Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The state of my house is not indicitive of my parenting philosophy

I posted a shortened version of this thought/topic on Facebook, but I wanted to revisit it here.

So these pictures?  As a parent, I feel inundated with these messages:  Spend more time with your children!  Your children won't remember a clean house, they will remember your neglect! 

But do you know what?  I spend 24 hours a day/7 days a week with my children.  Mr. F. and I don't even get a break at night because they are requesting our presence too often for our sanity at times.  I just can't spend all that time in meaningful, uplifting play/quality time.  I need to make sure that we eat.  This is not a trivial activity.  I can't just order take-out or pickup something quick from the deli aisle of the grocery store.  I have to make my own tortillas for pete's sake if I feel like having tortillas.  Then, I need to make sure that we have clean underwear and diapers which requires multiple loads of laundry a day.  And finally, I have a certain level of dirt that I am comfortable with, and that level is exceeded more often than I would like.  (This means that we are almost always exceeding Mr. F's dirt comfort level but, whatever.  He isn't the one home with the kids everyday.)

This makes me feel like this mantra, "Play with your children while ignoring housework and general maintenance" is a 20th/21st century phenomenon.  (And arguably a First World Problem as well.)  When people had to make everything from scratch, wash clothing by hand, grow their own food, etc. did they really spend time feeling guilty about not playing with their children more?  Did the children grow up deprived and unattached as a result?  I don't think so.  I think there is real value in children seeing that certain activities need to be done to keep home life functioning.

I think back to my childhood.  I don't remember my mother sitting down on the floor and playing with me.  She helped me brainstorm activities I could do like paint, play with legos, etc., but I don't remember her on the floor building structures with me.  She read to me.  She engaged with me as she did other things around the house.  I played by myself a lot.  I was more or less o.k. with this, and I more or less expected this.  I feel like I grew into a pretty functioning adult capable of meaningful relationships regardless of this fact.

I am currently not finding either task (spending quality time with my child or managing a home) easy or particularly rewarding.  It would be great if Finn played contentedly in my general presence or with simple involvement, but that isn't the case.  The child wants to be fully entertained.  "Let's do something," he says.  "What do you want to do?" I reply.  "Finn not know."  Well, geez kid.  I don't know either.  What he wants is for me to have structured activities involving new and exciting objects for every hour of the day.  There is no sending him off to a room with the suggestion to play with [fill in toy].  There is no interest unless you are the one actually playing with said toy.  So yeah.  Exhausting.  However, I get no satisfaction out of basic household activities as my child uses this time to act out and throw fits because I my attention isn't 100% on him, and oh yeah, he is getting bored.  I wonder what sort of Jedi mind trick the Amish/Mennonite parents use on their children to get them to so cheerfully engage in everyday activities as planting, cleaning, etc.  I would pay good money for that skill.

And then there is this mystical balance, a zen moment, to try to achieve: the blending of past productivity with modern attachment parenting.  Some days I feel like I get close.  I felt like I had a breakthrough the other day when I had Finn spray the kitchen floor with a spray bottle while I mopped.  That was a nice melding of the two philosophies.  More often than not, I tend to swing one way to then swing back the other way on the next day or week.  I guess it all balances out.

What are your thoughts?  Do you wish your parents played with you more often?  Do you feel gypped out of a rewarding childhood?   Do you have strong feelings that send you to one particular side as a parent?  Are you just unfettered by these sort of guilt-inducing thoughts?


2 comments:

Carol said...

I have to say that I agree with you. I try to be an involved and loving parent, but I also feel it part of my motherly duties to have a tidy house, tasty and healthy food, and clean clothes. I even try to do yardwork every once in awhile. This is not to say that I am ever 100% (or even 50%) on any of these pursuits, but they are at least in the radar.

Motherhood, and life in general, seems to be a balancing act. And like you sometimes it seems I swing to extremes...there are days I exclusively play with my kiddos (and the house is shot!), and there are days it seems like all I did was laundry and cleaning (and the kids didn't get so much attention).

For me, I just have to find the balance that works for me and my family (as it sounds like you have too)...and like I said that balance is different on different days... and not worry about what other people think/say. I figure that where there is love and a diligent effort to be doing right by my kids and my husband...things will work out okay.

Yikes! I've written a novel and it sounds kinda preachy...sorry! Hard to distill your parenting philosophy down into a blog comment.

Angela said...

I know for me it's hardest when I have to work. I feel like after a day of being away from my baby I need to spend every waking moment I can with her, even if there are things to do. Even when I don't work though I still feel like I should be playing with her most if not all of the time she is awake (even though she is quite content many times to play by herself). So yeah I think I have somewhat similar feelings. It's hard to know how to find the right balance between quality time with your child and getting done what needs to be done. I think as long as our children see that we are willing to put aside the "work" and play with them often helps them know we care and love them, but I don't think it has to happen all of the time. Work needs to get done at some point, and doing those things around the house is important too and they need it, just like they need play time.

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