Do you feel guilty for looking at your phone, instead of playing with your kids? That the essence of Outlaw Mama's post today regarding the impact of social media on our kids. I think she hit it spot on. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter have connected me to other moms and now I don't feel so isolated in this world of diapers, whining, and endless days.
There are some moms that thrive during the early years. They are the ones that make the perfectly decorated cookies for class parties, are always recreating the pins they have on Pinterest and seem to love spending time with their kids more than other people. I respect them, from a distance.
My mom was distracted when I was a kid. Because she had to be. She had a house to clean, a job to go to, canning to do, bills to pay, errands to run, gardening, and running us all over the place. She also found time to play with us, but when she was busy we were fine by ourselves. I think the best thing hands down my mom did as a parent was to let us be independent. That way she could do what she needed to do and even take time for herself watching her favorite soap opera or reading her favorite book. I never doubted that my mom loved me just because she was doing other things.
I read the post that Outlaw Mama referenced How to Miss a Childhood. I have to admit, I do not go for that hands on mommying. I think a good mom is one who supports her child without suffocation, one who encourages her child to do things independently, one who takes care of herself so she can take care of her kids, and one who allows her kids to make their own mistakes and successes. I will be there, but in the background. I will be cheering them on, but not in a way that inhibits their growth. They don't need a mother who depends on them, they need a mother who can live her own life so they can live theirs.
It took me a while to get to that point. A lot of guilt and tears on my part. When my kids say,"Hey mom put down the phone", I know that I may have been on it too long, but I don't feel guilty. After all do we accuse our husbands of not paying attention to our kids because they are at work all day? (ok, I have done that, but WAY different context) So why are we so hard on ourselves and other moms?
I don't believe our children have to be our sole focus 24/7. It is not good for them and it is not good for us. Take a step back and realize your kids will be okay if you aren't with them every step of the way. This is their life, let them live it.
These are my 5 rules for helping your kids not miss their childhoods:
1) Don't overschedule them. Let them be kids while they have time to be kids. Get out the boxes and go read a magazine. They will be fine.
2) Let them play on their own and realize they don't need to be watched constantly while they are awake. Mistakes will happen and there will be messes, but we call those teachable moments for everyone.
3) Give them freedom to explore the world on their own. Be nearby, but distracted so you aren't constantly telling them what to do.
4) Reconnect over dinner. Ask them about the highs and lows of their day, you don't have to do anything but listen.
5) Let them make their own mistakes, so they can then make their own successes.
6) Moms, relax and let them grow. That is how we don't miss their childhoods. By not worrying about how we screw up and instead enjoy watching what they can do on their own.
So don't feel guilty to read a book, it is actually really good for them to see you doing that. Don't wait until naptime to clean, clean while they are playing, or GOD FORBID, have them help. You are not a bad mom because you look at your phone, read blogs, or do any of the myriad of things that moms do every day that don't involve your kids.
I once had a mom follow my toddler around playground equipment because she thought no one was watching her. I am trying to give Margo independence and some stranger thinks I am being neglectful. Sure I was reading my phone, but I also knew where she was and what she was doing. Her older siblings were right there with her playing and laughing.
I am grateful to know there are other mommybloggers out there like me. Everyday I get to read stories from women like Outlaw Mama, Scary Mommy, Crappy Pictures, and Mommy Shorts that tell me that it is ok to not be the perfect mom. I feel solidarity with women who are raising their kids the best way they know how, while making connections for themselves and keeping their sanity. It is not easy being a mom. It is really not easy when you have other moms out there claiming that you have to be a perfect mom.
So don't put down that phone. Keep your sanity, relate to other moms, and know that your kids are going to be just fine.
Jessica is a SAHM and blogs about her parenting adventures at Long Days, Short Years
More from parenting