Today is the 10th anniversary of the release of the first iPhone. I didn’t get an iPhone when it came out back in 2007. In fact I used to really hate cell phones. I was hesitant to get a phone at all, and when I finally got a flip phone I often left it at home when I went out, or turned off when I brought it with me. “I’m out! If you need me you can talk to me when I’m back.” That’s was my attitude. Who wanted to be reachable all the time?
I remember the first time I saw an iPhone like that iPhone 12 Refurbished. Our friend Chad was over. He’s an old college friend of Charlie’s and he’s always been a Mac lover and gadget guy. We were having a kids birthday party at our house and he couldn’t wait to show everyone the iPhone 1 he’d stood in line to buy when it had gone on sale the week before. I saw the touch screen with the apps and it looked kind of like a game to me. Not something I needed in my life. I forgot about it.
A few years later Charlie’s phone broke and he decided to get an iPhone to replace it. I remained skeptical, but then we went on a road trip to Connecticut to visit his parents for the weekend. At that point, in 2009, I had a popular blog and an Etsy shop and was writing my first book. Sitting on the couch in the evening after we put the babies to bed, while his parents watched golf, I wanted to check my email, monitor blog comments, and see what had sold. I asked Charlie if I could borrow his phone just for a few minutes. I didn’t want to give it back.
We drove to the Apple store on the way back to Massachusetts. I’ve had an iPhone in the back pocket of my jeans for eight years now.
It’s become taboo to admit that you enjoy your phone, especially as a mother of little kids. You’re supposed to crave unplugging. Virtuous moms are fully present when they’re with their kids, and they love it. They resist the temptation to scroll through Facebook while pushing their kids on the swing because they’re living real life and that’s enough. In fact, they’re not even tempted.
But I have no qualms about saying that I love my iPhone. I crave being plugged in. In fact I see having an iPhone constantly in my pocket, often in my hand, as a feminist act. My phone has enabled me to be a happy working mom.
Larissa Waters nurses her baby while giving a speech on the floor of the Australian parliament. Photo: EPA/LUKAS COCH
I love my work and I love being a mother. I strive constantly to do both jobs well. In 2004 I quit my full-time teaching job to be home with my baby and felt so blessed to be able to nurse her through her first year of life. Quickly, though, I felt myself struggling with that time spent hostage on the couch with a baby on the breast. Before the iPhone nursing time felt like wasted time. I think of Larissa Waters, the Australian senator who this month became the first person to deliver a speech to parliament while breastfeeding. She’s able to mother and work at the same time, and with the iPhone so am I.
Nursing Josephine, phone in hand.
By the time my third child was born in December of 2010 I had a phone in hand on the day my milk came down. Nursing time meant uninterrupted time to read blogs, retweet, respond, and be part of the larger world of work. No more feeling resentful that I couldn’t actively participate in work life.
When I was growing up my mom was a freelance writer. She’s an avid reader, a voracious gatherer of information. When I was a child she read two newspapers a day and was always turning the pages in a huge stack of New Yorkers piled up on the coffee table. She listened to All Things Considered on the radio religiously, shushing me so she could hear Noah Adams read the news. Granted she wasn’t plugged in (although the radio was), but her mind was certainly in two places at once. Reading and listening to the news connected her with the outside world and there was no shame in that.
Motherhood can co-exist with work, and for many of us it has to or we want it to. The iPhone has made that symbiosis possible for me and for that I’m grateful.
Seeing that poor baby being fed like that leaves me feeling sad. Who cares about the babies who are entitled to a mother’s (or father’s) full care and attention as it fixes its intent gaze upon your face as they feed, but the face is turned away from them? Good for mothers? well possibly, although it’s very debatable but for children, no I really don’t think so. Part of caring for a child is to look after their emotional well being as well as their physical needs. You can be present while being ‘absent’. This is what this picture looks like to me. Babies treated like this tend to come across as being thought of as a bit of a nuisance who need to be accommodated but whose presence is not actively welcomed and endorsed. Surely if anything should be done mindfully it is feeding your baby?
Yes, we should be able to fit in children at work, and no, breast feeding in public is not an issue. I couldn’t are less about the politicians who think it’s distasteful and something to be done in a toilet – no it isn’t. But, but, but ……..that baby has rights too. Or should have and I think that picture shows how some babies are not having them met right now. I feel very sorry that giving a speech is more important than the connective bond that breast feeding is supposed to endorse. This picture looks just awful to me. A woman has rights yes, but so does (should) a baby and full-on care is a basic human right for proper emotional and physical development. If you can’t do that, then give the care of the baby over to someone who can. Or don’t have a baby!
Feeding a baby is a personal and intense bonding time, so make time for it! Feed your baby away from the glare of public eyes and give yourself space and time to enjoy connecting with the baby. Take time out. Multi tasking is not great at the best of times, multi tasking while your baby is feeding seems most undesirable to me. The world is full of grown ups feeling disengaged and resentful towards their own parents, stuff like this seems to give reasons why. I don’t think women have to accept being made to feel motherhood is second rate and gets in the way of life. More should be demanded in the work place – we are not men, so why do we need to play by their rules in order to be in the game? I see looking after a baby as work – more important than most other stuff and not an inconvenience that I want to get away from in order to get back to ‘real’ work which to some is the important stuff you get paid for. We can do it all, just not all at once and why should we have to? Being unselfish is what needs to happen for a while as mothers. The good thing is that changes after a relatively short time in our lives, then we can get back to pleasing just ourselves a bit more. Being a parent is to be unselfish, intensely so for a short while. If we can’t be that then parenthood is perhaps not a good choice for someone.
Oh, and I still turn off my phone regularly and don’t have a smart phone. I don’t need to talk to people when doing my shopping so I don’t. I pick good times to call people so I don’t feel hassled and can give them my full attention and engagement.
I disagree wholeheartedly.
Kim Werker says
I disagree wholeheartedly, too. Thank so much for writing this, Abby. I feel much the same way, and remember bottle feeding our newborn and wishing I could breastfeed him so I could have both of my hands free.
I disagree wholeheartedly. Bonding does not exclusively lie in eye contact while breastfeeding umteen hours per day.
June, i’m so thankful for your perspective, though I may fall in the other category. I love the whole discussion about the struggle. Thank you for making your comments because they are definitely needed to keep the two sides in tension. Parenting at every stage is messy and sometimes we do it perfectly, but rarely. Great discussion!
Well said, we are women first and job second, and let others work around it. I agree with everything you said.
Are men dads first and job second? I sure hope so.
While my husband supports our family and works hard at his job, I am ever so grateful that he is a dad first.
Melissa G says
Wow! Just wow! Does this mean a woman cannot have a conversation with another human being while she is breastfeeding?
There is just so much judgement in this long winded comment.
So, I shouldn’t have had a second child because I couldn’t take time out to sit still and gaze lovingly at her face while she nursed 500 times a day… while I was chasing her older brother? Or is it acceptable to be multi-tasking, only if the other task is mothering another child? That logic does not hold up to me.
I also feel like my phone has given me the flexibility to stay connected and create a job I love from home instead of having to choose between staying at home with my kids or working out of the house all day. I am a happier, better parent for it and spent plenty of time nursing while working between 2 kids 😀
I have been haunted all day by the pic of the nursing baby As a pediatric nurse and the mother of three children in their twenties, my perspective may be different than yours. This may be hard for you to hear but it is very hard to have it all all of the time. Raising responsible, kind human beings takes lots of time and energy and the job of raising the next generation is a huge responsibility. When that baby grows this mother won’t be able to give a speech while watching a soccer game, while reading a book to a toddler, while listening to a teenagers worries and concerns. I have seen many children struggle and parents are too busy to notice. They have fancy houses and cars and tons of possessions so in our society they feel successful. But whether you want to hear it its been terribly hard for the kids.
I just ask that you think about how your actions impact your kids – too little to be able to give you a yearly evaluation…
Is it possible to be a working dad and raise great kids?
There is no replacement for a mother.
So two men can’t raise great kids?
Melissa G says
And yet I know of human beings who grew up wonderfully, having lived in a single parent house hold.
I also love my phone but do catch myself missing in action some times. But that happens when I read a book too!
It’s interesting that you use that photo of Larissa Waters, I was so pleased to see that too and the shot taken just after where she gave her little girl a kiss and the photo of Senator Richard Di Natale playing with little Alia while mum got in with what she needed to do. It was great to see the support of her male colleagues and the normalization of being a working mum. Just beautiful.
To those who say the baby is missing out, how many times a day do you breast feed 5-7 not all of them are going to happen while your trying to pass a motion in parliament. An incredibly important motion at that. Im sure when she cuddles with her daughter first thing in the morning or late at night she is completely present in the moment.
A mother who is happy will always be better for the baby than a mother who not. And a mother who wishes she was anywhere but sitting under a feeding baby and feels trapped during that milking session is not a happy mother.
Remember as mums we should build each other up not drag each other down. You can disagree with an idea or choice while still being respectful and supportive. We always tell our kids to be nice, that it’s ok to discuss but not to be mean. Maybe we need to take our own advice.
So happy birthday iPhone and more power to mums who want to do what works for them and their babies.
This picture has haunted me all day. As a mother of 3 children in their twenties and a pediatric oncology nurse, my perspective is different from yours. I am hoping that you were able to hear and think about the above comment as well as mine –
Raising the next generation of human beings is a critically important job. What makes it so differwnt from a career is the fact that children are completely dependent and are unable to give you a yearly evaluation. This mother is putting off the reality that at some point you will need to prioritize. I have watched parents do business during soccer games, have watched kids get chemo while the parents went to work. I have given rides to kids with parents too busy at work, my dinner table has included many kids whose parents are unable to create time for family dinners. Now that those kids are in their twenties and no longer so utterly dependent and boy are they angry and resentful.
There is a time and place for everything. My kids are raised and I have had time to pursue a new career. Try to relax and “smell the flowers along the way”. Its not a race.
I’m so with you, Abby, and upset to see such a lack of support from some other women. I try not to get distracted by my phone when my kids are interacting with me but when they are breastfeeding they mostly doze off, so I don’t know what kind of eye contact I’m expected to make with them except a bit at the start maybe.
This harsh judgement that mothers have to be all about their kids all the time is not only restrictive and unfeminist, but privileged too, as you assume it is financially reasonable to not be working. Let’s not forget, commenters, that by building a business from home Abby is actually spending much more quality time with her kids than she would be if she had returned to work outside the home. (There is nothing wrong with that either of course!)
Talk about mothers having to be self-sacrificing seems a dated view to me. Self care is important to keep us going as healthy people who are able to give care to our kids. For some of us, self-actualisation is a necessary part of self care.
There are so many highly successful wonderful adults raised in a household with working parents or single parents who work and, as you point out Tanith, for many households there is no choice. I did have a choice to stay home with my children, but very soon into it I realized that I desperately needed to do something else as well. Working while being a mom makes me incredibly happy and fulfilled, and as a happy mom my family is happy. Feminism is all about women having choices.
Absolutely Abby and my experience is very similar to yours. I’m lucky to have a choice too and wouldn’t be as happy without my business.
It’s about extremes I think. To me that picture was an extreme example of how women are supposed to be it all and have it all. Does anyone? I am a feminist. Why do feminists have to think of motherhood as something that is going on in the background and is not something of and as itself? No other ‘work’ I do will ever be so important. than literally being responsible for another human’s life. Yet we treat it as if it is no big deal but doing it well really is a big deal. Parents shape us as human beings, tell us who we are and what we in turn may become.
Feminism to me includes accepting a woman’s biology and not seeing it s an impediment to life and status in life. I am not a man. We are different, equal but different. I reserve the right to be different, equal and deserving respect for that. I guess I am in favour of doing one thing at a time well, when possible and then moving on to the next. There is a time for mothering and a time for work. We shouldn’t have to juggle in order to have work work for us. Women should be accommodated not endured. Women are bowed down with the weight of it all – there is no ‘wife’ sorting out all the minutiae of life as many men still have. Why do women have to be the ones that make way and compromise?
The ‘extreme’ attentive phase of motherhood – i.e. the breast feeding time is over at some point in the first year for most infants. Can we not even give them that time, without feeling resentful and that we ought to be doing something more useful and worthwhile? I got busy while my daughter napped. I am about choice for mothers. Some want to work, some do not. Anything in between is fine too. What is not fine (to me) is when falling over ourselves to exert our own rights the children that we choose to have can suffer. And many do. So my first comment was not that no women should work and a women’s place is in the home – far from it.
It’s about timing as much as anything. Children deserve our time and attention as a basic right and need and I as a mother deserve the right to be able to care for them . We can be working women but we should do it on our terms. I am not a man, why do I need to play by his rules? Why does any women need to stand up and breastfeed in public to make a point? How uncomfortable (in more ways than one) for her and the baby. Doesn’t she deserve 20 minutes to feed her baby in peace? I think she does. Do we want or need this to become standardised as the way we interact with our children? Many mother’s recoil from feeding in public, even among friends. I want women to be able to feed in public places and feel welcome. This is not that!
This picture is totally about self sacrifice, not about release and freedom from it; it’s not about women gaining any thing of value in the workplace but loosing out in yet another way.
I think there’s confusion here between “you can” and “you have to.” Prior to Larissa Waters making a speech in parliament while nursing the sentiment was “you can’t.” As in, “You can’t give a political speech while nursing. You can’t do both. If you’re nursing, you should stay at home or pump and put your child in daycare.” What’s significant here, and what’s significant about the subject of my most – the iPhone – is that it says “you can.” You can do both. That doesn’t mean you have to. I’m sure many people who read this post prefer never to look at their phones while with their children or would chose not to give a speech while nursing a baby. Awesome. But equally awesome that you could do those things now.
I’m reminded of when my third child, Josephine, was born. I took her to New York for a series of book events because she was two months old when my book came out. I taught a sold out workshop at the New York City Public Library while wearing her in a sling. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. It worked for me and that’s what’s radical here.
Vey nice article! It is important to show that women CAN do these things, but that does not mean that all women SHOULD do these things. Should women start work few weeks after birth. No. Should women have the option to start work a few weeks after birth? Absolutely! For some it even is the right thing to do. We are all trying to take care of our families in the way think is best. Please give advice, but do not judge. You do not know what considerations lay behind that decission.
I love my phone. Among other things, it makes my work life as a freelancer a LOT easier. I am constantly texting the other musicians I work with to schedule rehearsals, work out mistakes in scores, and they often pay me through user-to-user apps like Venmo.
It’s a pet peeve of mine when people post pictures on social media of their kids playing outside and then hashtag it “childhood unplugged”…it’s beyond ironic!
I applaud Larissa Waters. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be constrictive and she is living proof that it doesn’t have to be!
Sewing princess says
I feel from the 70s onwards we started to idealize motherhood…the mother needs to devote all her time to the child else she’s bad! Reading a newspaper, listening to the radio/music, doing stuff on your iPhone…god forbid! Do we have any evidence it makes any difference to the child? The woman on the first photo is just making a statement… taking forward a political message… I’m pretty sure she could have done it differently…I remember when a colleague did the same at a meeting…
I’m reading Half Magic to my 6-year-old right now. It was written in 1954. The story takes place over a summer and the mother goes to work every day leaving the kids to their own devices. And it’s clear that she loves then. And they’re awesome kids.
I wasn’t running a business when I had my son and didn’t have a smart phone so in the end I bought a Nintendo DS and used to play games on it whilst he was napping on me or feeding, or read magazines.
It’s 4am and I’m breastfeeding my 3 1/2 month old while being inspired by a fellow creative, stay-at-home, working mom.
Next session I might be pinning, sorting blog photos, texting my mom, Googling if I’m doing this mom thing right, or aimlessly surfing Faceboook but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a crink in my neck from hours of just staring down at this little guy while I nourish life into him.
Great article, Thanks Abby!
Tsoniki Crazy Bull says
Love all of this. I fondly recall breastfeeding my kids and reading a book, magazine, or being on my phone. Nursing is so not the only way to bond with a child. My brother was a single Dad for years (and I love my new sister in law) and my nephews followed him around like ducklings. Followed – I mean follow, because even the just turned 13 year old continues to follow his Dad everywhere. Thank goodness breastfeeding isn’t the only way to bond, where would that have put my brother and his boys? I love the strides we are humans are making so we can have all that we want to have.