Gone are the days when my anxieties consisted of the choice between the bottle feed-breast feed or both. Gone are the struggles of potty training and the terrible twos meltdowns. I’m pretty ok with how my kids share their toys, how they play independently and how they sleep through the night. They learned ro talk in two languages and they even like sushi and indian food.
I used to share my solutions for picky eating problems and for teaching kids how to play alone.I would give tips on teaming tantrums and on dealing with a strong willed child. I used to be alarmed by a new behavior, then try various technics and quickly find a solution. The results where fast and lasting and then I would blog about it. Because babies and toddlers are like that. Difficult but easy in a way.
Now I have a 6-year-old who’s sass have turned in to attitude, and who’s strong will have turned in to ridiculous stubbornness. Every month there’s a new thing on my radar and every day I’m asking myself if she’ll actually turn out ok? Will she become a compassionate human being? Will she ever stop with the tantrums? Let’s just say that I’m in doubt more often then not.
And with these thoughts, I fell like I should stop writing about parenting all together. Because lately I have more questions than answers to be honest.
And while reading other parenting blogs I have an impression it’s not only me: somehow we share in general less and less while the kids step in to the school age. I guess this is when we realize that there are no easy solutions that work anymore, and that our kids are these little complex humans who are changing everyday now.
See, I used to be able to find solutions to all the parenting problems I encountered and now I hope that ” it’s just a phase and it will pass”. And this has become my mantra. It’s just a phase. It will pass.
Motherhood is a funny thing,. We hope for the best outcome, but we don’t really know how to get there. And we all have a different definition of ‘”there”. For me, it’s kind and happy independent kids. Who know what they want, and who are in connection with others.
And I heard somewhere, that the best way to understand someone ( who’s acting bad) is not by accusing him, but by compassionateing with him.
So my only answer to all these questions lately is to try to be more understanding. Even of the biggest attitude and of the biggest meltdown. Because keeping my calm and compassion can go a long way. And I hope that by showing kids empathy, they will learn it too. And for everything else, I repeat my mantra: it’s just a phase. It will pass.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? The double parenting standards, moms versus dads comparisons and the social expectations.
Lately, while talking with my mom friends, we often get back on the same topic; the struggle of working/caring for our kids and the distribution of responsibilities with our spouses. Now, before I start, I need to say that I feel that me and my hubby we have managed to create a balance that works for us. And the part of our balance is letting go. But, there are still the standards of society bugging me, and from time to time, our own unrealistic expectations.
So, let’s start by imagining this scenario: if I where a work-from-home dad, freelancer who’s working on various projects at a time, while also writing short stories on his own site, read by thousands of people every month, who has his kids at home from daycare twice a week. A dad who’s playing with them, baking with them, raising them bilingually, and making sure they can talk and read well in their minority language. If I were this dad who does most of the cooking and cleaning, because he works from home anyway, nobody would think or say, that I should try harder on keeping home clean and on doing the laundry more. Because the working and caring for kids father would get all the praises in the world and an etiquette of one amazing dad, who’s putting his career on hold for the family’s sake. He’d get a high-five from the society, for managing to earn money and being a very much involved dad and husband.
Now, when a mom works from home like me, earns money and is trying to pursue her dream, she’s most likely being judged from time to time, for not doing enough for her family. For choosing to check her emails over playing with her kids. For not keeping the house clean enough. For not cooking healthy home-made meals enough. For not ironing her husbands shirts. For having stains on her place-naps. For being egoistic in pursuing her dreams. But also, for not really working full-time, for not contributing to the household enough, for not being a good example of an independent women to her daughters by choosing to stay-at home, and so on.
There’s more: when a dad works full-time then he’s earning money for his family, when a mom is working full-time, then she’s not willing to take care of her kids.
When a dad takes a kid to the playground, and he checks his emails for ten minutes during the half an hour time spent in the park, he’s an awesome dad playing with his kids. If a mom takes kids to the park for an hour, and is on her phone for 10 minutes, she’s a uninvolved mom.
If a dad cooks dinner and puts the kids to bed once a week, he’s a great dad. If a mother leaves kids once a week in the evening, she’s egoistic.
If a dad is left alone for a weekend with kids, people congratulate him for being amazing and keeping kids alive. If a mom stays with kids alone for a week, she’s just doing her job.
When a dad changes a baby diaper while at a restaurant, he’s a keeper and such an involved dad. When a mom changes diapers every day, she’s doing what’s expected of her.
When a mom cleans after dinner 5 days a week, and she’s too tired to clean the other 2, she’s a slacker. If a dad cleans after dinner twice a week, he’s really helping her at home.
They all sound a bit familiar don’t they? Through social media, traditional media, or our friends reactions we must have heard them all. And the sad part is that, the more we hear them, the more we tend to doubt ourselves and then the famous mom-guilt creeps in.
Now, I think that whatever works for a couple is good. I do have a friend who does all the house work, and she’s totally fine with it, as her husband is the one working and doing a lot of overtime. But this is not the norm anymore.
And as we all know, it takes two people to bring a child to this world, so can we start seeing these two people as equally responsible for the child too? And if there are two adults living at home, then I say they are both equally responsible for their household too. Now, how they’ll make it work for them and how they’ll divide their task is their choice for sure.
But let’s just stop with 19th century expectations and double standards shall we?
And if one more person will congratulate me on my husband “helping me at home” I might just lose it. He’s just doing he’s part and I’m doing mine.
Some days we make magic happen: we cuddle our kids, soothe their boo-boos, listen and encourage them. We smile at their silliness and we calmly respond to their demands. Some days you and me, we are simply best moms on earth.
But then there are days, when we fail completely and miserably in mothering . We raise our vice over every little thing, we get impatient in a blink of an eye, and our tired minds are begging us for a moment of peace. Days when it feels as if their voices, crying and whining, are taking over our minds. And we just want to be left alone.
There are days when I’m a bad mom, and I know there are the days when you feel like you’re one too.
And this is when I ask myself, why am I even a parenting writer? Should I really have more kids? And am I staining my daughters childhood with my anger and impatience? Will they remember these moments of my tense face and harsh voice? Will they remember how I made them cry?
There are days when I’m so full of guilt and self-doubt that I can hardy breathe. I imagine ruining their lives with my anger. Filling their soul with bitterness and anxiety.
Because aren’t mothers entirely responsible for their kids happiness? Shouldn’t we always be the oasis of calm acceptance and love?
Well, no. We are supposed to be good enough. Responding to their needs most of the time. And when we show them anger, this is when they learn how to deal with it. This is when they learn that it’s ok to feel anger themselves, and express it ( in a socially acceptable way). This is when they learn – once we re-conciliate – that anger is a part of human spectrum of emotions, and that it is NOT a danger to the relationship. This is when they learn about limits.
And I tell myself that tomorrow will be a new day. That I do my best. That kids are forgetful and full of forgiveness. And that I’m a human who doesn’t need to love every moment of this life with kids, but who does love her kids like nothing else in the world.
So what if like me, you failed, and think you have really made a mistake?
Say ‘I’m sorry”. Admitting to kids that we have made a mistake, that we had gotten impatient and angry, teaches them about forgiving and saying sorry when they have done wrong.
Ask for help. It does take a village to raise happy kids, and you don’t have to do it all alone.
Take a break. Sometimes a little bit of time to breathe and think in silence is all we need!
Shake off that guilt: it’ll only cloud your thinking.
Do something that you love doing, with your kids: it’ll help you re-connect with your kids and with the happy mother that you are!
So when I fail, I remind myself that it really takes a village to raise human beings, and that I can ask for help. And that my ager won’t harm my kids, as it’s delusional to think that a mother should never get angry. And I remind myself that my kids need me just the way I am.
Sometimes we all fail in motherhood, sometimes we don’t love it all. But I’m convinced that as long as we’re good enough, our kids will be just fine.
Recently I’ve met this self-driven, beautiful and successful women, a real girl boss, and while talking to her, she said lowering her voice that she is a feminist. And then she looked around to see if anyone listened. I just smiled and said that she doesn’t need to worry about words around me, because I consider myself as a feminist, and I hope to raise my girls to be feminists too. And I realized, that even if a boss lady from a big city is afraid to use this world, then there’s still so much work to be done.
What does it mean to be or not a feminist, is still a huge discussion. Lots of educated self-driven woman will say they’re not, they’re just strong and believe in right for education and equal pay. Many stay at home mom’s that I know will openly say that they are feminists. Many feminists will say that a woman who doesn’t work isn’t really a feminist, and many SAHM’s will see feminists as arrogant and self centered people.
Recently Emma Watson, a young, self-driven actress and a voice of modern feminism, was criticized for doing a photo shoot that showed her breasts a bit more then she usually does. And she was accused of not being a feminist.. by feminists.. And it just showed how much misconceptions there are out there.
But in the end, aren’t all self-driven women who believe in freedom of choice feminists? Be it engineer, a stay-at-home-mom, or both . If all of them believe girls should have access to education and health services, then I think they are all feminist. So why be scared of this word?
People have these ideas about what a women should be, how should she act and look. And as a mom of two girls, who’ll become woman all too soon, I want them to know that in these discussions, what’s really important is the attitude, that freedom that you give yourself and others. Not an etiquette.
I hope to raise girls who won’t have these misconceptions about other women. About how a woman should look, act and talk in order to be seen as a good / intelligent / feminine / good mother / well raised / feminist enough / liberated / modest enough etc. Who won’t really care about all these etiquette’s and labels. Who won’t listen to others saying what they can and can’t do, but who’ll listen to their own inner voice. I hope to be raising self-driven girls.
I hope they’ll only follow a social code for being kind and open minded people. That they’ll decide for themselves how they should live their life. That they won’t be afraid of a word feminism. Nor strength nor motherhood nor femininity. I hope they’ll grow in to women who won’t judge other woman for being too much: too loud, too opinionated, too timid, too modest, too sexy, too carrier driven, too mommy-like. That they won’t say other woman are not enough: not enough of a feminist, not enough of a mother, not enough of a lady, not enough of a professional. Women who won’t put a tag on other women. Nor on themselves.
So how do I make sure that my daughters will grow in to self driven, non-judgmental kind and open women? Well, of course time will only show if I succeeded, but for now, here’s what I do:
I want them to choose for themselves. Be it putting their food on their plate, choosing their clothes, or crafts ideas, as long as it makes sense and isn’t in conflict with their safety or health, I want them to learn to take their own decisions. Girls who make their own decisions from young age are less likely to believe that that they need to fit in the stereotype in order to have friends or be beach ready. They are also more likely to choose a carer path ( or a motherhood route) in tune with their true feelings and dreams.
I encourage them to (politely) argument why they want or don’t wan’t something. I think that often we tend to teach girls to be polite first and to say what they wan’t second, while we teach boys to stand for themselves first and be polite second. Well I think that kids need both, and that girls need more then ever to stand for themselves and say what they want. Because if ever they choose to be a working professional, nobody will give them a raise just because they waited politely for it to happen.
I try to teach them the difference between an opinion and a judgment. Which means it’s fine to say at home what they like and dislike, but it’s not fine to say that other’s likes and dislikes are stupid or silly. ( Let’s say that this one is a starting point to many sisterly disputes around the table, and that we’are still working on it!).
I try to talk to them about people around us, and their life choices in a way that they can see the ocean of possibilities rather then good and bad paths to follow. I have friends who are working full time and raising kids, I have friends who are full time stay at home moms, I have friends who don’t have kids, and who travel and live alone. Some are vegetarian and some dress in a different way. Some have tattoos and some are a part of a bible study. When we talk about other people I try to always let them know that all choices are good, as long as they come from the heart.
I try to explain to them how everyone has their own perspective, and how we should always think abut how things look from a different point of view. Books and movies are always a great starting point. Imaginative play is another. I’d ask them how would you feel now if you where ( insert : your sister, or cat, your grandma, me, etc..) this exercise may be too difficult for a toddler, but my five year old got pretty good in it.
Get dad involved. Girls who see men tackling house duties are more likely to believe that anyone can do anything.
I let my girls help around, both in the kitchen as with tools ( as much as they can in their age). I hope they’ll be able to see which type of work they prefer ( and if both, then good for them!)
I talk to them about publicity in the media and social stereotypes ( still very present in mainstream TV), even if they are really young. I’d say: look, this is someone who’s trying to sell us something ( and then we’d guess what is it). This isn’t real life. This may not be as good of a product as they say. I want them to be very judgmental when it comes to publicity, as this is where a lot of social messages are hidden, especially regarding how women should look and dress.
Whatever you do, tell your story to your kids, let them know why you choose to stay at home with them or work, or do both. Read them stories of other women and their different life choices. ( Great book that I’m recently in love in, is: “Bedtime stories for rebel girls” , not that rebellious after all, but very touching with 100 stories of women throughout the history, following their path and their dreams often against all the odds).
And above all, I try to acknowledge their emotions, because I believe that only by letting them express their feelings, and experience kindness and compaction, they’ll learn how to be kind and compassionate themselves. (Within healthy boundaries and limits off-course!).
So for me raising self-driven girls, means raising girls who are kind and strong, sure of what they want and not afraid of social tags. Girls who don’t look at people from above, and who don’t care about stereotypes. Girls who follow their dreams. And who encourage others. Who are feminists. Now, wish me luck in making that happen!
While me and my family, we live in a big city, in our every day actions we still live mostly in our small circle of family and friends. And they are all a lot like us, white Caucasians celebrating Christmas and Halloween, wearing similar clothing and with pretty similar cultural and educational background.
But the world is much bigger then that. And I wish for my kids not to fear the difference, not to despise other ways of living and never believe people who say, that anyone who’s different then us, is our enemy.
I hope they’ll love exploring the world with an open mind and a big heart.
But then again, as I said, our little circle is quite homogenic. And we all feel best when surrounded by people who think alike and act alike ( even while eating some east Indian take out). So teaching my kids about different ways of living and thinking is not that easy.
Luckily, there’s one thing that I’m happy worked out for my family and that helps me here: my kids part-time daycare.
My girls go here three times a week. And their friends are all different, with different cultural and religious backgrounds. Some speak French at home, some English, some Spanish and some Arabic. And the lovely ladies who take care of my daughters, are Muslim with their hair covered. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
By spending their days with them, they live the diversity and tolerance.
And they don’t even see the difference between our neighbor who wears high heels and very short dresses, and their day care educator dressed in a long sleeve and covering their hair. And I believe there’s none. These two women have chosen to dress according to the expectations of their circle of important people and values they where thought as kids. And according to what they believe they should do, in order to fit in to their culture’s norms. One believes she should be modest, and one believes she should be sexy. Both want to fit in the expectations of their family and friends. And I can look beyond that, and be friends with both, and that’s what I hope to be teaching my kids to do.
I explain them, that even me I do things I don’t really like, only because in my culture as a women I’m expect to be doing these things: I shave my legs. I wear a bra. Sometimes even high heels, if I want to look elegant and well dressed. This is our cultural code. Of course, in our society I have a certain freedom and choice. ( That I hope my daughters will feel they have too, and who knows, maybe they won’t do thing as I do). But there’s cultural pressure. My neighbor, she goes a notch higher : she does her hair every day, has fake eye lashes and had two plastic surgeries. And my daughter’s daycare educator covers her hair and never wears shorts. I don’t think we’re that different. In the end we are all women who want to be accepted. Who like to laugh. Who like kids and chatting about our favorite TV series. So I always try to show to my girls how similar people are in many ways. Even if they seem different.
And I hope my kids will learn to be tolerant and to see beyond these first-impression-differences. And that they’ll understand that we are all so similar.
So what I tell my daughters, is that we are all expected to look and behave in a certain way, and that depending from family, city or country, these expectations will be different. That as kids we learn to like certain flavors, places and even music, and that how we act is a result of where and how we grew. But we should always look beyond that, and see the real person.
And so here’s how I try to teach my kids tolerance:
We read books about children from different cultural backgrounds. Book that talk about being different then others, and abut embracing differences. Books that encourage finding your way and accepting others.
I try to get my kids in situations where not everyone is the same and different cultures mix together ( Like our multicultural daycare. But it could be a camp, a day camp, a library activity or a festival. )
We try to travel to place where people live in a different way then we do. ( though not as often as I’d like, I’ll admit )
I explain them how in the end we are all the same: we want to be accepted, we want to have a loving family and nice neighbors!
I teach them about their own couture and traditions without undermining others.
I really believe that tolerant kids are happier, and that in the future these kids will be able help their communities better. And that in the end, we are all very alike.
We live in a society that dreams about constant improvement and growth, in a society where efficiency has become the measure of success. Parenting has become a wildly discussed subject and parenting advises are often in line with this approach of the efficiency, statistics growth and passing developmental stages faster and better!
When my girls where babies, I remember that every time I would visit our nurse for a check up, or see a friend I haven’t met for a while or meet with a well intended family member, everyone would ask the same set of questions: Is your baby finally sleeping alone through the night? Is it self soothing? Eating alone? Finally potty trained?
I felt like in fact I was constantly being asked if the changes are coming fast enough, if the the growth is stable, is my child’s development parallel to the statistic average or better? Everyone would focus on achieving developmental milestones the fastest possible. And everyone would offer me tips for achieving these.
Of course sometimes these well intended questions, are important to ask, since some of the issues might indeed indicate a developmental problem that when spotted early on can be fixed..
But I realized that most of the time they just created the anxious feeling, that we moms tend to have:
The fear that we’re not doing it right.
And then I felt like I need to read more and more, different and often conflicting tips. And I realized that in the end, us, moms, we might feel lost and anxious, just because we worry that our children are not hitting these milestones fasts enough, that the growth is not stable, that the statistic average is somewhere ahead of us, and that we’re failing as the efficient parent that we should be..
Except that parenting a child isn’t running a business. The success isn’t measured in efficiency and growth and hitting the milestones the fastest possible!
The success of a parent, is raising a loved and loving happy human, who’s prepared to live in the society on his own, as an adult.
So why a nurse would ask me if my 10 month old baby can self-sooth? Why parent’s are being judged if their three-year old is still in diapers? Why is a new mom being asked and asked over and over again if her baby finally sleeps through the night? Why do school aged kids are expected to participate in tons of extracurricular activities? Non of these are real indicators of a success nor of a happy child or a happy life. They are just milestones to pass.
And while me too, I tend to write my posts with tips intended to help, I realized that the most important tip is the one I never wrote before: The one about your own parenting intuition. Because every piece of advice that is out there, and every post I ever wrote, is not as important as your own intuition. Nothing is stronger and more important than your own parenting guts.
You know whats right for you and for you baby. You know what are your family’s needs. And before reading and listing to people telling you what and how do things, just listen to what feels right for you.
While health experts here in Quebec would tell me that my baby should self soothe, I knew that this isn’t an issue for me, nor for people in many other cultures. I felt that my babies had plenty of time to learn that skill, and that at a ripe age of 10 moths my babies weren’t ready to be left alone in the crib to cry. While my family nurse would tell me that I should sleep train my baby, I new that this isn’t something that’s good for my kids. I knew that eventually they’ll sleep without me making them cry and without feeling left alone. And yes, now they do sleep all night alone in their own beds.
My good friend has been told many times by her family members, that her child isn’t supposed to be in diapers at his age of three and a half. That’s it’s a big problem. But she knew him, and she knew that when he’ll be ready, he’ll be potty trained very fast. And that’s exactly what happened, within 2 days from when he decided he wanted to.
Some kids walk later. Some talk later. And as long as the parent feels its fine, it is. Because intuition of a parent is stronger than any parenting tip based on the statistic and normative approach!
So while here on my blog, you’ll find titles starting with “how to” and ” best tips for” please know that these are just ideas, only ways to parent. And that I truly believe that there isn’t one and only way, and one and perfect approach.
And I think that if you feel anxious and bad after reading parenting tips, it might be because they are against your own gut and your own intuition! And your intuition is the strongest and best parenting tool that you have!
It’s because during the thousands and thousands of years of evolution there was no manual, no parenting guru no parenting tips. We had intuition and biological instinct to guide us. When a baby cried we would pick it up, nurture and cuddle. A toddler would sleep next to us, and we wouldn’t think twice about it. All around the globe we would keep our babies close, and leave the growing kids to run outside to explore on their own.
Yes, from culture to culture, things would diversify, ( the language, the way of dressing and feeding ) but still, the human history is thousand years of following the instinct and listening to intuition! Of curse our intuition now is influenced my both biological instinct as the way we were raised, what we have been through, what “feels” right to do in our culture, and what we observed as children. Nevertheless, it’s our best parenting compass!
( Side note: Grown-ups raised by abusive parents may have their intuition set on repeating what they been through, so in that case intuition isn’t a good guide at all..)
So our bodies and our minds usually know what to do. We just need to listen to them more often. Because all of the parenting tips are only optional, and make sense only if in the first place, we listen to our intuition!