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Solutions for a Frazzled Mom?

Solutions for a Frazzled Mom?

(There will be a quiz at the end of this post! I’m looking for solutions for this frazzled mom. I know you can help!)

Here’s my story:

One Saturday morning, I make my twice yearly pilgrimage to the salon to get my haircut. I pretty much hate most girly stuff:  like purses, shopping, and haircuts. So, off I went — looking at it more as a chore than pampering. There are two long couches in the waiting area and I plop myself down at the end of one.  My husband has our kids so I have a rare morning “off.” It’s nice to have a mental break.  I think about other Mom’s who don’t get much chance for a mental break.

When you’re a mom, it’s hard to think.  It’s also easy to get into a rut.

Almost on cue, in walks a busy mom. She’s caring a caffeinated soda, a briefcase, a purse and a Barbie doll.  The cutest little 4 or 5 year old girl ever is staying close by her side. At first I think Mom’s talking to the girl, but it becomes clear she’s talking to a friend on her cellphone ear piece.  She doesn’t hang up, just pauses the conversation enough to check in with reception. She’s especially upset that her gym doesn’t have afternoon childcare, because “the hairdresser only had a morning appointment – so now I’m going to miss my workout!”  Then Mom dumps all her stuff and her daughter at the couch and walks outside to finish her conversation.  The little girl shyly sits down and glances out the window to keep Mommy in view.

A few moments later, Mom walks back in. She leaves a message on another friend’s phone. She still hasn’t spoken to her little girl and the little girl hasn’t made a peep.  Now Mom is unraveling what’s in the briefcase. Her friend must have called right back because now she’s in another full-blown conversation inside.  I glance over at the commotion. The little girl has a laptop on her lap and Mom is looking for a place to plug her in. She’s still talking on the phone, but in sign language asks if I can move because I’m sitting next to the only plug. So I move over to the other couch.  Now a cord stretches across the couch all the way to the middle of the couch where the little girl is now plugged in, so that when an elderly woman tries to sit down there’s a cord in the way. The Mom says: “It’s okay. Just sit on the cord.”

Well the woman chooses NOT to sit on a cord. I don’t blame her. It takes one more woman to squeeze onto my couch before Mom gets the picture that they should scoot down closer to the plug. Now the phone conversation is finally over. The elderly woman asks: “Is that a computer?”  Mom says: “No, no. It’s a DVD player. Only movies.”  The girl is entranced. Her Barbie rests by her side along with a lunch box for snacks. The Mom speaks to her daughter for the first time: “How you doing, Honey?” The girl doesn’t answer. She’s plugged in.

Mom gets called for her appointment. She explains that she’s leaving the little girl in the waiting room. Unfortunately, Mom’s salon chair is out of view of the waiting room. I’m there for 45 minutes longer. The Mom is getting a hair color while the little girl watches her movie.  The DVD Player is truly a babysitter. That ends my little peek into the window of their life.

In my head, I imagine the girl and her mom will make a play connection together later that day:

I like to think this was just a busy little blip in their day, month, year . . .  I hope they spend more time talking and playing than plugged in.

The Grass Stain Guru (Bethe Almeras) alerted me to a Fact Sheet put out by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. It says that “on average, preschool children spend 32 hours a week on screen media.”

Makes me wonder, on average, how much time do they spend playing?

(Quiz time. What solutions are available to this mom that DON’T involved screen time?  Let’s brainstorm a ton of ideas in the comments section!)


Monday 18th of April 2011

We take pen & paper, everywhere. The Magna Doodle saved about 30 billion trees from our family alone.

Now, I say "Grab your coat. Grab your book." before we leave the house each & every time. We have a long drive to town, sure I could put a DVD in the DVD player, but I'd rather they read if we're not having a passionate talk about whatever has entered their head.

My daughter's best friend LOVES finger weaving. Doesn't make a mess & sure makes her happy & keeps her busy!


Monday 18th of April 2011

I would for sure have my daughter sit near me or at least close enough to watch her. 45 minutes is a long time to be sitting without a parental eye on her. If it was me I would probably cancel my appt. and make it for another time. I would probably bring a bag with crayons, paper, books, etc. I limit my children's tv watching as well, however, I remember watching quite a bit as a kid and at the same time being outside quite a bit. Balance is key. Everything in moderation.

Ariella Rogge

Monday 18th of April 2011

I'm not sure if play WILL be in that little girl's day--it seems like it might be the nanny's day off.

That is probably presumptuous to say--yet, both my husband and I try to maintain some boundaries with both my, and my childrens', use of technology, and their behaviors, in public. And if I can't set them up for success in public places, I don't take them...which means, I don't go. And, with my 2 year old, I can honestly say: I don't get out much (now).

Granted, I have two VERY busy boys--who would MAYBE watch a DVD for about 20 minutes before attempting to dismantle the rotating heat source in the lounge area--and she has an apparently darling, well-mannered little girl who appears very accustomed to having her mom be there but not be present.

There was a great article in The New York Times yesterday entitled "Keep Your Thumbs Still While I'm Talking to You." ( ) In our transparent "plugged in" culture, it seems like we have lost all sense of manners and propriety. I am not advocating a return to the "children should be seen, not heard" model--but I am hoping that we can all remember, and practice, common courtesy with both our devices and with the treatment of our children....because, I guarantee you, that little girl would have been a whole lot happier if she had actually been playing Barbie's with a supportive adult.

Early screen time sets the stage for adult behaviors--Jane Healy writes extensively in her work about the negative effects of screen time for preschoolers--not only because it takes their brains out of "learning/engaged" mode and puts them into passive/dull states--but more because kids neglect to develop an imaginative life away from the screen.

I think a line of the NY Times article sums it up best for me: "They are not fully present because we are not built that way"--and Carr is talking about adults, not kids.

I hope we can all turn off our devices and the glowing, hypnotizing screens, and remember that--no matter HOW busy we are--it is our job as parents to help our kids to do their job: play.


Monday 18th of April 2011

My boys wouldn't enjoy getting their hair done with me... but they always are up for games of "I Spy", ABC game, and drawing on blank sheets of paper (like the paper on the exam table at the doctor's office). These are great waiting room activities. I've even sung songs with my little ones while waiting at the post office. The grandma next to me was entranced and happy and enjoyed my kids along with me.

I don't mind my preschoolers playing some iPhone games or watching some shows but I recognize that there is a problem when I'm unwilling to interact with them or when they are no longer willing to play creatively.


Monday 18th of April 2011

I know that 32 hours number sounds like a lot, and 4 hours a day for a preschooler is substantial, but for a child who sleeps 10 hours each night, that's still 10 hours of awake time without screens. If kids are engaged in the world through play, work and talk for 10 hours each day, that seems pretty good to me.

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