In her Atlantic July/August cover story, The Myth of Work-Life Balance, Anne-Marie Slaughter revived the debate about having it all — a subject I often address in this blog. I wonder if our great grandmothers worried as much about how much time they got with the kids? Sure, they were “stay at home moms” but the work load for women in prior centuries didn’t not allow for the kind of super parenting we expect of today’s mother. Maybe the kids need LESS parenting?
“Instead, ourselves the beneficiaries of benign neglect, we now measure success as the extent to which we manage to keep our children monitored, tethered, tied to us.,“ say Joan Didion in her recent book, Blues Nights. She also notes, “ Judith Shapiro, when she was president of Barnard, was prompted to write an op-ed piece in The New York Times advising parents to show a little more trust in their children and stop trying to manage every aspect of their college lives.”
Author Anna Quinden writes in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, that when asked about her where abouts as a child her mother would respond, “She’s around here somewhere.” When it got dark, the parents opened the screen door and yelled. When the child arrived for dinner or bed, I doubt there was much information exchange about the pick up ball game or how many fireflies were caught that evening.
If you are a parent in a culture that insists you ben everything to your child I have a few suggestions:
Give Yourself a Break: Your kid has an internal compass. He or she knows if they want to read a book or go outside and play. You don’t have to be the book or the playmate.
Be Careful What You Sacrifice: I won’t repeat the “put on your own oxygen mask,” opps I just did, but seriously, do you want your children to learn that life is drudgery or about reaching your dreams? If it makes you happy to work, work. If you miss your kids too much, invent a new career or slow down as much as you can while the kids are young. Your kids will learn what it takes to solve problems and have a happy life.
Forget Perfection: There are days when you will miss out on a few events of childhood, other times when you give up the next rung on the ladder so you can be more available to family. Accept that you are making compromises — maybe you can have it all but not at the same time.
Let Your Have Kids a Life: It’s not about you. Perhaps kids do need more oversight and protection in today’s world but kids often are not even allowed to play in their yards without a grown up standing guard. What’s up with that?
p.s. Funny that when I tried to find a photo for this article the majority of pics showed kids playing, not with other children, but with their parents.