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. 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.