Texting While Parenting - How Bad?

Filed under: Work Life, Media, Gadgets, Opinions, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens

mom texting

Do you check e-mail while parenting? Credit: me and the sysop, Flickr

"The BlackBerry gives me freedom, for sure," a mom-friend confided. "But I sometimes wonder how bad it is that I answer the call of the BlackBerry when I'm with my kids."

Turns out, her tween covered up her mom's BlackBerry screen, mid-text, saying something like, "If you're not going to be with me, don't be with me. But if you are going to be with me, please be with me, and put this thing away."

Don't you just love that amazing kid-clarity? But still, there's a nagging push-and-pull here: The magical ability to get e-mail anytime, anywhere, allows parents to spend more time with their kids instead of being chained to the office. But do those interruptions, even when brief, make kids feel like they're playing second banana to a machine?

To find out, I called my friend Rosanne Tobey, director of Calm and Sense Therapy, a counseling service, for her take on the issue.

"I think a mom needs to be honest with herself, and ask herself, 'How important is this message?,'"she said. "'How important is it that it get answered right now?'"

On some days, Tobey concedes, there will be e-mail emergencies and phone calls that can't wait. "But then you need to ask yourself, 'Is today the day that I should be out to dinner with my child?'"

Here are more tips for separating work-time from parenting-time:

Try not to multitask. "No parent can pay attention to her e-mail and her child," says Tobey. If you need to answer an e-mail, tell the child you need to take a break. Note the time so you don't end up making her wait too long.

Set boundaries. If you can, do it with colleagues, and if at all possible, with your boss as well. The majority of e-mails can wait a few hours. If it will help, put an auto-response on your e-mail saying you're away from your desk but will be back at 7:30 p.m. to respond.

Practice. If you're used to answering e-mails the second they come in, it will take practice and discipline to ignore them for a few hours at a time. Give yourself time to feel uncomfortable and know that this is an adjustment period.

Bottom Line: How bad is it to answer work calls and e-mails while you're with your child? It's not ideal, Tobey says. Doing this consistently can be tough on your relationship. "Being with your child and not engaging...is like holding out an ice cream cone and saying, 'You can't have this.' It's not fair."

Have you had a less-than-perfect parenting moment and that has left you wondering, "How bad?" Send it to Sabrina at PrincessLPink9@aol.com. She'll try to answer as many as she can.

Sabrina Weill is the founder of the pink and princess-y gift site: PrincessLovesPink. Many of the Mommy Advisors in this column are the writer's personal or professional friends.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.