Let’s get the paint out, she said.
It’ll be fun, she said.
The boys will love it, she said.
It won’t be that messy, she said.
It’ll inspire their creativity, she said.
Sometimes my inner mommy has…er… interesting ideas. I’ve been trying to embrace this whole stay at home parenting thing more. I want to be with the kids. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that I was ranting about the fact that I had to go back to work full time.
But I’m struggling to do it mindfully and practically. How does one be a stay at home mom mindfully? Does it mean spending my every single moment with the kids? How do I do that and keep a sense of self? Is it wrong that I want to maintain my sense of self? How much structure or un-structure should I be pushing for a one and three year old? Do I need to present them with a three course lunch because I’m home and I can? I promised myself to just do what’s right for me and mine, right?
I’m finding myself caught between the varying parenting techniques, sometimes treading water, sometimes drowning in a sea of self doubt. Much like everything in America- there are far too many choices, none of them ideal, all of them an extreme cult type thing- where it is all or nothing and forget everyone else.
There is the independence doctrine, filled with references of walking to school in the snow and making dolls for Christmas, wherein kids should be
forced encouraged to entertain themselves to make their absentee parents proud foster individuality and promote independence. This one also pushes supports having few toys and gadgets and zero screen time. But when left to their own imaginations devices, my house quickly devolves into the boar hunting scene from Lord of the Flies. And quite honestly, when my boys are teenagers I don’t want them going on some sort of tv/computer/video game bender because we’ve not let them taste the punch. Make a fruit forbidden and you can bet your buns that your kids will find a way to become OBSESSED with that very thing. We tried this with my sister and the internet. It blew up in our face, and potentially could have become a very dangerous situation. It is a blessing that we’ve been able to experience parenting teens before having kids of our own. Because, let me tell you- we learned a heck of a lot about what NOT to do. This method could work, if I had a farm, and if I didn’t love my Hulu so much. A hypocrite I will not be.
Then there is the
perfectionist micromanaging technique, which one would think my type A control freak would love. This involves detailed schedules and pre-printed grocery lists, preferably crafted by oneself because none of the calendars or day planners available in Office Max or on the wide world that is the internet have the right set up, or the right font, or are pretty enough. These moms also have command centers free of clutter and color coded wall calendars that sync with their iPhones. They lose their baby weight super fast, volunteer for everything, can speed clean their house in half an hour and have mastered the ten minute homemade dinner. Or at least that’s what their beautiful blogs would have you think. I’m a reader of many such blogs- because I often get great ideas from them about how to stay organized and I’m envious in awe of their abilities to seemingly keep it all together in a nice and neat little package all tied with a Pinterest inspired hand crafted bow. There is the fact that I think most of them are so NOT as with it as they portray. They have a brand to sell themselves, and with all branding, there is a lot of shiny colorful packaging covering up what amounts of be the same parts of any other commodity. They are all human.
The problem with the micromanager is that I’ve done it (nesting is fun!), relished it, and then realized that I was one checklist away from locking myself in my closet from the sheer overwhelming impossibility of it all. I was continuously out scheduling, and out organizing myself, and was becoming an over-planned hot mess. It is precisely the reason why I’ve decided I want to embrace practicality and mindfulness in my life, or at least attempt to in between editions of my personalized day planner and cleaning schedule. I decided to try and stop branding myself as a mommy blogger and just start being real with myself and whoever may grace their presence here.
Then there are the traditionalists, who really are the homemakers of the 50’s, reincarnated in to these millennials that are up working out at 5 am and making muffins for breakfast and keeping their home spotless and crafting with the children and going to bible study and doing the laundry and pressing their husband’s shirts and getting a three course dinner on the table with dessert wafting from the kitchen. They make their own baby food and bread (wait, I do that too). I only half think that these parents are fantasies. Because I know some moms who certainly qualify. And I’m not naive- I know they have hard days and good days, but somehow they have so much grace and character that they can see the big picture and remove themselves from selfishness and self-judgement. I wish with my whole heart that I could be that enthusiastic about being a mom and wife. And I am often questioning what is wrong with me when I can’t be that way. Everything is for a time right? Why can’t I let go of
sanity riding for a few years to be a 120% love it all mommy and wife?
The answer to that is, I. Don’t. Know. I don’t know, and I can’t dwell on it, otherwise some real self doubt starts to set in and that is not at all productive. Maybe I’m too much a pessimist, a cynic. Maybe I’m too selfish. Maybe my rough start to life has made me
obsessively extremely protective of the things I cherish, like my ride time.
The list is endless- there are the homeschoolers (religious and non), the un-schoolers, and the overachievers (i.e. flash cards and a calendar filled with field trips and extracurriculars). There are the social butterflies and the naturalists. There are the germaphobes and over-protectors, the vaccinators and the co-sleepers. The constant throughout them all, at least to me, is that when you sign on you sign on with full commitment. There is no taste-testing the doctrine, if you drink the cool-aid you better keep on drinking. Better yet, you better start offering your cool-aid to every other parent you know, because they. are. doing. it. wrong.
So what are the rest of us supposed to do? I know there are many friends of mine that are in the same boat- and we feel, well, ostracized from the herds. We don’t fit into any parenting mold, and, honestly, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m a little bit of all of them, mixed up in my own glorious individuality. I like a crazy organized closet, in all it’s color-coded sleeve length sorted glory, but we had baked chicken and mac-n-cheese for dinner…. again. I love seasonal decorating, but sword fighting with the boys? Not. So. Much. And, yeah, The Chronicles of Narnia is on in the background for the 80 gagillionth time because it helps dull the screaming. Painting, sure, but the mess is going to drive me bananas and I’ve still got to figure out what to do with the remaining 10 hours and 35 minutes of our day, and I have help. (I know, I know, cry me a river.) Sometimes I just want to work on my beautiful blog, and I never, ever care that my truck smells like a barn.
It is not at all lost on me that, if I am to maintain my semblance of self, then there must be a semblance of structure. If I am to keep riding, then I must keep a calendar and schedule.
I think most new parents feel this way, and some how we get caught up in these ideas of the perfect parent. We stop following our instincts and begin sampling everyone’s cool-aid, which does nothing more then give us a really bad stomach ache. Either that, or we have to start mixing the cool-aid with vodka so we can enhance the flavor. Modern practical parenting should be like a good stew, aged meat, tossed in the fry pan first, fresh veggies of all different sizes, seasonings to taste, with the occasional can of corn if you forgot to buy fresh, and a splash of beer or wine to give it depth. A good stew helps you survive the winter. So, too, should our approach to parenting. We should shop the aisles and use what suits our tastes.
Then again, maybe this is just all in my head. Maybe I really do need to get over myself. Either way, I’ll continue to try to figure out what the answers are for me and mine. I’ll try to be more mindful and practical on a daily basis.
We had fun painting. Little R tried to eat the paint, but quickly realized that was not a good idea. Maybe I shouldn't have put the paint on plates.... I made myself stop and interact in the moment, rather than chasing their every move with a paper towel. And when they decided after ten minutes the water to clean the brushes was more entertaining, I did not intervene (i.e. it took every ounce of strength I had) to clean up right away, but instead let them play with the brushes in the water and “paint” the porch. Plus, I managed to not get any paint on myself, so I consider it a win. See?! I told you so! she said. Now if we can just get that scholarship to art school! Love and Happyness to all!
What are your thoughts on modern parenting and maintaining self? Where do you find balance?