Carla: Don’t you love titles like that? Commanding, demanding, shaming you into doing what someone else tells you to do? It’s that word needs. It carries so much condescension and know-it-all-ness. And it’s the stock in trade of parenting advice. It’s a way of letting you know that whatever it is you’re doing as a parent, you aren’t doing it right. There’s a secret something you don’t know and that article or that sermon or that friend is about to enlighten you. And that drives me bananas.
So I’ve come up with 3 new year’s resolutions for parents that you can make or not make. Your choice.
1) Ignore sentences that include the words “you need to.” For all the reasons mentioned above, I’ve started to see this little phrase as the bane of nearly everything I do. For me, it is code for “you don’t know what you’re doing” and I’ve decided to reject that code. It’s not that I know what I’m doing all the time–or even most of the time–but I think I’m smart enough to get around most of the road blocks that stand between me and what I’m trying to do as a mom and a woman and a person. I’m also smart enough to ask for help when I get stuck. I vastly prefer advice that’s given as a suggestion, not a command, advice that is couched in confidence that I can sort through my options and figure out the best path forward.
“You need to” is a confidence killer for all of us, but particularly for parents. There is so much we truly need to do on any given day and when well-meaning experts and friends add to that list, it feels defeating and disheartening. But maybe that’s just me.
2) Stop multitasking. In the last year, I read something that has changed how I think about parenting. It was a short Q & A with a mom who said, “It’s not parenting that’s hard, it’s all the other things I have to do that get in the way of parenting.” I read that sentence about six times before I realized she was right. If all I had to do was spend time with my kids, I would be a fantastic mom. But I find I rarely just spend time with my kids, at least time where I’m not also thinking about work I need to finish or keeping an eye on dinner or writing up a grocery list or cleaning up or hacking through the jungle of laundry or what’s happening on Facebook. If I didn’t have all those other things on my mental plate, I would be so much more patient, so much more interested, so much more relaxed. It’s all the work of adulthood that get in the way!
The best moments I have as a mom are the ones where I am all in with whatever I’m doing with my kids, whether it’s putting a puzzle together or making cookies or even folding laundry. When I manage to shut off all the mental noise in my head and really focus on my kids, I can feel myself becoming more like the mom I want to be–kind, attentive, single-minded.
The trick here, of course, is that someone has to keep an eye on dinner and write up a grocery list and clean up and do the laundry. And in my case, someone has work to do, too. So I can’t just ignore those things and play Littlest Pet Shop all day. But I’m going to try me darndest to slow down my brain. I’m going to do a little more compartmentalizing and try to devote my attention to whatever is right in front of me and not all the other things tapping me on the shoulder. And I think I’m going to have to get my crap together and organize my time better so that when I’m working, I’m working and when I’m not, I’m not. There is nothing noble in being able to juggle an ever-growing list of demands. There’s no prize for being the busiest mom. I need to stop acting like there is.
3) Scare yourself. Those of you who have read this blog for a while might recall that I had a small part in a play a couple of years ago. I loved getting back into something that had been a huge part of my pre-parenthood life and it was truly good for my soul to do it. But I haven’t done it again. You know why? Because I’m afraid to. I’m afraid if I audition for something I won’t get a part. I’m afraid if I do get a part I won’t be very good. I’m afraid that my family would suffer if I were gone nearly every evening for 6 weeks. Afraid, afraid, afraid.
As much as Caryn and I talk about tapping into our passions and living out our dreams, I have to confess that this is something I really struggle with. I can always find an excuse for sticking with the life I have instead of double dog daring myself to step into something different. But when I have stepped out–whether onto a stage or into a classroom or even into a new friendship–the result has always been life-giving. So I’m going to try to scare myself a little more this year. Our friend Jennifer Grant recently shared this quote with me and it’s been hovering in the back of my mind ever since, reminding me that no one is made better when I am guided by fear.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”–Marianne Williamson
Wish me luck!
Caryn: Love this title. Reminds me so much of our magazine days. Even with the odd number. (Odd numbers are better than even for giving advice. Did you know that? Magazine editors do!)
But anyway, even though this year I resolved to make no resolutions, I concur with two and a half of yours. I think #2 is too much to ask. And I actually disagree with your premise that we could be better moms if we focused on our kids more attentively. I’m a better (meaning, saner) mom right now because I can add my 2 cents to this piece while eating reheated pizza snuggled next to my daughter watching SpongeBob while my older son gets Life set up for us to play.
That said, I take multi-tasking to the extreme and need to learn to take it easier. To undo some of the things that distract me.
Alas, #3 is my favorite. Love the phrasing. Love the idea. And since earlier this summer when I wrote a whole chapter in my upcoming book, Grumble Hallelujah, about living fearless as a solution to getting unstuck in life, I’ve been more committed to this than ever before. Especially as one who seeks to “live for Jesus” as they say, we need to put fear in its place. But, it’s scary to live fearless. We do need to scare ourselves. Even scare those around us….
Now I gotta go play Life.
So what do you think friends? Got any resolutions to share with the rest of us? Let’s hear ’em!