Remote Parenting: I raise my kids via text messages - and I'm not ashamed to admit it

Photos: Supplied / Jo Abi
Photos: Supplied / Jo Abi 

There are so many different parenting styles and most parents don't fit neatly into one. I am part Tiger Mum, part Helicopter Parent, part Freerange Parent depending on the child, the situation and what mood I'm on the day.

But one parenting style that consistently describes me is I'm a 'Remote Parent' – that is a parent who raises their children via text on a regular basis.

I do more parenting via text than in person these days, and not just when I'm at work. I'm ashamed (not really) to admit I also parent via text when the kids and I are all at home.

Sometimes it's the only way to get their attention.

I have three children – Philip, 15, Giovanni, 11 and Caterina, 10 – and they are a wonderful (not wonderful) combination of teen/tween/autism spectrum/neglected sibling.

Which means communicating with them has always been complicated, to say the least.

My children are a perfect example of three completely different humans with specific and differing needs that change like the wind and threaten to drive me insane.

The one thing they share is a preference for communicating via text, thus the need to parent them via text. 

Parenting via text only works with older children who can legally be left at home for short periods of time. Philip is 15 turning 16 in April and can be left 'in charge' of his younger siblings, although in reality it's my daughter who is the most responsive to Remote Parenting.

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied / Jo Abi

Just today while at work, as it approached 10.30am I thought I'd check if they had even bothered to get out of bed yet.

Just in case you didn't know this yet, modern kids will wake in the morning, but this won't necessarily result in them getting out of bed. They are more likely to reach for their nearest device for an hour or two until they need to use the toilet or need to feed.

Which prompted my first text today:

"Hey, you guys up yet?"

Only my daughter answered, which I now know doesn't mean the boys aren't awake, they just can't grunt at me via text so stay silent.

"Yes," she answered.

"Can you all brush your teeth, put any dirty dishes in the kitchen and dirty clothes in the laundry please," was my next text.

From Philip: "When are you coming home?"

For those who don't have teenage boys, this meant: 'Mum, I want you to come home because I know you will clean my room for me if I haven't already and I really don't want to right now because I am texting/gaming/discording/snapchatting.'

Which, in his defence is true. I do tend to do that when I get home because the last thing I want to do when I get home is start nagging them to clean up.

I'd rather do that via text on the way home. Like the time I sent this one: "I really hope you are all up and dressed!!!!"

No answer.

Later though, I said: "On my way home, bringing food."

To which I received responses from all three of my children.

Philip: "Yay!"

Giovanni: "Good."

Caterina: "Did you get something that I like?"

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied / Jo Abi

And I'm not the only parent who uses text to raise their kids during the school holidays. My friend *Stephanie shared this exchange with her teenage son: 

Her: "Who just bought a Pele doco on YouTube?"

Son: "Me, sorry."

Her: "Ask please. Who walked the dogs?"

No answer.

And another time:

Her: "When are you home? You need to walk the dogs pls. I want a photo."

Three separate texts to which her son answered: "Ok."

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied 

And it's not just during school holidays that I have been parenting via text. It has come in handy as a newly divorced mother-of-three and hilariously, my children still expect me to parent them when they are at their dads.

My son sent this at the weekend: "Mum, I'm bored."

I responded: "What's dad doing?"

My son answered: "He's making dinner."

So I said: "I'm sure you can find something to do."

To which he said: "I've done everything today already."

To which I sent back a 'headslap' emoji then told him I was going into a movie and wouldn't be able to text anymore.

The mother wasn't at a movie, she was at home watching Grey's Anatomy eating UberEats, relaxing and not caring that her son was bored…

Even when they are at school, before and after the school bell rings, parenting happens via text.

Giovanni: "Mum, my iPad is about to die."

Me: "Can you charge it at school?"

Giovanni: "No, we are not allowed to use devices at school."

Me: "Can you ask them to charge it in the office and you can pick it up after school?"

Giovanni: "Can you ask them for me?"

Me: "Okay."

12 minutes later…

Me: "They said they are happy to charge it but to not make a habit out of it."

Giovanni: "It's okay. I'll just charge it when I get home."

Me: "Okay."

The mother wasn't okay. She was very, very, very annoyed but decided not to get into it before school, preferring instead to save it until her son came home from school.

And then this:

Caterina: "The new and improved you."

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied

I'm not embarrassed to be a Remote Parent. It's 2020 and a sign of the times and I'm not fighting progress anymore. We are evolving, we are changing, and technology isn't ruining our kids and/or their childhoods.

It's just another tool we can choose to use or not use, and I choose to use it, and embrace it because it makes my job as a mum easier.

It's also fun to text with my kids. They have such different senses of humour. We share photos, videos, information and interact more that we would have before devices came into our lives.

While I have reached peak Remote Parent these school holidays due to the divorce and the demands of my work, I feel grateful for it.

My kids know I am only a text away. I am here for them even when I'm not with them.

And how can that be bad?