I'd like to think that I pay pretty close attention to my son, especially when I'm around him. I take him to the playground and keep a watchful eye, even if it's from a distance. I will answer a work email or check my social media feeds on my phone when I'm around him, but I make sure that I look up from time to time. Still, there are situations people assume a mom isn't watching her kids, and I've been in plenty of those situations and felt the judgmental looks that usually come along with them.
It's such a strange time to be a mother, in general. On the one hand, social media provides mothers with so many helpful communities and outlets. I can share photos of my kid with my mother on the opposite end of the country, ask my mom-friends specific questions and even find sales on kids' toys. It's awesome. On the other hand, the "mommy wars" are seemingly never-ending and mothers are constantly being shamed for their choices (or lack thereof). I didn't realize that so many people cared about what I did, or didn't do, until I had a child and decided to breastfeed in public or get an epidural during labor and delivery or co-sleep or, yes, check my phone when my son is playing at the playground.
So many people (both with children and without children) perceive danger when there really is none. More children are put at risk when they're strapped into a car, for example, than when they're granted the freedom to walk to the park by themselves. Still, certain people like to make quick assumptions and sweeping judgments and, well, the following situations usually end with someone thinking a mom isn'g paying enough attention to her kid. (Hint: she probably is, so don't worry.)
When She's Talking To Someone Else
I mean, if my ability to hold a conversation while simultaneously paying very close attention to another episode of The Office is any indication, I am really good at talking to someone while I watch my kid. Yes, sometimes my ability to follow the conversation will suffer and sometimes I'll be slow to respond, but I can do more than one thing at one time (and rather well, thank you).
When She Sits On The Bench While Her Kid Plays On The Playground
I don't have to be standing directly next to my two-year-old son, to be able to watch him while he plays at our neighborhood playground. In fact, I encourage him to go ahead of me and "have fun" so I can take a load off and somewhat relax.
I don't do my son any favors by standing right next to him and providing him an unnecessary level of not only security, but impeded freedom. He needs to be able to run and play and make friends and even fall and get a little hurt (even if that's something I really don't want to have happen). I can still watch him from a distance.
When She's On The Phone
I can't tell you how many times I have been shamed by others (parents and non-parents alike) for being on my phone while I'm around my kid. I honestly don't have it in me to explain to someone that I'm either taking pictures of my kid, answering work emails or, yes, scrolling through social media because procreation doesn't mean I don't get to relax and lose myself in the mindlessness that is the internet.
I can still see my kid. Trust me, I am still paying attention to him. I am also tending to my other responsibilities (or guilty pleasures) and that in no way means I'm in danger of "missing a moment" or "losing my kid." I don't have to keep my eyes on him every second of every single day. Trust me.
When She Has A Book In Hand
Sometimes, when I take my son to the playground I will also take a book. It's pretty rare for me to be able to read leisurely, so I take full advantage of a caged area in which I know my son can't get out of it and where I know he'll be safe. I can relax and read a few sentences, then look up and see my son playing happily with a new friend, then go back to reading a few sentences.
Simultaneously (and this is the really cool part) I know I can rely on the other parents at our playground. It truly does "take a village" and I'm lucky enough to be part of a community that feels close in nature. All the parents at the playground look out for everyone else's kids, so I know that that my son is being watched by multiple pairs of caring, kind and helpful eyes.
When She Lets Her Kid Play In The Front Yard/Driveway...
Windows are a thing. They're pretty cool. Parents tend to use them, on occasion.
...Or Even Down A Block Or Two
Honestly. I remember running to the end of my street to get the mail (a task I now dread), knowing my mother was watching me. Just because other people couldn't see her, didn't mean she wasn't there and watching me carefully.
The same applies now. There will come a day (he's only two now) when I will let my son walk a certain distance by himself, knowing that I can still watch him (and, eventually, I won't watch him, because he'll be old enough to handle that task by himself and without my even distance supervision). Just because you don't see a parent present, doesn't mean they're not watching their children.
When She's Working-From-Home
I worked-from-home for the first year and a half of my son's life, and far too frequently had someone ask me how in the world I was able to watch my son while working simultaneously.
Honestly, it's a fair question because it's not easy. Still, there's this underlying assumption that working-from-home meant that either my job would suffer, or my parenting would suffer, and that I couldn't be adequate (and even successful) at both. I was still able to watch my son, as it literally just took me looking up from my computer in order to see him.
When She's Taking Care Of Another Kid
I have yet to experience this for myself, as I only have one child. However, in talking with some friends who have multiple children, I've heard that people automatically assume you can't be a great parent to every kid, or give every kid the level of attention they need and deserve.
I'm sure if you popped out, like, an entire basketball team you might have trouble keeping tabs on every kid you have, but multitasking is a thing for multiple reasons and, yes, you can use it when you're parenting multiple children. Don't assume that the older child is being neglected because there's a newborn in the picture, and don't assume some middle child is being forgotten or the younger kid is just in the background. Does that happen? Sure. But not all the time and not with every single family that has multiple children.