I was asked by a Facebook friend to share some advice on time management and children. I thought “this post is going to be brilliant” and started keeping track of my daily things and trying to remember how routines worked. As time passed and I took a deeper look at the inner workings of my motherhood, I kinda panicked. Mostly because there is really no one right way to parent (so long as you’re not abusing your kids), but partly because holy crap, I am a nightmare when it comes to advice. I have a parenting ideology that probably isn’t found in a lot of books or isn’t respected in a lot of communities.
You see, I go on instinct. Nowadays “instinct” is tagged as “flying by the seat of your pants”, which is actually an accurate portrayal. Having my kids young and being a product of a fairly relaxed generation has probably influenced a lot of that, but mostly it’s because I remember trying the whole parenting magazines/books and thinking that for the most part, they’re full of shit. Is that a universal truth? No. I bet that there are mothers out there who carry those books around with post-it reference marks and it totally works for them.
But here’s the thing, if there is one universal truth out there when it comes to parenting, it’s the whole “no two kids are alike” thing.
I am finding that to be absolute truth. I cannot parent K they way I’m raising G. Granted, G is only 4 months old so it’s hard to completely have a grasp on how different they will be, but I’ll be damned if it’s not like night and day. K was a serious baby and a very calm toddler. She had to grow into her spunk, and even then it’s pretty contained. She’s a cool kid, though sometimes she has a serious nasty streak reminiscent of Regina George. Nipping that shit is a hard task that isn’t appropriately handled by coddling OR authoritative discipline. Meanwhile, G is the happiest baby on earth. You look at him and he smiles. His favorite words so far are “happy” and “smiles”. He’s just more alive. He likes being held more than she did, but minds strangers more than her. I’m pretty sure I’ll be raising him differently. However, I’m just going with it. I manage my time based on what feels right, and I also parent based on what feels right.
Here’s another common sense thing. No one is going to know the effects of the latest parenting techniques on a child until they are well into adulthood. This is one of the biggest reasons why I just adopted a feeling of “go with it”. I had to figure out what works best not only for my kids, but what works for ME. What’s missing in a lot of these books, articles, etc is that we need to start taking into account ourselves. I personally feel that there is way too much out there that advocates for you to sacrifice yourself upon the altar of parenting. Absolutely everything you do should be for your kids. Well….ummmm…..if I act as an automaton who is just there for the will of others, what would I teach my kids about individuality? People recommend co-sleeping for extra super duper bonding. Unfortunately, I wake at the sound of a spider breaking a leg and my kids snore at a level that would rival a Mack truck. So yeah, I’m gonna sleep alone. I think we all know how I feel about those UNSELFISH MOTHERS out there who think that being yourself, needing sleep, having goals and interests = bad mom. But truthfully, how can you be the best mother you can be if you can’t function? Or if you’re losing yourself and unhappy?
The other part of the parenting advice shenanigans is all the passive aggressive tone of parenting magazines and the parents that fill them. They always seem to imply that if you’re not doing the latest thing right now, you are going to destroy your kids. Guess what, you’re not. I use reward systems because K is crazy competitive not only with others, but with herself. It keeps her contained and keeps everything fun for her. She sleeps alone in her own bed and has since birth, I feel it helps because we don’t have to tiptoe around when she’s sleeping because we got her used to the noise. I take privileges away and she has to earn them back when she gets into trouble. I have never, EVER tolerated public fits from her. Teaching her how to behave in public is part of parenting to me, because there is a time and a place for kids to be kids. At a dinner table, throwing shit, yelling and disrupting everyone else is not one of them. Most importantly, when I tell her I’m going to do something, whether it’s a reward or punishment, I stick to my word. Is this going to work for every child? HELL NO. Which is why I wouldn’t avidly recommend doing exactly what I do.
The biggest thing? I am privileged enough to have someone else in the picture. I don’t have to do it alone and I have no idea how I would be able to. Not only to I have someone in the picture, but I have someone who doesn’t believe in gender norms. The dad is an amazing co-parent who spent 3 years at home with the kids because he felt that I’d be more successful. How am I supposed to tell a single mother what she should do with her kids? She will do what works for her.
You know what matters to me at the end of the day? My son is the happiest baby on earth. My daughter tells me every day that I’m the best mom in the whole wide world. She is halfway through the school year and ready for the next grade. She is polite, kind, and kinda fun to hang with. She shares, she cares, she is going to be a wonderful human being. All this because I do what works for me.
While I’m never too comfortable telling people HOW to parent their kids, the only thing I can say when people ask how I do it all or how I get a child to do x or y, all I can say is do what works for you….and never let anyone shame you into thinking otherwise!