Pamela Druckerman, author of “bringing up Bebe” is one of the debaters on NY Times “Motherlode” .
The topic of debate is the parenting styles of French vs. American women. Reading her argument supporting the “French” way of parenting, or, more specific, mothering, finally gave me some insight on why I can’t help but being troubled by this approach ever since the debate opened.
She says, “And as Badinter points out, what are mothers supposed to do once their kids are grown?” This type of questioning seems to be a common technique that appears all over the parenting horizon. Subtle yet noticeable, Druckerman implies that the decision to be a long-term, full-time mother messes you up for the real; that is, the corporate world and that no skills used or learned as a mother could be of any use when our children grow up. Sadly, of course, she has a point. The point is not, however, that with every year you stay at home and take care of your children your career potential diminishes. Rather, the point is to convince us to hop onto this bandwagon and therefore let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, our society perceives stay-at-home years as anti-career and long-term, stay-at-home mothers do face a harder time getting back into the workforce. However, as long as mothers themselves proclaim this opinion as truth, women will, indeed, face a tough return into the “real” world.
My point is not to convince every mom to stay at home, and I’m certainly not arguing that staying at home is the only good way to raise kids. We all know career moms who wish they could stay home and stay at home moms who wish they were back on the job. My point is to begin to refute the assumption that staying at home kills your career, end of story. And my point is for moms, themselves to be accepting of that other option, because the ideal for many of us is to be at home and working full time . . . beautifully cloned.
What we learned from the recession is that everybody who is out of work has a difficult time going back. When you are ready to get back into the workforce, go back with confidence. Stop apologizing for spending time at home and get yourself up to speed in whatever area you feel it is needed.
I’ve also noticed that the same – “you’d better do this right away” argument is applied to many other parenting issues that often put the stay at home mom on the defensive; e.g.,
- “If you don’t let your baby cry it out, he/she will never learn how to soothe herself.”
- “If you don’t send your children to daycare, they will never learn the necessary social skills.”
- “If you don’t get back to work quickly after having a child, you will never be ‘Successful’.”
Children learn many skills over the years. They learn to walk, talk, and eat. It’s interesting that nobody ever suggests that you shouldn’t hold your baby’s hand because he might never walk by himself. Nobody ever suggests that if you feed your baby, she won’t be able to hold a spoon. Yet, for some reason, we assume that if we don’t let our children cry it out, they will never be able to go to sleep by themselves. We accept that the best way for children to get acclimated with others is to send them off to daycare – and that for some reason, family members don’t teach social skills to each other. And last but not least, we agree that motherhood puts us on the back burner when it comes to any measurable success in the years to come.
Words can be so powerful. If we don’t take the time to dismantle communication structures that sound convincing yet so often can work in both directions, we won’t be able to change the way we look at the issues surrounding modern parenting (whatever that is). Looking back in history, we never had a situation similar to today. We should take this as an opportunity to empower mothers to look for the opportunities instead of looking fearfully ahead to the years when we can’t call ourselves a stay at home mom anymore.
Our pastor used this quote in a sermon. He used it – quite appropriately – to talk about what we can and cannot do to lead people to Christ.
Originally, this quote is part of a story about a salesman. Even though he cannot make people buy something, he can certainly elevate their desire to do so.
I couldn’t stop wondering, however, how this applies to parenting. It seems to me that we encounter this scenario every day. Unless you use force, fear and/or extreme punishments, we cannot make our children do certain things. Even more, we cannot make them like or dislike certain things. And, probably the strongest application, we cannot make them be somebody they are not.
It seems that we make our kids do things all the time. We take them to the store even though they don’t want to go. We make them pick up their stuff when they’d rather go outside. The truth is, however, that with every week, month, or year that our kids grow older, we lose some power. We might be able to put our one year old in a car seat even though she really resists. But try this with a middle schooler. We can raise them well, respectful to their parents, following orders willingly. But we don’t have a remote control.
When my oldest started to eat table food, she would eat everything from Brussels sprouts to kale. No kidding. Naively, I attributed this (completely) to our healthy eating habits and our talents as parents. When my younger daughter came along, she didn’t eat any table food until 11 months old. After that, she would only eat things with a crunchy texture. She accepted her first bite of banana at 18 months… I could not make her eat kale. I could, however, keep serving her healthy choices and not give in to e.g., let her whole meal plan consist of crackers and pretzels. She still doesn’t eat everything. But she slowly develops a taste for the foods we generally eat (with smooth texture and all).
We sometimes carry hopes and dreams for our kids that they are not equipped to fulfill. We might want them to become a famous pianist but they have no talent for or interest in music. We want them to be an engineer but their strength isn’t with numbers. We need to restrain ourselves to mold them into something they are not.
But they are certainly areas where we can make them “thirsty” to become better. We might encourage them to stand up for what they believe in. Tell the truth even if it’s hard. Trust God even though his path seems the more difficult one. We can model, teach, support, and guide. We cannot do it for them – but we can make them thirsty.
Many people have failed trying to “make” somebody else do, love or be something. Fewer have failed to equip them for the right path. At the end, as tough as it seems, we can only stand back and hope for the best.
I noticed lately that I sometimes say NO to my daughters without any good reasons. I say NO to reading a book because I need to send a couple of text messages. I say NO to telling a story because I just noticed that the cabinet needs to be polished. I say NO to singing together because I need to quickly check something on the computer. I say NO to building the tower because I need to say NO every so often, don’t I?
Did you notice a pattern? These needs are not really that important. On a regular basis, I could easily say YES to their requests.
Don’t get me wrong here.
- I say YES a lot. We read, sing, and tell a lot of stories in this house.
- I do believe that children cannot always get what they ask for. They need to learn the boundaries. They need to be able to play by themselves. They need to understand that they will encounter a lot of “NOs” in their lives.
That being said, every so often my NOs don’t make sense. I don’t really need to send a text or check something on the computer right now. I can easily tell a story while cleaning the cabinets. I have plenty of opportunity to say NO – for really good reasons. (No, we are not going to have a pet giraffe. – No, we are not having crackers for lunch. – No, we are not there yet…)
So I set myself up for the YES challenge. A few days ago I started to keep myself from saying NO when I can easily say YES. I’m not always fast enough to catch myself but I had some success. I noticed some awesome things that follow this little change:
- It feels quite liberating.
- My daughters’ surprise about my YES is awesome (and it tells me that this challenge was about time…)
- My daughters’ joy about my YES is contagious.
- It does not add any additional reading, singing, playing time to my day. It just moves it to a different time.
- I’m learning more about my kids natural rhythm and how to adjust better to it.
- A clear YES earlier makes it much easier to accept a clear NO later.
Are you going to join me in this challenge?
I am passionate about bringing kids in the kitchen and involving them in real work – real cooking – real cleaning. It is something that is incredibly enriching for me, my husband, and my children. I started a list to keep track of the endless benefits that come from cooking together. So here are my top 40 reasons why it’s important for my family to cook – and to do it together.
If you cook together…
- Dinner becomes an event instead of something to just fill your belly.
- Your children become invested in the meal and eat better.
- Your children develop an understanding of the seasons.
- Your children actually learn how to cook themselves.
- Your children understand what goes into food.
- Your family gets healthier.
- You share more stories.
- You have more people over and practice hospitality.
- Your home becomes more important.
- You save money.
- You naturally develop a better family rhythm.
- You become a better planner.
- You put your family values on center stage.
- You know each other better.
- You become a better cook.
- You know what goes into your food.
- You have better conversations.
- You also clean together (and therefore faster).
- You have a chance to quiet down.
- You laugh more.
- You learn and teach patience.
- You (re-) train your taste buds.
- You let each other know how important family is.
- You get better organized.
- You get inspired.
- You pray together.
- You fail together.
- You exceed your own expectations together.
- You giggle.
- You need to face each other.
- You have tons of teaching opportunities.
- Your children learn responsibility.
- Your children experience with all their senses.
- Your family experiments more with food.
- You create a safe place.
- You might start gardening, too.
- You create traditions.
- You need to slow down.
- You will remember.
- You will be remembered.
What do you gain when you cook together? Please leave a comment!
A fun project to do with your 3-6 year old is weaving.
- Kids have fun feeling the yarn, picking the colors, and seeing the patterns emerge.
- They are learning the simple technique of “over and under”.
- They are learning patience… because it takes some time to get the hang of it and to finish their first project.
- They are actually producing something. How awesome is this?
All you need to get your kids started is a Peg Loom. It is possible to make one out of cardboard . However, if you are planning on doing more than one project or having multiple kids work on it, you might want to get your tools out and put together this simple wooden Peg Loom.
1×3 8” – 2 pieces
1×4 8” – 2 pieces
4d Finish nails
Cut wood to length and sand.
On each 1×4, hammer finish nails about ½” apart.
Assemble loom with screws or nails, being sure to keep the frame square.
Use a sturdier string or yarn to set up the project. Tie string to the first nail. Go acrosse the loom and loop ariound two nails, securing around the second nail with an additional loop. Do this for the complete loom and tie again to the last one.