A rad dad’s post about his distracted parenting has struck a chord with other mums and dads, as many say they feel their devices drive an unwelcome wedge between themselves and their kids.
Don't let your phone make you a shitty parent. I was home alone with the boys and was on Facebook trying to keep up…
“Daddy’s busy mate”
DadMum blogger Brad Kearns was relatably caught up in the addictive, at times mindless scroll many of us with devices will find familiar. Brad and wife Sarah are parents to 3-year-old Knox and 18-month-old Finn. On this particular day, it seemed impossible to put the phone down, and he found himself shooing his kiddo away in favour of the little screen.
As his son kept trying to pique his interest in some father-son playtime, Brad responded with a few trusty default phrases, eventually asking him to go and play with his brother. Somewhere else. Please.
Don’t freak out though. Brad mirrors most of us when we make a less-than-optimal parenting decision. He quickly realised that a) he and his kids hadn’t had much time together recently and b) phones are equal parts excellent and divisive.
He put the phone aside, felt terrible and resolved to make it up to his kids with some all-in play time. And he did just that.
“Don’t let your phone make you a sh*tty parent”
Brad’s work means he’s on the phone a lot, but he revealed that he’s keen to limit device time and be more present for the people he loves the most, even if it means a little less work is happening.
He’s also urging others to consider doing the same, not because he’s a pesky know-all, but because he’s got a popular online profile and is keen to spread the good stuff – and good ideas – far and wide.
Here’s what Brad wrote. You might see a bit of yourself in his words:
Don’t let your phone make you a shitty parent.
I was home alone with the boys and was on Facebook trying to keep up with the world.
Knox came up and stood in front of me. I didn’t even notice him at first but he was clearly trying to get my attention. He was trying to show me one of his cars. I didn’t even look up from my phone when I replied “wow mate that’s a cool one”. He continued to stand in front of me. He started saying “Hi”. I said “Hi” back at him a few times but he didn’t stop. He got another toy and kept trying to get my attention.
Eventually I looked up from my phone and said “Daddy’s busy mate, can you go and play with Finn”. He walked out of the room and began playing quietly in the other room with his brother. I continued scrolling. He came back in and the same thing happened.
I hadn’t seen him in two days due to my work hours. He was bored and he missed me and he just wanted my attention. Yet there I was “too busy” to even look up. And I dismissed him.
I realised shortly after and put my phone away. I felt like shit. I was being the dad I never wanted to be. I’d had enough. So I went into the other room and asked him to play. His entire face lit up. He said “sure” and scooched over to make room for me next to him. We played all day and I left my phone on the bench.
That was a month ago now. I gave myself a much needed time-out. And it’s been the best month with my boys.
I can’t post every day. Sometimes I will miss a week. I don’t mind.
Kids don’t give a shit about the world. All they care about is you being right there with them.
We need to put the phones down when we’re with them.
“They grow up so damn fast”
Brad’s followers responded wholeheartedly – and at times guiltily – keen to explore ideas around distracted parenting and what it means in this day and age.
“Your post hit me right where it hurts. Been guilty of the phone/computer thing plenty of times, especially when I just get home from work and simply want to sit. Kids haven’t seen me all day and just want to play, spend time. It really is a feeling exactly as you describe – becoming the dad you did not want to be. Time with your kids is precious, grab it and cherish it tightly as they grow up so damn fast,” one follower posted.
“Soon enough it will be us wanting their attention and they will be too busy with their phones…we need to take the time while they still want our attention,” another wise sage advised.
“I realised the same thing,” another adventurous type wrote. “Going off the social grid for a YEAR. Exploring, discovering, creating, connecting. Can’t wait to see what I can achieve with my boys and as a person without the distractions of a phone.”
Naw. Good on you, Brad. This is something many of us struggle with. It’s always encouraging when people open up about their least favourite parenting moves, and this one is striking a chord with lots of mums, dads and carers.
Do you ever find yourself tuning out to your child as you tune into the endless scroll on your phone?