Every day, we are bombarded with images of perfect parents, with their perfect kids, in their perfect homes, doing perfect things. Rarely do we contend with helping others with angst or a difficult situation. We’re so used to perfection, or a meme telling us how to achieve it, that we’ve missed the normalcy or even the reality of life.
Right now, I have about 9 boxes around here filled with donations. My teenage daughter has been punished for about a week because we’re at war over her definition of “it’s clean” vs. mine. I have about 40 things in my spare room that I need to photograph for sale, catalog for donation and in some cases, toss. I’m getting ready to plan an out of state visit to an area I’m considering moving to, just got back from a solo cruise and taking a vacation this summer with my two youngest. I have 10 job proposals out there I’m waiting to hear back on and I’m in the middle of writing my book…and that’s just a few of the things I have going on.
These days, all you have to do is read a news story about a child who got away from his parents or a story where an overwhelmed parent is asking for help and you will find out just how much we are made to feel guilty. Parents are judged SO harshly based on the opinions of total strangers. Some will look at the photo above and LOL, thinking this man is a genius; others will scoff and call him a bad parent, endangering his poor child so far away. Society expects us to work, keep up with our children’s every need, have a great dinner on the table and any other number of expectations. As a single mom, I found in the recent past that I was drifting into a pattern where I was allowing myself to be too lazy. Thankfully, I recognized that the company I was keeping was well, encouraging myself to see that sort of laziness as normal. Thankfully, I snapped out of it and returned to my normal life and am once again thriving and happy. It’s amazing how quickly one can slip into a lazy pattern and let technology become the main entertainment. Being more involved with my children has lead to more fun times, better interaction and has given me insight into how they are doing in their day to day lives.
Parenting two children with special needs can be extremely overwhelming. (Parenting children without special needs can be too!) Instead of ball games and lessons, there are therapy appointments, long talks about issues they are dealing with and a lot of frustration dealing with what comes along with their challenges. That’s where being lazy comes in. As parents, we are often expected to be “on” all the time. The trend towards being connected 24 hours a day is a strong draw. People are on their phones long into the night or on their computer past average (and much needed!) bedtimes and we are all suffering because of it. Allowing yourself to be lazy on purpose is a great way that I’ve built time in for myself.
When you are on a plane and the crew is explaining the emergency procedures, they will tell you that if there is an oxygen emergency to put YOUR mask on first before tending to your child. The reason they tell you this and THEN walk down the entire length of the plane and explain it again to each parent is that the way we have been taught to think, we should make sure our little ones are OK first. This is wrong and always has been. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we simply cannot take care of others.
Whether you are saving time by heating up leftovers, ordering a pizza or making breakfast for dinner, the guilt needs to stop. You are enough. I recently wrote about my solo vacation and the fact that I actually wound up at times not knowing what to do with all the TIME I had to myself. No one needed me to do something for them. I had people all around me willing to cater to my every need. It’s such an alien concept for so many of us. Take the nap, spend the day taking a drive alone, head to the library and get lost in a reading nook for a few hours. Visit a nature trail and go sightseeing by yourself sometimes. It’s GOOD for you…it really is! Your children will benefit from the independent thought and activities they get into when you’re not around. Just be sure you aren’t just shoving a tablet in their faces. Give them the drawing or crafting kit, the big box of outdoor toys, invite their friends over and open up the door and let them go outside. Revel in their muddy, filthy clothes. They will thrive for it.
The trend over the past several decades has been to be your kid’s best friend. This couldn’t be any further from what they need. When we are guilty, when we know that we have crossed the line of lazy and are not providing them with the things they need to thrive, we make up for that by coddling them, placating them, buying them things and being their best buddy. What they need is a parent. Their friends are the ones they need to be just that…friends. Now, I’m not saying we can’t do special things we all love to do as a treat: the movie we’ve been waiting to see or the fun day at the park, the special outings for ice cream. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s knowing when to be a parent, when to let them be a kid and when to watch from a distance.
I’ve been rewarded using that thinking with my adult daughter who now IS my friend. She remembers the good times doing those fun things, our special place we used to go to lunch, the route we took at our favorite park, the silly inside jokes. I certainly wasn’t perfect, that’s for sure, but I rest well knowing I did my best. I’m not done yet and won’t be since I’ll always be a mom, but I’m learning to pay more attention to myself and make sure my oxygen mask is on first so I can take a deep breath of life and be ready to care for my children.