Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dear Judgy Mom on the Park Bench

I saw you giving me the stink eye as I sat on a bench playing Words with Friends. You think you know me, but you don't. You saw me at the park for an hour looking intermittently at my phone while my kids played and assumed that I am missing special moments with my children.

You know why I don't feel like I'm missing anything right now? Because I spend the other 23 hours of my day watching and talking and wiping and cooking and feeding and snuggling and laughing and teaching and cleaning and just being with my kids and creating that safe, comfortable environment in our home. The tiny window into my life that you glimpsed doesn’t give you enough information to offer “well-intentioned” advice.

Save your faux assurances that you think I'm a good mom. From the 1,000 word guilt trip you posted on your blog, it's clear you think I'm failing my kids by looking at my smart phone at the park or in the carpool line or whenever I have a spare moment and need a distraction from sticky, whiny kids.

Let me tell you why I'm not:
  • Play time at the park is for them, not me. It's a time for them to play independently, make friends, and learn new skills. I will be available as needed. They don't need me to hover over their every move. (And, by the way, thanks for asking my kid if he was okay when he tripped. It looked like a real doozy. I mean, he stumbled for a second and landed on his hands. Thank God you were there to acknowledge his experience.) 
  • Carpool line entertainment for mommy is not neglectful. This is usually the only time I can sit down uninterrupted during the day. What exactly should I be doing with my kids at that time? Singing the alphabet or reading the Constitution to them? It teaches them to amuse themselves while waiting. Not every moment needs to be filled with cognitive stimulation and parental fawning.
  • My kids do not need to see mommy give every last ounce of herself to their well-being. It is okay to tell my fairly self-sufficient 3 year old that I need a break. And guess what? My kids have learned from that. They learn that taking a break from people doesn't mean you value you them any less. They learn that they are not the center of the universe. They learn that you can't be everything to everyone at all times. It's never too early to lovingly teach these lessons. It seems to be working because my 6 year old knows that he needs quiet, alone time daily to be a better son and brother.
So if I want to sit my arse on a park bench for an hour while my kids play on their own, it is not a sign of neglect or misplaced priorities. It's sign that I have a balanced and healthy approach to parenting. And for crying out loud, stop calling me mommy. It just condescending.
(By the way, I can say all this without feeling like a hypocrite because it's been exactly two months since I've posted anything on my blog. I've been busy having an amazing summer with my kids, training for a sprint triathlon and getting my oldest settled into the new school year.)


smacknee said...

I was that exhausted mom on the park bench, watching the younger moms run, jump and push swings. Being an older (tired-er) mom also made me a calmer, more patient mom. And hey, I already had a washer/dryer. All sorts of advantages!

meredith kraine said...

Amen, sister! I don't have a smart phone, but I did always have a book in hand at the park. I agree that all us moms need a break every day and I rather them be playing outside while I am taking a break!

Monica said...

well said. agree completely.