Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Does Guilt Have to be Synonymous with Parenting?

Cara's last post was amazing. So true. So honest. If you haven't read it, you absolutely should. It's what every busy parent--whether single or in a couple--can read and nod their head, saying, "Yup. Yup. Yup. I'm totally there. Totally." But it also made me wonder: Am I a good parent?
Ask anyone whose known me, I adamantly repeated this mantra from age 13 to age 29: "I will never have kids. I hate kids. No kids for me." But when Lizzie made her presence known by positive-izing no less than 8 pregnancy tests (don't judge me: I was alone and scared and peeing over and over again on over-priced plastic sticks in my dad's bathroom), I just sighed and resigned myself to the fact that the jig was up and it was inevitable. I mean, I'm Irish-Italian, for gods' sake, I should have had 4 babies by age 29.
Now that Lizzie is 3 and pretty independent when it comes to her little ways and her little life, I can heave a sigh of relief. No more constant, up-her-butt care that comes with an infant. I could give her a colouring book and some crayons, a cup of juice and some apple slices and I'm free to Facebook and surf the Web study and do homework. I feel guilty when I find myself reading some useless article on Yahoo instead of playing an endless game of Tag or Hide and Seek with Lizzie, but sometimes I just physically or mentally can't do it. Most of the time, I let Lizzie do her own thing and entertain herself a lot because I don't want her to have to be one of those kids that needs to be constantly entertained by others.
I shared this view of Detached Motherhood (I like to call it Independence Through Neglect, a phrase I stole from Gabrielle from Desperate Housewives) on a website I used to frequent called Cafe Mom. You would have thought I said I wore a skinned puppy fur coat while boiling babies to make soup. I was attacked and vilified by the women on there, who said everything from I was a terrible mother to that I deserved to have my child taken away from me. All because I didn't hover over her and play with her from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed.
We all know that you can say anything to anyone using the anonymity of the Internet, but the judgement from those total strangers stung. So what did I do? I dove into being such a SuperMommy, I actually started to annoy myself. In fact, because of my over-mothering, Lizzie went from being a cheerful, independent little lovebug to being a whiny, mean little monster. I turned myself into her personal slave, running and fetching and cajoling and begging and delivering her wishes so quickly you would have thought I was competing for some land speed record. After about 3 days of that, I was sick of her being a little brat and she was pushing my overly-snuggly self away, saying things like, "No, Mama. No more hugs please."
I worry about any parent--mother or father--that has devoted themself totally and completely to their child or children. And I'm not talking to normal kind of devotion: I'm talking about those parents whose whole life revolves around their child to the point that if someone glances at their kid at a library storytime hour, they start a letter-writing campaign to the head librarian to get the offending parent banned from storytime because their little AngelFaceDarlingBaby might be scarred for life for getting a dirty look.
That last thing didn't happen to me. I was just--um--using it as an example.


  1. For the love of sippy cups, woman!!!! Cafe Mom is like a freaking witch hunt more than half the time! Complete with delusions and mob mentality.
    I've seen you with Lizzie and you mix enough cuddling and playing with detached mothering. I should take a few notes, in fact.
    Don't let your guilt dictate how you want your girl to be raised. You, just like most every one else, are doing the best you can with what you have. The cord is cut at birth, you don't need to restore. period.
    PS Hover Mothers are just one of the reasons I don't go to story time. The Triple Threat would light their worlds up.

  2. I spent three hours outside with the kids yesterday. Bubbles, chalk, crayons, markers, baseball, hockey, swings, legos, hide and seek, bug searching, wagon rides around the block. That was FAR more exhausting than any workout-- mentally and physically. Today, trapped inside by the rain, we let the kids watch tv and play pretty independently. We jumped in every now and then, but we were doing other things as well. There's got to be a balance-- down time is crucial for everyone. Sounds like you're doing pretty great. Just say no to mommy guilt. Now move to NJ and have another baby. Pronto.

  3. I approve of your Mothering methods. 'Independance thru neglect' is misleading to people who don't know you very well. If you ask me (ahem) I think that Lizzie is about as normal a 3-year old you could ever ask for. In the 'olden days', parents threw thier kids out of the house at first light, and didn't even see them again until the street lights went on at dusk. THAT was OK. What's with the hovering parents nowadays? Do you WANT a totally dependent, clinging, whining child who can't think for themselves without looking to Mom for approval? Hell, no! Let them eat dirt and bugs. It will strengthen their constitution.
    Well, after writing this, it may explain some of Amy's parenting style....


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