I am endlessly intrigued by people, how they act, how they talk, why they talk, why they act. I watch and I listen, sometimes even when I shouldn’t. Not a particularly endearing or commendable trait, but it is who I am nonetheless. Mom watching is particularly mesmerising and often astonishing because the mom tropes are incredibly curious. So, let me share with you what I have observed and what I have learnt about my own mothering style.
You get many many types of moms. The tiger moms whose tools are strict discipline and a performance mindset, the helicopter mom whose child is never out of sight or reach and the hot mess mom who is always late, always disorganised and always out of breath. Then there are the lesser known crunchy granola mom whose desire is to protect her child from the overly processed world of the modern-day, the zen mom who is perfectly in control and her calm energy oozes from her pores even when her kids are raising hell and the free-range mom who believes that maybe the best way to protect is to teach and the best way to keep safe is to empower.
When I look at all these types of moms and consider which bucket I fall into or subscribe too, I have come to the decision that I relate to two.
1. The Hot Mess Mom
If you are nodding your head while reading three or more of the following signs, chances are good you are right there next to me on the hot mess mom train to crazy town. I know that at least 97.6% of the time this is my life and how I conduct my mother business.
– Ready-made meals from the freezer are your back-up plan for when dinner prep goes pear. That is at least 4 out of 6 nights – Sundays are takeaway nights. And sometimes Saturday, and Friday and Monday. Oh FFS I give up.
– Showering once a day is more a suggestion than a must. Who has time for showering, wet wipes work just as well and isn’t that what deodorant was invented for? Also, we live in a water scarce country, so actually I might be saving the planet for my daughter one shower-free day at a time.
– On the very rare occasion that you wear make-up, you try to stretch its longevity for at least two days’ worth of wear. And the same applies to your clothes – jeans can go for at least three days before needing to go in the hamper and when you only have two good bras, each is good for at least two days wear time between laundry days.
– There is African time and there is hot mess mom time. While lateness is a hallmark of this type of mom, I am not often late but I am always in a rush, always out of breath and always a hairsbreadth away from late.
– Everything is always last minute and never 100% done. Because that would mean being organised enough to manage your time efficiently and plan your attack properly. There is always one thing left behind at the shops, something key, that requires a return visit later in the week. Your to-do list is never ticked off, it just rolls over to the next day, next week, next month, next year, next decade, next life.
– You wear yoga pants every chance you get but have no plans to attend yoga. In fact, you wear them for the dual purpose of looking like you are a fitness freak and easy comfort because they are just so freaking comfortable, why would you wear anything else?
– Your car looks like a jumbo packet of Jelly Tots and a family size carton of Yogi Sip and a bulk pack of wipes and a bucket of sand funnelled into a dirty bomb, placed inside your vehicle and detonated.
So, tick, tick, tick, tick, every time, I clearly fall within this category of mom tropes. But that is not all I am, because when it comes how I mom, I feel another shoe fits too.
2. The Free Range Mom
Free range parenting is a mothering style that I first heard of long before Izzy was even a twinkle in my eye. I read about a woman named Lenore Skenazy. She had been dubbed by the American media and, seemingly, the public too as America’s Worst Mom.
What was her crime? She to let her nine-year-old son take the New York City Subway home alone. She had raised her child on the philosophy that a child who has never had to face strangers or walk alone is far more likely to fall prey to predators as they lack the experience and protective instinct to recognise danger.
She essentially was a champion of street smarts for kids. She even went further to say, modern parents need to fight against our popular “belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers, unstructured playtime and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”
Her approach to parenting really resonated with me and the type of childhood I would wish for my child. I wanted my child to know greater independence and less parental oversight. I wanted her to be empowered and have more free play and less scheduled activities.
But then in the same breath life is hard as an adult, so I vacillate between wanting her to enjoy being a kid for as long as possible and being independent. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between free range and growing up too quickly.
I also think, if I am totally honest with myself, I don’t think I am capable of embracing anything else.
Just thinking about me helicoptering around my child as she climbs the jungle gym, with my arms aloft and ready at a moment’s notice to fly to her rescue should she seem to need me, has me so exhausted I want to lie down and take a nap.
I am sweaty and queasy at the idea of flying in to tiger mode – running, in my boardroom high heels, alongside my ten-year-old as she runs her school’s annual cross country race, screaming words of encouragement and what might be mistaken for Nike slogans, pouring bottles of water over her head as if she was running the Boston marathon (as one mom I know described an example of how she morphs into mominator mode).
And the chances of me culturing my own natural probiotic yoghurt and stone grinding my own whole-wheat flour to home-baked bread are slim to hell no. But I feel like we have all gone a little mad.
Parenting in 2017: “Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional and social needs are met while being careful not to over stimulate, under stimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritarian, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free, two-story, multi-lingual home, preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development, also don’t forget the coconut oil.
How to parent in literally every generation before ours: Feed them sometimes.”
The pressure we place on ourselves to live up to these self-inflicted measures of the perfect parent is not necessary. If it works for you, great. If not, find a way that does. For some, this might be the only way to raise a child. And for others, the weight of expectation is just too much to bear.
As a wise mom once told me, “moms are multifaceted, you cannot predict what will come into your child’s life that might upset how you react. Who knows how you will react when she gets her driver’s license or when she shows an aptitude for chess?”
So I guess at some point I may be one or all of these moms, for different reasons. Because as a mom you have to adapt, you have to evolve. Because what works for you and your child at two, might not work when she is ten or seventeen.
And while who knows what type of mothering style I will embrace later in my journey, for now, I have come to the comfortably uncomfortable point of embracing my style as it is.
If you want to label it I guess, it might best be described as lazy. Which is what the mean and sarcastic little voice inside my head likes to call it, “Isn’t this mothering style – this Laissez-Faire, let them figure stuff out on their own, don’t interfere too much style – just plain laziness? Aren’t you just a big fat lazy loser who doesn’t want to do the hard yards and put in the long hours?”
“Shut up you little S!#@! If that’s lazy, then so be it.”
An internal battle ensued between me and my internal mom grinch. “Where you see lazy, I see the space and trust for my child to take on the world in incrementally bigger steps.”
If being lazy means my daughter will be empowered to know her own boundaries and those of others in relation to her. If being lazy means raising a self-sufficient confident young woman who knows how to look after herself in a crazy wonderful and dangerous world.
If being lazy means my child avoids feeling the pressure of adulting’s impending hamster wheel for as long as possible and is given a pass to coast every now and then in an area that doesn’t excite her. If it means not obsessing over my child’s grade four maths mark because it will almost certainly never impact her life or future.
If being lazy means letting her eat flings for supper every now and then because it’s fun and she is a kid. If being lazy means letting her watch Timmy Time and Charlie & Lola on TV every day so I can read a magazine, make a poop or just stare at the ceiling.
If being lazy means leaving my child to develop her imagination, curiosity and creativity as a means to combat boredom and empty time because I absolutely refuse to entertain and stimulate her every waking moment.
“Then yes, I guess you are right, grinchy, my mothering style is lazy AF. I am 100% here for lazy.” And in my head, because this is where this whole exchange took place, I end off my tirade with the power ballad Basketcase by Green Day rising up to drown the voice out.