As if we need one more thing to incur mom guilt.
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.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|