Stand up, be counted, sit down, shut up.
I came across an article the other day written by (the fabulously outspoken) Em Rusciano. This article told the story of a fellow parent at swimming lessons who was behaving oddly and it transpired that she was attempting to surreptitiously answer work emails so as not to upset her son who wanted her to watch him swim. The article basically sought to assuage people of their guilt around feeling they need provide undivided attention 24/7. Yes, “totally”, I thought.
I don’t know what made me do it, I think I was expecting funny stories from other people, but I clicked on the comments section and then, WELL…
People had lost their tiny minds. An alarming number of people (which, I consider to be more than one in this instance) commented insisting that as mothers/parents/guardians we are morally bound to provide our children with our undivided attention. “People with their noses stuck in screens all the time”, “30 minutes of your attention is all they ask”, “Is it that hard?”… I’m sorry, what!?
Firstly, I’d like to get the number of the lady whose child only asks for 30 mins of attention once a week at swimming lessons and find out how she does it! I am doling out attention as my children eat, get themselves ready, do their homework, train for and play 1001 sports, do impromptu dance routines, sit on the toilet (in the case of my little one), and even in their – and my – sleep (my son is a scary sleepwalker). Is it always undivided attention? No. But that’s usually because some other person is dividing it for their own needs, and then sometimes I also…(gasp) do things for myself.
Women of this generation were encouraged as girls to study hard, go to university, be independent, get involved in the world, and forge a career. We were encouraged to expect the world for ourselves (which sadly we were never going to get, but that’s another story!) and now, once we have had kids, we are being told we need to sit down, shut up and just watch? What the hell is that about??
Just because I shot 3 children out of my nether regions doesn’t mean I am no longer interested in the world, no longer crave independence, and no longer wish to apply myself to other pursuits. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I find every single thing my kids do fascinating enough to watch from go to woe without going just a little bit stir crazy. And I can’t possibly be alone?
Why shouldn’t parents spend the time, while their child is in the safe care on another person, doing things they need or want to do for themselves? I’m so fascinated by the people, particularly fellow parents, who feel we cease to become humans with the right to our own interests and actions when our children come along.
I love my children with a ferocity I’ve never previously known, and God help anyone who tries to mess with them now, or in the future (I’m looking at you future girlfriends!!). But, (warning – controversy ahead!), for me personally, watching my children’s’ every move, and attending to their every whim is not enough for me. Emotionally, my cup is over full, but intellectually, and aspirationally, I need to keep up with what’s happening in the world, and be in touch with other people, and yes, that’s usually via my phone these days. I need to have projects for myself that do take time away from attending to the kids, and to be honest, a time when they are being cared for by someone else should be the most acceptable time for me to do that to those who think children need constant and ongoing attention (not that I think even that is necessary - though obviously I do not mean one should leave their young children unattended or at risk at any time, just saying).
Why do we have to be so hard on eachother? If watching your child 24/7 fulfils you, great. If it doesn’t, or you just can’t, do what you need or want to do. No one stops being human because they have produced another, nor do they lose their right to be who they were/are/want to be. It would be a very sad world if we did.
P.S. My mother was so busy being a super career woman that she never took me to a single swimming lesson, and that’s fine, because my Dad did. Did he sit there gawping at me splashing about in the shallows for 30mins? You know what, I have absolutely no idea, so if he did it was absolutely wasted on me!!