16 August 2012

Confessions of a Lazy Mother Revisited

This is an article I wrote for Parenting Magazine about a year ago. It was based on a couple of blog posts I'd written previously, so some of it may sound familiar to my long-time readers, but I think it's time I shared it again just in case you missed it first time round. I think you'll like it (unless you're an Attachment Parent - in which case please don't send me any abusive emails)

I admit it: I am lazy. I am not one of those people who bounce out of bed in the morning brimming with energy.
My personality is all-or-nothing: some days it's all - and some days it's nothing.
The housework gets done in a burst of energy - cupboards are sorted, floors scrubbed, pictures and pelmets dusted, bathroom and kitchen shine. And then for the next few weeks I do the bare minimum (pick up any obvious dust balls, sweep the worst crumbs, let the washing pile up until there's no clean clothes, make my bed just before I get into it...) You get the picture.

I have some other confessions...
1) I hate Shopping (in particular Grocery Shopping). I solve the grocery problem by being an online shopper. My $8.95 delivery fee is money well spent: They pick it, pack it and deliver it right to my kitchen table – all I have to do is put it away!

2) I hate exercise and avoid it like the plague. The only running I do is running late. Rather than walk twenty minutes to school, I take the car or let the kids scooter by themselves. I tell myself it helps make them more independent.

3) I don't actually like Baking (or cooking) I do it because I have to. Everything I cook is designed for optimum speed and the least amount of time spent in the kitchen. I buy cheese already grated and potatoes already washed. I do baking when the kids nag me enough or there's a birthday. I choose recipes which do not involve creaming the butter.

4) I am a hands-off Mum. My blog may be called “Greatfun4kids” but don't get the idea that I am some kind of creative super-mum, brimming with crafty notions.
I have bursts of enthusiasm (usually preceded by nagging guilt) where I will dredge up some crafty encounters, but mostly I am big on free play and letting the kids entertain themselves and each other.

We do special occasions very well (anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas) and try to have regular fun together as a family, but I am not the entertainment committee. My babies have always crawled around the house and found things to amuse them (after baby-proofing of course). We make sure they have a great backyard, plenty of friends, stuff to use for inventing games and then I leave them to it.

Now as you’ve been reading this, you may have been thinking either:
  • “Hallelujah! I’m not the only one!” or
  • “Oh my word. Those poor neglected children…”

We mothers have a nasty habit of putting pressure on ourselves and each other to be Supermum.
But Supermum is actually a grown-ups version of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. 
She’s made up. A myth. A fairy tale.

This quote by author Deborah Hill Cone, sums it up perfectly:

"Sisters, we have got to stop buying into all this Superwoman, Supernanny, Yummy Mummy, Alpha Female, MILF, Cougar craziness. It is nonsense. It is killing us, literally.

For too long we have all been complicit in this grand delusion that if you just get more organised or efficient or fitter or focused or a new personal trainer, or life coach, or gluten-free diet, you can control your life.

You can be the hard-arse career woman as well as the mother who makes her own organic baby food, and the designer homemaker and the sexpot wife.
Well I am telling you now: this is utter, utter tosh. Some of these roles are mutually exclusive, for a start.
You simply can't do it all. And we need to stop torturing each other by acting as though it is even an option."

Brilliant. And so true.
Show me a mum you think has it all together and I will show you someone who behind-the-scenes is barely keeping the balls in the air or the plates spinning. At some point you just know that gravity is going to kick in.

The truth is that Supermum is Fiction. She belongs in a comic book. She has nothing to do with real life.

In real life, we have our good days and our bad days. 
In real life we do some things well and let other things slide. 
In real life we often make mistakes... sometimes even the same one twice! 
In real life we can't do it all, can't have it all. 
Something's got to give.

Whatever choices we make there are sacrifices. Whatever we prioritise, something else loses out.

I blog. I do it when my kids are at school and kindy. Or in the evening when they're all in bed, and hubby's out. I love it. It's a creative outlet for me. But what gives?? The housework, mostly. So sometimes I do a mad spring clean and make up for lost time. On those days I don't get to blog.
I can't do it all.

And neither can you, my friend. So go easy on yourself and let yourself get off the wannabe-Supermum treadmill.

We mums need to make life easier for everyone by stopping having such unrealistic expectations.
Stop competing with each other, or with the people on TV.
We are so busy trying to turn our kids into the next genius piano-playing/mathematician/tennis-star that our kids are missing out on just being kids.
Just hanging out with friends, playing at home, with neighbours, biking to the park.

A brilliant documentary aired on TV recently called “The Lost Adventures of Childhood”. This programme investigated how our over-scheduling is actually creating a generation of tired and stressed-out kids who don’t know how to play or entertain themselves.

Guess what the number one factor is in growing our kid’s imagination?
Nope, not stimulation. Boredom.
Children need to actually be bored in order to create their own solutions to their boredom – invent games, make their own fun.

A child development expert on the programme said, "What we really need is a little more benign neglect!"

Benign neglect. An odd phrase but I get it.
What she means is we need to let our kids have a bit more space. Watch over them less. Give them a chance to be bored. Let them make mistakes, have falls. That's how they will learn for themselves to assess risks and make good choices.

Benign neglect gives my kids the chance to come home from school most days, drop their bag on the floor and head across to the neighbours to play Lego or climb trees.
It also releases me from taxi-duty. 

Watching that documentary reassured me that my sometimes-lackadaisical parenting style is probably the right approach. My aversion to endless after-school activities, my lack of structure, even our old-fashioned trampoline with all its un-PC potential for stitches... apparently, all good for my kids!

In case you're still worried my children are missing out:
My kids seem to be turning out pretty nice. They all have great imaginations, lots of friends and are very active. My eldest son excels at football. My daughter is very artistic. My little guy spends all day laughing.
OK they watch a fair bit of TV some days and we do have a couple of game consoles, but we monitor what they watch (recording programmes and fast-forwarding ads) and we only play interactive games like Buzz, SingStar and Wii Sports. They are involved in team sports for school and clubs, but just one sport/activity each.

I give them lots of kisses and cuddles; mornings usually start with a Mummy Sandwich (I'm the filling, they're the bread).
Our favourite thing is Book Snuggling – we all snuggle into our Queen-bed on cold winter nights with our books. Sometimes I read aloud to them, or they read to me. Other times we each read our own books. When the lights go out we talk. We have great conversations about all kinds of big and small stuff.

I know what's important to them, what makes them tick and who they are as people. I am working on shouting and growling less (and being more playful). 
I know they know I love them and think they are great (because I tell them all the time).

So what if I'm a teensy bit lazy???

(Pssssst! Supermum doesn't exist... Pass it on!)

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