Team Electronics~Why We Can’t Leave Home Without Them

by Jessica on December 5, 2011

Parenting is a competitive sport.  From the moment the line appears on the stick, it seems to be natural to begin jockeying for position.  Medicated or natural birth?  Breastfeeding or bottle feeding?  Homemade baby food or store bought? The list never ends.  I’m sure we have all met that mom on the playground (or at least seen the totally hilarious parodies of these moms) who are eager to play the game of oneupmomship.  Even if we do manage to steer clear of these bastions of parenting failure, it is often the pressure that we put on ourselves that haunts us the most.
As a traveling mom, the subject of electronics versus no electronics is a subject that causes me to constantly compare.  Our family is firmly and mostly comfortably on Team Electronics, but just when I convince myself that using electronics on a long trip is a great parenting move, I read about some family who is traveling 3000 miles while humming kumbayah in four part harmony and discussing politics with nary a Nintendo or DVD player between them.
The more I read about those shiny moments of family bonding, the more I am convinced that I will never be nominated for mom of the year. To be fair, I think I gave up my chance at that when I started letting the baby listen to the best of queen as a lullaby, so electronics are just one of a long list of things where I've missed the cream of the crop cutoff.
Instead of subjecting myself to yet another walk down mommy guilt lane, I've decided it's best to embrace Team Electronics and create a list of excuses reasons that using electronics on long trips is actually a wise parenting move.

Happiness is a glassy eyed car trip

We don't use electronics at home.  As a rule,Nintendos,video games, even tv is very limited in our house (for the kids, Mama needs her Project Runway).  On weekends, we loosen the reins, but screen time is limited during the week.

Don't let the books fool you~they are just waiting to use approved electronic devices.

Kids need downtime while traveling.  Traveling is tough on everyone, but little ones especially need something soothing and comfortable to help them relax when everything around them is different. 

chicago museum of artTraveling Dads take their downtime with their eyes closed

Parents need downtime while traveling.  Really, after navigating the ticket counter, security, and car rentals with kids in tow, it would take superhuman abilities not to need to retreat into the cone of silence for a moment or two.

Portable, dependable and clothing optional
It's a portable, dependable, non-messy entertainment device.  Nowadays there is almost nothing that can’t be done on an ithingy or other handheld device -it is veritably limitless source of entertainment for all ages.  The pocket size makes it great for travel and easy to whip out and then put away with no fuss.  Downloading a new game right before a long flight is a guaranteed entertainment winner.  Who knew 99 cents could buy happiness?

I'm Outnumbered. There was a brief time in my parenting career when there were as many parents as kids.  During those years it was feasible to focus on interacting as a means of entertainment, but those years of two or less children have passed.  We long ago left man to man defense and  moved into zone defense.  With four kids, it's a prevent defense and we're just trying to not give up the long ball, ya know.

Photographic (and completely unstaged) proof that I spend time with my kids

I spend a lot of time with my kids.  Trust me; I'm not just saying that to make myself feel less like a loser.  I am homeschool mom so my kids are with me all the time.  All that time spent together gives us plenty of chances to play games and sing songs and talk.  By the time we go on a trip, everyone is plenty happy to zone out in their own personal space.

Silence is Little Eisteins on DVD

I want to be a good ambassador of family travel.  Let's face it, kids+video game=a fairly silent traveling experience.  At a time when many people view family traveling as anything from a nuisance to a downright personal affront, I feel a certain onus to ensure that my family is not perpetuating a negative image.  Fellow travelers don't care how you achieve the silence, just so long as you do it.

There's no trophy for the most electronic free traveler. Or the most naturally fed family or the mom with the highest tolerance for glitter crafts for that matter. At the end of the day, most families are doing their best and sometimes that means giving up on an ideal or two.   Its one thing to know when to strive for excellence, but sometimes good enough really is good enough.



Electronics make travel possible.   Is it preferable and even more admirable to travel electronic free? Maybe.  But, is it reasonable? Not for this family. And giving up family travel isn't in the cards for us either, so we compromise. I will always genuinely admire families who make the commitment to travel e-free (and promise myself I will only feel the teensiest bit jealous), but we are not destined to be that family. In the interest of a diehard commitment to seeing the world and taking the kids along for the ride, we'll keep traveling with suitcases in one hand and car chargers in the other.

This post is a part of Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda




Barbara December 6, 2011 at 4:15 am

I cannot even imagine going on a trip without our Ipad to keep our little guy entertained.  Especially on those long trans-atlantic flights. 

walkingontravels December 6, 2011 at 11:44 am

Can you call my mother and read her this list? She doesn't quite understand the electronic necessity in my life. Now keep in mind this is the woman who used to read the Illiad and the Odyssey to us on 9 hour car trips (self-edited for violence and grade level of course.) But she is also the mom who didn't travel with us till we were in school except 1-2 hour car trips to NJ. 
I won't be winning mom of the year ever. And glitter, yeah, not so much, but like you, I think we find a good balance. We spend a lot of time outside, playing with friends and away from the TV, phones, etc. If I need to throw some electronic time his way in order to keep us all sane, then darn it, I will! Thanks for letting me know I'm normal today for not being someone's idea of the perfect parent :-) I'd rather be in your club than theirs anyway. 

Sanna December 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Nice list !

Steve December 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

LOL, I loved this post. I am SOOO on your side. When we go through security at airports it's like somebody trying to carry on an entire Apple store. I love that my children don't bother anybody when we travel, and boy does it help out when things go wrong. You won't catch me traveling without electronics any time soon.

Lisa December 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I freely admit that we travel with all the gadgets and gizmos too and I honestly don't know how anyone with a teenager manages to travel tech-free and not have a surly kid on their hands the entire time.  As far as I'm concerned if it buys a little peace and quiet on vacation then it's ok.

Lisa Wood December 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I think that what ever works for one family is what is perfect! Wonder why us Mums all go on such a guilt trip? Why do we second guess what we are doing….even when it works so well for our own family?
I reckon that at the end of the day if Mum is happy, then kids are happy – be it with electronic games or not! We dont have a TV or DS or Wii but that is our choice. We loved DVD on the computer, and if our boys are quiet while travelling then we get to relax – which makes for a happy family!

Tracy December 9, 2011 at 3:02 am

I totally agree!!! Parenting has turned into this huge competitive sport. I love socialising with other parents whether it's online or in real life to share the trials, funny stories and watch how others deal with situations … if we could all just avoid comparing ourselves to others!
I'm sticking up my hand to say my kids use electronics far too much (they're watching the iPad right now!). We also watch a lot of TV and eat at McDonalds on travel days!

Traci December 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Yeah, I'm squarely in this camp too. The kids are on vacation too, after all, so why shouldn't they have fun? I'm not saying plug them in and forget them, but for long rides or flights, absolutely.

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