April 12, 2011

Excellent advice for mothers

Dr. Meg Meeker talks to Kathryn Jean Lopez. Hear her!

Lopez: Someone is looking at this Q&A and thinking: “I’m a busy mother with NO TIME TO READ THIS INTERVIEW NEVER MIND YOUR BOOK. What do you want out of me besides my Amazon purchase? How exactly do you suggest I find time to take all your advice?

Meeker: The reason that you have no time to read, spend a few moments relaxing, or play Monopoly with your kids is that your life is out of control. You, like many mothers in America spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of things that you don’t need to do. We mothers succumb to more peer pressure than our kids do. We over-schedule ourselves and our kids — making us all crazy — because we feel that’s what successful mothers do! Where does that thought come from? The subculture of mothers around us. We have jumped aboard the hyper-performance train where each of us feels that we need to raise stellar kids, perform as outstanding mothers (be home-room Mom, bake cookies from scratch), advance in our careers, and — of course — hit the gym four times per week for 45 minutes to battle that last ten pounds. The course we are on is unsustainable and we are stressed to the max.
Have you noticed that crazy-busy-ness is worn as a badge of honor by many moms? It makes them feel as though they're doing their jobs well. But it's folly, not good for them or their families.

Moms motivated by fear:
Lopez: Overcoming fears is one or your recommended habits. Isn’t that just solid advice for anyone?

Meeker: Of course, it’s good for everyone to confront her fears, but I am speaking very specifically of the fears we mothers harbor (subconsciously) which drive much of our parenting. For instance, we sign our kids up for too many activities because we “fear” feeling like a failure if we don’t provide every opportunity for our kids. Many mothers drive ourselves to work compulsively because we “fear” that we will feel like failures at work.

I strongly believe that we mothers should never live our lives out of fear and we should most certainly never parent out of fear. In my chapter on fear, I address the specific fears that most mothers face which, I believe, are sapping us of energy and joy.
What to do? Drop out of the rat race:
We need to be bold in cutting activities from our kids’ schedules. Whether it’s hockey practice, flute lessons, or tutoring, we need to realize that kids simply aren’t getting enough time with us. And time with us is very important because sound identity formation in kids comes from being with parents, discovering what we think about them and expect from them, and then internalizing what they glean. If we don’t simplify their lives and ours in order to open up more time for our kids, the results from kids can be poor identity formation. The bottom line is that if our kids don’t find their identity by spending time with us, they will find it elsewhere — and those other places are usually very dangerous (gangs, forming a new “family of their own,” etc.)
As a proponent of attachment parenting, I'm totally on board with her diagnosis and recommended treatment -- spend time with your kids. If you substitute "secure attachment" for Meeker's term, "identity formation," this could come straight from my favorite parenting book. When kids don't have the secure attachment to their parents so necessary to their well-being, they will seek to fill the void by attaching to someone else, usually peers.

I like this part on establishing habits, so often viewed as a mere function of "positive and negative reinforcement." Not so. It's a matter of understanding, will, and commitment:
The only way we can make any habit stick is to understand what the habit involves, why we need it, and how it is important to us. In short, if we don’t feel that we need it, we will never make it stick. So I believe that understanding our need is the first step in making it stick. Then it is simply a matter of making a plan for how to change. 
Read the whole thing. I've just added Dr. Meeker's 10 Habits of Happy Mothers to my Amazon store.

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  1. Most of those activities parents sign their kids up for cost money, something I don't have. But my kids play here at home and we do stuff together & so far they seem no worse for wear. When they are older if a particular activity really captures their imagination, I'm sure we'll find a way to help them do it, if it's not something they can learn on their own or be taught by good old mom & dad, but there's a lot to be said for learning how to entertain yourself without having to join something.

  2. Hey man. I bake cookies from scratch.

  3. Most "activities" are overrated.

    NTTAWWT, but I have to shake my head when I see ads showing families "baking" by placing prefab blobs on a cookie sheet.

  4. This is fabulous, thank you! It takes quite a bit of the womanly art of persuasion to convince my husband that our kid won't be at a "competitive disadvantage" later because I'm not a believer in shuttling kids everywhere on a daily basis at the expense of family time. Our niece and nephew in Chicago never see the family dinner table. Ever. Sports, sports, sports. More than 20 hours weekly on top of school. Once they're home, it's time for homework, and then bath and bed. Food is had on the road.

    They aren't a family. It's four separate ships passing through the day under the same roof at night.

    And agreed re prefab blobs with unpronouncable ingredients (what happened to butter, sugar, flour, eggs?)

  5. Love it - am tempted to get the book and I don't normally buy parenting books! Everything starts earlier now - ballet lessons, sports teams, you name it. It's like moms enjoy talking about how busy their kids are. My kids are busy - racing their bikes together in the street and building forts and camps in the backyard.


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