The working world is different than the one our parents knew. My father’s normal work day ended at five, and unless there was some sort of event, meeting, or dinner, that’s when he left. Cell phones didn’t exist in any real way, and there was no problem that could possibly come up that would need to be dealt with before the next morning. But that started to change even near the end of my father’s career, and now, for a lot of us, the days of the 9-5 work day are long gone. We’re expected to show up early and leave late, and we’re expected to be reachable by phone or email at all hours of the day, even if we have kids who also require our attention at all hours of the day. It’s a tough see-saw to stand on, and one would think that if anybody was going to be sympathetic, it’d be a daycare. But one daycare’s going viral this week after posting a pretty harsh message to parents ordering moms to stop using phones during pick-up.
If parents being on their phones was really a problem, a simple sign saying, “Please do not use your phones during pick-up” would have sufficed. Instead, the daycare posted this:
(Facebook via Mom.me)
Geez. That’s pretty harsh. I guess I should be glad they didn’t decide to write a sanctimonious open-letter blog post entitled, “Dear Mom on her Phone at Daycare Pick-Up,” that would surely have gone viral the way “Dear mom on her phone at the playground” and others of its kind have.
This note is unacceptably aggressive, emotionally manipulative, and rude. If parents being on their phone at pick-up is a problem, leave a sign saying, “Please do not use your phone during pick-up.” It’s a reasonable request if parents on their phones is slowing down the pick-up process for everybody else. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s going on at all. It sounds like this is straight-up a “open letter to the mom on her phone” garbage we’ve seen so many times before.
The number of people who could be on the other end of that phone is nigh infinite. It could be a boss. It could be a spouse trying to arrange the other half of the pick-up. It could be another child. A parent. A client. Picking up a kid at daycare while shuffling art work, lunch boxes, coats, hats, and toys is difficult enough. A mother trying to do all that while talking on the phone is probably not doing it because she wants to.
According to Mom.me’s Jeanne Sager, the sign was posted at a Texas daycare, where mother Juliana Farris Mazurkewicz spotted it and posted a photo of it to Facebook. Of course, the combination of daycare and phones is like blood in the water for the sanctimony sharks, and the picture is blowing up with more than 380,000 shares so far. A lot of them are cheering on the daycare, because you just know they’ve been waiting their whole lives to talk about this kind of “neglect,” preferably with a lot of exclamation points and pointed comments about how they “never” do that.
Still, many of the comments are defending the hypothetical phone-moms, pointing out that there are a lot of things these people could be forced to take care of at right that moment. (Are you a doctor? A lawyer? Waiting for important medical test results? Maybe you’d better pick up your phone when it rings.)
If mothers talking on the phone during pick-up is a problem, there are any number of ways to handle it that do not involve this, “We’ve seen children calling ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy!'” guilt-tripping. If someone asked you to do something with a note like this, would you quickly see the error of your ways and do what they said, or would you say, “Who the fuck do you think you are, and what makes you think you can talk to me like that?”
This is not the way adults speak to each other. At least, it shouldn’t be.
There seems to be a serious double-standard for mothers when it comes to phone use, too. Years ago I recall seeing a New York Times writer describe the way smart phones make park trips possible at all. In that case, the child was off school for the day. Normally that professional writer would have to have been writing and answering emails, but the phone meant they could go to the park together, though it did also mean that some phone calls needed to be answered during the trip. The commenters went crazy, accusing the writer of being a neglectful and selfish mom, until someone realized that the writer was a father, not a mother. The tone shifted then, to one where more people were saying things like, “It’s so hard! But good for you for making it work. Technology does make it so much easier for dads to be involved in their kids’ lives.”
Most people would prefer not to have to be on the phone while picking their kids up from school or daycare, but sometimes these things are necessary. If you don’t know who’s on the other end of the phone call, you have no right to tell a person if it is or is not “important enough” for her to be taking. Especially not via a big, rude sign in the door of the daycare.