Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Parenting and the Modern Woman
I have a different point of view on parenting and modern women. As the stepmother to one child and having been the middle of six children to a single mother, I have seen both what too little interaction and too much can do. To some extent, you will be screwed up by your parents no matter what. Don't despair.
All children are helicopter parented. And there have been helicopters from the beginning. Some are sitting on the sideline drinking a martini, some are overhead, the thud of blades as loud as your own heartbeat. Others are parked in their own problems, too busy to hover over yours. It is interesting to think how one's children are a measure of their success and also how they are the creative outlet, excuse, justification and problematic situation for so many.
We parent the way we do as a result of so many factors. I think that working yourself into your child's life and watching every little thing and worrying about how it will make you look is the fuel for helicopters. So worried that their offspring will face any adversity, any slight in life, any indignity or discomfort, they intervene. In the process, the child never learns how to cope. In the process of protection, one shields nothing but time and lets a childhood lesson slip into adulthood.
Then your 20 year old is being strip searched on the side of the road with cocaine in her mouth while trying to flirt her drunken way out of a ticket not realizing she wasn't even pulled over, that the cop drove by and noticed she hit the only pole she hasn't ever danced on.
No one is saying you shouldn't help your children, pick the little ones up and carry them in parking lots, hold hands and read and sing stories. But when your 3rd grader doesn't do her book report, you DO NOT stay up and fix it by telling her what it should say, running out to the all night Walmart to get a poster board and ruin your next day due to lack of sleep so you can yell at her and at the same time save her. Just skip it. Don't do either. Go to bed, get some sleep and let nature take its course. You are saving everyone.
But you can't, can you? Somehow between the neglect (perceived or real) of your parents and the pushing of society and your circle of people and their influence, you know that you must make sure that your child measures up. That whatever thing they are 'enriching their child with' or taking them to or exposing them to, making sure they know- your kid needs to know too! RIGHT? right? don't they?
You are convinced that you have to measure up. The modern day woman may not still sit at home, bored to death reading cookbooks and women's magazines that tell her how to keep a house and how to make her husband happy and how to mix a perfect cocktail, but she lives in another sort of parallel universe. She works, and she is expected to do well. To make good money, to have gone to school, to earn a worthwhile degree from a good college. She needs to get married at a reasonable age (trust me if you are over 35 and not married you are getting talked about behind your back). What? You say this isn't the 1940's? Oh really? Just go out there and see what happens.
She is supposed to have children. Even her same aged friends are on her about this. Its how you know you measure up apparently. Because no self sacrificing mother in the neighborhood wants a childless woman ruining things for them. How in the world will they judge you as a person, judge your self worth and ability to follow the script, the way you raise your kids-if you don't have any?
She is supposed to make sacrifices. To somehow do it all. No one asks her husband what is for dinner. Or when her mom's birthday is. Or when the water bill is due. No one. You are expected as a modern woman to work, pay bills, have a clean house and well behaved, well dressed, properly indoctrinated/ inoculated children who know the score and are edging you to be the model citizen that your neighbors are. They are at the table eating your nutritious homemade meal right this minute.
And if you aren't out making money, you better be a stay at home mom, make a good looking couple of babies, have amazing shopping/organizing/party throwing skills, volunteer at your kid's school until they kick you out for stalking, then drive everyone to every event and have nothing but a great attitude about it.
Its enough to make you want to move to the country. Alone. Where there are no coupons.
I, on the other hand, like to drink and I like wool pants, umbrellas on beverages, loud music and moody thinking. I like retro design, making people laugh, the company of adults and not explaining myself to children. I like reading and writing and sleep. Remember when parents would retire to 'the den' in the evenings? Me either, but I feel like I've read about it and I'm bringing it back.
The helicopter style is no longer for me. I have settled in to what you might call 'canoe parenting'. The whole thing floats even when you aren't rowing and you can circle back to see how things are, then row a few yards away again. As long as you don't lean too far to one side, everything is fine and you can reasonably hold a drink.
Come with me, modern women. Come row on the breezy waters. Have a drink. The kids are fine.