Project Parenting

As I mentioned in my last post, Cameron’s sleep habits aren’t great and we decided to hire a sleep consultant to help us. We met with her yesterday and tonight ‘Project Sleep’ begins, but the process has already got me thinking about a whole other topic – the expectations I have of myself as a mother.

It started when I was filling in the forms for the sleep consultant. There were pages of questions about every element of Cameron’s life – food, sleep, illness, birth, routine, environment, feeding. As I waded through it I had a growing sense of failure. I found myself trying to justify my answers because I knew there was a ‘better’ one. But another part of me was also asking why I felt like a failure? And my conclusion – too much information!

In this day and age, we are bombarded with information about how to raise a child. And frankly, I don’t think it helps. (Incidentally, I feel the same way about ante-natal classes.) I love the way Steve Wiens put it in his post ‘To parents of small children: Let me be the one who says it out loud’:

We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning. One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are oversaturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.

Before I became a stay-at-home mom with Cameron, I worked in project orientated fields. We had clear targets, deadlines and processes. I get a kick out of that sort of thing which is great because sometimes a systematic approach is needed. Take ‘Project Sleep’ as an example – the timeline is two weeks, there is a clear process for each eventuality (naps, bedtime and night wakings) and we have a chart to map our progress. (All this quite aside from the fact that ‘Sleep Consultant’ looks great on a business card and just screams ‘corporate culture’.) But for every day mothering I’m learning that this is not how to approach parenting. For me, all the information can make me feel like raising a child is some sort of project. All those handy month-by-month milestones just get me asking questions like ‘Am I meeting my deadlines? Is Cameron on target? Am I performing well enough as a mom?’ Talk about pressure I don’t need in my life!

In the same post, Steve Wiens goes on to say:

…maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next President who knows how to read when she’s three and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.

I think this is good advice so I’ve stopped reading the books. It’s nice to know they are there if I have questions, but mostly I ignore their existence. I only subscribe to blogs that inspire and encourage me. And I reject those failure feelings each time they raise their nasty heads.

The thing is, that as well as info overload, we also live in a culture where perfectionism is celebrated. To use ‘Project Sleep’ again, one of the reasons why I’d love Cameron to sleep better is because I suspect that if I could just get a bit more rest, I could be one of those cookie baking, home decorating, meal conjuring, craft creating super moms who make sandwiches look like dinosaurs. But again I question myself – ‘Why do I feel like I need to be?’ That stuff isn’t necessary. Yes, it’s nice to do if you like baking and creating and making sandwiches look like dinosaurs, but those activities should be added extras, not a source of more pressure. Those things can be fun creative outlets but there is a huge problem if I feel like I need to be doing all that stuff to succeed as a mom.

Writing posts like this makes me realise just how much motherhood is changing my perceptions and ideas. Maybe it’s got to do with having so little time – I need to make sure I use it well! So I’m prioritizing differently. I’m living at a slower pace. And most importantly, I’m redefining my expectations.

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8 thoughts on “Project Parenting

  1. I’m not a mother yet but I believe that parents do the best that they can at that time. Later you might find a different way of doing things but it doesn’t mean you didn’t it incorrectly. My mother only baked once a year, Christmas Eve, but that didn’t make her any less of a mother. You need to be the mother that you are not the way the media says you should be 🙂 Knowing you, Luce, you are going above and beyond to be fabulous!!! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement Siany. You are going to be an awesome mom too just as soon as you’ve got your adventuring out of your system! X

  2. You’re blogs are incredibly honest Luce, its refreshing to read. I was watching some social media thing on tv and it was commenting that everyone is so quick to show their life through rose tinted glasses. How you don’t see people posting pics on FB that are anything less than fabulous. People have become way to concerned with looking perfect and appearing to be the best at everything ALL the time. Spending time on blogs and pinterest only make you feel inadequate because you meals look like healthy delicious food on a plate and not some gastronomic experience, that you don’t quilt, or that you just aren’t excited at the idea of a triple bakes souffle with some rare cheese that you have hand made, with vegetables grown from your garden and eggs from your chickens. Its not life – or not one that I know. Siany I am with you – Luce you are, I am sure, a seriously super mom! And that last line in the second Steve Wiens quote says it all.
    x

    • Haha Kate – you make me laugh friend! But I completely agree. It’s ironic really, we are all striving for this perfect life that we think other people are living but in reality no one is actually achieving it. Hope you have a fabulous weekend – not making cheese!

  3. hey Lucy, thanks for this – Steve let me reblog his on mine and I paired it with this one from my friend Candi that you might find helpful [http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/taboo-topics-parents-of-small-children-meet-candi-fourie] – just a story of another set of parents of young children trying to do their best when it’s not always easy – great to see more forums where people can explore this and yes sometimes I agree that with each person and set of circumstances being different and unique it can be good to throw away the books and just run with it [hoping you have a community of family and friends who will be running alongside you and helping where necessary and when invited to]

    All the best
    love brett fish

    • Hey Brett. Thanks for the link – loved Candi’s post and enjoyed exploring your blog a bit too. Definitely great to have friends and family on board. Community is such an essential part of life but sadly becoming so under-rated in our society.

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