Real Mothering

For Christmas, I received the book, 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know: Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids by Michele Borba. I just started reading it this morning. It occurred to me that I could get some reading done while the kids play and watch their morning cartoons (Sid the Science Kid, Super Why, and Dinosaur Train). Hey, it's better than the torture of watching these cartoons over and over again. When you find yourself singing the theme song to Super Why at random times throughout the day, and you are even tapping your foot to it, it's time for an intervention! :)

I'm not a speed reader like my sisters-in-law (who would have finished the book in the first 15 minutes of the first cartoon), so I have only read the first two chapters, but I thought I'd share some good points from the book with you.

The author begins the book by talking about how mothering has changed in only one generation. How we are SO busy with every facet of our children's lives now. I don't remember the exact numbers, but there were 800 books on mothering published between 1970 and 2000....only 27 of those were published between 1970 and 1980. So obviously there has been an explosion of opinions and tactics for mothering recently.

One section that really struck me was when the author went to the store to purchase a gift for a friend's new baby. She was overwhelmed at all the STUFF there was to choose from:

"Next aisle: magnetic numbers, memory games, phonic kits, electronic vocabulary programs, and gadgets galore to motivate your budding little genius. In fact, almost every product pledged to give your kid that all-important jump-start toward academic success. Just when did mothering a baby or a toddler become so focused on achievement? What the heck happened to the days of sandboxes, blocks, and tree forts?"

Isn't that the truth? I don't know about you, but I am constantly being told what I need to be doing with my kids and why it is imperative that they do it. I don't think this advice is intended to be harmful - quite the opposite. But I'd be lying if I said it hadn't left me second-guessing myself or feeling guilty over what I'm NOT doing.

I have young children (almost 3 and 1), so there isn't a whole lot they can be involved in yet. But one issue that has been front and center lately is preschool. Most kids are going to preschool these days. I never planned on putting my kids in preschool. I don't think there is anything wrong with preschool, I just figured that since I am a full-time stay-at-home mom, it didn't make any sense to send them to school when I am fairly sure I have the level of knowledge needed to teach them at home. But the reaction I get from others seems to be that my children will suffer when they start Kindergarten - they won't be familiar with the structure of school, or be developed socially. So, I am haunted by images of my children as outcasts, or teachers telling me that my kids just aren't cutting it in school. As ridiculous as those thoughts may be, it does make me go back and question my thoughts on preschool. One thing that keeps coming to mind though is the fact that I only have 5 years of time with my kids at home. Five years. Do you know how quickly that goes?! After that, they are off to school and there is less time to be with them. So why not savor each moment now, why not teach them myself, why not spend more time just being little kids - exploring, discovering and loving? School will come soon enough...but there is a great tree in the backyard that needs to be climbed now!

Again, I'm not knocking people who put their kids in preschool. It works for many people! But if it doesn't work for me, should I feel guilty about it? I don't think so.

In this book, the author gave some stats on what has changed in family life in the last two decades:

  • Children's homework increased almost 50 percent.
  • Unstructured children's activities declined by 50 percent.
  • Family dinners decreased by 33 percent.
  • Family vacations decreased by 28 percent.
  • Children's free time decreased by 12 hours per week.
  • Playtime decreased by 3 hours per week.
  • Many school systems these days have abolished recess.

When I read this list, it immediately gave me some tangible goals for my family:

  • I want to make sure the kids have unstructured (and unhurried) play time every day.
  • Family dinners will be the rule - not the exception.
  • We need to have a family vacation every year.

I don't think these are hard goals to achieve...but I think there will always be stuff threatening them - trying to take up our time. So as mom, I need to be the gatekeeper and get rid of the stuff that is wasting our time.

Angie, over at Bring The Rain, wrote a post a few days ago about homeschooling her daughters. She was explaining why they do it, and that it doesn't always work for everyone. But she said that her motto when making decisions about her children was this: "Love your God. Love your children intentionally and well." I can't think of a better motto. I want to love my children intentionally. I want to have a plan behind my choices for them, and I want to be real with them. Achievement is not the #1 goal in mothering. Raising children who love God and do what is right is my goal. And anything that doesn't point my kids in that direction, well, it's just stuff.


Kenny and Jen said...

"So why not savor each moment now"

I totally agree. Van is only 6 months and it has flown by. Even though the books said not to, we rocked him to sleep for the first few months because we knew that soon he wouldn't want to be rocked or held anymore. I am so glad that we did that because now he has already outgrown that little baby stage. He puts himself to sleep on his own now (started to at 3 months) so we didn't ruin him or anything.

I love the idea of that book- let your kids be kids. Thanks for posting about it Jen!

the Cavens said...

Great post and good reminder to let the kids play and be silly as much as possible. For moms these definitely can be the 'longest days and the shortest years.'
About the preschool of the preschools here already has a waiting list of 20 for babies 12 months old to get into preschool when they're 4! Craziness!!

Kristen said...

I love the picture of the kids! One thought just to throw out - some of my mom friends here have said they wished they had put their 4 year olds in half day preschool just a few days per week to introduce what full day kindergarten would be like because school demands so much of kids as opposed to what they've been used to at home for 5 years. If you have a half day option for kindergarten though, that might not be necessary. Ironically enough we may be the weird ones - doing preschool and then needing to homeschool! :) We can talk more about that on the high seas though! :)