the Atlantic several times, had gone to school in a foreign country (starting before she knew the local language), and could point out logical flaws in an argument better than most adults. Her third grade history theme was “building a fairer America”. She can put together a coherent argument about why a piece of homework is unfair that convinces her teachers to excuse her from it (the fact that putting together the argument was more work than doing the assignment would have been probably helped convince them.) She can debug a program and knows how to recycle a computer when necessary. In short, she has all sorts of skills. I think she’ll do fine even if she never learns to work a record player or drive a stick shift.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      And speaking of adult skills acquired later in life, guess who just learned to run a coffee maker at age 47? That’s right, me!

  • Reading through this thread, all I can think of is that Jewish Motherhood is being taken up by the mainstream…once upon a time, the hovering, martyred mother was a bad joke, now it seems to be de rigueur.

    Boy am I glad my kids grew up before this became the fashion…I’d be in a padded cell if I had to live up to today’s parenting standards

    • Amy M

      Meh, I don’t even try. Lucky for me, most of the women I know don’t care about this ridiculousness, because they have jobs and other actual accomplishments. I do think a lot of it is media driven and doesn’t really reflect how the majority of mothers (in Western culture anyway) behave.

      • Busbus

        I don’t think it’s made up, but I’m sure it depends on class and location. In my college town, where there are lots of severely underemployed, college-educated, upper middle class women who are married to professors (way, way, way less female professors, in case you wondered), you can see this kind of behavior all the time. I don’t think it makes anyone happy, though.

        • Amy M

          Oh, I wasn’t saying its made up, I think the media tries to make it seem like ALL women are or should be behaving like this all the time and that’s just not the case.

    • SporkParade

      There’s another version of mommy martyrhood that’s in fashion now, and that’s thinking you are obligated to become a screaming mimi over every discomfort your child endures. “Oh, I’m so agonized whenever pumpkin gets vaccinated and cries, but I know it’s probably harder on me than it is on them.” It’s ironic because I’m pretty sure they are making it worse for the kids by being so distressed over nothing.

  • Amy

    She’s nostalgic for the pre-iPhone days? You mean the days when our moms, Tab or Sanka firmly in hand and cigarette dangling from mouth, locked us outside to “go out and play” until dinner time? Those days?

    Disclosure: my mom didn’t smoke or drink Tab or Sanka. She was and is a Salada tea person. And my sisters and I got our share of meaningful activities and hands-on parenting. But still nothing like what I do with my kids, and that’s working fulltime, finishing grad school part time, and yes, playing Candy Crush on my phone when they’re at dance, music, or sports practice. Sorry not sorry.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Or being locked out of the house for catching a black widow in a baby food Jar just to see if you could and your arachnophobe mother was having none of that shit. Or a lizard. Or several. Or some other delightful wiggly creature.

      No, this time it wasn’t me! It was my mom. Apples and trees and such.

      • Who?

        I love that your mum locked you out! With the spiders!

        One of our babysitters called me at work one day to speak firmly to my son-about 11 at the time-who thought he saw a snake outside, grabbed a carving knife, and took himself out to Deal With It.

        Where to start? Knives-not playthings. We have something like 7 of the most venomous snakes in the world living right here, so the number one rule of snake interactions is DON’T.

        Turns out he was worried the snake would bite the dog, and hadn’t appreciated that he may have slightly less lightning reflexes than the snake.

        We also had a very short chat to remind him who was in charge when no parent was at home.

        That was one bit of parenting I was quite happy to do on the phone.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          I think I’d have a heart attack raising a kid in Australia with all the spiders and snakes. I figure anyone born and raised in Australia that didn’t run afoul of one of those crazy things was indeed fit to contribute to the gene pool!

          And actually it was my mom that got locked out by her mom for the spiders and lizards. Mom is pretty unphased when it comes to creepy, crawly things. Good thing too because my sister is such a wuss about spiders… Always has been. I took after Mom but kept my captures in the safe zone of orb weavers thank goodness!

          • KarenJJ

            It’s not very pleasant but you basically just scare the shit out of your toddlers when they poke at things where spiders might live. My eldest is still terrified of spiders. Another one people use is to tell the kids that crocodiles live in the dam and they’ll get eaten. Luckily we don’t live on a property with an unfenced dam.

          • Who?

            And what about those crustaceans that will kill you? We have a local one that if you put it in your pocket it will sting through the fabric (the sting itself is painless) until you pass out and stop breathing. Which doesn’t take long.

            So ‘don’t pick up that (or really any shell that you can’t see all aspects of) shell!’ is another one.

  • Squillo

    Wait, the parents are expected to watch the soccer practice? WTF?

    • AirPlant

      SERIOUSLY. I thought activities were where you sent them so you could get the shopping done. Why on the earth would you need to be present to watch somebody else learn to play soccer?

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      My dad watched me play softball…

      …but he kind of had to because he was the coach. 😀

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I take the kids to soccer practice, but I don’t watch them all the time, because while one is practicing, I am helping the other one do their homework. And then when the other starts practicing, I help the first one do their homework.

      See, I’m better than all of them.

    • LibrarianSarah

      I know, my parents didn’t watch every game never mind every practice.

    • areawomanpdx

      Ya, my parents came to maybe 2 swim meets in 6 years of being on swim teams. I always caught a ride with other people and then later on drove myself when I was old enough. I can’t imagine them showing up to practice.

  • Burgundy

    This New York Time piece made me feel like an inadequate mother and a Scout Leader. We lived in an area that the kids can not roam around freely outside, but we would drop them (age 8-10) off in one person’s house (we take turns and during the summer, the kids would end up stay at different houses each day over the week) and the moms would stay for a bit but will pick her her kids later and we don’t plan any activities for the kids to do. They need to figure that out themselves. We do outings and different activities for Scout meetings. If the meeting was done at the leader’s house, the mom would come after the meeting is over, then we told the kids go outside and play while the moms drinks wines and talk. My co-leader and I currently working on having the girls lead themselves in the near future so we don’t have to do much work.

  • Jenny_from_da_Bloc

    My mom would always talk on the phone on Saturday mornings to her sisters. She probably spent 2.5 hours on the phone. In the mean time my brother’s and I ate breakfast, got dressed and went and terrorized our block with our gang of neighborhood kids. We spent hours and hours outside, even in the freezing Ukrainian fall and winter. I had no interest in my mom’s conversations and didn’t care to have her hovering over us all day long. If we were hungry she would tell us to come back in 20 minutes and there would be hot soup, bread and hot tea on the chair out front for us to scarf down and go back to whatever mischief we were in to that day. I long to kick my son out the door and tell him to go play, but all our neighborhood kids are ghostly pale, video game nerds who complain constantly at the slightest breeze and want to come inside and play on the iPad or Xbox. It’s embarassing that these kids have no interest in actually playing with each other and coming up with game or make-Bali eve to have some fun. Without some sort of electronic they constantly coming tat they are bored and there is nothing to do.

    • Squillo

      This was largely my (American) experience, too. We were never inside; my friends and I roamed the neighborhood after school until we were older and into various music/dance/sports–for which parents never came to practice, only to games/performances.

      • KarenJJ

        Same experience in Australia.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        We used to catch tadpoles and keep them in a bucket until they became frogs. Or catch salamanders and gross each other out because their skin feels freaking weird.

        We always had free time to just be kids and I just recently thanked my mom for that. I look at kids today and I’m so sad. They’re not allowed to be children and explore their world. As soon as school is over it’s some school club thing, then it’s some kind of sport, after that some kind of music lesson, after that practicing for those sports and instruments after that hours of homework we now bury kids under.

        I loved doing sports and music lessons as a kid but they were spaced out. Half an hour of piano practice each day was more than enough. More than that and I just started making more and more errors. Throw the ball at the side of the house I’d marked to practice pitching for softball. Back then my homework was spelling words and a reading or math worksheet. Just one. Probably took half an hour.

        The rest of the afternoon I was allowed to draw or paint, ride bikes, catch bugs, play with toys, and yes play computer or video games. I was allowed to explore my world and use my imagination.

        Imagination is like a dirty word now. Children must be correct on all things all the time. I saw an eighteen month old in Nursery at church that didn’t get one of the dinosaur toys so he took a cow toy and started going “RAWR!” and attacking other animals. He was immediately corrected by the other nursery worker saying “No cows don’t roar. They say moo. Cows say moo. Say moo.” And all I could think was dude its a plastic cow. If he wants it to be a dinosaur and say rawr who am I to stop him? I know he knows what a cow is. He doesn’t need me to correct him. Let him have fun and be an imaginative problem solver instead of sitting there bawling because he didn’t get one of the dinosaur toys and he wants one right this moment.

        We expect children to have adult intelligence but then treat them like they don’t know anything and have to constantly correct them. I hate it and I’m starting to speak up more about why not just let kids be kids and puzzle out the world as they go. Teach them and guide them, don’t berate them for something they couldn’t have known.

        I tell people all the time that if you truely want to find all the bugs in a computer program, put it in front of a bunch of five year olds and let them loose. They’re still curious and don’t have so much ingrained “no I can’t do this” mentality about electronic systems so they’ll push the options in combinations the programmer wouldn’t have thought of and produce a bug that can be fixed now instead of after it goes live.

        If we don’t stop being so critical and expecting children to be little adults as soon as they leave the womb, I’m expecting a significant increase in antidepressant and antianxiety medication use. And therapy. Lots of therapy.

        • Megan

          Are you sure that increase in anxiety won’t really be from all these moms being on their phones while breastfeeding? Surely that’s the real reason, that mom didn’t gaze lovingly during breastfeeding enough, or worse, bottlefed her baby. 😉

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I don’t know, with all this rising autism they might get anxiety from all the eye contact from the lovingly gazing into their eyes! 😀

      • Jenny_from_da_Bloc

        We were always outside and playing all kinda of imaginative games.Our favorite game being ” The Russians are coming” , kind of like hide & seek or stealing the neighbor’s chicken’s eggs. This being the end of the cold war and the early ’90 before we immigrated to the U.S.

    • AirPlant

      What is the deal with kids these days and their inability to withstand climate? I was babysitting while it was raining and I told the kids that we should jump in puddles and they looked at me like I was straight up nuts. When I insisted the oldest started crying and telling me that he would get rain on him. I was legitmately flabberghasted. It was a light summer rain! It was otherwise 80 degrees out. It was like a themepark of nature where you are allowed to get muddy. In what universe is this worth crying over?

      • Jenny_from_da_Bloc

        The neighbor boy was in our pool with my son and was complaining it was “too hot to swim.” He was trying to get my son to ask me if they could come inside and play Minecraft. Even my son, who is 5, was like how can it be too hot to swim? A cool, slight breeze and a few drops of rain and some of the kids on the soccer team panic and run to the cars

        • AirPlant

          It hurts my brain. I personally love playing in the rain. You get to splash and there is mud and the ground is slippery and things get all funny looking and drippy and the air smells good and then you get to go inside and put on something fuzzy and drink cider. It is like the best thing. Soccer in the rain sounds even better because you won’t get too hot when you are running around and the ground will get soggy and make it like a bouncy house.
          And the whole reason to go swimming is to make yourself less hot. What strange land does this child come from? Does he come from one of those families where the parents drive from house to house on halloween?

          • Jenny_from_da_Bloc

            Haha actually yes they do drive house to house! It’s the strange land of Ohio, the weirdest place on earth

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        Where I lived as a kid if you didn’t play your softball games in the rain, you didn’t play period. If it starts hailing just take shelter until it stops and retake your positions. If you couldn’t actually feel the drops hitting you and making a small splash, it was still okay to play!

        Welcome to spring sports in the Pacific Northwest!

        • demodocus

          Blind baseball doesn’t play in the rain, but that’s because electronics to make the buzzing noises don’t play well with water.

    • LibrarianSarah

      HEY THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A GHOSTLY PALE VIDEO GAME NERD!!

      But in all serious, I think you are making the same mistake that the author in the original piece made in that you let your own nostalgic recollection of your own childhood color how you view the modern world. The only difference is that where the author of the original piece looked at the past and found herself lacking you look to your childhood and find your kids friends lacking.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        My parents and I bonded quite well over our Calecovision playing Q*Bert and Mousetrap. It was colorful and made noises and things zipped around the screen. We loved it!

        I have my dad and his video game psychology lessons in how to deal with the gender divide in the early days of video games to thank for finding my husband actually! My husband can’t stand the girls who think it’s attractive to play dumb in video games. Playing dumb was forbidden when playing with dad.

        Dad and I bonded a lot over video games a lot. Lots of nights of Diablo II gem hunting for the perfect socketed paladin sword for Prime Evil killing. Before things got weird with later latches. Less on technique when we played games now I realize and more on psychological warfare and history lessons. We were both so miffed we couldn’t tear up the railroad tracks and twist them around trees while invading a nation to keep them from rebuilding and demoralizing them in Civilization…

        I scare people in multiplayer games like that I guess. Never underestimate the history nerd. Your little virtual world will find out the meaning of Total War otherwise.

        • Chi

          I love you 🙂

          One of my best ever memories is a friend I made in primary school. He had an N64 and we wasted hours of fun time playing Legend of Zelda.

          And then when I got a playstation, we scared ourselves silly with the original Diablo by playing it with the lights off and the sound up high.

          Good times. And I adored him because he never let me get away with playing dumb either. If boys get pissy at you because you’re good, just nuke em and walk away lol.

      • Jenny_from_da_Bloc

        I let my kids play the iPad and xbox, but I dont let them play it 16 hours a day, which I think is wrong. Kids need so play outside and play make believe. Playing video games & not having social interactions with other kids isn’t good.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        When I was a kid (waaaayyyy back in the 1970s and 1980s) there was a moral panic about video games and how the kids wouldn’t have any life skills except how to rescue the princess and kill the space invaders, because we wasted all our time playing video games.

        Fast forward* to the 1990s when I was in medical school. As it turns out, I’m shitty at surgery. I’m bad at everything about it: the physical skills, the social milieu, the stamina, the ability to ignore exciting non-surgical issues the patient has, everything. Except for one thing: when I was in medical school, laproscopic techniques were just coming into fashion. It turns out that running a laproscope is just like playing a video game. And, thanks to my time playing Centipede and Space Invaders, I was good at it. Video games (and doing post-op care, which is basically internal medicine, well) kept me from failing surgery. So, jumping forward to the present, what’s the fastest growing surgical technique? Laproscopic and robot assisted surgery. Yep, being good at video games teaches you exactly the skills you need to be a brain surgeon. Or any other type of surgeon. Or a gastroenterologist (colonoscopy is pretty much just the bit in Zork with “lots of twisty passages, all alike” with good graphics).

        Not sure what the moral here is, except maybe “you never know what sort of learning will be critical in the future so don’t disdain any of it.”

        *Speaking of obsolete technology

        • FormerPhysicist

          I am VERY grateful my surgeon has those new skills. Whether or not she uses them to play video games.

  • lilin

    Do kids like it when their parents come to soccer practice/games? I used to hate it. I couldn’t enjoy myself with the pressure.

    • Amy

      My kids don’t do soccer, but their sports, music, and dance lessons are far enough away that dropping them off and leaving doesn’t make a lick of sense, so I stay. But I bring grading, homework, knitting, or an electronic device to play games while they’re practicing. And in the case of dance and music, they’re in a different room anyway.

  • T.

    When I was rather small (6 or so) I too was indeed annoyed when “my mother’s attention was occupied elsewhere”. This because I did not clearly perceived my mother as a person independent from me who had her own interests and things to do.

    Then I learnt. I think it was a very important lesson, and one that not teaching to your children could have repercussion.

    Your mother, your friend, later on your boyfriend/girlfriend exist independently from you. There is a very peculiar brand of nasty people who never get this.

    • MaineJen

      That is a really, really good point. A person who never has to learn that other people need private lives or personal space could make a VERY bad future romantic partner. :/

      • T.

        Definitively. It seems to be a recipe to raise an egocentric person who is honestly dumbfounded at the idea that other people have their own inner lives and interests.

        Kids must learn their parents are separate people with other things to do… So they can realize that their friends and romantic partners will have them too.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Heh. So working on this with DD, age 18 months, right now. She thinks at the moment that my picking up my phone to make a call or answer a text is her cue to utterly lose her little mind because I’m not paying total attention to her. It’s moderately irritating, if somewhat developmentally normal, in a toddler. In an adult…*runs screaming in the opposite direction*

        • Angharad

          My daughter (13 months) has started closing my laptop anytime I open it up to work on homework (or Facebook or whatever). Again, developmentally appropriate behavior in a toddler but I will be disappointed in myself if she still can’t stand it by the time she’s an older child, or especially an adult.

  • Bombshellrisa

    I remember the neonatologist telling me I shouldn’t have been listening to an audiobook while trying to nurse my son the morning after he was born. DS had a dusky spell and I had called the nurses and forgot to pause the book so it was playing when the nurse, LC and neonatologist were in there. Apparently I was supposed to sit there in silence (on my lovely ice pack) and watch him latch for 10 minutes before I fed him formula and then pumped. TV was also not suggested, again too distracting and over stimulating to my late preterm son.

    • MaineJen

      OMFG. I would have died of boredom during maternity leave after my son was born if I wasn’t allowed books or TV while nursing. That kid would latch on and not let go for 30-40 minutes at a stretch. There’s only so long you can gaze lovingly down at your child…

      • Haelmoon

        I spent my time pumping an nurseing studying for my Royal College exams (similar to the American board exams). As soon as they latched, I just read and reviewed until they got fussy in about 20 min. Turns out that short repetitive intervals are good for my when studying. I would have prefered netflix, but I did need to pass those pesky exams. They laughed in the NICU because I came with my text books. I was also doing my MPH for the last two and would watch online lectures, which were conviently 20 minutes long.

      • Amazed

        The Intruder got double serving when nursing: milk and fairytales that my mom or dad read to me. Come to think of it, he showed the disturbing tendency of trying to read since he was, let’s see, about a year and a half old. At four, he finally managed it. Even before, there was nothing more interesting than my books in this world. He “read” them, chewed them and so on.

        Poor kid. Must have been all this divided attention he got while nursing. Not the center of anyone’s world, just being fitted into the family’s schedule.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Oh, you mean he figured out that he had a place in the grand scheme of things and was surrounded by loving people, but wasn’t the sun ’round which everything revolved? THE HORROR.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          I think my mom did the same thing for me and read me whatever book she was reading at the time. I know she read to me from as far back as I can remember. She read letter and number books to me, I know that and vaguely remember it. Enough that I could recite my ABCs, knew most of the basic colors and simple shapes, and count to twenty at around age two.

          I don’t regret it if that’s what gave me my love of just blazing through every book I could find in my childhood and now.

          • Amazed

            “Do not sleep! Read!” was my battle cry when I was 1.5 yo and my mom was trying to, you know, sleep at night. Nah. I would wake up and insist on my portion of Thumbelina. My dad quickly mastered the trick of sleeping on his good ear (he’s deaf in one of those). My mom, in turn, quickly mastered the trick of kicking him awake for his share of night reading.

            As to the undivided attention and the fashion of always placing the kid first and loving them best, a fond memory: I would say, “You love him best!” The Intruder would say, “You love her best!” Then, we’d share a look and conclude, “She loves Dad best.” Mag giggling would ensue.

            Those were good times…

      • I have to say, with my oldest, I watched Law and Order while nursing. She hasn’t killed anyone, so maybe she’ll become a police officer. However, I also used to watch A Baby Story while nursing and had to stop that because it stressed her out. Weirdest thing ever. When the women on the show went into labor, she would FREAK OUT. Dead bodies? Guns? No problem. Labor pains? Screaming. Guess she didn’t like labor any more than I did!

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Sensible baby!

    • Burgundy

      I watched murder mystery shows while nursing my oldest; fast forward 8 years, she now loved detective novels and tv shows. maybe your neonatologist had a point?

      • Bombshellrisa

        Too funny. We’ll see if he talks with a British accent and likes the Daisy Dalrymple series. I remember that I downloaded the third book in the series the morning after he was born. Either that or he is going to be a pirate, as my husband would watch “Black Sails” again and again when it was “his night” to pull night duty with DS (oh the wonders of combo feeding!)

    • Anacaona

      My son literally became a new limb when he was born. I would had to lay down all day long looking at the ceiling if this was the ideal. Probably would had gotten depressed just out of feeling completely useless for the 6 months I couldn’t feed him nothing but boob juice. WORST.ADVICE.EVER!

    • Shawna Mathieu

      I EPd with my son, every four hours, for twenty or so minutes each session. I’d have gone nuts without Netflix. Most TV show episodes are 40 minutes long, so I could see several episodes in a day, and watch a movie with my husband.

      • Allie

        Yes, I was up with my little one for hours on end, night after night for months, and Netflix helped me cope. I confess, I don’t miss breastfeeding at all, but I do sometimes miss those peaceful nights of binge-watching while she nursed or slept in my arms. Good grief, first they expect you to nurse them on demand all night long while they cluster feed, and then they expect you to do nothing but gaze lovingly at them while they do it?! I’ll retire to Bedlam!

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Absolute BS.
      FWIW, the best mom I know always gets a boxed set of whatever show she’s interested in at the moment from her DH a month or so before the next kid is due. Late-night binge-watching is the way she gets through those long nursing nights. I would’ve done the same thing except that my shows tending to have a lot of yelling, gunshots, and explosions (read: NCIS, or the like) and aren’t exactly conducive to baby sleep. Fortunately, I love to read, and discovered the Kindle app on my phone, as well as this blog’s archives…it was glorious! Or at least as glorious as crazed sleep deprivation can be.

      • Toni35

        I like those types of shows too. I just lower the volume on the tv and turn the closed captioning on. I can read anything that’s too quiet to hear and the explosions and yelling are low enough as to not wake the whole house 😉

        Thank god for Netflix. Makes those endless hours sitting and feeding baby much more bearable.

    • LovleAnjel

      Psshaw. I got HBOGo and binged Game of Thrones during feedings.

      • Monkey Professor for a Head

        I just finished GOT S5 yesterday. I did try and keep mini monkey faced away during the sex and violence scenes at least.

        • Roadstergal
          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            Love it!

          • Who?

            It hurts my brain that all sorts of violence is considered appropriate, but if you want to show people having sex and not hurting anyone, that is Definitely Not Allowed.

          • Roadstergal

            Yes, that’s f… I mean, that’s violenced up.

          • Who?

            As Fry and Laurie sweetly point out, the censor is obsessed with sex.

            I’m all for someone being obsessed with the sex they’re having, but when they are obsessed with the sex they think everyone else might be having or want to be having, that’s not right.

            And cartoon violence ie where terrible things happen and people are okay after has to be so damaging to view, and yet it’s everywhere. At least in GoT you get deaded and that’s that, or lose a limb or two.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            “And cartoon violence ie where terrible things happen and people are okay after has to be so damaging to view, and yet it’s everywhere. At least in GoT you get deaded and that’s that, or lose a limb or two.”

            Unless you come back! Or it was just a death fake out. But at least the big death from S1 (don’t want to name names for spoilers sake) is definitely dead.

  • MaineJen

    “They do not need constant maternal interaction; indeed they can be stifled from constant maternal interaction.”

    Thank you! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking 10 minutes to read on your e-device (whether you’re reading email, literature or trashy articles on Facebook, *it doesn’t matter and your children don’t need to know*) while your kids play among themselves. Or longer, for that matter.

    I leave my kids to play by themselves all the time. Always within eyeshot/earshot, as they’re still very young and I want them to be safe, but they get to decide what they’re doing and for how long. They have a great relationship with each other, they don’t need me to direct their play 24/7, and they actually come up with some pretty creative ideas when left alone. And yeah, guess what? They don’t need my undivided attention during soccer practice either.

    And yes, I read in bed next to them while they’re falling asleep, when they insist on my being there. Yes I do!! The idea of lying there bored, waiting for a kid to go to sleep, seems like torture.

    • Toni35

      I was raised before cell phones were a thing. And what’s funny is my mom (recently, not when I was still a kid) described feeling much the same way this woman described when she was putting my brother and I to bed. Laying there waiting for the damn kid to sleep, aching to go and get the things that still need to be done that evening accomplished, or even, heavens to Betsy, wanting to go grab a drink and watch Cheers (or whatever other sitcom) with my dad. Technology hasn’t made waiting for a kid to fall asleep is boring. It has always been boring!

      • Angharad

        I sing my daughter a traditional Mexican lullaby that my mother-in-law taught me. Translated into English, it goes Go to sleep my little girl, go to sleep my love. Go to sleep piece of my heart. Go to sleep beautiful girl, I have things to do. I need to do laundry and sewing.
        I think it’s a very common and natural sentiment.

  • attitude devant

    I’m sorry, but it’s just plain bad mothering to hang breathlessly on your child’s every word and act. Children need to learn, from a young age, to manage themselves with people outside the nuclear family. They need a safety net, not a cocoon. How are they every going to develop independence if every damn thing needs Mommy input? And it’s TERRIBLE to model this kind of mothering for our daughters! Do we really want to teach them that adult women exist only as props for their kids?

  • crazy grad mama

    My first reaction to the New York Times piece was, “Since when do parents have to pay attention at soccer practice?”

    This narrative that mothers must be utterly fascinated by whatever their children are doing at all times is insulting, not to mention enormously guilt-inducing. I have interests that extend beyond motherhood. I love watching my one-year-old explore and play, but he gets kind of boring by the end of the day.

    • OttawaAlison

      I was at my daughter’s Ringette practice (for non-Canadians, google Ringette) and I was swearing that we were in the rural part of the city and the arena didn’t have wifi.
      Did I watch my daughter, yes, did I want to watch while she was waiting her turn? nope. Did I sometimes miss her turn as I played Candy Crush, yup, and it’s all okay. I saw her enough that I could compliment and encourage her afterwards, but even if I hadn’t it would have been fine!

  • JJ

    I don’t know what my mom did while we were growing up but we had our own lives and things to do. We were very “free range” and we all grew up to be independent adults. I did not feel deprived since I had siblings, friends, outdoors, and sports. We usually had dinner together (pizza delivery even!) and did fun family things on the weekends. My mom would help with our school and teams but she certainly was not at our practices. There were just too many of us for that to be practical anyway. My mother was not following us around or spending time feeling guilty that is for sure. I find the pressure to be constantly engaged or hovering over my children exhausting. I just can’t live like that and I don’t think kids like it either. My children, husband, and I are thriving without intensive parenting and I think that maybe why I enjoy being a mother so much. If I ever feel like I am martyring, then I change the situation as fast as possible because it is not healthy for anyone in my family for me to be resentful.

  • Jen

    The mothers doing this intensive parenting are going to be horrible mothers-in-law. If someone has spent eighteen years of her life on artisanal parenting, she’s not going to be ok with a call once a week and the occasional dinner. Since her perfectly-parented little angel can’t be at fault, it must be the daughter-in-law/son-in-law who is keeping her precious from spending more time with her

  • I’m typing this on my phone while nursing my son in his hospital room. I haven’t left the room since we were admitted early yesterday morning after a 3 am ER visit. So….devoted mommy-martyr standing vigil over my sick baby’s bedside, or neglectful jerk whiling away the time on my eeeebil iPhone? Does it make a difference that I used the same phone to order in Thai food last night instead of making do with the hospital dinner?

    I have to say, this phone has been indispensable the last 2 days. Sick babies sleep a LOT, or at least mine does, and without the phone I would have nothing to do but stare at him and worry.

    • Jen

      Here’s the test for parents in the hospital: If you’re a father, you’re a saint for simply being there, no matter what you’re doing. If you’re a mother, you’re a monster if you do anything other than stare worriedly at the child the entire time. Also, fathers are allowed to order in pizzas, six-foot subs, entire Indian restaurants, etc. Good mothers aren’t hungry while their children are sick (be sure to faint attractively!).

      P.S. I hope your son gets better soon 🙂

      • Thanks. He was admitted because he had a fever and is only 4 weeks old. I am ashamed to say I had no idea what I was in for when I called the pediatrician’s after hours line about the fever. I thought they were going to give me advice about cool baths and a Monday morning appointment.

        Nope. They told me to bring him straight to the ER, and when I got there they started talking about meningitis and sepsis, and ordered blood work, a urine sample, a freaking lumbar puncture. They know, and I know, that he probably caught his older brother’s cold — but again, 4 weeks old. It’s been such a weird experience and I can see how someone woo-inclined or fearful/mistrustful of doctors would start thinking “unnecessary procedures, cascade of interventions, why don’t they just wait and see,” etc. I mean, he is getting IV antibiotics in his scalp, which is just weird and scary.

        So I kind of get how one could get to a woo-y mental place about this sort of thing, but given a choice between an unnecessary-in-retrospect lumbar puncture and hospital stay and MENINGITIS, I pick the 48 hours cooling our heels in here, hands down.

        His fever is down and he’s starting to be more interested in eating, so hopefully we’ll be able to go home as soon as the cultures are all back.

        • FrequentFlyer

          I hope he gets better quickly and that it is just his brother’s cold.

        • MaineJen

          Oh no! Poor guy. My son had the IV-antibiotics in the scalp when he was a newborn, it does look VERY scary and weird but I guess it’s just the easiest place to find a good vein on a baby. They turned out to be only precautionary in our case as his cultures were negative, but with these little ones I think they just want to use an abundance of caution. And I couldn’t agree more!

          Hope he’s feeling better soon!

        • Blue Chocobo

          The margin of error on newborns is just too narrow. Better to err on the safe side. I hope everything works out well and quickly.

        • Mishimoo

          Glad his fever is done! Hope he’s better soon.

        • Gene

          I get to give that talk a lot: it’s probably a mild viral illness. But at less than 1-2 months (depending on where you are), we don’t want to miss the small number than do have meningitis. And with cold season in full swing, I’ll do tons of neonatal septic work ups that are negative…excerpt when they aren’t.

          Hope everything goes well with your kiddo!

        • SporkParade

          Glad to hear the fever is down. Sorry to welcome you to the “This is probably minor, but we’re sending you and your newborn to the hospital anyway” club.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          Re the IV: Babies are notoriously hard to get IVs into. Neonatal nurses are the absolute best, even better than chemo nurses, at getting IVs in somehow, somewhere. We once had a patient for chemo that for some reason we didn’t want to put a central line in (infection risk maybe?–I can’t remember any more.) Anyway, the chemo nurses tried to get a line in and just couldn’t and finally called in a neonatal nurse who looked at patient’s veins, got a line in first try, and brushed off the profuse thanks with a “no sweat”.

          Glad your little one is feeling better!

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            A friend of mine used to be NICU nurse, and yep, she’d get sent down to the ER when they couldn’t get a line on someone, and would inevitably get it on the first try. *grins*

          • demodocus

            we could have used her at the first Emergency Department we took the boy to when his leg broke. Took her 3 or 4 attempts. Bad night for the 1 year old.

    • demodocus

      Hope the little guy is on the mend!

    • Elizabeth A

      My level of approval of your Thai food suggests that I should get myself some.

      I hope your kiddo gets better soon and you get a well-deserved chance to collapse.

  • Sarah

    I’m tired of “back in my day” logic. There was never a golden age, and the level of opaqueness hasn’t changed much since I was a child. I regularly find myself saying the same tired phrases of “because that’s the way things work honey” and “Mommy needs some Mommy time right now. I love you , but go see your Daddy” that my own mother used to say. I understand stressing open communication (when necessary), but modern technology can easily facilitate that communication.

    Why are we maligning having information at our fingertips? I like that I can go online and read a New York Times article, check out scientific journals, and even dabble in social media to keep in touch with friends I’ve had since middle school.

    And that address book? If you saw my left handed graphite smudged scribbles, you would understand my love of my contact folder in my phone.

    • Nick Sanders

      Regardless of a person’s religion or lack of one, I think everyone should read Ecclesiastes 7:10.

      Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

      It shows people have been delusional about the past being better since the BC era.

      • demodocus

        Back in *our* day, we sowed 4 acres of wheat, not 3, always listened to our parents, and still had time for a rousing game of throwing stones at crows.

        • Monkey Professor for a Head

          Well we lived in a cardboard box in the middle of t’road.

          • demodocus

            Pff. Such high technology! Paper! Roads! we scratched pictures in the dirt with a twig

          • Sarah

            And sat on our food until it was hot enough to eat!

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            But did your mother stare at you intently while you were eating while refusing to eat herself until she was sure that you were full? Or, better yet, chew food and stuff it in your mouth? If it’s good enough for baby birds…

        • Liz Leyden

          We lived in a lake! We would wake up at 10:30 pm, half an hour *before* we went to bed, eat a handful of cold gravel, work 26 hours at the mill, pay our boss for the privilege, go home, clean the lake, then Dad would kill us every night and dance on our graves singing “Halleluja!”

          • Who?

            But-and I can’t stress this too much-was the mill uphill both directions from home? Because if not you don’t know the meaning of suffering…

          • Amy M

            LUXURY!!!!

      • MaineJen

        Aaaand we now have a winner for “This atheist’s favorite Bible verse.” 🙂

      • LibrarianSarah

        I usually go with Socrates to illustrate this point but this works as well.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Right! The back in my day remembrances are usually through rose colored glasses. You would not believe how many times I have heard someone my age say that children were safer when we were kids. Really? Because I was a child in the 1970s. The 1970s boasted the most reported stranger child abductions of any decade. Just because our parents let us run all day and night doesn’t mean we were safer.

      • Mel

        Don’t forget being driven around in a car that had fewer safety features than a roll of aluminum foil does today. There’s a reason all of the winners of the “Ten Worst Cars of the Millennium” on Car Talk all debuted in the 60’s-70’s….

        (I say this as a early 80’s VW bus [#10!] survivor. Ours had a hole in the floor that went all the way through to the road. Also, the door flew off regularly ala “Little Miss Sunshine” especially when it was a) winter, b) a time where Dad was not present and/or c) being used to move hungry or sleepy toddlers.)

    • Liz Leyden

      I was a latchkey kid from the age of 7. It’s considered neglect today, but it was a necessity then. I was in plenty of situations where a cell phone would have been useful.

      When I was 10, my school had an early release day due to snow. The nuns would not let any students call home for a ride. They said they would put an announcement on the radio, but if your parents worked outside of the very small listening area, or they weren’t listening at the time, you were out of luck. I was able to walk home, but a lot of kids who weren’t within walking distance were stranded.

      • Nick Sanders

        The wouldn’t let anyone call home? What on earth?

      • demodocus

        What the heck with those nuns?

    • Bugsy

      Well said. I remember being a kid in the 1980s, when I’d regularly bug my mom to get off the phone and end her gab sessions w/ her friends. In my family’s case, we’ve traded long phone calls for smart phones and texting. Not necessarily good or bad…just different. The idea that parents in my mom’s generation devoted 100% of their time to us is just laughable.

    • KarenJJ

      My grandma had two boys less than a year apart and had to milk half a dozen cows in the morning. She used to lock them in the cot (and old “Safe-T” cot – so like a massive mesh cage thing that seemed to be popular at the time in Australia) back at the house and go to the cow shed because they didn’t like to stay in the pram. Women in previous generations worked really really hard – to keep businesses running, to scrounge a few pennies (keeping chooks) and to keep large numbers of children fed and clothed – as well as husbands and any other family members that need care – usually one or two older generation would live in the house – and a few farm workers.

      My life is one of comparative luxury even though I work full time. I get 8 weeks annual leave a year, unlimited sick leave, a good salary and work five days a week between 7-3pm. I pay for a cleaner, gardener and have all the mod cons (I have a robot vac – my grandma didn’t even have electricity until my Dad and uncle were preschool age). My kids are well cared for at school and before school care and we have weekends to go on bike rides and do family things. It would be crazy for me to give that up in order to stay home and micromanage their lives and “support” their every move. How stifling – for all of us.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Back in my day kids that tried to do math different from what the teacher was doing were called trouble makers who don’t understand math and needed to shut up and learn. Or worse like mydad who was basically just labeled as a lost cause.

      These days, as much as people bitch about it, common core math at least makes an attempt to address that math can be done different ways that better suits a child’s cognitive process.

  • Hilary

    When I was in middle school, I used to order my mom to go take care of herself. It made her a lot more pleasant to be around.

  • Nick Sanders

    I know my mom didn’t need any technology to make her parenting completely opaque to me. If I wanted to know something, I could ask a question, only to be told “I’m busy” or “Because I’m your parent, that’s why.” Of course, once I got old enough to figure things out for myself, I couldn’t get her to stop giving me detailed explanations whether I wanted them or not.

    Ah well, I think I turned out well enough regardless.

    • Sarah

      My four year old regularly says “I want you to stop telling me things, Mommy” when I go into detailed explanations of how the world works.

      • Angharad

        I’m impressed! I have two four-year-old nephews and they are never satisfied.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      When I was old enough to read and before the internet questions were usually answered with “Why don’t we go to the library and find a book about it?” Or “Let’s go look in am Encyclopedia at the library.” At least if the material wasnt too far over my head. They’d usually let me check the book out anyways so I wouldn’t feel like they thought I wasn’t smart enough. I could figure that out after looking at the book that it was a bit above my comprehension and understand why mom and dad said to find a different book.

      Dad and I got in a debate when I was about six about if George Washington had wooden teeth like he’d been taught as a kid or hippopotamus teeth like I’d just learned when I had to write a little essay on Washington for President’s Day. I have to give him credit that instead of going I’m the parent and I’m right so there we ended up in the library for several hours trying to figure out the answer. We never did find one… All of the books said something different and we couldn’t get the sources to corroborate each other so we called a draw based on lack of information.

      I think the librarians thought he was nuts to be debating his six year old daughter over something so silly. And we must have looked in every book that had a mention of George Washington in our little rural library. But I’ll always remember, and be thankful, that he and Mom taught me to research instead of just telling me to accept what they or anyone else said blindly then led by example and taught me how.

      FYI: Years later we found out we were both wrong. Washington didn’t have wooden dentures and another pair of dentures were not in fact hippopotamus teeth stuck on the denture but made from hippopotamus -ivory- carved to look like teeth. Only took the widespread use of the internet to get an answer a decade later.

      • Nick Sanders

        I meant questions about why I had to do something that I didn’t understand or why a certain decision had been reached.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Ah in those situations I was much more difficult. Mom tried logic because it worked in most other cases. Except for running into the street without looking both ways. Nothing she did could stop me from trying.

          So at her wits end she took me to the highway where a cat had been run over earlier and said, “That’s what happens when you don’t look both ways before crossing the street!” I don’t think I comfortably crossed the street by myself until I was eight. XD

          I think it’s funny now but she immediately regretted it. She thought she’d scarred me for life for the longest time! I got over it.

          So if you have that particular issue with a stubborn child, try a dead cat. Works wonders!

  • Blue Chocobo

    I thought that was the point extracurricular activities. You pay someone else so you can have adult brain time. Staring at the child the whole time, becoming personally invested in every moment, is wasting the time and money.

    • AirPlant

      There was no way on this earth my mom would have sat around during one of my extra curriculars. Hell, she was regularly a half hour late picking me up. Child me was obviously traumetized by her neglect, except that I wasn’t. How is she supposed to be interested in the dance recital if she watches every class?

      • Bugsy

        My dad used to sleep through my dance classes, and he’d grade his students’ papers from the bleachers during my skating lessons. He was more than willing to drive me to my extracurriculars, but he also needed that time – for napping or working. I never felt neglected or abused by his lack of interest in either…I guess I should have!

      • KarenJJ

        My mum was always on time and hated being late. It was really annoying because I didn’t get to hang out with friends after tennis practise or anything because mum would be there to pick me up.

    • An Actual Attorney

      I remember my mom sleeping during my music lessons.

      • FormerPhysicist

        Reason #1 why I won’t do Suzuki method for my kids. If I want to learn to play, I’ll take my own lessons.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Just looked up Suzuki method. Perfect example of too much too soon. Take kids to concerts, sure, but if they are bored out their skulls realize it’s not their cup of tea and don’t force it. Or they’ll really hate it. You gave them the exposure so they know it exists and I think that’s the most critical part.

          My piano teacher demanding I practice an hour and a half each day and to disregard fun activities like the end of the year school trip to a swim park to go to a competition instead when I was ten and eleven is what made me quit for several years. It was too much.

          I guess teaching life balancing skills is probably the most important skill a parent could teach their child over any house work or cooking when you get down to it.

    • attitude devant

      Holy crap! Doesn’t anyone carpool anymore? We used to take turns driving the kids to soccer practice. Does the coach NEED parental supervision during practice? How absurd is it that all those adults are observing soccer drills? Puh-leeze.

      • Mel

        As a former coach, I generally preferred parents who were capable of amusing themselves during practice rather than hovering on the sidelines.

    • Jen

      I would have been mortified if my mother sat staring at me during soccer or field hockey practice. Fortunately, this was thirty years ago, so nobody expected her to shadow me 24/7.

    • JJ

      I don’t even stay at my kid’s practices. They walk there or I carpool with another parent so I am an extremely absent mother I guess!

    • Bugsy

      As a stay-at-home mom who finally has time to myself for the first time in three years – #1 started preschool two weeks ago – I whole-heartedly concur. #2 is due in a few weeks, and I have no desire to participate in the all-intensive, all-consuming mommy hood I had during #1’s babyhood. Our whole family is happier with a better defined individual as mommy.

      • Blue Chocobo

        Your relationship with your child is as important as your child’s relationship with you. You can’t have a one ended stick.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        That was an important lesson I learned with DD. If I got out of the house by myself for a few hours every week, and sometimes a bit more often than that, I was a much happier person and far better mother than if I was with her 24/7. Getting out to sing with a choir on Saturday mornings, followed by lunch and shopping or perhaps just sitting alone with a book, translated to “KotB is a nice, happy, more fulfilled person” rather than “KotB is perpetually one step away from tears or rage or both.” Much more pleasant for all involved, methinks.

        • Bugsy

          I completely agree…the prenatal massages I’ve been splurging on the past few weeks have left me recharged and happy to be a mom. The same when I pick #1 up from preschool. Even if all I’ve done is errands and window shop, it’s my time to be me…not just to be mommy. Becoming a mommy martyr ultimately is at the expense of the rest of my family (never mind the expense of my own sanity!); it ultimately doesn’t benefit any of us.

  • PickAUserNameForDisqus

    And, there is an overlap of people who would commend a mom who is baby-wearing AND making dinner for her family at the same time. Why is this multi-tasking acceptable, but the reading a book unacceptable? The difference is only that the mother is working for others while making dinner, but “selfishly” enjoying herself while reading/texting.

    • Nick Sanders

      Also, she might scald the baby.

  • iphoneenthusiast

    When my mom was doing something for herself, I was told to beat it and entertain myself. And I did. We have the same philosophy here. Sometimes I just want 10 minutes alone to play on my Sudoku app. Even with my iPhone I still spend more time with my children than my mom spent with me, and I work full time. So I feel no shame with whipping out my phone, and anyone dumb enough to snark on it will get a verbal lashing and threatened with my throwing my Otter Box encased phone at their head. And that will hurt, trust me. I dropped the freaking thing on my bare foot once and had a swollen foot the next day.

  • carovee

    Wow, I must be a real narcissist. I don’t ever recall noticing if my mom was watching me play my game or reading her book, except when she yelled at me for not listening to the coach. Does this woman’s kids really monitor her activity that much? If so, I bet they just figured out it was a way to punch her buttons. My kiddo can stay up way later than normal by sweetly asking me to read just one more story. My love of reading won’t let me say no.

  • Dr Kitty

    When I was 9 I spent my time playing with my sisters, or reading, or watching TV.
    I don’t recall my mother being involved in those activities.
    She was there if we needed her, but she wasn’t generally needed, except to referee fights….

    My dad took us to Irish Dancing or horse riding every Saturday, and he read the paper in the car until it was time to pick us up.

    I don’t feel that my parents were in any way neglectful.

    • AirPlant

      I have this theory that people predominantly remember their elementary school days more than their needy toddler ones and therefore remember their childhood as a lot less involved than it actually was, but even elementary school aged kids are supposed to have so much direct parenting these days it just boggles the mind. I literally remember coming home from school, yelling hi to my mom and immediately running to my room to play by myself until dinner. My mother impressed upon me that I was increadibly lucky to have her as a mom because when SHE was my age she was expected to prepare a portion of dinner and perform her chore list when she got home. I can’t even imagine that being the case for my 7 year old neice. She isn’t even allowed to ride the school bus because her mom thinks it is too dangerous. Seriously, how do people think children have survived up until now?

      • Dr Kitty

        I have an extremely clear memory of when I was four and my sister was three.
        Her favourite beach ball got dirty, so sis put it under the kitchen tap to clean it. Water hit ball, bounced into air, we had invented a rain making machine, and by the time my mother came downstairs the floor was an inch deep in water.

        I’m not terribly sure we were directly parented much, and my grandmother lived with us, so there were three adults in the house.

        Oh, and the reason dad did the Saturday morning activities was because that was my mother’s scheduled alone time.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        My parents are certifiably nuts, but one of the few things they did right was having me learn how to cook and do housework at a young age. By 9-10, I was responsible for dinner one night per week. Nothing fancy, but it was usually something like soup and biscuits, both from scratch. Those are life skills I use to this day, and that any kid of mine, boy or girl, will be expected to learn. (No, I don’t plan on making them cook through Julia Child, but being able to pull together a reasonably healthy meal from scratch fairly quickly is a seriously useful life skill.) Sharp knives? That’s how I learned caution and responsibility, as well as respect for tools.

        • SporkParade

          Here’s my list of skills any children of mine must acquire by age 18: 1. How to cook a basic meal; 2. How to sew a button and repair a seam; 3. How to use a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and level; 4. How to do laundry and clean the house. It was a little shocking to me in college how many of my friends managed to reach adult without ever learning to boil pasta or sew a button.

          • Who?

            Good list. My two can do 1, 2 and 4; and can manage a hammer and screwdriver. I’d add as 5. Be able to pack a complete bag for a week away.

            It is disturbing how many 20 plus year olds can’t even do basic self maintenance, and don’t know how to put together a bag to go away for a few days without having to go out and buy forgotten basics.

          • SporkParade

            I somehow managed to grow up without every learning how to take care of my hair. Packing for a trip I can do, although I admit it’s a miracle if I don’t forget my deodorant. Literally, that is the single item I forget every single trip.

          • Amy M

            Yep. Mine were clamoring for PBJs last night—first my husband started to deal with it, but he was trying to leave the house, so I took over. I gave each child some bread, a (butter) knife and opened the jars for them, and told them to go to town.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Our lists are nearly identical, though mine also has “change a car tire” and “write and stick to a solid budget” on it. AAA is awesome, but they’re not everywhere, and sometimes you need to get from Point A to Point B faster than waiting for them or a helpful friend or stranger allows. My mind absolutely boggled at all the classmates I had who viewed student loans as free partying money to perhaps be paid back after some vaguely long period rather than a necessary evil to be taken out only if you must, and then only for the amount you actually need plus a bit of cushion. DH is an accountant, so he gets to explain compound interests, long-term savings plans, and so forth.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Being an east coast/Europe type, I prefer “find their way from point A to point B using public transportation and a map” to changing a car tire, but the basic underlying principle (get from point A to point B, even when there’s an issue) is pretty much the same.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Agreed!

        • Charybdis

          My mind is boggled by the sheer number of things kids *can’t* do these days, thanks to the hovering/enabling of parents. According to my son (11 years old), he is one of the only kids in his class who is allowed (and expected) to do certain things, He knows how to put gas in the car (using pay at the pump), run into the store to get milk, pay for it and know if he is given the right change, pay for and pick up a call-in to-go order of food from a restaurant, vacuum, clean a toilet, wash/clean windows and mirrors, load a dishwasher, fold some laundry and put it away, use the microwave AND real oven, make his own grilled cheese sandwich (or quesadilla), bake chicken, put things into and take things out of a hot oven, round up and take out the trash, feed and water the dog and check the mail. I also am not all up in his jammy with everything he does. I would stay at soccer practice when he played soccer, mainly because I didn’t want to waste gas going home, I would read or do a crossword puzzle during practice and only glance up at him occasionally. In his martial arts class, I’ll drop him off and my husband picks him up. Occasionally, I will stay, if DH can’t get him for some reason, but I will read or do a crossword puzzle while he is in class.

          We were fairly “free-range” kids growing up. I’d get up, do any morning chores mom assigned, then go out to play. Come in at lunchtime, eat and then back out to play with the neighborhood kids. In early for supper, as I had to set and clear the table and eventually load and start the dishwasher, but then it was back outside until dad whistled for me to come in, usually at dusk. My parents had their own lives and interests, as did my brother and I. We did things as a family, but the intensive, hovering, helicopter-type parenting was NOT the way things were done. And I refuse to be like that with my son. It doesn’t do anybody any good. Oh, and we keep score when we play games. Everybody does *not* win and participation points and awards are not helping anyone.

          I’m now currently teaching my son to shift gears as I drive my car. I drive a stick and I will tell him when to shift and he does it. These are life skills, people. Help your kid help himself/herself.

          • Daleth

            Sounds like you, unlike so many others, are a competent parent! Isn’t teaching our kids to function in the world a key part of our job?!

          • Charybdis

            Yes, it is. DH and I keep reminding our son that it is our job to turn him into a responsible, capable human being, despite his objections to the process. Children are, by nature, one of the most selfish things in the world. You teach them to be considerate and responsible by making them BE considerate and responsible. Usually over loud objections, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

            There are glimmers of success, though. At his second grade parent-teacher conference, his teacher told us that our son had developed a crack in the bottom of his water bottle. He calmly turned the bottle upside-down so the water was in the top of the bottle, got up carrying the bottle and politely asked the teacher if she had any duct tape. He explained that his water bottle had a crack in the bottom and that duct tape would seal the crack so it wouldn’t leak all over his desk and spill onto the floor. She gave him some, he fixed his water bottle and things went on their way. His teacher was surprised that he had the presence of mind to a.) not make a mess, b.) not disrupt the entire class over the issue and c.) suggest and employ a successful tactic to deal with the issue.

            I hope this is a good omen that he won’t be a completely self-absorbed, narcissistic PITA for the rest of his life. His teenage years, however, we may not survive. ;P

          • Daleth

            I hope my kids are like yours!

          • OttawaAlison

            It’s actually illegal in my province to pump gas if you’re under 16. That said once my daughter is 16 she will learn 🙂

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            I like your parenting style; it’s pretty much exactly what I want for my kids. I think that being self-reliant encourages a better and more genuine self-esteem, and ditto confidence.
            Back in the Dark Ages (read: very early 2000s), I was flying across the country unaccompanied and without adult assistance beyond getting dropped at the airport when I was 13. I knew perfectly well what to do and how to do it, and didn’t want grownup interference or to be babied. Did just fine, too; I figured out pretty quickly that if you acted as though you knew exactly what you were doing and got on with it, that adults wouldn’t ask awkward questions. *grins*

    • Medwife

      I liked the non-parented time. It was a self discovery kind of thing- finding out who I was other than my parents’ child.

    • Mel

      That sounds a lot like my childhood. My parents were often involved with some of our organized childhood activities – but as a coach or a girl scout leader. I don’t remember my parents ever watching a sports practice although I do remember my Dad correcting papers in the car or listening to NPR while we practiced softball.

      We were often unceremoniously dumped outside during good weather from after school until dinner and then returned outside from after dinner until dusk. (My mom especially was far more concerned with our introverted bookworm tendencies. This was her way of enforcing socialization with neighborhood kids. I’m glad she did, too.) My parents must have done something during that time, but they were under no obligation to justify making dinner or watching adult TV or simply taking a nap.

      Does the mom really want to model having to justify every activity she does ever? That’s not healthy for her or her kids.

      • Bugsy

        “Does the mom really want to model having to justify every activity she does ever? That’s not healthy for her or her kids.”

        I completely agree…as I’ve become an adult, truthfully I’m not interested in relationships with people who always require me to justify or validate my decisions. Why on earth would we want to raise kids in that fashion?

      • Busbus

        As a parent, I am always dismayed whenever I see throngs of parents watching some routine child activity. At first I felt like they were spoiling it for the rest of us (by making you look like a bad parent if you are the only one who leaves), but I’ve gotten over it now. When I started to work out during my daughter’s gymnastics class at the YMCA, several parents told me what a good idea that was. But generally,I just avoid activities where the parents are expected to sit around for an hour, if I can.

  • Megan

    The other takeaway point I got from the article was the author’s need to make sure that everyone, her children included knew that when she was on her phone, she was doing something “important,” unlike the rest of us peons just surfing facebook. How dare she be “wrongly accused?” The indignation!! She was reading literature! Surey she’s better than those “other” moms sitting on the sideline doing “useless” things on their phones!

    Seriously, what is the BFD if I spend my free time reading a trashy romance novel on my phone as opposed to doing a grocery list, checking work emails or paying the bills? Why is it necessary to make sure everyone knows that I’m not “wasting my time?” Smartphones are a tool which is used also for entertainment. If I want to spend my free time doing something mindless on it rather than reading Proust, WGAF?? I think this article was just as much about the author’s need to make sure everyone knows she does “important” things as it is about motherhood.

    • Amy M

      It’s part of the “mother can’t have a moment to herself” though, you know? If she’s doing something that isn’t important, or is “time-wasting,” then she has too much me-time and is being selfish. If you have free time to play Candy Crush, then you aren’t martyr-y enough, and need to step up your game.

      • Megan

        I’m not discounting that the article is about the martyrdom of motherhood, but I think it’s more than that. If it was only about her not paying enough attention to her children then why does she care that the other mothers didn’t know that she was reading literature (and not playing candy crush or whatever). Kids who want your attention don’t care what it is taking your attention away from them, be it candy crush or the bills. So if it were only about her kids, what she was doing on her phone wouldn’t matter at all. Other adults on the other hand, might judge you for what activities you’re actually doing on your phone. It’s about motherhood but also, about the need to look good to others. I think this is not isolated to moms (though I agree moms are judged more harshly and their children are used as props to judge them).

    • Busbus

      I completely agree that it shouldn’t matter what you do on your phone – what’s wrong with a bit of fun or relaxation? However,I think the whole idea that other people can’t possibly be doing something “useful” on their phone (however that is defined) and that you are surely the only one of all these “guilty” moms who is using her phone in an acceptable way is BS, too. If I see someone on her smart phone, I understand that I don’t know what they are doing either – might be a work e-mail, taking notes, planning their day, surfing the internet, taking care of a crisis, whatever. If not slacking off is so important to me, why would I assume that I am the only “virtuous” mom among a sea of “slackers”?

    • Angharad

      It did come across a little self-righteous, like “Look at me! I read literature and arrange sleepovers for my kids while all you slackers are just wasting your lives with trivialities!”

  • Amy M

    I have twins also, and most of the time, they want to play together, with each other. Sometimes they want to play with my husband or me—things like board games, etc. They’ve been to swim lessons, currently taking a martial arts class—they’ve generally been focused on the class, or messing around with the other kids, I doubt they even noticed if I was looking at my phone, nor would they care if I was. I would watch them sometimes, but taking 20 minutes to zone out after a long day at work, when the children are otherwise safe and occupied, is hardly a crime. These people have too much time on their hands if this is what keeps them up at night.

  • Cartman36

    Dr. Amy, I am so glad you posted this. I had the same thought about mothering in the past when I was visiting the ruins of a native american settlement (I think it was at the petrified national forest). I remember looking at the ruins of these mud / rock dwellings in the desert and thinking it must have been hard as hell to raise a toddler in these conditions. Those women didn’t have time to do crafts or create artistic toddler lunches because they were too busy getting water, gathering and preparing food and a multitude of other tasks. Even in the 1800s laundry was a full day task. The idea that natural or historic mothering means giving your undivided attention is absurd.

  • demodocus

    When we first fell in love, I would sit on a bench in the hall listening to my husband’s jazz band practices. I also brought a textbook to study; he didn’t feel the least slighted.
    It does no one any good for someone to be someone else’s whole world and entire focus.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      When DH and I were newlyweds, I’d go to the golf course with him, and ride along…with a book. He didn’t feel at all slighted, and we were happy to be hanging out together while each of us did something we enjoyed.

      • Megan

        For me it was my binoculars and field guide to watch birds. You can do some great birding on golf courses!

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Oooooh, I’ll bet!

  • Gatita

    This right here is why I read this blog even though there’s plenty of times I disagree with Amy.

  • OttawaAlison

    I remember when my 9 year old was at the keyboard, there was a well known acronym in mommy circles “NAK” nursing at keyboard.
    A lot of the time when I am on my iphone my daughter is right next to me. We watch cat videos together, I show her stuff. She also will then go and play minecraft. I don’t think she’ll resent me in the future for my phone use.

  • Elizabeth A

    Twenty years ago, Dominus would have put a quilting fabric cover on a steamy novel and read it at soccer practice. The question is, would she also have felt guilty about that? And if she had, would the NYT have bought it?

    My mom worked more than full-time, as did my dad, so the person on the sidelines during much of my childhood was a nanny – some nanny or other – reading, or sketching, or throwing together a grocery list, or writing her own family back home. Which is exactly what my friends’ moms were also doing. Now, I do these same things on a smart phone, or a kindle. Which I guess excludes my children more than doing them on paper? Because the kids can’t see exactly what I’m doing? Because I am okay with excluding the children both from the contents of the note I’m writing to my divorce lawyer AND from the knowledge that a note to the divorce lawyer is going forward? Is that bad? I’m confused.

  • Ennis Demeter

    When mothers had huge families of kids and made all the clothing and raised and slaughtered their own meat, they probably had no time to focus on any particular child unless it was absolutely necessary. It´s like people are uneasy at the thought of women having time to themselves.

    • Amy M

      Well you know, idle hands, devil’s playground, all that. If a woman has a moment to herself, she might decide to get educated or vote or something.

      • demodocus

        I bring my knitting or my book in case I have to wait in line to vote 😉

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I have three distinct e-readers on my phone.

    • Cartman36

      My grandmother was one of 17. I doubt she ever got the time and attention that my son gets.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      DH is one of 8. They all have a fantastic relationship with their parents, despite having relatively little individual time with them. As you might imagine, both parents were insanely busy most of the time, but they made sure the kids were fed, clothed, loved, listened to, and educated, and they each figured out a way to spend a little one-on-one time with each kid. Kids don’t need a whole lot more than that to turn out well.

  • Ennis Demeter

    I was always cutting out crosswords and doing them during swim lessons and other boring times when my daughter was little. I read books while I breastfed her. A smartphone would have been a godsend.

    • mostlyclueless

      I definitely would not still be breastfeeding my 2 year old if I couldn’t play Plants vs Zombies on my phone while doing it.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        One of the few things I liked about breastfeeding was the ability to game while doing so.

        • Megan

          Yes, catching up on reruns of Modern Family was the only redeeming thing about pumping for me. Otherwise? Torture.

  • moto_librarian

    I remember spending a lot of time outside as a kid with my siblings. My mother would often make us “picnic” lunches to eat outside, and we were discouraged from being “couch potatoes” during the summer. My mother was rarely outdoors with us. She could see us quite easily, and our backyard was fenced in. My mother was often busy with household chores, but sometimes, she sat in her room and read a book. I don’t remember feeling particularly deprived of her presence. I also don’t recall resenting my mother for being busy, nor did I have a problem with her working on needlework projects in the evenings while we were watching television as a family. I just don’t get this obsession with constantly hovering over your children. I think it’s important for my kids to understand how to entertain themselves and that it’s okay for their parents to do the same. It’s ridiculous to assert that using a smartphone is somehow neglectful while reading a newspaper is not. They are both “distractions,” neither one of which I consider to be harmful.

    • Elisabetta Aurora

      I remember thinking my grandparents were awesome and loving going camping with them. For the most part, they stayed in the trailer and played cards while we kids played in the woods. My grandpa would take us to the pool, but he rarely got in. Sometimes he would throw pennies into the pool for us to find. My grandma would make hot chocolate with Swiss Miss packets and those tiny marshmallows in special 1970s mugs. My mug had a butterfly on it. There are a few times they played miniature golf with us and we often played dominoes and rumikub together, especially when it rained.

      I’m almost 35 and I still remember the highlight of my childhood summers when we went camping with my grandparents. I loved them so much. They’ve been gone since I was a teenager and I still think about them daily. I dream about them often even today and the dreams are always good. Mostly I dream that I’m just hanging out in their house waiting for them to come home. Sometimes I’m a child and sometimes I’m an adult with my own daughter.

      My grandparents were the epitome of space age parenting. Grandma made nothing from scratch and her garden was only for flowers. The television was always blaring and outside of board/card games, I don’t remember them ever playing with us.

      I’m pretty sure the reason I still think about them so much and get warm fuzzies when I do is because they always made me feel safe and loved. Unlike my parents, they were STABLE. They were CONSISTENT. I knew what to expect from day to day. They were strict in their own way and definitely had high expectations, but they loved us, never hit us, and never held grudges against us or emotionally manipulated us.

      Sometimes I get like the author of the article in question and I start to worry if I’m not doing enough for my daughter, but then I remember my grandparents and what made them really good parents. They were certainly not “artisanal”, but then, that didn’t matter.

  • Ash

    Yep, look at the top rated comments for the NYTimes article. Heaven forbid a woman is using a laptop while BFing her baby!

    • Elizabeth A

      I thought breastfeeding mothers, particularly of newborns, were a key (if not THE) target demographic for Netflix.

      For a while, when my daughter was a baby, I had her conditioned to fall asleep to the opening credits of How I Met Your Mother.

      • Rachele Willoughby

        Doctor Who here. I’d never seen it before and watched all six sessions in her first four weeks of life. Then we switched to Bones. My 2yo still gets all excited about the Bones credits.

        • Elizabeth A

          Bones is fantastic family viewing! There’s a good gross out moment with the corpse at the beginning, and then it’s mostly people talking about their feelings.

          • Blue Chocobo

            My second grader loves Bones!

          • Rachele Willoughby

            And occasionally putting pigs through a wood chipper.

        • Gene

          Welcome to Who-ville. I grew up watching the original with my dad (Tom Baker is my doctor) on PBS and he got hooked while living in the UK in the early seventies (military). It’s one of the reasons I was so excited for the reboot. Now my kids watch “mommy’s favorite show” with me.

          My 4y son was running around yesterday yelling “Exterminate!” and calling himself a “darlik”. It was darling!

          • Roadstergal

            Tom Baker is my Doctor, and Lalla Ward is my Romana! (I also adore Leela. I love that Big Finish put them together.)

          • Dr Kitty

            My daughter loves watching Dr Who. River Song is her favourite.
            Weeping angels have to be watched from behind a cushion, though.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Gah! The weeping angels…They were so terrifying the first time they appeared but they quickly devolved into yet another easily defeated villain. I wish they’d stayed a monster of the week. Blink was terrifying! After that…not so much.

          • Megan

            Oh my God! The weeping angels! So creepy they even scare me! I need a cushion too. Adore Matt Smith though and I’d be happy to use him as my “cushion.” 😉

          • Megan

            That is so cute!

      • Cartman36

        I watched every episode of How I Met Your Mother and Parks and Recreation holding my son when he was a baby

        • Amy M

          My husband and I took shifts when the children were infants and needed night feedings. I usually sat on the couch in dim light, got them fed, and went back to bed. My husband told me he watched Avatar: The Last Airbender series.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Cheers reruns.

        • guest

          The Walking Dead for me. Highly recommended for new moms who feel like a zombie.

      • Kelly

        Each of my kids have a certain show that I watched during their infant hood. First one was Law and Order SVU, second was Criminal Minds, third has been NCIS.

      • Sarah

        In centuries to come, historians will believe that watching all of Breaking Bad was an important cultural ritual for new parents.

        • MaineJen

          I’m watching Breaking Bad right now… 🙂

      • Liz Leyden

        I mostly watched New England Cable News, but as soon as Hubby discovered Me TV (old, mostly black-and-white TV shows), night feeds happened during Batman and the original Twilight Zone.

        • Bombshellrisa

          My husband’s anniversary present to me when I was six months pregnant with DS was the Twilight Zone boxed set. My son freezes when he hears the opening song now (he is 20 months)

      • MaineJen

        Star Trek reruns FTW!

        • Mishimoo

          My husband has recently been reintroducing our eldest to Star Trek, we watched a lot while I was breastfeeding her and now she’s old enough to appreciate it. (“MUM!! She has the same name as me!! That is so cool!”)

          • Roadstergal

            Christine?

          • Mishimoo

            Nope, a bit more rare. The character first appeared in a TNG/DS9 episode. She thinks its hilarious when I call her ‘Old Man’ and is very interested in science. 😉

          • Roadstergal

            Oh, Jadzia or Ezri? I am _way_ too into Star Trek.

          • Mishimoo

            Jadzia! I wasn’t as much of a fan of Ezri, she’s a solid character but she just didn’t fit as a replacement (for me). She wants cosplay Jadzia at some point, which would be awesome. I love that I have nerdy kids. (They have their own interests too, which is so cool)

          • Roadstergal

            So cool! I agree with you; I think that the actress who played Jadzia got a lot more into the “Dax” part of the character in a lovely way. I enjoyed the old-friends vibe with Sisko. And I was charmed that in the Tribbles episode, Dax revealed a past affair with Bones – I love Bones.

          • Mishimoo

            So much yes!!

      • Mishimoo

        MASH, The Bill, and Midsomer Murders for my 3.

      • Gene

        Breaking Bad for the oldest, Mad Men for the middle, SVU for the youngest…

        • An Actual Attorney

          Judgment at Nuremberg, Inglorious Bastards, and My Cousin Vinny. Not sure what that does to a babe. Although, he’s 5 and maybe the second explains why he busted out the f word the other day.

          • SporkParade

            Does he demand magic grits, or just regular grits like the rest of dese youtes?

      • Dr Kitty

        Wallander. In Swedish, so I can read the subtitles with the sound off at night.
        Next up will be The Bridge and The Killing…
        Scandinavian thrillers seem appropriate for autumnal early morning nursing, no?

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I’ve been reading the Wallander novels. For better or worse, I discovered them in Germany so now I have the impression that people in Sweden speak German because that’s what they do in the book. I’m annoyed at the author for not continuing the series or at least written more about Linda Wallander, but I guess that’s life.