I mean, Charlotte Corday wasn't a real martyr either, but...

I've actually been chewing on a few blog posts for a couple days.

This one is about how parenting ideals are nice, but, in my opinion/experience, shouldn't be carved in stone. I've watched a few discussions transpire on a parenting list that I belong to that make me wonder if it's possible to set too high a standard for parenting.

Now, I strive to be a involved, attached parent. And I think that having an ideal that's above the level I parent at is a positive thing: it helps me strive to be a better mom. I'm not a perfect mom, and sometimes I'm not even a great mom, but I'm usually a good enough mom. And that's cool with me.

The discussions of late have dealt with two related topics:
1. whether a 19-month-old is old enough for overnight visits with the non-primary caregiver (the dad)
2. getting in "me" time for exercise

I was one of maybe two or three who felt that a 19-month-old could do an overnight with dad, and one of a handful who took a "it's okay to let your two-year-old cry with dad do you can get out for a 30-minute walk solo" stance.

Most folks were horrified at the thought of the 19-monther being away from mom overnight. It totally clashed with their ideals. Only myself and few other moms responded from the "I've actually been divorced/separated" perspective. The others were speaking from their gut reactions.

In a similar vein, the majority of the advice given to the mom who really felt on edge and needed me time played to the central theme of 'here's how to get exercise with your child'.

I won't name names or even the discussion list, as I do appreciate that it's always going to be different strokes for different folks. But I wonder if a totally child-centric approach is maybe a bit too much.

In the case of visitation, it would be great to not have to wonder this kind of stuff, to live in a world where divorce and separation don't happen. But we don't. And for those who endure separation and/or divorce, is it better to uphold some ideal that a child shouldn't be away from the primary caregiver overnight until they're three? Or is it better to facilitate something that might violate your ideal, but is likely a better way to ensure a solid non-primary parent/child relationship?

I cannot imagine waiting for Miss O to reach three years old - that's what people idealize, and what the State of Texas apparently allows - before she spent the night at her dad's. In part for my own sanity but mostly for her relationship with her dad. How could they build any sort of trust and love if his role were marginalized to that of her daycare providers?

And why should parents (usually moms) be expected (or expect of themselves) to live their whole life as sole caretaker? The woman who asked about getting exercise said her two-year-old threw a tantrum when she left her with her dad. And in my head, I wondered: "so what? she'll cry a few times you do it, but then dad will learn to soothe her and your daughter will build a better relationship with him."

I don't know the full story, or know the parents personally, in either of the two examples. I've no doubt that there are dads who truly cannot handle the responsibility of caring for a child. I don't understand the physics behind it, but have read about dads who just suck at being actual parents.

But assuming the dads in question are decent fathers, why the martyrdom? Why keep throwing yourself under the bus to put your child first? Yes, I want the best for Bean and Miss O. And yes, I hold myself to a high standard with their care. But I also teach them that there are times when mommy just needs some down time.

What do you say? Is it possible to over-idealize parenting and your child's existence? Or do you think that by sacrificing your own wants and needs, you're a better and more dedicated parent?

(Quote from "Out of My Mind")


Julia said...

Absolutely yes on all accounts, and I am convinced that is why a some parents stay home with their children. It all falls under the category of "I want the best for my child, and *I* know what is best." I am guilty of it, though that is why I blog and reflect on my actions so I don't fall into the trap of my kids sucking every bit of life out of me. I don't think that's healthy for them in the long run, to have THAT much doted on attention. There are aspects of attached parenting that I would defend wholeheartedly and aspects of the opposite style (whatever that it is called) too, but when anything is taken to an extreme, I don't believe is ever great.

Kelly said...

Vick, your wisdom on these issues is astounding. You are so right. You know that I deal with this stuff everyday as a paralegal for a divorce practioner and see it all the time that most moms feel that they are the only ones who can handle the kids. It does not usually have anything to do with the dads ability/inability to parent it is the moms who cannot let go. Most dads who suck at parenting do not really even want to have the kids and the dads who don't suck never get the chance. Florida has recently adopted new legislation that is more "dad" friendly and it is not always the mom who is granted primary care giver anymore. Dads have rights too!!! It is not usually what is best for the child that is at the forefront but what is best for the mom. They simply cannot let go of the one thing that they have complete control of and unconditional love from. It's a shame that these women cannot put aside their own feelings to see what harm they are doing to their kids. Parental Alienation could not be more real.

EarthybirthySurro said...

I'm with you on your stances. Having been a parent who went through a seperation, i had to face these choices. It ended up that I let him keep the girls on his weekends over night. Did i sleep the first few times, heck no. But did my girls maintain that extremely important relationship with their father? Yes! And it was always my view as a parent, the only way their father is not going to be a hands on capable dad, is if i get in the way and stop him from doing so. So you step away, and realize you have to let your babies have the best of all worlds. Not just the typical AP painted parenting you're suppose to be guilted into by the mass majority of mothers. I think the greatest dis-service our generation of mothers does to our daughters' is to teach them that parenting is all or nothing. When we lose ourselves into the fabric of our motherhood, what have we taught them? That self sacrafice is the ultimate best of motherhood. But when and how does that teach our girls' to reach THEIR full potential or to follow their dreams? How can we raise a child who is not egocentric if we never teach them that others in their lives will have needs that arise over their own? I firmly support and try to initiate a happy medium of parenting where we ALL are following our dreams, being loved and caring for each other. I don't always succeed, but i'm ok with that. :)

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