Read This: Time Magazine Article, “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting”

time magAfter an exhausting week of modeling “do, do, do and when you think you’ve totally hit a wall — do some more!” for my girls, I am really appreciating Nancy’s Gibbs’ message to parents to slow down in her article published Friday in Time. I fit the bill for much of the over-parenting she describes and have spent the last few months getting conscious of this and exploring ways to let go of the pressure I put on myself to protect and provide.

I’m not going to beat myself up for fretting a bit about schools and activities and safety and emotional well-being and…. Every parent wants the best for their children. It’s innate. Yea for all of us and our Big Love!

I think as a culture we’ve spent the last several generations barreling forward, improving the definition of what’s best for our kids with every knew piece of knowledge or economic privilege gained. And so much of what we’ve learned and put into place has been to the great benefit of of children.  This article puts forth the idea that it’s time to pull back on all our best intentions to protect and provide and take a closer look at our definition of what truly is best for our children our families. And guess what?  The answer will be different for every family.

What a gigantic exhale I feel when I shift my internal question from, “What should I be doing for my girls?” to simply “How can I connect more fully in this moment?”  I have found, over and over again, that my 3 year-old exhibits the most joy doing simple things that require nothing more than my enthusiastic presence:  helping pick out items at the grocery store; setting the table; washing dishes (sort of); making sandwiches….work is play; play is work…..ah the beauty of Montessori.

My mom, a former preschool teacher, was always great at making simple moments together fun with my brother and I — and now probably even more so with her grandchildren.  It was so great to witness the enormous joy my older daughter exhibited this weekend when she and my mother (her “Bama”) were prancing around the family room pretending to be different animals.

So many of the self-affirming, give-yourself-and-your-children-a-break nuggets of goodness that I occasionally remember to remember come from either my mom or my midwife, or instructors of birthing and early parenting classes I’ve taken.

I remember hearing and appreciating so many gentle guiding words from GB Khalsa, my midwife. “Trust yourself” and “You are the captain of this ship” being my favorites.

Late in my first pregnancy, I also recall marveling at the sage advice of Marcela Billig when we took her Conscious Birthing class.  All of us in the class were pregnant with our first and fretting over any number of things — including what to do with the barrage of unsolicited advice we received from any number of people in our lives, including strangers.  Marcella’s perfect answer to defend a parenting choice that doesn’t match that of the well-meaning friend, family-member or random person on the street: “This is what works best for our family.”   Period. Done. Nothing more need be said.

Following the birth of my first daughter I took an early parenting class with Carrie Contey and have taken a few more since when time and money permits because I consistently walk away with valuable, fully-applicable and memorable information.

I was thrilled to see that in examining the subject of “over-parenting”, Gibbs chose to attend one of Carrie and Bernadette’s Slow Family Living workshops. Right On!!  They are doing such great work supporting new parents and the common stresses we feel — all of us burdened by a perfectionist culture that is truly over the top.  Carrie and Bernadette bring parents together to relearn self-care, including self-compassion, and the immense value of simply being present with our children in every day life — however that looks for each family.  In the Time article, Carrie is quoted as saying:

“People think there’s some mythical Good Mother out there that they aren’t living up to and that it’s hurting their child. I just want to pull the plug on that.”

Amen. Amen. Amen. Oh what an important truth to post on the bathroom mirror:   Remember the Good Mother Myth!

I also appreciated the author’s choice to write about how the Great Recession may provide the necessary impetus to redirect much of the hyper over-parenting that has come about in the last fifteen years or so  — mainly out of privilege.  So many parents today are cutting out extra activities and opting to spend time together at home, not necessarily because they think family time may be more beneficial than soccer practice, music lessons, or Spanish classes, but because they simply can’t afford to do it all anymore.  Discovering the emotional benefit to the entire family is an unexpected perk. A perk so significant, that when the economy turns around, we may all be the wiser in choosing not to jump back into participating in everything we would have previously.

Gibbs also interviewed Lenore Skenazy, often referred to as “America’s Worst Mom” for sending her 9 year-old son to ride the subway alone in New York City.  Skenazy makes some thought-provoking points about the over-protection of children today, but I have to say I don’t fully agree with her.  I believe Gibbs is stating Skenazy’s opinion and not her own when she writes, “Refusing to vaccinate your children, as millions now threaten to do in the case of the swine flu, is statistically reckless.”  What statistics is she referring to I wonder?  I wish she would have cited them.

All for now.  Sleep beckons.

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2 Responses to “Read This: Time Magazine Article, “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting””

  1. amy says:

    Yes, I had the same thought about Skenazy’s comment. Unfortunately, we see/hear so many like this right now…without any sources to back them up!

    Excellent post on an issue that most parents deal with, especially in the early years of parenting. I worry that I am not exposing my child to enough – enough children, culture, activities. I try to pay more attention to his cues rather than the endless lists in my head though.

    It helps me to remember that my favorite childhood memories are almost all about the simple things – being with my family at home!

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