After a meeting of kindergarten parents last year, I came away suspecting that at least a few of the moms and dads had pegged me as the “bad mother” in the crowd.
That evening’s conversation ranged, as it often does when a group of parents with six-year-olds gather together, about how to set rules on:
1. getting our kids to eat more fruits and veggies,
2. TV limits, and, 3. bedtime.
I’ve pretty much given up on broccoli, I let Rachel watch TV before bedtime because it actually helps calm her down at the end of the day, and I think parents shouldn’t set bedtimes by committee.
I came away from that gathering wondering if I was a parenting dinosaur and needed to implement more parenting rules. Maybe I should be stricter about how much TV she watches (sometimes we do watch SpongeBob or Kim Possible)? Should I be force-feeding the carrots and spinach? Should she be signed up for more “enrichment” classes?
My thoughts quickly changed when, one night long after that, Rachel looked up at me from her dinner plate (sans green accompaniment) with her yummy chocolate brown eyes and said, “Mommy, why don’t you smile so much?”
Message received loud and clear – MORE. FUN. NEEDED. NOW!!
After reading hew new book, I believe author Paula Spencer would approve with my new mothering mantra.
Momfidence! An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting, is a much needed life raft in the current sea of books about mommy competition and planning children’s paths to Harvard while still in utero. Her message in a nutshell — lighten up, have more fun, and don’t sweat so many of the little decisions you won’t remember a year from now, let alone when your kids are adults.
Momfidence! resonated with me because Spencer has been able to put some much-needed humor back into our mothering experiences and remind us all that we need to find more enjoyment in our mothering experience. Spencer has found her celebratory way through motherhood, sharing that with her readers through hilarious anecdotes, and by admitting and embracing the aspects of parenthood that many of us are afraid to for fear of being judged by the parenting police.
Sure there’s a place for rules and codes of conduct, but Spencer’s radical theory is that maybe we would have happier families and happier children if we just let our kids have that cookie, play outside ‘til dark, skip the violin lesson and hang out with mom and dad while eating a bowl of French Silk Ice Cream. If it feels like the right thing to do, maybe it is, even if the parenting “experts” would disagree.
To that end, Spencer provides a recipe of five ingredients she believes are essential to, but sometimes missing from, mothering today:
1. Instinct – use it.
2. Reality – question whether others really know more than we do about parenting.
3. Common Sense – use it.
4. Fun – have it.
5. Parents – don’t always put the kids first. Parents are people too!
Spencer is a go with your gut, not your guilt kind of gal, and I can really appreciate that sensibility. If we have learned as adults to trust our gut instincts, common sense and life experiences in so many other aspects of our lives – choosing a job, selecting a mate, finding a lifestyle that suits us — why not try it with child-rearing?
Early in her book, Spencer remarks, “Raising kids has become such a dreary business. … Ever notice how the good-mothering messages always focus on the dark side [of parenting]?” That’s a pretty sad, but true, statement these days and I want to change with Rachel before it’s too late.
After I finished reading Momfidence!, I must admit that I felt smugly superior that there have been a few times recently when I have inadvertently been at the cutting edge of this new parenting trend for harried moms – embracing the winging-it aspect of mothering, taking mommy “time-outs,” and celebrating more low-key time with Rachel.
We, as mothers, know our kids better than anyone else … T. Berry B. and Dr. Spock can only help us out so much. In the end, Spencer believes that confidence, er, I mean, Momfidence!, in our innate abilities to mother should prevail.
This is a book that all moms should read, if for no other reason, than to know that at least one other mom has scoffed at today’s mothering “rules” and seems to be raising a pretty happy and well-balanced brood.