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?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.
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.
Moms motivated by fear:
Lopez: Overcoming fears is one or your recommended habits. Isn’t that just solid advice for anyone?What to do? Drop out of the rat race:
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.
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.
Most recent posts here. Twitter feed here. Amazon store here.