Friday, May 29, 2009

new relaxed mama

I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm going to become a relaxed mama rather than a stressed and obsessive mama. I am!

I read this article recently--an interview with a stay-at-home dad who just wrote a feeding-your-baby cookbook--that made me shift the way I go about things, at least for the moment. In the article he mentions parenting magazines and that from them he has mostly learned that moms feel guilty about everything. Well, of course we do! The pressure we have to be perfect parents, to attend to our children's every need, is enormous. I have to keep reminding myself (and letting my therapist remind me) that situations where my children look to other people for comfort (when I have sitters, or when I leave them in the childcare room at the gym, for example) are GOOD for them. It's healthy for them to learn they can get comfort from people other than me. It's healthy for them to recognize that they can be away from me and be okay. It's good for them to be away from me and know I'll come back again. Still, these are things my brain has to tell my gut over and over. There in my gut I just feel cramping.

There's one stay-at-home dad I run into fairly often at the gym, both of us dropping our kids off at Kidtown at the same time. Our gym recently opened a fancy outdoor pool and the other day when I saw him he was heading out there to sit in a chaise lounge with his laptop. "It's the best thing Rochester has going!" he said. "You're not going to work out?" I asked. "No," he said, "I did that yesterday." I asked him how he liked being at home with the kids (a 3 year old and a 4 month old) and he said he loves it. He didn't say, "It's really freaking hard and thank god for Kidtown and the pool." No, he said he loves it and that he was excited to have some alone time. There was no guilt. There was no justification. There didn't seem to be any angst. He seemed to see getting his own time as natural and necessary and nothing to feel bad about.

My guess is that these dads don't feel the same pressure moms feel; parenting is not part of their identity in the same way. They can make their own decisions about what kind of parent to be based on their own ideas of parenting, rather than on the pressures to be perfect.

So back to my new take on my own parenting.... It started the other night after I'd read the article and then talked to the fella at the gym and then Mitch called to say he wasn't going to be home until after the kids were in bed. I was tired. I was tired of working so hard. And the thing I stress about most is food. I hate feeding the kids. It happens so often! Three times a day plus snacks, and I feel like I'm bullying them every time. So that night I just quit. I decided we were going to have snacks for dinner and I didn't care if all they ate was crackers. Soooo, rather than cajoling Frances into eating, I simply asked her if she wanted a banana, or some cheese, or some yogurt, or whatever, and if she said no I said, "okay," with no pressure or frustration. A simple question. I fixed myself a little plate and sat beside her on the sofa, and I let her have tastes if she asked for them. I swear she ate twice the amount of food she usually does--I think it was because she wasn't busy resisting me.

All of THAT made me think about my parenting in general and that perhaps I should just chill and let her be who she is--picky eater or whatever--and not try to control things so much. For the last 2 days I'd say I'm at about 50%, and I'm choosing to think of that as success.

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