Final Thought: Nov Update 2019

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*This piece was also published in the Nov 2019 issue of Beijing Kids Magazine*

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“Mommy, why don’t you take videos of us?”

This is my son, skateboard tucked up under one arm in our compound’s courtyard, a look of curious judgment on his nearly-six-year-old face. His helmet is askew. His knees and elbows are bulging with protector pads, wispy bangs damp with skateboard exertion.

Is this a complaint?

I’ve just arrived back from a job to pick my kids up from their grandparents’ care. Apparently, their father had just left from a spontaneous visit. (I’m always happy to hear that he’s made time for them.)

“Daddy always takes lots of video and photos and then he puts them on his WeChat so everyone can see them!”

A request?

….

My day has been a kaleidoscope of freelance jobs and my band’s music recording work. Shortly I’ll take the kids back home, make them dinner, help them with homework, get them in bed, and then after the completion of the dishes, the life of a single mom continues into the evening with audio editing work until I’m too tired to stare at the screen. I am their primary caregiver, followed by their grandparents and then random visits from their dad who now lives across town. With this schedule, who has time for video posting?

Social media has seriously skewed our perceptions. It used to be that busy people were just unavailable. Eventually, the result of their hard work was revealed in completed projects or successful benchmarks. But now, in this social media day and age, a busy person is judged by how actively they post about their accomplishments. If you post all the time, you’re seen as busy. In fact, in my music career, it’s simply part of the job to promote and advertise gigs or albums or videos—and, frankly, it gets in the way. The very act of posting itself interrupts the work’s progress! See the catch-22? When you’re authentically busy, there’s no time for social media!

The same goes for parenting. Social media has created an environment in which parental engagement is judged by the frequency of posts that feature the kids. Lots of videos and photos showing a parent with their kids proves engagement. Infrequent posts of this nature suggest parental absence.

“I do take videos sometimes, honey,” I say to my son, trying not to reveal defensiveness. “It’s just that mommy doesn’t have a lot of extra time to…” but, he is already over it. He’s on his board again and rolling away. My daughter yells for me to watch her do a crouching move. I smile and clap.

You see, to me, an engaged life with both work and kids is not something that can be proven via social media. It’s proven by living it, by being it. We’re all tempted to view WeChat or Facebook as a reflection of a person’s work or family’s dynamic, but it’s quite often an inverted view. Even in my case, the majority of my “WeChat moments” are about my music, but the genuine majority of my life moments are about my kids.

Just an observation.

So, I lift up my phone and take a video of my two kids skateboarding. I’ll never post it. Extra time to edit it for length or add subtitles (etc.) is a luxury I can’t afford – too many other important things to do! But, it’s a “life moment” that has at least been documented. And I know that this video contains more than just a record; it’s filled with a mother’s fierce devotion to her family, regardless if it’s ever shared beyond the confines of my mobile phone.

Final Thought: June/July Update 2019

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