Why This Mom Decided to Walk Away from Google Maps Location Sharing

I sat at the kitchen table watching the Google Map icon move along Route 80 West.

It was my first time using the location sharing feature of Google Maps – and it hadn’t even been my idea. My son had suggested it.

He had just left, minutes before, on his journey back to college.

woman on cell phone
The thought that my kids could see that I was watching them on Google Maps alarmed me.

This year my oldest son was with him because of a lucky twist of educational timing. He was starting law school at the same university. For this fact I felt lucky since I’d be able to visit both at once. And I liked knowing they were somewhere together, if not under the same roof, at least near connecting sidewalks.

Until that moment of clicking on Google Maps, I’d been in constant motion that morning with all the last-minute things for both of them, a ball of energy.

“Do you need silverware? Plates?”

I was washing Mason jars that maybe he’d use as glassware. He was going to be moving into his first shared kitchen. I held up a coveted family cast iron skillet.

“Why don’t you take this.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

I was sure. Three more eaters no longer in the house. My remaining cast iron would suffice for the three of us left.

I had big plans for the day once they left.

I needed to get ready for my new job. The laundry room was filled with towels and sheets from our family camp vacation. Bedrooms had shape shifted into a strange and haphazard mix of child and adult things: mismatched dressers, single socks, random mail, framed diplomas next to kindergarten art. So much to do and suddenly enough time to start.

But as I watched them drive away, my energy seeped out even though I now had practice with them coming and going.

 After My Kids Left I Opened Up the Google Map Sharing App

That’s when I sat down at the kitchen table and opened up the Google map sharing app to see how it worked.

They were already 44 miles away.

Then 63.

I zoomed in, half expecting to see them in their car.

And that’s when I happened to notice a sentence at the bottom of the screen.

“Andy (my son) can see your location.”

The thought alarmed me. I imagined him seeing me stuck there at the kitchen table, slowly deflating as I watched them move along the highway.

I jumped up from the table.

I remember being concerned about my own mom when I went off to college.

She had always been so devoted to my brother and me in our growing up years. I felt her pleasure when we were together—even if it was just tasks like making us a daily warm dinner or handing us freshly ironed clothes.

I worried that when I left, the last one of only two kids, she’d be lonely, not sure what to do with all that extra time I took up. I even felt bad for being in a more exciting phase of life. I was apprehensive in my first phone calls to her, how was she adjusting?

I listened closely when we spoke, gently ask what she’d been up to. I still remember standing in the hallway of my college dorm pleased to hear she was taking an upholstery class at the local community college.

I remember how happy I was to notice relief in her voice when she relayed a story about how she took her time shopping with a friend since she “didn’t need to be home for dinnertime.”

Even without Google Maps, I knew her location.

Which is why I got up from the table and stopped watching the car.

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Megan Houston Sager is a teacher and writing coach and also a mom to four mostly grown sons. you can see more of her work at www.megansager.com

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