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Lori Gard Headshot

Who Are We to Judge Moms Who Need a Break?

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I am scrolling down my Facebook feed. Behind me, my second-to-youngest impatiently sits on the couch waiting for me to look up. I have been here exactly 3.5 minutes. Or thereabouts. Who's counting, right? Don't judge, people.

I am tired, frayed around the edges. And I need to zone out for a few. So I scroll mindlessly down the news feed. Until I come to this. A picture of a mama and her kids at the park. The kids are happily playing on the playground equipment while the mom checks a message on her phone. It is a snapshot, a moment in time.

What could she be doing? Could a very important phone call just have come in? Could she have just finished taking a picture of her precocious children, which she is quickly in process of uploading to Facebook? Is she making dentist arrangements? Calling her husband? Is her mother sick? Her grandmother dying? Does she have news from a doctor that just cannot wait?

The caption underneath the photo says it all. Or does it? Is this merely a disengaged mama immersed in her phone? Or could there be more to the story than all of this?

I will admit it. While I am there, analyzing the photograph, I can feel my own precious child breathing down the back of my neck, just behind me. And I feel it. Guilt. So, I click the x at the top of the screen and allow myself to be dragged into a game of To Know Me is To Love Me. And it is relatively painless, if you don't count that it ends with one child crying and the other child cheating.

But I do it. And all in the name of being a good mama. Because I don't want to be that other kind: a mother guilty of choosing technology over her children.

Isn't it time we stopped the judgment, people? This small-minded blame game? Stop pointing fingers! Can a mom not take her children to the park and stop for a two-second break? These two children could have been holed up inside a dark house, sitting on a couch in the television room watching cartoons. They could have been, but instead they are outside, in the sunshine, their mother an arms-length distance away. They don't look deprived. They don't look neglected.

To say it carefully, they look as happy as pigs in poop.

And that mother -- maybe she had a rough day. Maybe she is dealing with more than a picture can show. Oh sure, I agree that it would be unfortunate if she only ever had eyes for nothing else, indeed for no one else but for that tiny metal appendage. Her smart phone. If she was truly as neglectful as the write-up suggests. Or as truly absent in presence. Sure, it would be sad...she would certainly be missing out by my account of mothering style. But who am I to judge her mothering style? Who am I to judge?

Let's be honest. We mothers, we've been in her shoes before. Checking out our phones, our Facebook, our texts. We might have even been snapped in a quiet moment, just like her. Preserved for all infamy, going down in the record books as a neglectful, uninterested mother. We live in a connected world. This could happen, just in a single snapshot: our whole way of mothering set on display for all the world to see. As if a picture really tells the whole story.

We are not that simple. And life is not that uncomplicated. It is not that easy to read, this picture. And neither is she that easy to read, this mama. We need to cut each other some slack. That picture, that mama: this is you and me we're talking about.

And who are we to judge?