Ad inserts for Mother's Day gifts tumbled out of the New York Times last Sunday featuring the headline: "Latest Technology for Mom" -- iPads, cameras and computers. Not surprising, right? Women, after all, are a major market for this equipment.
An article by Laura Donovan in The Jane Dough, "Mothers Are Way More Tech Savvy Than You" cites new research by Nielsen and BabyCenter that shows "moms are spending a significant amount of time using media, and are among the earliest users of tech platforms ... The study also reveals that mothers are 38 percent more likely to have an Internet TV device as well as 28 percent more likely to own a tablet."
This research has sparked a conversation about Internet addiction among parents. Writers like Rachel Mosteller (Parenting) and Lisa Belkin (Motherlode) are discussing how parents, and particularly "young mothers are turning to the computer for community, companionship and escape."
Personally, I thought about my lonely experience as a mother, versus that of my adult children and their machines, and I gave thanks for today's technology.
Our daughter, who recently had twins in her early 40s, gets the kind of information and support I so desperately needed by signing onto Moms of Multiples. Her sister saved her toddler's life by preventing an emergency room nurse from administering a drug that she learned on line could have been fatal, and she and our oldest son, who is the primary parent in his household, use tech platforms to teach their children about the world.
When I had small children, it was me and Dr. Spock. I still have my disintegrating copy of Dr. Spock's Baby and Childcare. Since I often couldn't even reach a doctor, this was my Bible. But when I thought I might lose my mind from diapers and screaming (I had five kids in six years), there was no one to provide reassurance or to say, "try this" or even just to assure me that it's not like this forever. Parenting then and now can be a lonely and isolating experience. I remember thinking that every pediatrician's office should have had a hot line for crazed mothers who needed immediate counsel.
Truth be told, technology is one of the greatest gifts for today's mother. Most adult children with infants and toddlers don't live near their parents, or certainly not near enough for them to provide timely on-site help or companionship. And, speaking for myself, most of my information is way out of date anyway. Trust me, the Internet probably saves more mothers' (and children's) lives and sanity than any tool in modern times.
While writing a book in the early '90s about mothers and daughters, I read an unforgettable piece about a single mother with a colicky child who cried all night and, fearing that in her exhaustion she would hurt the child, she rode the subways all night just to be around people. Think of our country where an astonishing 40% of children are now born to single mothers.
I say, God bless the Internet.
It is more than a place to buy used baby equipment. It's a place women can go for reassurance and information, for solace and for the knowledge that even the best parents can "lose it." I strongly believe that we have not found our way back to the life that children and parents sorely need: more jobs that allow Mom and Dad to work in and out of the home, and more alternative work arrangements like permanent part-time with benefits and job-sharing. And, at the top of my list: quality affordable child care for everyone who wants or needs it. As a former Montessori teacher I learned how well children did in groups and how much fun it was to care for them with other adults in the room.
We may eventually get there, but until then, we should guarantee that enough women enter the field of technology and climb the career ladder in it to assure a balanced gender perspective. Those who lead in this growing and powerful field need to understand both the psychosocial aspects of this medium and how to keep that aspect sharp and healthy.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms who support each other on the Web, who give each other excellent advice and comfort in chat rooms and beyond, who share old toys and furniture via online sites, and who do the hardest and most undervalued work in the world.