As a stay-at-home parent I have steered clear of the so-called ‘Mommy Wars’. Parenting is hard enough without expending energy into judging the choices of others or opening myself up to other people’s judgment. I believe that we are all in this together. However you decide to parent, you have your reasons and I trust that they are what works best for you and your family. When I am feeling particularly defensive about my choices I have found it is rarely about what someone else is saying or doing, but my own sense of insecurity. About two years ago I made a choice that instead of worrying about what the rest of the world thought of me as a parent, I would instead change my focus to find peace and security within my parenting decisions.
I still have occasions where I encounter a friend or someone else on my path that makes me question if being an at-home parent is ‘right’. Over time, I have found that there really is no right or wrong. Let me repeat, there is no right or wrong. It is more about owning your choices and making the best of them.
Both sides are actually more alike than they are different. We all want our children to thrive. It all boils down having a strong emotional connection to them. The good news is, you don’t have to spend hours and hours with them to give them this connection. I promise you, even though I am available to my kids more hours than parents who work outside the home, the older they get, the less actual time I spend with them. When they come home from school they immediately begin their school work, their projects, preparations for sports or other activities, and when they happen to have free time, they scour the neighborhood for kids to play football. My moments with them are becoming more and more limited.
And, even though I may technically have access to more moments, if I am not fully present with my boys when I get these moments, they can tell and quickly lose interest in our time together. I liken it to when I have a conversation with my husband. I can tell in about 2 seconds if he is actually engaged in what I am saying or if he is still in work-mode with his mind busy with other things. When this happens, I put the brakes on, speak up for myself, and try the conversation again later (I admit, I don’t always do this pleasantly). Kids don’t give second chances as readily. Either you want to listen to them, or you don’t. If you don’t, they are quick to move on. The more this happens, the more a divide can grow between you.
When you happen to catch your moment with them, clear your head. Ground yourself in that moment and focus completely on them. Don’t have an expectation or an agenda. Let the moment unfold naturally. Let them talk about whatever they want. Keep your judgments to yourself. There is a time and place for teaching them, in the midst of establishing an emotional connection is not it. All that matters is them. Give them a space to feel loved, accepted and validated exactly as they are.
These moments don’t have to be complicated, they can happen over the course of any regular day.
“Many of us look to when we are out to dinner at a restaurant or on vacation together to connect, but it’s in the ordinary moments–giving a bath, seated at the dining table, waiting for the bus, driving in the car, standing in line–that emotional connectivity best flourishes. Unless we understand the potential for connection in each moment of each day, we will miss countless wonderful windows of opportunity for interaction with our children.”
-Dr. Shefali Tsabary, ‘The Conscious Parent’
I believe we all have the capacity for a moment or two of connection each day. It’s up to us to be ready for them when they arise.
We can do this.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent