100% Focused on Kids? Let's Get Real, People.
posted by Sheri

After viewing the Good Morning America "Mommy Wars" clip that Amy wrote about the other day and listening to stay-at-home mom Debbie Klett, who also started and runs Total 180: "the magazine for the professional woman turned stay-at-home mom," say in defense of her choice to, in my opinion, work at home, that she wants "to be a loving, caring mom every minute of the day," I once again started on one of my evil headtrips.

I imagined stay-at-home moms with carefully thought-out master plans for mealtime, playtime, and naptime. Pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse, followed by a finger painting, a playdate with Bobby down the street, an organic, well-balanced lunch, and then naptime when Mommy happily checks of her Mommy-Do List and coordinates the equally stimulating afternoon events. These moms spend every MINUTE of their day completely focused on the stimulation of their children, and they do it with a smile. Of course, by then I started to feel bad about the fact that I don't do this AT ALL. My son's food, play, and nap needs are fairly well met, but 100% stimulation just isn't happening on the days I work at home or quite honestly even on the weekend when both me and my husband are home. These super-mommy figments of my imagination are good moms, and I'm a bad mom. I start to feel really, really sorry for my poor deprived kid.

It's about this time that I usually hear Cher's Moonstruck voice, "Snap out of it!" Jesus, these moms don't really exist nor should they!

Well, thank goodness for Sarah Gilbert over at Blogging Baby who snapped me out of it and reminded me about how I really feel about the ups and downs of this gentle balancing act of working at home or, in fact, about raising kids altogether. In "Ruminations on working from home," Gilbert shares about her own WAHM-guilt and how she quells it by thinking about her own mom and grandma and how it would've been impossible for them to focus 100% on their kids and how the generations of her family turned out just fine.

When I think back to my own childhood, my favorite memories are not of my Mom doting on me (sorry Mom, you doted perfectly well when you doted) but of playing free and stirring up imagination. Creating worlds and characters under my quilt in my room. Dreaming of kingdoms I ruled in my backyard. Finding shells, rocks, sticks, frogs. Staring mesmerized out the window of our orange VW bus if only my brother would've stopped bothering me from the seat next to me (I'm sure he'd say it was me bothering him; well, it wasn't). Of course, my parents made sure my "worlds" were safe and that I had access to friends. We took family trips and ate dinner together and took part in Scouts and baseball. My dad built me a jungle gym and my mom taught me how to latch hook (this paid off for them as I spent a lot of time doing both by myself). My parents were by no means slackers. However, we also watched TV, played video games, spent many a lazy Sunday doing nothing, and played alone and together a lot. They surely didn't cart us around every minute or actively stimulate us all the time. My parents could do other things in their lives, nothing too glamorous—things like go to work and keep the house up and maintain relationships with family and friends—but they did not need to put 100% focus on our stimulation each day. And even so, as an adult, I'm not stung by any nightmares of neglect.

Often I watch myself and my mama friends—working or not working—beat ourselves up about not doing enough when we're all very present for our kids. Even though our kids have lives full of play dates, family activities and parties, birthday parties, "intellectually stimulating" toys, maybe some organized activities like soccer or dance, and/or mom or dad engaging them on and off in the car, over homecooked meals, and baths. This stuff counts. Why are moms (and some dads too) made to feel guilty about doing paid work or even "self work" when they're doing plenty to stimulate and enjoy and raise their children? Working and non-working parents alike are going to have days where the balance is off—you just had to meet a crunch deadline, work late, serve on the PTA, give a party for a close friend, or just go out with friends or your spouse for some much-needed alone time. God, being a parent doesn't have to mean giving up one's self or the other priorities in our lives.

And it's funny. Even though I work and make time for myself, it's no problem to love my kid "every minute" of my day.

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