Wednesday, March 30, 2011

practice makes...

My darling husband emailed me an article the other day (with the subject line "article for blogpost"... he's so supportive and encouraging... and he likes to harass me) about a new trend of parents who don't enjoy parenting. Some of this article was very frustrating to me... study after study sited of why parents should be miserable, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and dissatisfied with their lives. And of course we all feel that way sometimes. Maybe even for an entire day. Perhaps even the bulk of an entire week. But my argument is that we have to remember the difference between our own happiness in the immediate present moment, and the fulfillment and satisfaction from creating a family that includes happy, well-adjusted, intelligent kids. I completely agree with the author of the article that we also need to acknowledge that our very ability to analyze our own personal day-t0-day happiness while raising children is a testament to the country we live in and the resources available to us. Our children are not out herding goats while we figure out how to feed them for another day. We can whine about not having time to fit in a yoga class. But I think the most important point the article makes comes at the very end:

Susan Callahan, co-author with Anne Nolen and Katrin Schumann of "Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too," points out that the intense focus on our children can lead many moms to resent motherhood. "We believe that parents, and women in particular, run into a couple stumbling blocks when parenting," Callahan says. "The three big themes tend to be perfectionism, multitasking, and stress." After interviewing more than 500 women while researching their book, Callahan says that she and her colleagues found that "perfectionism is the number one issue keeping modern mothers from enjoying the moment." "We are all so busy trying to be everything to everyone—and doing a stellar job while we’re at it—that we don’t have a spare second to plug into our own needs or desires," she points out.

This point was driven home to me personally when I was reading a parenting magazine last night before bed. There was a section devoted to healthy eating and an active lifestyle for children- something I am sure we can all get behind 100%, especially given the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. A sidebar caught my eye, informing parents that a serving of applesauce can have as much sugar as a brownie and a "turkey and cheddar on wheat has approximately 500mg of sodium" (GASP). Some of this options given (and these are the "good" options... not even the "better" or "best"... because, really, who wants to do the "best" for their kids?) are making your own breakfast treat with Greek yogurt, frozen bananas, honey, wheat germ, and a few semi-sweet chocolate chips or whole grain pasta tossed with a tomato based meat sauce- with grated carrots, zucchini, and wheat germ in the sauce of course. Now I am in no way poo-pooing these meal ideas. But in place of a good ol' turkey and cheese for lunch every now and again? Sorry Parenting: Early Years, I don't think applesauce for an afternoon snack is the dark horse problem behind childhood obesity. I just don't buy it (the idea... I DO buy applesauce... the unsweetened kind, of course). But now am I supposed to feel guilty when I slap together a PB&J for Laine's lunch? Should every lunch involve wheat germ (btw... EW)? How much pressure do we really need to add on to the already mind-blowing task of raising a decent human being?

I don't know how I feel about parents who find parenting to be depressing. I wonder if sometimes we do idealize the lifestyle, or perhaps look back on it when our children are grown with somewhat rose-tinted glasses. But don't we do that about everything? Was college really the "best time of our lives"? I think right now is pretty darn good in Casa Caldwell. And I think a great deal of why I am able to feel that way is because I know without a doubt that I am not doing everything right. I'm not feeding Laine flaxseed and quinoa everyday. I'm not reading every parenting book or following every guideline thrown at me by the pediatric association folks. I am not the perfect mom, but I enjoy my daughter and I try my best.

And I'm ok with that.

2 comments:

akspriss said...

I think some parents get too caught up in trying to do everything that is "perfect" for their kid or the "right" thing. The right thing for your kid is to make sure they are fed, happy, and healthy to the best of your ability! happiness is most important and some parents are too caught up in some of the other stuff that they forget to take time to have fun with their kids. i'm sure you are an awesome mom and enjoy life with Laine. keep up the good work. (im a friend of emily's :)

ShellyKate said...

I know I'm not a mom yet, but working with three very active, distinct and stubborn children has taught me one thing...sometimes you have to do what is convenient as opposed to what is "best." I get so frustrated with people who judge when I let Ty eat a pack of crackers in between tutoring and lacrosse. Or if I let Tess have half a snickers before we run to soccer. I'm sorry...I'd LOVE to make them a nutritionally balanced meal and snack 4 times a day, but it's just not possible sometimes. If that is what it takes for us to be able to get where we need to be when we need to be there and it doesn't cause world war 3, I'm down. Letting go of the need to be perfect has allowed me to enjoy my job far more than I otherwise would have. I imagine it is much the same for stay at home moms (which, let's face it...I get paid to be-kinda) and I hope more parents realize that it isn't about being a perfect parent...it's about being there for your child and helping them grow...and guess what? They love you. Flaws and all...