I’ve never really been interested in reading parenting books. I’ve got nothing against parenting books, they’re just not for me. Even when I was pregnant with my first child I already had an idea that my parenting wasn’t going to come from a book. Don’t get me wrong, it has nothing to do with me thinking I already knew it all. I was, and still am, fully aware that I will never ‘know it all’. It was because I knew from the day I just knew I was pregnant that instinct was going to be my best friend.
Over the last couple of months, though, I’ve stumbled across a couple of books which have spoken to me in a way I thought a parenting book never would, I think the thing with traditional parenting books that has always bothered me is that I kind of feel like I’m being preached to. I mean, seriously, why am I spending precious time reading this book that is essentially telling me how wrong I’m getting this parenting thing, and all the long winded ways that I should actually be doing things.
Let me tell you; I don’t need a book to tell me that losing my shit probably isn’t the best way to react to my 3-year-old when she lobs a packet of Haribo Tangfastics at a supermarket cashier because I dared to tell her no. I’m not really interesting in learning the supermama trick to getting my 1-year-old to keep his shoes on; if he wants to roll around barefoot then be free my boy. Aside from the fact that I’ve just reached that stage of parenting when I just can’t be arsed to put them on for the eighty-fucking-ninth time.
The further along I get in my parenting journey, the more I find myself valuing the art of doing less. That’s how ‘I Don’t know Why She Bothers’ by Daisy Waugh managed to grab me last month. In fact, I connected with her message so strongly that I finished the book in 3 days. Anyone with 2 kids under 3 in their house will appreciate what that means! As with any human being, I didn’t quite click with some of Daisy’s opinions, but for the most part I just felt like she got me. Her message is clear; do less and everyone will be better, happier, and more relaxed as a result.
All of the faff that we impose upon ourselves as parents just isn’t necessary. What is necessary is keeping our kids fed, warm, and loved. The rest will come. All the extra curriculars, all the pressure to do more. And above all, I think what I connected with most was the idea that as modern parents there seems to be a pressure, or some kind of ideal, that we have to constantly be occupying our kids. There’s something to be said for just letting kids be. Let them explore, be free to make mistakes, to fall down and get back up again.
There’s something to be said for letting our kids be bored, and seeing what their brains conjure out of that boredom. I feel like we’ve lost the art of creating fun out of nothing, and that is something that is so integral to positive child development. I genuinely believe that creative adults are born of children who are given the freedom to explore their own imaginations, learn to solve problems on their own, and are free to become self-sufficient.
Of course, the happy side effect of just doing less is that we, as busy, stressed out, knackered modern parents get to just do less too. imagine a day when you could sit on a garden chair reading a book while your kids happily played around you. They get muddy exploring the back end of the garden that no one else ever ventures into, and they get to feel that mud in between their toes because they refused to put their shoes on and we let them. You know what they’ll do if they don’t like it? They’ll ask to put their shoes on. You know what they’ll do if they’re cold? They’ll ask for a coat. And you know what they’ll get as a result of us sitting and reading a book? A less stressed mama who’s more relaxed and a happier parent as a result.
I’ve always had this kind of approach to parenting, but I have to admit that after finishing the book even I realised that I was stressing myself out over details that I just didn’t need to be stressing out abut. Amelia refused to put a coat on the other day to walk to nursery. It was early, and it’s October, but instead of arguing with her (because I was definitely fucking right) I simply said “Ok. Let’s go then.” I sneakily put her coat under the pram in case she changed her mind. We got all the way to nursery and she turned to me and said “See mummy, told you it was warm today.” Yes it’s a bit annoying that she was right, but she was right. And had she have been wrong she’d have asked for her coat and that would’ve been fine too.
Not having that initial argument before we even left the house made the whole day better. We enjoyed our walk and I felt a whole lot calmer for the rest of the day. I got on with some blog work while Wills explored the garden to his merry little heart’s content without shoes on. Because he kept taking them off, and so what? Did the world end? No, he just got dirty feet. And I got to drink a hot coffee. I might have even had two! He went for his nap happily, and Amelia and I enjoyed lunch together after I’d picked her up. At bedtime I wasn’t dying to get the kids in bed so I cold have some peace, because I’d had time to be myself throughout the day, as well as being a mum.
That’s what has hit me the most, I think; the idea that we don’t have to completely give ourselves up to mamahood. We can be us as well as being Mum.