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Addicted: Are Moms Spending Too Much Time Online?

Categories: time management


On advice from last week’s commenters, I nursed today while reading a magazine. (Incidentally, the baby fed longer, better, and was less distracted than usual. Win-win!) The new issue of Babytalk had just arrived, and one of the cover stories immediately caught my eye: “Hooked Online,” an article about Internet addiction among moms. (Meta moment!: You can read the online version here.) It’s no surprise that more and more women are turning to the Internet these days not just for information and entertainment but to seek out personal connections in what can otherwise be an isolated existence. I mean, that’s kind of why we’re all here right now, isn’t it? Whether we’re frequenting personal blogs or Facebook or sites like Work It, Mom, we’re going online to learn and to teach and to laugh, yes, but perhaps most especially to feel like there are others out there who understand what we’re going through. And yet, for all the benefits, there’s definitely a dark side to living too much of our lives through the computer. For starters, there’s the sad irony that sometimes the very people who led us to the Internet in the first place–our brand new kids, our sick kids, and the kids who drive us crazy–are the ones who suffer most when we can’t balance our time between real life and Second Life. We all know that motherhood is all about multitasking, but just because we can type with one hand and shake a rattle with the other doesn’t mean that’s going to win us any parenting awards. (There are awards, yes? With trophies and tiaras?)

The picture at the head of this post is me blogging with my four-day-old infant. That image alone makes me realize that it’s probably a blessing I don’t have easy access to a connected computer during the day. Instead of whiling away my afternoons with peek-a-boo and the much-beloved cautionary tale about those bed-jumping monkeys, I’d probably be writing on my blog, checking one of your blogs, reading comments and checking visitor stats for my blogs, uploading photos to Flickr, following links to crazy YouTube videos, getting caught in the bottomless vortex of crazy YouTube videos, or just clicking randomly from here to there to there to there–more like hopscotch than “surfing,” actually–all while supposedly spending quality time with my son. Note to self: Merely holding the child does not count as interaction.

Now, that’s not to say I never have a baby and a laptop balanced one on each knee, but at least that’s confined to the evenings, when Daddy comes home with the laptop for me, and a fresh lap for Baby. But once the baby’s asleep for the night? Party in my chatroom and everyone’s invited! Woo hoo! Except, whoops, now I’m neglecting my spouse. Ah, well, you win some, you lose some…  

How about you? How many hours do you spend online for strictly social purposes? Do you find it hard to regulate your Internet usage? Do you have strategies that help keep your Web life from crossing the line between hobby and addiction (e.g., only logging in when the kids are asleep, or only allowing yourself a certain number of Internet hours per day)? At the risk burying us all under a heavy heap of irony, I hereby give you permission to neglect your children for just as long as it takes you to chime in on this issue.

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11 comments so far...

  • Great thoughts, Leah. Even though I only post 2-3 times/week on my blog, we have the laptop set up on the dining room table and nearly every time I walk past it I check my email, read some blogs, etc. I don’t feel like it’s compromised my relationship with my kids or husband, but it’s something I try to keep in check.
    When I first started blogging I think I had aspirations of being “discovered” (ha!) and getting hooked up with some paid writing gigs, but my motivation has since changed. I don’t think I could even handle the stress of writing deadlines. I can barely get supper on the table most days.

    Amanda Brown  |  February 25th, 2009 at 8:13 am

  • I go in spurts. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the pressure of keeping in contact and responding to all my facebook friends, who just a year ago I had no contact with. So, I’ve limited my time and don’t give status updates anymore because then people constantly comment on them, which is fun, but again the pressure to reply… I’ve also started to put my status as “off-line” even when I’m online.

    I’ve also started posting on my blog just once/week but still check other blogs daily–just while on a quick break at work of course. (wink wink)

    Stacey  |  February 25th, 2009 at 8:18 am

  • My laptop is on when I am home as well, but I have set aside certain times where I can “get stuff done”. Emily’s nap, after supper when Matthew is home, when the kids are in bed and Honey’s out at basketball or whatnot.

    It could be easy to spend more time on here than I need to, but the upside to having older kids is that there are places to be (School! Swimming! Play dates!) which means that I close the computer and get out in the real world.

    Angella  |  February 25th, 2009 at 11:17 am

  • GAH! This is a nightmare for me. I’m home full-time, and my life before blogs/social networking/fast Internet is unimaginable to me now. I spend a ton of time online during the day. I have no “rules” about when I do and do not get online, blog, etc. In the evenings, my husband and I are often on separate laptops! It’s terrible. And yet…it has saved my life. I mean that almost literally! My first baby was such a challenging infant, and I knew ZERO other SAHMs, let alone ones in my neighborhood, that when I did discover “mommy-bloggers,” it was like medicine. I survived postpartum life and new motherhood in large part because of those connections, and they’re still vital to me today.

    On the other hand, sometimes I don’t worry about it too much because I am with my children pretty much 100% of the time, so it seems to me that even with the online distractions, I STILL spend more quality time interacting with them than many parents do. It’s impossible not to when you spend 12 hours a day with them!

    Shannon  |  February 26th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

  • Everyone who know me knows my husband and I love to play World of Warcraft. I know you’ve heard the horror stories of parents who have become addicted to the game and have let their children die of neglect (shudder). Not that we would ever let that happen, but to avoid any problems, we only play when the kids are in bed for the night. That means that at 8PM, mommy and daddy kiss our two boys goodnight after a full evening of playing, reading and eating dinner together - then we power up the PC’s and play. I wouldn’t ever let my online time come before my family time. I post to my blog and to facebook from work, but as soon as I get home each afternoon, its just family time.

    Bumbling  |  February 27th, 2009 at 9:10 am

  • And you and your husband are playing online together, which I think helps.

    Leah K  |  February 27th, 2009 at 11:57 am

  • My laptop used to be in the dining room. When I was breastfeeding my son, I’d sit and relax and enjoy not having anything to do. I would think about things and questions would arise about the topics I thought about. I knew I could find the answers on the internet. I even wondered what was being posted on the blogs I read. Once I was done feeding my son, my plan was to look it up on the internet the next chance I got. But once I had time to sit down in front of my laptop, I forgot about all the topics I wanted to resesarch about.

    After a few days of that, I decided to move the laptop from the dining room to my bedroom where I feed my son. I set it up so that I can go online while feeding my son. When my son has finished eating, I don’t get up right away. I stay seated for a good 15 more minutes to go online. When I feel like I’ve spent too much time online, I quickly get up and close the lid firmly so I won’t be tempted to sit down again and look at the screen until the next feeding.

    I only use the computer when I’m feeding my son or when he’s asleep. If I’m working on a project like renaming my photos and uploading photos onto Photobucket, then I can’t resist but go online even more.

    Linda  |  February 28th, 2009 at 12:55 am

  • This is a topic I’m glad finally came out. Yes, I think Moms are spending too much time online. I was. I’m a full time freelance writer with 3 kids. But I have cut back taking on some new clients because my kids come home from school and I’m busy online. They try to show me something or talk to me and I say “Not Now.” Not cool. That and the fact that my laptop is interferring with my cooking, cleaning, etc. My daughter was at a friends house and I asked her was her Mom doing; she said she stayed on the computer and didn’t even notice her. So not cool.

    When I see all these cool Mom sites, I wonder how can they find the time to manage all their blogs, websites and such. I don’t know. I don’t want to get that involved and feel committed to having to be online.

    A fellow Mom epal said she hasn’t had a day off {working online} in over 250 days. Sure she’s making good money, but Dang. I have other things in my life I like doing. I have a home cooked meal for my 3 kids every night. My house is clean. My husband is Great. And I’m happy with that.

    But that’s just my opinion.

    Jan  |  February 28th, 2009 at 5:38 am

  • I have most of the day open on the computer as my girls are both in school full time. I do admit that with hubby’s schedule it is pretty easy to turn to my peeps on the internet and let the kids have fun with the T.V. but most nights I balance my time with the online world and with my girls. I have gotten to a point where I can close my laptop & come back to whatever I was doing later. Which is always nice.

    Domestic Extraordinaire  |  February 28th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

  • Funny you should mention that. My first post on this site is all about the computer being a positive tool. Of course its like anything, the individual can abuse it. Could be pizza, ice cream, sex, or working at a job…..its what you do with it and how much of it you allow into your life.

    Nevertheless, good article and good thought process. Since I own my own business and use the computer and telephone to stay home and earn a living, I probably spend 12 hours/day on the internet but perhaps I am the exception instead of the rule, and mostly it business anyway.

    Actually, now that I think of it, the computer is on, but I probably don’t actually spend more than half that time really doing things on it. But still, I love that computer.

    Thandi  |  March 1st, 2009 at 8:31 pm

  • Good post! I found it googling ” do I spend too much time online ? ” . I work from home and am not a mom yet, but the isolation of being a home ( which is what I wanted when I started a business ! ) is starting to wear on me. I’m trying to make changes and learn what other people are doing to bring some balance back.

    San Francisco Wedding Photographer, Amanda  |  June 24th, 2009 at 2:54 pm