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Miranda: Infant versus internet…a losing proposition?

storkAn article in this morning’s Boston Globe has added to my anxiety about managing work, creativity, and a new baby. Last time I had a newborn (three years ago) I didn’t work as much as I do now, and I wasn’t quite as plugged into the internet. Even so, I felt guilty about the amount of time I spent nursing while typing with one hand, eyes glued to my computer screen instead of my beautiful baby.

I tried to tell myself that it’s not much different than staring at the pages of a book, but it is. When I’m reading and my kids talk to me, I hear them. When I’m staring at my laptop–either working, being creative, or goofing off–the machine seems to cast this hypnotic spell that enables me to tune out the rest of the world. Sometimes the kids have to jump up and down to get my attention.

Obviously, I’m not alone. The Globe article, entitled “Connection Failure?” discusses mothers of newborns who are glued to their computers much of the day. The article raises several concerns: time spent on the web is associated with depression; mothers of newborns may be satisfied enough with their virtual connections that they stop trying to get out and establish tangible relationships; and worse, that Mom may end up more connected to her computer than she is to her infant. Pretty much a lose-lose situation for baby:

Mothers have always multitasked, from foraging with babies strapped to their backs to sewing, engaging an older child, or even cooking while nursing. Is Internet use any different?

“If you observe women who, let’s say, knit, their gaze is moving back and forth from the baby to knitting,” Rich said. “The Internet demands a lot more attention. You’re receiving and sometimes sending communication, so there’s sustained concentration away from the baby.”

Habitual Internet use while nursing, especially if the baby’s awake and seeking the mother’s eyes, concerns Rich. “It can be a real rejection for the baby, for whom you fill his or her world,” he said.

Ouch. For me, this time around–with so much on my plate, including a nonfiction book in progress (and four other children), I’m worried. I don’t want my new baby (or any of my kids, for that matter) to think of me as inseparable from my laptop. I know that my goal needs to be boundaries, but I’m not sure what that looks like. I have childcare in my home three days a week for my toddler, but I imagine that for the first four months, my childcare provider won’t be doing much with the baby aside from changing the occasional diaper. This means a lot of nursing during work time/creative time, as in, nursing while staring at the computer.

How have the rest of you navigated this mine field? How bad is the guilt? (Like we need one more thing to feel guilty about.) Does your family threaten to cut the cord on your computer? When you’re sleep deprived and you want to keep up with your blog reading while feeding the baby, what do you do? If holding your baby while typing your novel is the only way to finish your book, do you bite the bullet and hope for the best?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh, do infants seek their mothers’ eyes? I always read that, but every time I looked down, my babies were either sleeping or staring off into space. Puck likes to make eye contact now, but he’s a year and a half, and we make eye contact at lots of other times. šŸ˜›

    I never could get nursing and typing down (my chair’s design made it impossible, even with a nursing pillow) but I usually work/ed while they were crawling around or playing alone. I do find that I can only achieve true non-distraction by leaving the computer off entirely, but I suspect that has as much to do with my older boy’s age and constant need for interaction as it does with guilt.

    Don’t feel guilty about working with your baby around. Honestly, if you can figure out how to nurse while wearing your baby, that swaddling will both comfort and probably cut down on the need for eye contact (by the way, I bet those mothers foraging in the fields of Africa get absorbed enough in their work not to make eye contact with their babies). And when baby is old enough to play nearby, you’ll still be glancing over, smiling, etc. to make sure baby is safe. The both of you will figure out how to work around each other. You’ll be fine!

    April 23, 2008
  2. cathy #

    hey, i’m doing it now, baby snuggled against me napping, i’m typing one handed on laptop while lying (brain fart – laying?) in bed. when she wakes, i’ll feed, change, play and maybe still have laptop one handed typing….

    don’t let the assholes get you down. remember, there was a time not so long ago that my 9 yr old’s autism would have been blamed on his “refrigerator mother” eventhough i held him and everything else all the time. they know better now.

    dr sears or brazelton, one of the biggies, has a great quote about how after the first 2, if you shout to the others where’s the youngest, and they answer under the coffee table sleeping, you know everything is ok. and every study shows the youngest is most secure in themselves in adulthood. so don’t worry if #5 will be lacking mother love.

    now, the alphawaves may be affecting my newborn….but that’s another article!

    April 25, 2008

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