This is my 355th post on this blog. In December, Native Born will be four years old. In honor of the 355th post and also because I'm moving tomorrow (finally)... I'm going to post the very first entry here today.
Advice to new bloggers... there are few grammatical devices less useful than the adverb.
Oh, and, of course, have fun.
A few months ago, I thought about starting a blog for my daughter.
First, every parent reading this should know that I think starting a blog for your child is a fantastic idea. Unless, of course, like me, you are a breath away from needing medication for your OCD, perfectionist, guilt-ridden personality. I positively know that if I had not kept up that blog I would have felt like the worst mom in the world.
I stay at home with my daughter and she is not in school yet. I am with her every moment of the day, and most nights she sleeps in my bed. We go to the park three times a week, "mommy and me" twice a week and usually one play date a week.
Do I really need the added pressure of physical documentation to this routine??
"Today, my daughter and I had a play date. Now, I am writing about that play date..."
I do deeply respect and recognize the fact that many mothers enjoy writing blogs for their kids. I also love looking at those blogs, but I sincerely hope that all the parents writing those blogs have caught up on all the books they have been meaning to read, gotten their roots done, called their friends back, gone to the gym, answered their personal e-mails, gotten manicures and pedicures and watched Oprah that day.
If you have done ALL that and are not a gazillionaire with a foreign accented nanny, and still have time to write a blog, please start another blog detailing how I, too, can learn to be as fabulous as you are.
Essentially, I think it's best for a stay at home parent to devote a significant portion of his or her free time to something that has nothing to do with children. Honestly, I think it's best for our children, too.
The other day I caught myself obsessing over my daughter's cautious nature and how I could construct play dates that would help her become more outgoing. When I say obsessing, I mean I was pretty much in tears because I believed that my inability to make her "come out of her shell" was going to scar her socialization skills for the rest of her life.
At the end of that painstaking night, though, I realized that my daughter doesn't have to be outgoing if she doesn't want to be. Because I am fairly intelligent and a natural problem solver, I actually ended up creating a problem for my daughter that I needed to solve. Not only was this emotionally exhausting for me, it was totally unfair to my child.
This is also precisely the reason why an intelligent woman who stays at home full time should carefully and consciously pursue interests outside the realm of child care. If you do not find projects for yourself, your child will become your project. I'm beginning to learn that it's possible to focus so much on a child that you risk not actually seeing them at all. More specifically, because you are so "mommied out," you're always seeing that little person as someone you have to teach, protect and mold instead of occasionally seeing them as a distinct and separate person with their own identity.
When your husband or sigot offers to take your children to the park when he or she gets home from work, do not clean the house while they are gone. Do not make dinner, fold laundry, put away toys, or work on your kids' photo albums during this time. Do not call home every fifteen minutes if you are out and they are being watched by someone else. If you find a few minutes to take a hot bath, do not take a parenting book or Parents magazine with you. Somehow, the human race perpetuated itself without parenting books and magazines, if you don't get to read them your child will be fine.
If you find the time to call a friend, especially one with children, please do not spend more than ten minutes talking about your kids. This is neurotic and annoying.
Having been a teenager myself, I can absolutely guarantee that when your children are old enough to know that you are obsessing over them in this manner, it will drive them crazy and they will dislike you intensely because of it.
Following my own advice regarding this matter has been the hardest thing about motherhood so far. People assume that if we are not focusing every spare minute on our children that we are somehow being selfish. I maintain, however, if you do not carve out time for yourself, you are being even more selfish.
It's selfish to focus constantly on your child, especially if they are a baby or toddler, because they are delightful, beautiful and fun. You also happen to be the center of their universe which is great for your ego.
But, there is a selflessness in realizing that it's not just you that needs space, but that your child needs a little space, too. I think there's merit in starting to experiment with that concept right now instead of in response to slammed doors and inappropriate body piercings. Learning to prioritize yourself, even if it's only for a few minutes a day, is a daunting and difficult task, but definitely a necessary one for the sanity of your entire family.
Stop reading this and start practicing.