The Apps Have It!

I plead guilty to being of the pre-tech generation, so that may be the reason I had a hard time learning about apps for new mothers designed to make it easier during the first few months of sleepless nights and days spent cooped up at home. Of course, these days many mothers have been cooped up at home with children who have also been kept home from school and other activities that previously filled their days.

One app promotes a baby duster – a mop like item attached to a crawling baby that will dust the floor while baby is crawling. There are also more apps that do still more things – too numerous to mention. Perhaps the most useful are the website links for companies that deliver diapers and other necessities often overnight. Also, what sound like some gourmet meals, in case you are too tired to cook.

The life constraints brought about by the pandemic have intensified the focus on the so-called giants of Silicon Valley, namely the four tech companies that have increasingly flourished at this time. The inability to move around freely has increased dependence on shopping online, meaning search engines, apps, web sites in addition to a greater use of social networks to lessen the feeling of social isolation.

Several things strike me about all this, aside from what seems to a non-techie like the insurmountable complexity of using all these apps. Somehow, in promoting the utility of these apps, motherhood begins to sound rather grim. Unquestionably, this has been, and continues to be a difficult time for parents, and tools that enable a support system can be most welcome.

A magazine cartoon shows a frustrated mother telling her children in censored language to use their inside voices. An apt commentary on the situation in which many mothers find themselves. Perhaps no one can be truly prepared for the unexpected experience of full-time child-care along with work commitments and household responsibilities. But the issue that is most significant – and not solved by apps – is the dependency we confront in a new way as mothers. Aside from the sleepless nights and resultant fatigue, which are certainly there, is the feeling of responsibility for the life and well-being of one’s children.

A question confronting mothers now, one that no app can answer, is that of whether to send children back to school if it reopens. There is no question more basic than your child’s health versus educational needs, your child’s well-being versus your own dependence on child-care to work outside of the home. Is there anything more basic than the feeling of responsibility for a child’s life?

The other thought I had reading about all these supposed motherhood apps, is that the intrusion of technology into interpersonal relationships that has been noted and discussed so much, is reaching down into the most basic mother-child relationship. An app promoting reading a Kindle while nursing seems to turn the whole experience into a mechanical feeding operation, with no reference to the opportunity for communication between mother and child. In the description of the functions of the apps, the feeling one gets of motherhood is all about obligatory things to get done, with no awareness of the baby, the developing child, and his or her emerging self and increasing connections to the world.

Perhaps this is a reflection of the loss we are experiencing in many relationships and in the pursuit of meaningful life activities. But this also may be an opportunity to know our children in more meaningful ways.

Or will life begin with apps at birth?