March 21, 2008

Enough Already!

Have you seen this article: Idle parenting means happy children, from the British Telegraph, by Tom Hodgkinson? (Thanks to Suburban Correspondent at The More the Messier for pointing it out.) He argues that parents are too involved with their children's lives, making it hard for the kids to develop independence. He thinks that being constantly entertained by T.V., video games, computers, scheduled activities, teachers, and group leaders stunts children's development, making them clingy, needy, and unable to take care of themselves. He suggests that parents should simply leave their kids alone and let them play.

At first this "Idle parenting" thing sounded good to me. I mean, I've never been that into over-scheduling my kids with activities and outings. I expect them to play and entertain themselves sometimes. After all, that's what all the toys are for, right? Of course I also feel guilty because everyone else's kids seem to be involved in dance and sports and music and art and yadda, yadda, yadda. So I wonder, are my kids missing out? Am I holding them back? Or am I teaching them independence? I really don't know.

Hodgkinson goes on to say that parents who put their kids in front of the T.V. or video games are BAD parents. Okay, sure. We've all heard that one, right? My kids do watch T.V. and play video games. That's all they'd do if I let them, actually. I have to insist they turn it off and go play. I probably let them watch too much when they're home, so I feel guilty about that too.

Hodgkinson also says that parents who send their kids to babysitters, or daycares, or who have anyone else watch their children for them are BAD parents. My kids go to daycare. I don't work. What do I do? I take a class, I run errands, I volunteer at the library, I find apartments (well, one townhouse) in far away cities for us to move into, I plan and organize the move. The kids only started daycare a couple of months ago when the best little place - loving and fun, with a wonderful educational program - called and offered us spots for both kids. And here's the thing - Monkey LOVES it. He looks forward to going. He loves playing with the other kids. When he's home for the day - on weekends, for example - he asks often to go to school. It's the best thing for him. But I feel hugely guilty and kind of ashamed about having them in daycare when I'm not working.

Enough already! I mean come on, I am so tired of reading manifestos on parenting because all of them inevitably tell me I suck at this and I already feel inadequate enough. I'm tired of having other parents, posing as experts, call me BAD. Just put me in a time out and be done with it already because, honestly, I can't take much more of this constant criticism.

And this guy? He's slamming working parents who have their kids in daycare (or with caregivers or family members) while they earn a living. He's slamming any parents who ever let the T.V. entertain their children. He's slamming stay at home parents who spend time doing crafts and educational activities with their children. He's slamming any parents who schedule classes and sports for their children. According to him, the only good parents are stay at home parents who ignore their children. Not in a neglectful way, he hastens to clear up - we should still make sure they eat and have dry diapers. Who does he think he is anyway? That's what I want to know. I'm not going to say, one way or the other, whether he's a good parent because I have no idea... But I will say that I think he's a pompous blow-hard.

So, I decided to ask my kids what they think. Are they happy?

And out of the mouths of babes:


video video

I spend way too much time worrying whether I'm doing the right things for my children. But here's the thing, there's really no reason for all this guilt. I'm doing okay. My kids are happy, funny, sweet, and creative. That should the best evidence of how I'm doing as a parent.

My advice? Ignore the haters. Love your kids, do your best, and try not to worry too much whether or not you're doing this right. It's a hard gig, after all, this raising people.

.....

17 comments :

Working mum said...

I read the article. I think there is a certain amount of British satiric humour in it, but what I found funny was the advert underneath the article for 50 top things to keep the kids entertained this Easter!

I think we can only do our best with our kids and love them loads.

SaraLynn said...

He is a blow hard. And who is watching, or not watching, his kids while he is parent bashing?
Anyhoo, I fall into this worry trap as well from time to time. But my husband always rescues me. Our children are well-behaved, creative and independent in GOOD ways. I say love them and do your best.

Gerbil said...

Oh, I embraced my role as Evil Bad Ogre Mommy long ago, but nobody much bothers saying anything to me anymore because they're convinced I just might be dangerously nuts... and I'm a wicked shot with rubber band.

Amanda said...

Amen, sister! I look for examples of good parenting in my extended family. I know that my husband is a good man so I try use some of the advice from his parents. Some of their advice, I take and throw out the window. Anyway, my point is that I like to learn about parenting from people that are close to me that I know have done a good job. But even then, sometimes the kids are just going to grow up and be different than you thought they would. Not because you let them watch tv or because they played video games but because when they become adults they get to be the person they want to be, no matter what you have to say about it. (sorry that was way too long. Can you tell I struggle with this as well?)

scrappysue said...

your kids are ADORABLE!!! i only have the girl kind...lol. two things i'd like to say about that idiot that wrote the article. ahem:

1) this so-called 'expert' - it's only ONE opinion; and

2) he sounds like one of these people who would complain if his arse was on fire and someone pissed on it and put it out!!!

how's that!!!!

mums RULE - what would he know...

SaraLynn said...

the kids are sooo cute!

Beck said...

He doesn't mention daycare in the article - he said that the idle parent is a stay-at-home parent, but not in the childcare since - in the sense of a parent who doesn't spend all their time running their wee darling from one activity to another. But he didn't actually refer to daycare at all - in fact, didn't he say the ideal childcare arrangement was to give the babies to fat lazy old women who wouldn't fuss over them? So there's nothing there to feel hurt over, I think.

Reluctant Housewife said...

Actually he said, "It is the irresponsible parent who hands the child over to various authorities for its education and care, whether that is childminders, schools, CBeebies or the virtual world of Habbo Hotel. Or it is the parent who tries to impose his own vision on the children and does not simply let them be."

yup.

I'm not hurt, I was annoyed, yes. Hurt no. I read so much about parents being judged, or feeling judged for their choices (and I know I feel that way myself often enough) that I resent one more voice saying THIS is the right way and THAT is the wrong.

Becoming Me said...

You know, it's gotten to the point where I rarely read parenting magazines or advice at all. I know who to ask when I need to and that's about it because otherwise I get so confused and often annoyed. So much of the advice is contrary and guilt-ridden anyway. I love Julie Ann Barnhill's book "Motherhood, the guilt that keeps on giving. You're kids are darling and I think that you are being a good mom by letting them spend some time in Mother's day out while you take care of life. Not that my advice was solicited. :-)

Kelley said...

And we are never going to be the parents that everyone else thinks that we should be. Are you kids happy? Mine is...she laughs and plays AND watches tv, plays computer games, playing with me and a dozen other family members and BY HERSELF!! Don't ever judge yourself of your kids to someone elses standards.

Mad said...

Ya, I tune all this shit out. You should hear what people like this have to say about blogging parents. Erg. Seriously, I DO NOT read parenting columns especially if they are written by men.

Mad said...

...and, uh, ya: cute kids.

Sass E-mum said...

I'm selective about what parenting advice I read. It's one of my top reasons for blogging - real ideas and inspiration from people who are actually doing it.

Tom sounds like a BAD man trying to make us feel like failures. Do you think he's jealous that we are all having so much fun?

The Barber Bunch said...

Happy Easter to you and yours!

echoeve said...

I think that we each need to parent our children differently. I mean all children are different. Just because one solution works for one child doesn't mean it will work on another child.

As, far as this man and his opinion I think he is a jerk. Being a mom is hard. Being a mom is something he will never experience first hand.

Elaine A. said...

I'm gonna have to be blunt here. That guy is full of crap! I can't believe people who think they can make such general criticisms like that on ANY subject, but I have to admit this one is a little close to home!

Your last paragraph says it all. Congrats on having the proper perspective! : )

Virtually Sweet said...

First of all, anyone who has a set of rules labeling parents as GOOD or BAD, is missing the bigger picture!

Having said that, I was able not to have to put my younger two (of 3) children in daycare, HOWEVER, I feel that they DO need the socialization & separation from parents, so I did enroll them in preschool as soon as they were old enough. AND sometimes parents HAVE to work to maintain a standard of living that BENEFITS THE KIDS. As parents, I think we do what we feel is best for our family!

I am guilty of letting them watch too much t.v, & video games, especially when it's just too cold or too hot to play outside. BUT, I just implemented a token system I had read about and it has worked really well. It uses poker chips and we have assigned each chip to be worth 30 minutes of electronics time...they get 2 free each day, and then have to earn to get more. And they get them taken away for bad behavior. I find them being so creative to come up with other things to do in order to save and covet those chips! It's great. And this is coming from a VERY disorganized mom with ADHD! =) They are also much more eager to help out in order to earn more!