Friday, January 4, 2008

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Parenting

Or Child Rearing in the 21st Century

Today's life is full of conveniences of which our ancestors never dreamed. The time it previously took to do daily tasks - gardening, procuring and preparing food, cleaning the house - has been cut in half and then again. Convenience, however, comes with its costs. It spews greenhouse gases into the environment, gobbles up natural resources, and generates waste.

Us ecologically-minded folks have turned to alternative ways to get things done. We hang our laundry out to dry instead of stuffing it in the dryer. We shop at the farmer's market and grow our own produce instead of hitting the local big box supermarket. We cook dinner from scratch rather than order take-out.

We push mow our own lawn instead of having the gardener "mow and blow" it. All of these things are wonderfully old-fashioned. They force us to slow down. They re-connect us with the food we eat, the land and ourselves. They also take a heck of alot of time.

This infringes upon our spare time which is frequently devoted to "quality time" with the children - playing board games together, reading them books, hiding with them in make-believe castles. Oh yes, I still do all that but not quite as much because, you see, I'm cooking dinner.

I can pop a frozen pizza in the oven and spend some real 1:1 time with my children while it heats up. I do that from time to time. More often than not, though, I'm scrambling to turn fresh, local ingredients into a meal all four of us will eat all the while tamping down the guilt of ignoring my children. It's a similar scenario while I'm hanging laundry, or working in the garden, or mowing the front lawn, or doing any number of my other newly acquired tasks. If I can't persuade the boys to help with whatever chore I'm doing, I'm "ignoring them."

Last night, I stayed up late roasting pumpkin seeds and making vegetable broth. This morning, I realized, as I was herding the kids out the door, that I forgot to pack my eldest's lunch. I confessed the fact to him and felt like a complete slacker mom. My first priority, I told myself, should be the children - their direct needs and not the more indirect needs of turning a mountain of pumpkin seeds and a heap of frozen vegetable scraps into something edible.

Did my eldest bemoan his mother's inadequacies? Did he pout that I had forgotten him? No. He leaped up and said, excitedly, "I can make my lunch!" With my oversight, he packed himself a delicious, healthy and no-waste lunch. As I watched him happily choose his lunch selections from the fridge and pantry, it dawned on me that all this "quality time" may not be the best thing for our kids. Maybe we over-parenting our kids.

These days, children do not make the slightest decision without our input or encouragement. They cannot play anywhere but under our watchful eyes. We shuttle them from activity to activity. We hustle to fulfill their every need and desire - or risk be considered "neglectful". Giving our kids some space, leaving them to their own devices (within reason) while we get back to the tasks of daily life isn't such a bad thing after all. Finding ways to meet their own needs and make their own decisions instills confidences, fosters intuition and teaches creative thinking. Plus, it gives me time to finish planting the cane berries.

What was the end result of my five year old packing his own lunch, he came home full - of pride.


Mommy off the Record said...

Awesome post. I often feel guilty when I am not putting all of my attention on the kids, but you are right, it is good for them to have time to themselves as well. And it is impossible for us to always involve them anyway.

Anyway, I completely agree with your points and could not have written it so eloquently.

Wendy said...

I agree about letting kids have time to take care of themselves (my daughter is making us pancakes, all by herself, right now, in fact.)

Though, I don't necessarily think it always needs to be a choice between roasting pumpkin seeds and playing with the kids. They really do love love to help with those activities (not so much mowing the lawn, but certainly gardening and cooking). Many of the things on my to-do list really are fun family activities.

As I'm sure you learned with your son, kids learn new skills constantly, and it's easy to underestimate what they can do.

Raw Vegan Mama said...

I loved this post! :) There is a little "mama guilt" with everything we do, isn't there?

I agree with Wendy, too. My son loves to do as much with me as possible. He always wants to "help gramma", too.

But sometimes when I am in the middle of making laundry detergent or something he says, "Mama, Hold ME!" I can't do right when he wants, and I know if I just bought some from the store I would be more available.

Thanks for such a great post!

Green Bean said...

Wendy, thank you for the reminder that kids skills grow constantly. I'm finding that out with my oldest who is no longer a little kid and suddenly more independent and capable of offering real help.

RVM and MOTR, I agree that it is important to involve kids in what you are doing as much as feasible. Sometimes, though, we just can't. There isn't enough time, they lose interest before the chore is done or it is not safe for them to be involved in yet (as with the laundry detergent example).

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with, as RVM put it, a little "mama guilt." :)

Thank you all! Happy Sunday.

Burbanmom said...


Thanks so much for taking some of the guilt of good environmentalist = bad mom off my shoulders. You're right, the kids should be learning independence from us, not reliance! Great post!

PS.... Happy Belated Birthday! What a coincidence, I'm 29 too!!!! Have been for a while now ;-)

jeneflower said...

Great insight. Perhaps our example is just as important as our time together.


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