Thursday, October 2, 2008
My Parenting Passion
It's time for the truth to come out. There is something you need to know about me and my family. I am an Attachment Parent. *gasp* I am not 100% crunchy but I very strongly believe in the Principles of AP, as detailed by API (Attachment Parenting International). I breastfeed my babies and follow their lead when it comes to weaning. I believe in "wearing" my babies as it suits them. I do not believe in spanking or use of humilation or force as a discipline tool. I believe in the power of my words. I believe in my child's ability to reason, to be responsible, to make choices. I am focused on raising children who will be kind, compassionate, and self-responsible. I believe in responding to my infant, to my baby, to my child. I believe that a baby's cries have meaning and my responsibility is to find out what they mean and act on it. I watched Oprah yesterday. The show focused on moms who are overwhelmed and make bad, sometimes fatal, decisions in this overwhelmed and unfocused state of mind. The main hook of the show was the Cincinnati mother who left her 2 year old strapped into the minivan all day on the first day back to school. Fatal consequences. My heart is broken for this mother, the father, the sister, the baby. My mind was racing to cover the heartbreak as well as the suffering. Dark corners were opening up as I couldn't stop myself from imagining what that day would have been like for that baby. And what was most heartbreaking to me... and what is causing me to choke up now... is that the baby probably cried for her mama and couldn't understand why mama wasn't coming to help her, to make it better. And there is the angry and selfish place. The part of me that doesn't understand why parents don't put their children first. I don't believe that you have to stay at home in order to put your children first. I, of course, say that because I am a working mom. I would prefer to be home with my children but it isn't an option for our family. People ask what I do for fun and my answer is to spend time with my kids. I took a sabbatical from previous hobbies and passions (movies, theatre, out with friends) when I chose to have a family. Not that I won't ever go back to those things and not that I won't find a way to share those things with my kids... but life changes and I'm pretty flexible and I know those things will still be there when my time is more available. My children are my number one priority. I hear stories of moms being overtired or frustrated and I can understand that feeling but I can't wrap my mind around not being in a place to keep your children's well being in the forefront of all that you do. I'm not judging, don't misunderstand. I'm not sure what I'm doing, really. Just processing, I think. One message of the show was that you have to put your priorities in order. If you are trying to do everything and be everything, you will fail. I welcome anyone to come to my house and you will easily see my priorities. My house is messy. My clean laundry is piled up in my bedroom and there is usually a full hamper of dirty clothes in the hallway. My dishes are in the sink or dishwasher. Everything is always in a state of needing to be done. And where am I in the mess? With my kids. Reading to them, playing with them, or just being close by and watching and learning. It's the people in life that are the priority. Not the condition of the home (within reason), not my job or career, not how much volunteer work I do, not the kind of car I drive, not getting "me" time in the form of drinking or pampering or shopping on a regular basis. What is most important to me and what I strive to keep as my constant focus is a little girl named Teagan, a little boy named Zach, a grown man named Jeff, and me. And everything else radiates from that point. Do I falter? Sure. No one is perfect. But by keeping on track, my priority remains an actual priority and not just an eventual goal. Oprah had a guest on by the name of Norman Fischer. He's described on the show as a well known Zen teacher. He said: "I think that the first thing we've got to do is recognize that especially as mothers, but all of us, our state of mind and our attitude is our most precious gift that we give to each other," he says. "Every day, we ought to wake up and we ought to say: 'How is my state of mind today? Am I losing ground?' If I am, I better address that first because the rest of the stuff I do won't be worth anything if I'm harried and hassled and in a bad mood." And from the description of the show: Though our society stresses the importance of being able to handle multiple tasks at one time, Norman says there is no such thing as multitasking. Instead, we switch from one task to another. This switching prevents us from being able to do one task with any intensity or commitment. "Whatever you are doing. Do it. Do it completely. Bring your whole attention to it," Norman says. "Be present in everything that you do." In order to help prepare yourself for each day, Norman recommends that you take time for yourself. "Take 20, 30 minutes. Get up before your kids early in the morning. Loss of sleep is worth it, if you can have 30 minutes absolute[ly] to yourself, to breathe, return to yourself, digest yesterday's emotions, take stock of yourself and set yourself up for the day," Norman says. "That amount of time saves you time throughout the day." Also important was the discussion on fathers... that the first person a mom should be able to turn to for help, balance, and so on is her partner, her husband. I am blessed and honored to have a husband that I can turn to when I am stressed out. He is fully involved in our family life and takes on household chores and parenting tasks and is committed to the same parenting principles as me. I also like the article Fischer wrote for September's O Magazine. So all of this rambling boils down to 1 thing. I know my priority and strive to live it in each moment. Do you know yours? Do you choose to live it?