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.