My Parenting Equilibrium

I realized a few weeks ago that I have finally reached a point in my life as a mother where I don’t want to kill myself and actually enjoy my life. I don’t think I’ve felt this happy since Alpha was very little or quite possibly before he was born. It’s hard to tell because so much when you’re pregnant and after you give birth, which makes it hard to remember how you usually feel. I think that’s part of the reason why so many women have issues identifying things like post-partum depression. Even when I was severely depressed, I didn’t think I was that bad off. I didn’t really think I was depressed. I was just having a rough time. My therapist seemed to disagree since she had me meeting her once a week. But the changes I finally summoned up the courage to make are paying off spades. I’m well rested, I have plenty of time to myself, plenty of time with my husband, and I enjoy the time I spend with my kids. Here are some of the changes I made:

1) Adopting an authoritative role.

People who study parenting styles don’t talk about ‘Attachment parenting’ or ‘peaceful parenting,’ ‘Christian parenting’ or anything with a brand name. They talk about authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting, permissive parenting and neglectful parenting. Attachment parents are always quick to remind people that attachment parenting doesn’t mean permissive parenting and I agree. However, the issue is often one of  perspective. I came across a blog post where a parent who struck me as rather permissive talked about how she was authoritative and another parent who, in my mind took the authoritative stance, was authoritarian. Many permissive parents might just see themselves as authoritative because they have a different definition of the word.

Key to authoritative parenting is using the authoritative voice. It’s stern, but calm. It’s not shouting or yelling, but a normal talking voice. I use it to tell my kids when they’re behavior is less than ideal and use it for warnings. It works. When my niece was visiting I used it with her and my son to tell them that they were not to slam the doors upstairs because it’s loud, can break the doors and someone could get hurt. When I finished and left, I heard her telling Alpha, “Come on, let’s do something else.” It’s amazing how much believing you can change your kids’ behavior results in them changing their behavior.

2) Enforcing a Quiet Time and Bedtime.

I didn’t used to do a Quiet Time. I assumed that when it became difficult to put my son down when he was around two years old, that meant he was done with naps. When I instituted a quiet time with him on my sister’s suggestion, he resisted at first but when he realized that shows didn’t get turned on unless quiet time happened, he happily went upstairs to lay down. So everyday, around 1pm, everyone goes upstairs to lie down and I get a minimum of 1 hour to myself. In the evenings, everyone goes to bed around 8:00 to 8:30, giving me another hour to 2 hours to myself.

The best thing about this is that if we are having a rough day, the only thing I have to do is look at the clock and say, it’s 10am, only 3 more hours to go and they’re down for Quiet Time. Usually after quiet time, they behave much better and so do I.

While my daughter still naps, my son doesn’t usually and I give him a lot of leeway in what he’s allowed to do during quiet time. The only restriction is that he has to do it in his room and he has to be fairly quiet. He can read a book, listen to an audiobook, and play with some toys. At the moment the kids and I have an understanding that shows don’t play until after quiet time. They just don’t work unless you do quiet time, you see. This has the added benefit of giving me another hour to myself in addition to quiet time.

3) I take time to myself

I’ve started taking a German class, going to some German social groups, and joined a gym. For the first two, I leave my kids at home. For the last one, Beta goes to the gym daycare, which she is not a fan of. She would much rather be with me, but I explain to her how long I’ll be gone, what she can do while she’s there and she copes now. She watches a show and sucks on her pacifier the whole time. As for the other things I do without the kids, they don’t even blink an eye anymore. They just say bye to me and then hang out with Dad, who has become very adept at handling the kids and getting them to bed. I wish I had taken this time to myself when Alpha was young, but being an attached parent to me meant that when Alpha started to cry when I left, I had to stay because crying could be damaging to him. In other words, I interpreted his cries as being really upset and meaning he needed me to be there instead of him being upset at me leaving and him not understanding why. With Beta, I know she’s sad but I know she’ll be okay. I know it’s not going to cause her to have an attachment disorder or anything like that.

4) Accepting that much about children is inborn and I can’t change that.

This really decreases the amount of pressure I feel to be a ‘perfect parent.’ I know that for the most part, the only thing I can affect is the quality of my relationship with my children, not their intelligence or their future success in life. As long as my parenting is within the normal range (not bottom 10% and not top 10%), my kids will turn out as they should. So why panic about it?