Moms are a harried and stressed-out group. They’re expected to meet a growing list of expectations from experts of all stripes, stay fit and attractive, be good time- and money-managers, maintain a strong and interestingly sexy relationship with their husbands, make sure their children’s nutritional needs are met, monitor their children’s academic progress, and “defend them from all dangers and adversities.” Beyond all argument, the job of mother as I’ve described it is impossible; nobody actually expects mothers to do all of these things–except mothers themselves! Part of my objective in this blog is to clear away some of the ridiculous inner demands women place on themselves (or at least, to expose them as such), and inject some common sense into the job of mothering.
What is really required to be a good mom? Not as much as you might think. As I’ve said before, mothering is NOT complicated! It’s not always easy, but it is absolutely not complicated. The job of a mother is to help free her children from the bondage they are in to their own self-centeredness. The way to do this is to insist that children pay more attention to you and other adults than you and other adults pay to them. Tell them what to do, and expect them to do it. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. Don’t allow them to argue with you. Don’t fret over their homework, or any other responsibility they’ve been given. Allow them to fail. Love them and encourage them, but don’t coddle or spoil them, or listen to their whining. And maintain your own interesting life. Simple!
The trouble is, we are constantly and unrelentingly assailed from all sides with well-meaning but unhelpful advice. Women for thousands of years have relied on the experience and advice of their own mothers and grandmothers; now we have to ask behavioral scientists and psychologists? These are men and women who’ve made a living out of convincing us that the most natural thing in the world– one that we used to understand instinctively and manage quite successfully, thank you very much–is suddenly beyond our ability to adequately comprehend without their assistance. And we believe them, because they have more education than we do (although their common sense is often questionable). What are we thinking?!
PROBLEM AND SOLUTION
Unfortunately, we have a problem. Because of current thinking, insistence on “tolerance” and the plethora of “experts”, people are afraid to “impose” their beliefs on their own children, or to suggest there is such a thing as moral right and wrong; in many cases
I think we’ve become fearful of even having beliefs! Because of this reluctance to teach virtue and morality, which might be considered politically incorrect, parents focus on things like sign-language, or breast-feeding, or attachment parenting, or water births, or whatever the current trend may be. I’m not saying these are necessarily bad, but when mothers obsess over them, they get confused, and become incapable of leading their own children–they lose the joy of mothering.
So, in an effort to do my part in making the job of mothering a joyful and empowering experience, rather than something to be entered into with great trepidation, (and only after reading “the right books”), I want to give all you mothers out there some advice: Stop Reading!!!! Put down the book, close the blog posts, don’t read your well-meaning friend’s advice she emailed or posted on Facebook. Just stop!
Think about what’s in front of you
–a child. She’ sweet and cute, and you love her to death, and she’s a mess, right? Well, sometimes anyway. She cries, throws tantrums, won’t go to bed when you want her to, doesn’t want to eat anything but junk, and refuses to do what you tell her to do. In other words, she’s just like you! At least, she’s like you when you aren’t behaving as an adult–but you know what adult behavior is, and she doesn’t. So, as Rihanna would say, “Shut up and drive!”
The best advice I ever got regarding childrearing was from my kids’ first pediatrician. He was a great guy, of the old school, had served during WWII, and had been my husband’s pediatrician all through childhood, so he’d seen a lot. When we had our first child, and with every subsequent child, he always told us the same thing: “Pretend you’re on a desert island–nobody else is around–and do what you think is best.”
He wasn’t suggesting that everybody who ever has a child will always do the right thing–we all know that’s not true, as unfortunate as that is. What he was saying is that good parents–those who genuinely want to do a good job and raise their kids right–have a pretty good idea of what to do and how to do it, so they shouldn’t second-guess themselves!
TRENDS OF THE PAST
Consider the following: My mother was given something called “twilight sleep” (which involved the use of sodium pentathol in the anesthesia) during childbirth. I was fed cereal during my first week of life. When my kids were little, current wisdom said they should sleep on their tummies with crib bumper cushions. Before the 1950’s, there was no such thing as kindergarten. I was spanked as a child, and I spanked my children from time to time. I allowed my children to “cry it out” during the night. You could not have paid me to have a “family bed.” We did not have a “democratic” family, and my kids were required to do chores–lots of them–without being paid. When we went to crowded areas, I sometimes put my toddlers on a leash. We had set bedtimes, and my children were required to eat what I served them, when I served them, without complaint.
Everything I just mentioned would be considered controversial today, at least in some circles, but you know what? In spite of being heavily sedated, my mom gave birth to four healthy children. In spite of being fed cereal during the first week of my life, I grew up quite normally–I don’t have digestive issues, and I’m not obese. Educational norms have all gone down since the advent of kindergarten. Every single one of my kids has turned out well–they’re happy, functioning, well-balanced adults, and none of what I did or didn’t do has done any permanent damage. None of my children has attachment issues, nobody is obese, and nobody has nightmares about being abused as children. They look for opportunities to vacation or spend holidays with us, and frequently ask us for advice.
Children are born helpless, ignorant, and foolish. They desperately need for you to be a source of consistency and calm, not to constantly be on the lookout for the latest and greatest way of parenting, always second-guessing yourself and uncertain as to whether or not you’re doing things “right”. It’s all been done before, and done very well–and you can do it, too.
If your friends offer you their advice, give you the latest great book on the latest wonderful “approach” to parenting, or try to convince you with nearly religious zeal to embrace a particular way of doing (or not doing) something, just smile, politely thank them, and then–forget about it. You have enough common sense to know what you need to do–so use it, and make your life simpler!
P.S. You have my permission to stop reading this blog! If you “get” the thing about common sense parenting, and teaching your kids right from wrong, you’ll do just fine!
Next post: Part II: Beat Your Children Up Every Day.