I created this space as an outlet for myself. My hope was that having this outlet would give me a way of facing what challenges me with a positive outcome. Given that I am still not writing as consistently as my original plan called for, by the time I sit to write, more often than not these days, I’m at the end of my wits. So here I am. A mess. Wondering which aspects of my life could do with the sort of revision that would yield less blahs and more goods. I find it challenging to avoid comparing my life to others’. Today this tendency of mine is challenged by the blogosphere which I’m very peripherally engaged in. I’ve got a handful of mama-written blogs that I read regularly. They are always at once a comfort and inspiration to me. I am a silent reader and a new blogger. Certainly not part of the inner circle that I have some sort of notion exists somewhere in cyberspace. So here are some of my thoughts of late.
I wouldn’t mind some full disclosure captions under photos of perfectly clean homes, something along the lines of, just how often on a weekly basis the room actually looks the way it does in the photo or perhaps how much preparation went into the finished product. With respect to craft projects, how about some lists of what chores didn’t get done while that new sweater was being knit or that quilt top was getting put together? Maybe it’s just my lifestyle. I’m sure that has something to do with it. The fact that I own and run (somehow, by the skin of my teeth) a small business. The fact that I’m only 15 months into this parenting gig. The fact that my husband (along with his partner) also works in his own business. The fact that we live in a fast-paced, urban area. I don’t know…but I’m pretty sure that I’d find even more comfort from these gals if they occasionally included some admission of imperfection. Or something like that. Just an idea.
I write here under a pen name so that I can share thoughts that aren’t necessarily conversational in polite company. It seems to me that different blogs have different approaches to this. While all the blogs that I frequent clearly have a limit on what aspects of their life are shared in the public sphere (knitting, sewing, home décor, and food being the most common), it seems to me that there is a limit on what a person would feel comfortable putting out on the internet as her opinion. On the one hand, I could entertain the notion that my choice of anonymity has granted me a cop-out. On the other, I could say that it’s giving me the full measure of what I was looking for in starting this project: a true outlet for what happens in my head, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
As I’ve been dealing with my own experiences of overwhelm lately I’ve been giving my pet theory of village style parenting more consideration. We are a family of three, without participatory family members close by. We do have a community of friends and neighbors and the communities that result from our businesses. But at the end of each day and through each night we are just three. When I read about moms who are alone with their kids for the majority of their days, I am amazed. I simply cannot fathom how they do it. Perhaps their kids are different than mine? Not quite so active? Perhaps they have a more effective means of putting limits on their kids? There really are too many factors to consider, which could very well be another reason that bloggers chose to avoid such topics. It’s not the sort of thing that can be written about with any real authority. All things are relative. But if we are just looking to have a discussion without arriving at any sort of definitive conclusion. Just so that we are fully equipped with ideas to consider, I’ve got some thoughts to add to the hopper.
Firstly there is the underlying philosophy of each parent. No matter how aware each parent is of this philosophy, it is there. It is the sort of base reasoning for why we do what we do. Mine is something like this, my job as a parent is to bear witness to my child so that I can offer him / her the best possible support in his / her process of self-realization. In order to truly bear witness to another person, I must have the capacity to be present in every moment which inevitably engages me in the exciting processes of self growth and continual learning. Inherent in this philosophy of mine is respect for my child as an individual separate from me. In order to have even a fighting chance of putting my philosophy into action, I need to be in good health, which, in my case, means that I call upon the support of many people.
My recent read gave me lots of food for thought about this culture of ours and how it differs from others. I find it amazing that there are so many aspects to human cultures that are beneath the surface of communication. This is my interpretation of Druckerman’s experience in investigating certain aspects of French parenting. While she had plenty of conversations with French parents, there were particular ways and means which no amount of questioning could uncover. She ended up discovering these “secrets” through conversations with a French pediatrician who lives here in the US. Who has written a book. Which is to say that he’s a bit further along the path of describing just what it is that the French do. Looking at this notion of cultural comparisons from another angle, it seems to me that there are so many relevant characteristics of cultures which dictate parenting styles. In the case of the French, The size and cohesion of cultural practices, their fairly recent history of more harsh parenting practices, and the impact of two world wars on the families of those eras surely must play a role in shaping the France of today. Here in the US we were not ravaged by war in the same way in the last century. And we are a vast country, with a tremendous amount of diversity. As for the harsh parenting, given what I know anecdotally, we are on our own path toward respecting even the youngest members of our society.
Inherent in any discussion of parenting is the presence of learning. Perhaps it is a mystical assumption, but it is rooted in the common sense of enough cultures that it bears mention. However it is understood from culture to culture, each generation builds upon the last. Here in the public discourse of the US, this is framed in terms of technological advancements and schooling. Regardless of how the opportunity is described or understood, it exists. Children provide us with the opportunity to learn.
It’s been a while since this post, and yet given my daily grind, my thoughts often return to it. Usually they go something like this, one kid is challenge enough! Why not get some help? Of course, that is my strategy and I write those words not as advice but rather as what idea comes to my mind in the face of a problem which I’ve abstracted for the sake of discussion but which is my current state of normal. Being new to this band of mothers, I am realizing though, how relevant my notion is. Recently in conversation with a mama-friend I once again laid out my theory that in a truly civilized society, no one would be alone with a small child or infant for more than twenty minutes at a time. It bears mention that when I share this theory with other full-time moms of small children they vehemently agree, but that my theory has also been met with plenty of blank stares. I’ve got two theories about the reason behind the void. In my (clearly limited) experience, much older moms, generally the ones that went it alone for many years while their male co-parents were off earning money, tend to have a hardness around their experience as mothers which somehow separates them from camaraderie around such theories of how to make the experience of parenting better. One that is, for obvious reasons, characterized by definite limits. And then, there are the people who have not experienced the life of the stay at home parent. Enough digression, back to the theory itself. There are so many moments of stress and awkwardness with little ones when only one adult is present which simply do not exist when two or more adults are in company. These are simply matters of logistics and coordination. Then there is the matter of morale. Companionship in caring for small humans is priceless. While I love the notion of the village as much as the next person, the reality is that it is not necessarily reliable for the sort of situation that I’m prescribing with my theory. Because of the importance behind what I’m laying out, it seems that the best way to ensure it’s implementation is to make it real work. Furthermore, given my perceived veracity, I figure that someday this notion that I’m laying out here will be more common sense knowledge than some crazy idea that a self-indulgent-mom-who-wants-it-all-and-cake-for-dinner-too had. Oh and I’m not presuming by any means that I alone will champion this idea into the minds of the masses, no I think that it’s a logical next step for us here in the US given some of the general trends in parenting styles that we see these days.
Which brings me back to cultural context. And to Druckerman’s comparisons between French and American cultures of parenting. To make this point: perhaps what is missing in parenting styles here in the US isn’t the firm discipline of French parenting, the sleeping and eating regimens, etc; but rather enough people to make what we are doing actually work reasonably well. My therapist has helped me to understand my son’s current life experience as one of nearly constant expansion. We support him in this by offering him new experiences regularly and when he falls upon something that we wish he wouldn’t, we distract him. That is to say, we give him yet another thing to consider. This process is made infinitely easier the more people there are around. And as his world view expands, I can only imagine that this will continue to be the case. While I do have fairly traditional expectations around behavior, the more time I spend with my son, the more I realize that the behavior I expect is the behavior of a person in respectful relationship to his surroundings within the limits of what is developmentally appropriate. Which is to say that kids need space to have their experience. And the more they have a safe and supportive space to live their lives, the more likely that they will be highly motivated to make positive and lasting contributions to our society as the individuals that they truly are. I realize that I just made a pretty big jump of logic, but I’m running out of time for today.
These thoughts have been rolling around my brain for quite a while so it is with great relief that I hit the publish button, and move back into the present moment which just so happens to involve a runny nose, hands reaching for my laptop, and a sweater made moist with newly discovered spray bottle skills. Here’s to constant expansion with continual respect for each person’s experience.