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Bad Mommies Use Cell Phones

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As if we need one more thing to incur mom guilt.

Mom carrying her baby

Ronda Kaysen: Here are my three confessions of the day: One, I talk on the cell phone while pushing my child around in the stroller. Two, I still use a stroller even though my 2-year-old can walk. And three, he sometimes watches Dora the Explorer so I can take a shower. Jane Brody, if you think I'm a bad mommy, good for you.

Brody spent a good deal of ink in the New York Times recently bemoaning the laziness of today's mothers. We talk on our cell phones while pushing the strollers! We check our BlackBerrys! We -- the horror! -- use the Internet when our tots are awake. Apparently, in the days before cell phones and Internet (back when she had little ones in tow), moms paid the utmost attention to their kids. Now we have some sort of epidemic of moms ignoring their kids. And we use strollers for far too long, too.

I don't know what planet Ms. Brody currently inhabits, but last time I checked, we had an overabundance of helicopter moms around here -- many of them living in her "Brooklyn neighborhood," no doubt. I thought our sin was being overly involved parents. We monitor our children's every movement and achievement.

But alas, in the world of Jane Brody, that is not the case.

"All too often, the mothers and nannies I see are tuned in to their cell phones, BlackBerrys and iPods, not their young children," she writes. "There were no such distractions when my husband and I, and most other parents of a certain age, spent time with our babies, toddlers and preschoolers ... we talked to them. We read to them and sang with them. And long before they became verbal, we mimicked their noises, letting them know they were communicating and we were listening and responding. (And we've done the same with our four grandsons, all born after the turn of this wireless century.)"

She then goes on to give New York Times readers (most of whom I presume are literate and capable of interacting with their children) a condescending blow-by-blow of how they can communicate with their offspring. Babies understand more than they say! Read to your kids! Repeat back their words to them! Speak to them with grown-up words! Who does she think her audience is? This is hardly breakthrough parenting advice here. And, I find it hard to believe that saint-mother Brody never, ever tuned out or turned her attention away from her precious progeny during her years raising her kids.

I get it. I'm supposed to talk to my children. I do talk to my children. Most of the young mothers I know -- many of them in a "Brooklyn neighborhood" like Brody's -- talk to their kids obsessively. We're a very involved generation of parents, I hear.

I don't quite understand how witnessing a mother on her cell phone while she's pushing a stroller is an example of poor parenting. Has it ever occurred to Brody that perhaps stroller time is the only time of day in which a mother can make phone calls uninterrupted? Has it occurred to her that, for the remainder of the day, that tuned-out mom is talking to and interacting with her child? And that perhaps the kid is content enjoying the scenery and listening to the sound of his mother's voice, even if it's not directed at him?

As if committing the grave sin of talking on the phone while pushing the stroller wasn't bad enough, Brody faults moms for using a stroller at all. "Too many city children are transported in strollers well beyond the time they can safely walk and run. Young children need to exercise their bodies as well as their minds. The theft of our stroller when our twins were 19 months old was probably the best thing that happened to them," she writes. Good for you, Jane. I'm glad to hear that you were the perfect mother and apparently the perfect grandmother, too.

As for me, next time the cell phone rings when I'm pushing the pram, I'm answering the call. I just hope Jane Brody isn't around to hear it.

next: Mourning an Absent Parent
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. October 6, 2009, 8:36 AM

Hey, I used to put my child in her bouncy seat, on vibrate, to take a shower. I was clean, it put her to sleep for 30 minutes, worked for both of us.
I don’t really have a problem with moms on cell phones pushing strollers unless they do so constantly. I have a problem with any person chatting on their cell phone while driving. Unless it is an emergency call, I fail to believe that whatever that person is yacking about is more important than paying attention to the road.

Bouncy bounce October 6, 2009, 11:11 AM

I also used the bouncer for my daughter while I took a shower.

ame i. October 6, 2009, 11:57 AM

Ha,my husband wishes they had an adult-sized bouncy seat for when I have trouble sleeping. :)

Christina October 6, 2009, 12:52 PM

I do find it amusing that people seem able to extrapolate an entire lifestyle from one glance on the street. Sometimes a stroller isn’t for our own convenience, but for the sake of those around us. Try herding two 2-year olds down a busy city sidewalk without getting in someone’s way! Maybe we’re using a stroller because the park (where our children will be running and playing) is TOO FAR away for them to realistically walk the entire way. Oh, and try carrying two 30lb children four avenues and six blocks because they have worn themselves out at said park. Ugh. Brody is old enough to know better.

mom of 2 October 6, 2009, 5:18 PM

I use the stroller for safety. I have a 3 and 5 year old and I have to walk a half mile each way to take my daughter to the bus stop. I live in Guam so the majority of the road does not have sidewalks so I find it is much safer to have them in a stroller.

As far as parent being less attentive I don’t think so. I actually think parents today coddle their children way to much. My mother did not have time to constantly attend to me as a child, she had to work, take care of the house, and all the other things moms need to do. When I was growing up, if it wasn’t raining I was to be outside. I was not allowed to sit in front of TV. I spent most of my day running around the woods, finding lizards, frogs and picking flowers. I learned to do things for myself. I had chores at the age of 5. At 5 I folded clothes. At 7 I did the dishes by hand. I was expected to make my own sandwich and get my own drink. By the time I was a teenager I was very responsible and independent. Oh and I’m only 27 so its not like I grew up in the 40s.

Miranda October 6, 2009, 7:19 PM

I bring the baby swing in the bathroom to take a shower and listen to my iPod when I walk with the stroller. I also use an outward facing stroller. My 4 month old is very articulate (that’s what you get when mom’s a writer and dad’s a lawyer) and he even talks over us! It’s not like I “ignore” my child for the hell of it, I do it so I can get a moment of peace and quiet. We can’t afford a babysitter/maid/etc. on one income so all the housework is left up to me. If I spent all day sitting and talking to my baby, nothing would ever get accomplised.

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