There’s tyranny in 21st century parenthood. It begins with a mandate to sing, talk, rattle and roll with your new baby in every waking moment –at least if you want your baby to achieve her full potential. Read one article in any glossy magazine for moms, and you’re fully tuned into how your shoulders bear the responsibility (and imbedded anxiety) for that product, your child.
For two decades, I’ve watched earnest new moms agonize about missing even one teensy teachable moment, one drop of quality time. We fear we’re dropping the brain development ball if we go to the bathroom alone. I see the relief on tired faces when I explain that babies are little scientists. Everything in an infant’s world is stimulating. Babies need to learn to amuse themselves–by exploring a rattle in hand or staring at dark fan blades against white ceiling. To be constantly in a child’s face talking, playing, teaching deprives the child of exploring the world at his own pace. With mommy, nanny, or grandma always there to amuse, what happens when the child gets to school? The kindergarten teacher despises her.
Extend this push for over-the-top parenting –designed to enhance development, ensure safety, engineer kids’ happiness –to childhood overall? Birthday party limousines for six year olds, tag banned in schoolyards, mothers who drive two hours to campus for laundry duty have been the result. Extreme parenting has become the cultural standard and morphed into a lava flow of expectations on moms (and dads).
Finally, enough really seems to be enough.
When Time says it’s so, it must be so. (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html) Back-up for what I’ve been preaching for years. This is a call for sanity. This is recognition that, while this nation was founded upon the concept of a continually better life, the endless quest for “more, better, all” is not sustainable. The current recession may have been the unfortunate impetus — dollars for Russian lessons and bounce house birthday parties evaporate in the face of record unemployment rates. A silver lining for families is the permission to drop the parental overdoing.
Time’s article offered this concrete remedy: “let it go.” Over-parenting is driven by anxiety: Will my child turn out okay? Can my child compete? Will my child grow up safely? Until women learn to tackle the underlying absolute thinking that fuels this anxiety, it’s hard, as Gibbs’ article says, to shut off our inner helicopter parent and simply let go. We need new thinking habits. Forget the all-or-nothing thinking, e.g. that our kids will be stellar performers — or flop as quickly as Jay Leno in prime time. Hardly any single advantage or activity will make or break your child’s success in life.
The goal of this blog is to call attention to the unrealistic expectations –in our heads, in society — for mothers, and beyond that for women, And offer tools that make letting go possible. We can critically evaluate the news stories, scary reports, and competitive pull of “everyone is doing it.” We can stop the madness, practice straight thinking, compare notes and know we’re not alone. We can ask “who says” when expectations ignite the stress in us like so much gasoline on the fire.
Let’s start a conversation. I want your questions, comments, news about the pressures on women. We can design our lives in ways that work for us, rather than getting caught in a tangle of societal shoulds.