"Do as I say. Not as I do."
This maternal directive is usually presented with a little bit of self-deprecation if not downright irony. Duh. Obviously, we hope that our offspring will inherit only our very best qualities. Not our bad habits, idiosyncrasies or tics.
Not our addictions certainly. Booze, pills, overpriced shoes, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.
And now ... Facebook.
I find it a bit amusing that we are all so worried about our tweens and teens and their online consumption when we have fallen into the same rabbit hole. In fact, when I'm at a business meeting these days, virtually every participant is glued to his or her laptop, iPad or Blackberry. (This is particularly frustrating when my team and I are actually presenting creative ideas. On more than one occasion, I've been tempted to stop my ad agency "dog and pony" and channel my inner Rodney Dangerfield. "Hello?!? Is this on?!? I know you're out there; I can hear you breathing.")
My business associates are allegedly multitasking, y'know, checking their emails, making sure nothing slips through the cracks while they're in a meeting. But, I am fairly certain that they are also checking in with their friends and followers and fans. There's a fine line between business and pleasure when it comes to interactive communications. And the distance between your mission critical corporate project and your "live out loud" social network is typically just a click away.
Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of Facebook. In fact, I have 336 friends, most of whom are my contemporaries and many of whom are mothers. For the record, these 30-, 40-, and 50-somethings are no better behaved online than their kids are. (And, the spelling? Oy vey, don't get me started!)
Here's what mothers post about:
• Our kids
• Our weight
• Our kids
• Our exhaustion
• Our kids
Did I mention, "Our kids?" Grades, accomplishments, silly anecdotes, funny quotes. Milestone birthdays, graduations. In some cases, we vent our frustration (about our kids). In most cases, we write mini status love letters (to our kids). I myself have been known to post a day-by-day countdown until I could pick mine up from summer camp.
But, here's the rub. Even if a lot of our online activity revolves around or builds upon our relationship with our kids, we need to be careful that it doesn't actually supplant that in-person, analog, real-life, one-to-one connection. If you have a choice of reading my blog or reading to your child, please close your browser right now and pick up a book. (Remember books?)
Years ago, when the Internet was in its infancy, I thought it had great potential for people who were, for one reason or another, immobile. What a great way for a disabled or elderly person to reconnect with people and places, take armchair adventures or revisit an earlier passion (I mean a hobby or interest — although there is certainly plenty of interpersonal passion rekindled online).
New mothers are often housebound, even if temporarily. Fourteen years ago, I was on maternity leave for three months. Each day, I watched my husband go off to work, then spent the day with my beloved (if not yet very responsive) child. Most days, I left the house to run some errands or took a nice walk with my tiny daughter in her Baby Bjorn. At about five each afternoon, while she nursed, I sat on the sofa watching "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." Really.
So I understand why a stay-at-home mom would reach for her keyboard and mouse now and then. Connection. Companionship. Sanity.
But, we need to set a good example too. Ad Age magazine recently published a list of the "30 Freakiest Ads of 2011." Take a look at this PSA encouraging moms to sign-off and tune-in to their kids. (I agree that it's pretty freaky, but it makes a good point.) You can see the ad here.
Right now, I'm going to sign-off myself. I just heard my daughter come in, and we need to bake brownies and wrap presents. You know, some nice, traditional, mother-daughter quality time.
Of course, she'll have her iPhone with her. But, you can't blame me for trying.