Yea, yea, I’ve heard it before. You can’t go anywhere on the internet without someone writing an article or posting in a forum shaming moms who don’t “entertain their kids.” Like, look, I get it. There are some moms out there that are super duper hands on. They are never on their phone, they wouldn’t think of cursing when angry, they are crafty and ever patient, they are always preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner, their houses are immaculate (somehow) and they make it their job to play with their kids.
I’m sure these moms exist. I’ve not yet met one, but these moms are moms first and human beings second. And their way of parenting, is ok.
I’ll stand up and say, “I am a human being first.” And my way of parenting, is ok.
I love being a mom, I wouldn’t have worked so damn emotionally hard to conceive and have her if I didn’t want her. I didn’t want to give birth or grow a baby. But I wanted her and I did what needed to be done to have her. I love her to bits, she is my whole world. I wouldn’t trade her for anything or anyone else in this universe.
But I’m not playing Barbies with my kid.
Plain and simple, I don’t want to. And while I may not do that, I do lots of other things with my kid and at the end of the day, whether I am on my ass on the dirty floor to play Barbies or not, she knows I love her to the moon and back.
To say that parents today don’t value their children or enjoy them like they should is a veiled way of saying that you believe parents today aren’t good parents because they make their kids entertain themselves and do things for themselves.
Newsflash though, there’s no way to win in a society where a majority of people are out there saying “Don’t give out participation ribbons!” and are the same people saying “You are neglecting your child if you don’t spend every waking moment with them.”
Let’s take a step back and actually look at the life of the mom you’re judging. Take in what she goes through on a daily basis and try to actually understand why she does the things she does – before you lay down the assumption that your way is the only way and her way makes her a shitty parent. That’s a lot to lay on a person. Any person. But especially a person who is doing the best they can, with the tools they have and their own life experiences to guide them.
We don’t need anymore of that bullshit as moms. Nobody’s baby came with a user manual. We are all winging this journey. This shaming and judging one another spans generations. It’s not just the “millennial” generation that are always harping on other moms. It doesn’t start there. It starts with older sisters, moms, aunts, mom-in-laws, and friends who have “been there before you” and have just the right remedy for everything your child needs and never mind that this is a new time and an altogether NEW kid that may require different approaches to thrive and feel loved.
To paraphrase my good friend who said: To disagree with what’s best for a kid, is fine – but to assume different values are inherently wrong, is not ok. To have different values of parenting doesn’t make someone a neglectful parent. To have different goals for your children’s future, doesn’t make you a bad parent.
So do I play Barbies with my kid? No. I don’t. Because I think she should be able to entertain herself. She should be able to allow herself to be “bored” and then find something to do. She can find things that bring her joy and not something I told her she has to like or play by my preconceived notions and ideas of what she should play. She can use her imagination and create stories of her own concoction, without the influence or drive from one of her parents.
I don’t play Barbies because inevitably she will want to play as soon as I get off work. I struggle to stay at work with constant anxiety and tenseness for 8 hours. When I get off work, I’m tired. Yea, I only work at a call center and I work in my basement, that doesn’t count? Well, tell my anxiety that. Because I’m still exhausted when I work a full shift at work.
I don’t want to get down on the floor and brush a Barbie’s hair for 3.79 minutes to have to haul myself back up when she’s finished before I even sit down. Which in turn will just make me more anxious and irritated with my kid for forcing me to do it in the first place when I am tired and anxious. It’s not fun for anyone.
To those who think I shouldn’t have had a child if I wasn’t “interested” in playing with her, I send you to a list of things that might happen if you are a mom or parent living with depression and anxiety. To those who say I shouldn’t have had a kid if I was just going to be anxious and depressed, I should have known better. Those people, can go screw themselves. Mental illness is a real thing and it’s something that many people struggle with. It should not and does not define the caliber of parent I am or can be.
So I’m not gonna play with Barbie. You know what I will do? What I will do is encourage her to use her imagination and creativity by suggesting things she and Barbie can do together. This child f mine has FIVE imaginary kids that she plays with on the regular. Since before she could actually play, she was following some imaginary people around. They play hide and seek, tag, and sometimes even musical chairs.
Imagine 5 invisible children with her as they wonder at the lights on the tree.
You could say that’s because she’s lonely and she doesn’t have anyone there to entertain her. I say, she has an exceptional imagination and she’s a joy to watch as the creativity of the stories she tells of their adventures spin around in her eyes as she tells them. It brings her joy to tell those stories and while I may not play Barbies or participate in the actual adventure, I do set aside whatever I am doing to listen to those stories, to give commentary and reactions. Because at the end of the day, my attention to her creativity and her imagination and what is important to HER is what I am hoping to foster in my relationship with her.
So does my daughter WANT me to play Barbies with her? Of course she does. And I’m not going to sit here and say that I don’t feel bad sometimes when I’m on my computer or watching a tv show instead. Because I do. I feel that guilt every time I do something for myself.
However, realistically moms are human beings. They are people and they need attention, me-time, downtime, kid free time. That’s not wrong or bad. The point here is, I may not play Barbies with my kiddo or cater to her every need or want at that exact moment, but that’s not a bad thing. I may take time for myself, I may send her to play with those toys so I can have a moment to myself. This is not a bad thing.
When moms sacrifice everything they have, including their identity, their hobbies, their own self care needs, it causes poor parenting. It causes resentment and regret, guilt and depression. None of these would be a good model of parenting for anyone. Let’s just be real. These things are a real fact of parenting, and it’s not something we like to acknowledge or take ownership for.
Society and earlier generations say you have to be perfect, you have to be attentive and at the beck and call of your child. Being a mom is now your identity. You are no longer a person, an employee, a wife, a sister, an aunt. You are a MOM. You have no aspirations for your life or your family, and it’s selfish if you think you should or can have such notions.
I want my daughter to see what an independant woman looks like. I want her to feel what being empowered to make her own choices and decisions feels like. And come to terms with the consequences or rewards for those actions. I want to foster a sense of wonder and curiosity and that’s not done by playing or doing for her. It just doesn’t.
My daughter is incredibly impatient. She wants things done, her way, right now. That’s not how the real world works. Does it help her to stop whatever I am doing to do exactly what she wants in that moment? Or is it better to allow her to make choices on her own. Or to control herself and be patient. Isn’t it more realistic to teach her that she can’t have everything she wants and that sometimes Mommy is busy? People are busy.
I let her do all sorts of things. I let her make her own sandwich because she actually eats it when she makes it and I’m right there watching her do it, no sharp objects are involved. Making up a game to entertain herself is just the same. She will learn what she likes to do and what she doesn’t like to do and she gets to decide that, it’s all up to her.As well as knowing that she’s capable of doing things for herself.
It’s about problem solving, critical thinking, curiosity and independence. None of these things are inherent in our DNA, and none of these things are bad. While some people think the problem with the world’s kids today is that they are being coddled to or fawned over all the time. That is likely a true statement. Its an unpopular belief among parents out in the wild to actually discuss and talk about the hard shit that you go through. If it isn’t roses and rainbows 24/7, you must be doing something wrong. But we shouldn’t coddle our kids or they become assholes.
Which way do you want it?
Reality check, people, moms need time and attention too. Period. It’s time we embrace the fact that our little people are in fact, just that, people. They have their own wants, needs, and personalities. They learn from us self-control, patience, kindness, and above all being a decent human being – so that 20 years from now you aren’t bailing them out of jail because they didn’t get their way, or someone didn’t do what they wanted or play with them the right away, and they resolved it by punching some dude in the face.
So before you tell me to be a role model to my child, think about the perspective I’m attempting to give my child and the kind of life I want to provide for her, before you just assume that I’m a lazy, no good, neglectful mom. Perhaps I’m already the role model I want to be and the one my child (not yours) needs to have.