This article was originally published with Convivium.
Ten months ago, I experienced one of the biggest transitions that can happen over the course of a lifetime. I become a mother.
Women have been making this transition since the beginning of time. And in that moment of becoming a mother, we go from an autonomous being to one whose life will forever be tied to that of another.
It’s not new and yet for each woman who crosses that threshold, there is nothing familiar about it. Everything is new, exciting and terrifying. Some things never change. For centuries, women have relied on other women. Through pregnancy, childbirth and those fragile days of early motherhood, we’ve called on sisters and aunts, mothers and grandmothers, friends and neighbours, to help us to know: Why does my baby cry this way? What should I do when my now-crawling child does this or that? Motherhood is borne out of and supported by community. The old proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” is very true.
Yet other things do change. One of those is technology. More specifically, our modern smartphone. Now there is a new proverb on the market – don’t believe everything you read online. It seems that every conceivable point of view has a backer on the internet. So now, when it comes to becoming mothers, it can feel like there are a thousand voices screaming at us. One voice piles on top of another, leaving you wondering what the right method of mothering could possibly be.
It has been interesting to watch this unfold in my life, as I take these first early steps of motherhood. I seem to have all the answers of the world at my fingertips. Hidden away in my smartphone are a thousand opinions on a thousand topics. Sometimes this is incredibly helpful; HealthLink’s provincial recommendations for a whole host of baby “firsts” were invaluable. As were the apps and websites that let me follow along with my daughter’s growth in the womb. Was she the size a leek this week or a butternut squash? How far were her organs developed? Approximately how much did she weigh?
It has also has its drawbacks. There is nothing that screams for my attention more than my phone. With social media, texting, messenger, my camera, music and so many other things all wrapped up in one device, motherhood in the era of the smartphone is a constant battle for presence.
And with my daughter at an age where attention often equals affection, I believe presence is key. Pinterest has long since had to be deleted and, in recent weeks, I’ve been realizing the rest of social media may soon follow. There is nothing wrong with opening Facebook or Instagram in the morning, but having it constantly pinging away on my phone brings an invasive presence into my motherhood that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with.
Like so many things that come with modern technology, I believe the answer is balance and restraint. The smartphone can be an incredibly helpful tool; it’s helped me monitor feeding patterns, provided white noise, acted as a baby monitor and more. At the end of the day, our smartphones should help our motherhood – and indeed, our parenthood. And sometimes, as it turns out, the most helpful thing is to simply put it away.