When you're a mom you pretty much prepare yourself to be judged, but all the preparation in the world can't prepare you for that special brand of judgment: cell phone shaming. The moment you come across a raised eyebrow that screams, "Look at that mom on her phone! She's the worst!" or a smirk that says, "OMG, why isn't she paying attention to her kids?" it can be difficult to conjure up a coherent sentence. But there are ways to handle this kind of unnecessary criticism, my friends. Because it is very, very unnecessary.
Look, should we make an effort to take a break from our phones? Sure. Our kids do deserve moments of our undivided attention and whole presence. But please don't assume that seeing me on my phone at the playground or grocery store while in the presence of my children is a representation of my entire day. You're witnessing a moment and, sometimes, this mom needs a goddamn moment.
And can we talk about the fact that I hear this criticism mainly from the same people who claim kids today are too coddled and micromanaged? Like, which is it, Carol? Do you want me to let them go live in a tent in the Appalachians for a year to toughen them up, or do you want me to have an eyelid operation so I never have to blink lest something happen to them?
I also hear the argument that being on my phone means I'm "missing out" on my kids' childhood, but do you understand how many hours are in a day and how many of those hours I see them? I brought them to this playground because we've been interacting all day and they need some time to play on their own with other kids, people!
So when someone tries to make me feel bad for daring to look at my phone in the presence of my little one, I'll generally use one of the following responses. Yes, please feel free to borrow when necessary.
"Excuse Me, I'm On The Phone"
I'm not snarky, sarcastic, or aggressive about it. This is the straightforward truth and the truth allows me to shut down all conversation. Notice that I'm not even submitting to the idea that I'm doing anything that has to be explained, because I'm not and I don't. If anything, the person trying to shame me has to answer for their behavior — they interrupted me.
This, hands down, is my favorite response and, for the most part, the only one I use.
I wouldn't even say a word, I'd just make intense, unbroken eye contact. I don't even think it would be angry or scary or even especially confrontational. Just a, "Yes, I see you. We have nothing to discuss which is why I'm not saying anything. Hopefully this combination of acknowledgement and silence will make you slink away and think twice before you try this crap with someone else."
"This Is Child-Related"
At this point I would wax poetic about the recipe for quinoa-based, organic, kale and chickpea salads I was planning for dinner and how I was researching ethical grocers and farmers markets from which to purchase the ingredients even though I was for sure getting into an argument on Twitter or mindlessly hearting someone's vacation pictures on Instagram.
"The Candy Isn't Going To Crush Itself..."
I mean... it's not, is it? I feel like people should understand that. But even if I'm not being frivolous online, I may as well pretend I am in order to unapologetically conform to a Judge-y Janet's preconceived notion of me in an effort to really get their dander up.
Just Start Crying
I imagine this would work especially well on the kind of men who shudder at any genuine display of emotion. But, honestly, I feel like this is a kind of power move regardless — few people enjoy making other people cry. So, I can't always weep on demand, but every now and then I'm tempted to summon tears to teach someone a lesson.
"Well, Tell Your Man To Stop DMing Me"
This one is almost certainly going to be reserved for hypothetical confrontations I think about while I'm in the shower, because there's a very real chance that executing this one would involve getting punched, but it's a funny line, people.
You know, like the President!
Apparently facts don't matter anymore so I figure I can tell someone something isn't happening when it is, in fact, happening right in front of them.
"What are you doing on your phone right now?"
"I'm not on my phone. *text text text*"
"Yes. Yes you are. I'm looking right at you!"
"Fake news! *takes a selfie, sends it to someone, gets a reply, laughs*"
"You're still doing it!"
"You're an enemy of the people!"
"I Know! I'm The Worst, Right?"
I figure agreeing with someone (but not stopping what you're doing) is either a good way to get them frustrated to the point where they'll leave me alone, or feed into what they're really after, which is judging someone. Either way, I feel like this is a great way to get them off your back. Like, "Yep! I'm a garbage person! You're so right and smart and also your hair is shiny."
"Why Is This Important To You?"
Honestly, I think this is a great question because it forces someone to actually confront why they've chosen to stick their nose in someone else's business for no apparent reason. Now there's a decent chance that, in the moment, they'll get self-righteous and smug in the moment, but I like to think that, perhaps later in the day, they'll think about it again. Like "Why is this important to me?" Because unless my child was misbehaving or on fire and just about to fall off a cliff into a crocodile infested moat or whatever while I was on my phone, then there really wasn't a reason to try to make me feel bad about it So, why did you?
"We Don't Know Each Other"
Again, no lies detected (unless I do know them, of course, in which case I may question if I need that much negativity in my life) and you're refusing to engage them on the non-issue they're trying to shame you on. Granted, it's probably a tad more confrontational or abrasive than, "Excuse me, I'm on the phone," but, you know, maybe that's not always the worst thing?
"I Can't Help It! I'm A Capricorn With A Gemini Moon!"
"That means I'm an ambitious, hard-working girl boss who has to be in constant communication with people! It's not my fault. Blame Mercury!"
They probably won't buy it, but every now and then I figure I might be able to at least change the subject.
"I'm Handling My Business, So Mind Yours"