parenting, 1970's, doubt, mommy guilt

I Doubt Myself 22 Times A Day

parenting, 1970's, doubt, mommy guilt

I was born in 1978.

My sisters were born in 1981 and 1984.

I am constantly wishing that I could have raised my kids in the age my mom raised me.

My mom didn’t wonder whether we should eat gluten.  She didn’t doubt whether public school or homeschool or Montessori was the right choice.

She didn’t agonize over what theme our birthday parties should be, how long we should watch TV, or whether or not she was connecting enough with us.

She didn’t question whether she was a good mom very often.

She just knew she was.

Then there’s me.

I’ve never counted but I would guess that I doubt myself as a parent twenty-two times a day.

At least.

Should I let them play in the front yard unsupervised?  Is four years old too young to start discussing strangers?  Am I taking too many photos of them?  Am I taking enough photos of them?  Should I let them help in the kitchen more?  Is it okay that I’m not pushing them to read or know all their numbers and letters?  Do we do the whole tooth fairy thing or is that lying to your children?  Is lying to your children okay?  How much sugar is okay?  How much pizza is okay?

The list (sadly) goes on and on and on.

And it drains me.  And eats away at my self-assurance.

I constantly wonder whether I’m a good mom.  Or a great mom.  Or failing as a mom.

I’ve wondered over the years what the difference is between my mom’s generation of mothering and mine.

I think I finally have the answer.

If my mom needed help or had questions, she had a few places she could turn:

– her mom

– neighbors and friends

– the pediatrician

– Spock’s Baby and Childcare

– and her own intuition

While we as parents now have access to more resources for our questions, we actually now have more doubt, more uncertainty and feel less sure and supported than the previous generation.

How can we have so much more information about parenting and yet feel so much worse about how we’re doing it?

We just recently moved into a new home so we have boxes everywhere.

I suggested to the boys that we make a dump truck or crane truck out of some of the boxes.

Before even thinking about it, I grabbed my iPad and Googled “how to build a dump truck out of boxes.”  The boys were over my shoulder watching and began pointing out cool photos from the search results and we began to formalize how our construction vehicles would look.

Before I knew it (and without even going on Pinterest) we had some pretty epic ideas of what our construction vehicles would look like.

Painted yellow, wrapping paper rolls for arms, black butcher paper for the wheels to roll on, foam balls covered with electrical tape to look like wrecking balls…

The project had become something way bigger than I had ever intended.

And now I felt like if I didn’t deliver and make the vehicles look like the photos, that I had somehow failed at being a mom.  Failed at giving my boys a cool experience.

Or was it failing?

Should I just stick to my own plan and not use any photos?

Why am I even having this internal dialogue?!

By now the boys were restless, had over-inflated ideas of what we had set out to do, and I was doubting myself and my abilities.

I put the iPad down and marched upstairs with my box cutter.

I started cutting up the boxes and Mr. B said “but Mama, you don’t have the photos – how will you know what to do?”

And that’s when it hit me.

I think I’m inadvertently teaching my son not to trust himself.

It’s not an explicit lesson, but it’s there.

Since having the boys, I have slowly learned to not trust my intuition.

It’s not something I’m proud of.

I don’t know when exactly I felt like I needed to check with Google or a magazine or a book or a forum or Twitter or a blog before I make a decision.  But there was a shift somewhere.  A shift that plagues me daily.

Even though I have more access to information than was ever available to my mom, I am constantly envious of how self-assured she felt raising us.

I long for that.

I want more than anything to just trust my intuition and know that I’m a good mom.

I’m far from close to achieving this, but I have a few strategies to help me on this journey.  I hope some of these can help you as well.


1. Avoid TV and commercials

There is a huge gap between what is reality and what is being sold to us as reality.  Yes, TV shows are selling you something.  Be it a way of life, a style of living room, your wardrobe…even reality TV isn’t real.  I feel when I watch these shows like it’s possible for my living room to look eclectic-urban farmhouse style chic and for my kids to never whine and my eyebrows to always be perfectly groomed, but then I look around and compare that to what I see and I feel terribly inadequate.

2. No Pinterest

Some can handle it, my brain cannot.  All I can think about is how I should be doing everything and I’m not.  Then I can’t cut up a watermelon without wondering if I should have carved it into a boat or if it’s fine to just spoon out the pieces with an ice cream scoop and dump them in a bowl (totally what I do btw).

3. Look through my baby book and baby photos

I turned out pretty okay.  What my mom did with me worked.  When I’m in doubt about birthday parties or Christmas’s or activities I look at old photos and boost my confidence by knowing that what was good enough for me, is good enough for my boys.

4. Simplify

We have so many opportunities everyday to complicate our lives.  I try to say no to those complications as often as possible.  Less activities, less consumption, less stuff usually makes me feel more in touch with my own values and intuition.

I often wonder if it’s just me that feels this way.

I hope if you have a similar struggle you’ll let us know.  Whether here in the comments or by emailing us privately.  We read all the emails we receive and we love when others comment with their own ideas and resources that are working for them.

I Quit

18145823_s_optWhen I was in 4th grade my homeroom class began a unit on poetry.

I was excited.

I had been writing poetry on my own time purely for the fun of it for a couple years by that point. I gave the poems to family members, or simply kept them for my own enjoyment.

We were given the first assignment and I went home and began working on it that very evening. I loved to turn the words over and over in my mind, finding combinations that rhymed while also evoking a meaning or sensibility that interested me.

I turned in the fruits of my work, a true labor of love, at the end of the week. I will never forget my 4th grade teacher’s words to me when she finished reading it:

“This is plagiarism. You copied this.”

I beamed. I felt a thrill of pride sing through my heart. She was so impressed by my skill, that she was praising my work by exaggerating that it was good enough to be copied from a real poet.

She frowned down at me. “You copied this, didn’t you? Answer me!”

I froze. My heart turned into a stone and sank into my stomach. She actually believes I copied this poem, I realized.

It didn’t matter how much I protested, or how vehemently. She gave me an F on the assignment and called my parents to talk it over with them. In the end, my parents believed me and took my side, but I still missed recess for a couple days as punishment.

I recall this memory so vividly for a number of reasons, one of which is this:

It was the very first time I experienced a grown-up in a position of power and responsibility who is dead, flat, completely wrong.

It shook me up, bruised ego aside, to realize that these big, lumbering humans can be just as fallible as any child.

It opened my eyes to see the possibility that the world built by these big children, these parents and lawmakers and priests and businessmen, could sometimes be a system capable of profound mistakes.

It was that day in 4th grade that I began a journey to quit caring what anybody thinks about me. What follows are the ways that I continue my journey each day to quitting caring what anybody thinks about me or my family.


1. Screen Time

Unlike my spiteful, wounded 4th grade attitude, I now quit caring what anybody thinks with an attitude of intentionality, mindfulness and compassion for others

We limit screen time in our home. Our kids have zero access to mobile devices. That’s zero, with an aught. They can watch a few selected shows sparingly and only with no commercial interruptions. They have no access to video games and they don’t watch the latest Disney movie.

But I don’t pretend to believe that my way is the best and only way that any and every child should be raised. Why is that? Because I was most definitely not raised this way.

I watched way more than 40 hours of TV every week. Way more. Every violent cartoon and 80’s TV show you can name. Literally thousands of hours of TV and commercials every year, during my most formative years.

As soon as I got my hands on a Nintendo Entertainment System for my birthday in 2nd grade I became instantly, irrevocably addicted. My parents tried to limit my time in front of the NES, but I used every tactic at my disposal to get my fix.

In many ways, it was a different time. We didn’t know back then what we know now about how harmful these seemingly-innocuous pastimes can be for children. Especially when they are taken to extremes. My parents and I were in our own universe together, just like every family, and we found our own balance in that universe.

And I know that superb parents and families across the world are each in their own universe, too. The methods that work for them in their universe may not look like the methods that work for us in ours.

In fact, one method in many families’s universe might be to look at the methods we use in our family’s universe and decide that we are Fruit Loops.

I take the view that everybody who draws breath is and should be entitled to his opinion and its free expression. Just as I am entitled to quit caring what you think about me when I decide to. That means no secret guilt, no strings attached, no sleepless nights.

It’s easier said than done, especially when someone I truly care about takes a vocally judgmental position on one of our methods. It can be challenging to separate the person from the opinion, but as with all skills, I get steadily better at it with practice.


2. Conspicuous Consumption

I have never seen the value in spending extra money to show off a company logo. I do see the value in spending money where I spend my time.

This means I spend a bit more money to have a reliable, functional, comfortable vehicle for me to commute 2 hours per day back and forth to my office. But it also means that I see no point in spending more money than necessary to have a more expensive car for the purpose of impressing strangers.

This means spending money on a reliable, capable smartphone to use to perform my work functions and stay connected with the most important people in my life. But it doesn’t mean that I need to show off the latest and greatest model every year.

I had my last phone for 4 years and it met my needs admirably, despite a few scratches and dings.

This means my family buys less expensive, classically-styled clothing which last a long time but don’t sport any trendy labels.

This also means that I quit caring what labels you are sporting, or what car you are driving, or what phone you are carrying.


3. The Right Way

The way I drive drives Sarah crazy. Sarah has gifts for finding efficiencies in nearly any process, for organization, for taking the shortest route from point A to point B.

I like driving the same way I like showers.

My mind can slide off into rich, vivid, waking daydreams. Sometimes I get my best ideas or my most potent insights while driving or taking a shower. The mechanical motions of performing the tasks free my mind to wander.

However, this sometimes results in missed turns, slower reactions to green lights and late arrivals. This is the part that pushes Sarah’s buttons. So when she is in the car with me I do my best to refrain out of respect and love for her.

My way of driving isn’t the right way and Sarah’s way of driving isn’t the right way. There is no right way to drive. There is no right way to do anything.

So I reserve the right to quit caring if I’m doing things the wrong way, because there is no wrong way.

In a related story, I was recently subject to the judgment of a waitress at a restaurant when I took Mr. B and Mr. C out to dinner.

This was at one of these chain restaurants which have now adopted the policy of placing an obtrusive and obnoxious touch-screen tabletop computer on every table.

These devices have video games, access to websites; sometimes they even play video and audio. I find them annoying beyond my tolerance, not only for what they imply about our culture (what, we can’t talk to each other for 20 minutes while we face each other at a table and eat food together?), but also because they incessantly flash advertisements throughout the meal.

I removed the screen to another table and when the waitress returned she said, “Oh, did your table not have a computer? Here you go,” as she tried to replace the unit.

“No thanks, we don’t want that,” I said, politely but firmly.

“Well you’re going to need it when it’s time to pay the check,” she replied in an icy, condescending tone.

“We probably won’t pay then,” I replied with a joking smile. She returned my smile, only a beat too late, then retreated, computer in hand.

She is entitled to her opinion and the passive-aggressive expression of it, just as I am entitled to reflect my distaste for her attitude in my tip.

Besides, there is no right way to pay for my dinner at her restaurant. There is the way that the restaurant would prefer that I pay, there is the way that I might prefer to pay, but that’s it, despite any tone that any waitress might choose to take at any restaurant anywhere.

There is no right way.


In Conclusion

I’ve quit caring what anybody thinks. Sometimes I forget, but I always remember eventually. And I quit caring a little bit more each day.

What would happen if we all quit caring about these things? Would the economy collapse when nobody cared what brand was on their shirt anymore, what brand of car they drove, what brand toothpaste they used?

I don’t know. What I know is that it feels good letting go of what anybody else thinks about the choices we make for ourselves and our family. It feels like a kind of freedom.

How do you handle the judgement of others when it comes to you and your family?

Please post a comment to let us know!

Sarah’s Spring Round-Up

18245594_s_optIt’s been awhile since I’ve done a round-up and there are a lot of things that have been catching my eye lately.

For example, Four New Books You’ll Love – I can’t wait to get a copy of Polar Bear’s Underwear.

The hardest job in the world will surprise you.  Unless of course you have this job, and then you’ll just nod along in agreement.

How to Become a Better Person.  The School of Life has knocked it out of the park with this one.  Going to print out the manifesto to hang on my fridge.  I need to remember #3 – so hard.

This designer created custom wallpapers to help remind you to put down your phone. (Warning: there is a choice word in one of the images.)  I downloaded all of these and am curious to see if they really work.

Dave Barry on what use to constitute good parenting.  Curious to see what you think of this.  I kind of wish we could all go back in time.

And lastly, Are We Growing a Generation of People Addicted to Screen Time?  Always a topic that fascinates me.  I wish I had the answer. It’s a tough question and I’m always curious what others think.

So what about you?  Anything interesting out there that I or others should see?  Please share!

Is Naptime Making Your Child Less Healthy?

16960148_s_optWho doesn’t love naps?

Well, pretty much every child, I guess. I remember despising nap time, which always seemed to come right when the fun was just getting started.

So I can empathize with Mr. B and Mr. C when they complain about naps and when they attempt to whine, cajole or fuss their way out of them.

“You always feel better after your naps,” I tell them. “You need your nap so that you can be happy boys tonight,” I tell them.

And who am I kidding, Sarah and I probably need naptime even more than the boys do!

It’s a welcome break in the day’s activities to catch up on housework or other boring adult tasks, not to mention that it can give a sleep-deprived parent a chance to catch some Zs of their own.

But we’ve always thought that there’s no harm in it. Our boys do seem more refreshed in the evening when they take good naps in the afternoon, after all.

Which is why I was surprised to learn that a recent review of dozens of studies which attempt to identify the benefits of napping as documented in the pages of US News and World Report paints a very different picture of what the outcomes of naptime might really be for your child.


1. Napping Might be Depriving Your Preschooler of Sleep

Here’s the part that jumped right out at me:

“The most significant finding from our study is that there is not support in the current body of research for enforcing naps in preschool children to improve their health and well-being,” the authors said. “Napping in early childhood is often assumed to have universal benefit and this assumption hasn’t really been questioned by research before now.”

The researchers reviewed 26 studies related to napping in children aged 5 and under. They looked for information about nighttime sleep patterns. They also looked at behavior, stress, obesity, accidents and thinking skills.

Napping during the day was only consistently linked to falling asleep later, getting less sleep overall, and having poorer-quality sleep, particularly among children older than 2, the study found.”

This basically means that if you have 4 year old (or a pair of them, like us), you might be making your kids less healthy by enforcing naptime.


2. But Wait, What? I KNOW My Kid Benefit’s From Naps!

Trust me; I am in the same boat with you. Before I read this article I would have told somebody who said that my boys don’t benefit from taking a nap to just spend one dinnertime with them on a day that they haven’t.

Pediatrician Adesman concedes that the research isn’t definitive in every case:

“Adesman added, “Given that the preschool years are major transitional years from a sleep standpoint and given that children vary in every other dimension imaginable, it is likely that naps may be helpful for some preschoolers and counter-productive for others.”

I feel like I know which side of the productive/counter-productive divide my boys fall on. But then I started thinking about our readers and their specific family situations…


3. Day Care, Mother’s Day Out and Preschool

One thing that immediately occurred to me was: What if your 3 or 4 year old is subject to enforced naps at daycare, or MDO or preschool?

What if part of the problem you have been having at home around bedtime could be resolved simply by instructing their teacher or caregiver to allow them to be exempt from the daily nap?

What if the root of many a child’s “difficult” attitudes or “chaotic” sleep patterns are as a result of too much enforced napping during the day?

Despite my belief that our boys do benefit from a nap during the day, this seems like much too important of a variable to simply ignore for families dealing with issues like the ones in the examples above.


In Conclusion

If you are dealing with behavior issues, problems with sleep patterns or issues of inattention in your 3 or 4 year old, consider trying to do without the daily nap.

Some good science backs up the idea that napping during the day could be at the root of some or all of these issues.

Also, please let us know which side of this divide your kids are on!

Do you believe they benefit from naps or do you think they could be counter-productive for your children?