Birth announcements lost in a scroll-load of Facebook updates. Babies whose first words are in click language, they're papped so often. Pushchair pile-ups as mummies check email on the move. Do smartphones help or hinder motherhood?
I Don't Care What The Weatherman Says
The other day, I found myself checking my weather app to confirm that it was actually raining - despite the fact I could clearly see raindrops falling on the window. "But it's not going to rain 'til 3 o'clock!" I cried, before swiftly cancelling my park plans via Facebook Messenger. Then the sun came out. But everyone had already made other plans, in the beat of an email. Sound familiar?
In the olden days, before smartphones, I used to go out with the kids. We used to go to the park, get caught in a sudden downpour, and all cram under the slide in the 'ice cream parlour'. It was fun! We'd splash through puddles in our Crocs and make an emergency stop in a café halfway home, the windows steaming as we drank our babycinos, smiling at the other mums caught out by the shower. The camaraderie was practically like the Blitz. Now, when I am stripping off my mud-soaked children in the boot of the car because - horrors! - I took the 40% chance of rain at 2.32pm as a 60% chance it wouldn't, I feel like the be-anoraked mums around me are thinking, "What's wrong with her, doesn't she have an IPhone?"
Well, yes I do. And I'm a slave to it as much as the next mum. Of course it's useful when you're planning a day out, or deciding whether to send the kids to school in a coat or sunhat. But when I caught myself questioning the evidence of my own eyes and ears, I realised that the weather app can only get you so far. And it can still be wrong, just like in Michael Fish's day.
The Birth Announcement: Scroll and You Miss It
I love it when I see a new baby on Facebook. Then I scroll past it. What is this madness? I revere the arrival of new life, yet the Curse of the Itchy Thumb makes me flick past the announcement with only slightly less speed than a picture of someone's lunch, seemingly desperate as I am to see some more cute cats being hypnotised by a roll of Sellotape. Once I've 'Liked' a birth, subconsciously I think: 'job done'. Whereas before I would send a gushy text, a card and even a present, now I have to remind myself that a Facebook acknowledgement of a tiny human's safe passage into this world is not sufficient! I was recently informed that my cousin had given birth to a bonny baby girl - via a lovely email from my over-the-moon uncle. Yet in some ridiculous part of my mind, I didn't really believe it to be true until she posted a picture of the gorgeous poppet a week later. Since when did everything have to be 'confirmed by Facebook'?
Yet when I had my own (third baby) fairly recently, I was drafting the Facebook announcement before I even went into labour. I like the lovely comments and being able to share the moment in real time - with a newborn, who knows when you're going to be able to see everyone in person, or even phone them? It could be a year or more, by which time the excitement of breaking the news has dissipated somewhat: "Oh, yeah - I had a baby. That's her walking around over there.". Yes, it meant that a few ex-colleagues heard the news before my non-Facebook-using friends, but at least I got to share my happiness with a large number of my nearest and dearest.
When A Baby's First Word Is 'Cheeeese'
I've got thousands of photos of my children - and thanks to the ease of my iPhone, my third baby's (virtual) album is vast. The truism that there are far fewer photos of subsequent children doesn't hold in the Instagram age. I don't care that I have ten shots of the same picture; I treasure every one. With my memory shot to bits by age and child-rearing, they will be priceless reminders of these precious years.
But when your baby says 'Cheeeese' whenever he sees your phone? It's harder and harder to catch them in a natural moment? You start to wonder if you're missing more than you're recording.
Smartphone Arrangements - To Be or Not To Be?
The 'right to cancel without notice or blame' came in with texting, but smartphones have taken this to a whole new level. You can now let someone down any which way but by phone call. You may have had 'something in the diary' (iCalendar) for ages, confirmed via email a couple of days before and heard positive noises over Facebook messenger within 24 hours of the meet-up, but is it really and truly, actually going to happen? Before 'cancellation culture' became the norm, I used to quite like it when a fellow mum would arrive sweaty after legging it from the health visitor, with a screaming baby in a smelly nappy, which she promptly dumped on me while she staggered gasping to the counter begging for a latte. That 15 minutes of face time (as opposed to FaceTime) before one of us had to dash off to baby Tai Chi was a little oasis in our days - of human contact, sympathy and someone to hold your baby while you went to the loo in peace.
On the other hand, who has time to make calls these days? With kids and/or colleagues inevitably clamouring in the background, it's hard to make an arrangement over the phone. And, if you're a bit phone-phobic like me, texts and Facebook messenger allow you to achieve some semblance of a social whirl without actually talking to anyone 'til you're face to face.
You Can Never Be Lonely With A Smartphone?
Many parents feel that it can be isolating to be alone with your baby. With a smartphone, at least you can phone a friend, or your mum. My mother remembers feeling terribly lonely in the park sometimes and thinks we're lucky to have phones these days. And I have to agree.
But when your baby thinks her mother is an iPhone? Obviously, there's a balance here. It's tempting to get lost in your phone but you might then miss the little person turning into a great companion right under your nose. Yes, I am as guilty as anyone of calling the dentist and doing a random Facebook quiz while charged with the care of my brood, but like many mums I know, I'm making a conscious effort to keep phone use in front of the children to emergencies only. Just need to send this tweet...
Do you think smartphones enhance or inhibit your experience of motherhood? Answers on a postcard please.