The Vacuum Cleaner Parent

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The helicopter moms get the most attention, don’t they?  Just when you think that the world has finally stopped over-thinking parenting approaches, up pops an ad featuring a very exaggerated version of what we’ve come to know as the helicopter mom.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive about the issue.  I do enjoy playing with my kids, after all, and this, as it turns out, is one of the hallmarks of a helicopter – according to some.

The term helicopter parent actually dates back to 1969, although it gained media attention in the early 2000’s.  Meant as a pejorative term to describe the parents who just can’t seem to let go – the ones who call college professors when grades are low or those who maintain hyper-presence in the children’s lives, I think it has morphed into so much more.

Today moms who are involved in the PTA, cheer the loudest from the sidelines, or even (gulp) play with their children at the park all get labeled helicopters by the mompetitors on the sidelines.

And while the world loves to laugh at the helicopters among us, another kind of parent goes largely unrecognized.

The Vacuum Cleaner Parent.

Never heard of it?  Read on.

The Vacuum Cleaner Parent (VCP) is the non-parent:  The parent who refuses to set any rules, teach right from wrong, or provide any sort of structure for their children.  Don’t get me wrong, VCP’s are fun.  They don’t worry about things like “age appropriateness” or going overboard, these non-parenting parents have a simple goal in mind:  Avoid confrontation.

And therein lies the problem…

At some point, most kids go to school.  And when they go to school, they are expected to follow certain rules and adhere to a school schedule and routine.

Those poor kids who have been whooping it up with their VCP’s – who needs a bedtime, anyway? – tend to have a difficult transition into this new, structured lifestyle.  Not only is the structure difficult, but the boundaries can be very hard.  VCP’s aren’t known for teaching social boundaries, so these kids tend to over-step and have a considerable amount of catching up to do.

In short, they get in trouble.  They talk out of turn over and over again because they never learned the meaning of interruption.  They get out of their seats at regular intervals because, well, they never really had to worry about staying in their seats.  They use words that aren’t acceptable because they learned them at home – but they didn’t learn that those words hurt.  Taking turns at the park?  Who needs to take turns?  And they are completely exhausted from lack of sleep.

They do what they’ve learned, as all kids do.  Sadly, they weren’t prepared for the real world.

So the VCP’s suddenly go into overdrive.  They don’t confront the actual issues.  No, these non-parenting parents follow their kids around, cleaning up their messes.  They vacuum up the evidence until the next thing comes along.

They blame the teachers.  They blame other kids.  They blame the school, the class, or the team.  Whatever they do, they don’t stop to think about what caused the problem(s).

All families are different.  All kids should be treated as individuals.  But one thing in parenting remains the same – it’s up to us to prepare our children for the outside world.  Just as the helicopters need to step back on the over-parenting, the vacuum cleaners need to parent a little bit more and teach their kids some valuable lessons.

There is a happy medium in there somewhere…and it’s up to all of us to find it.

Obsessive Momming

We think of it as a competition, but it’s not.

 

For it to be a competition we would need a clear starting point, a finish line, and an impartial judge or two.

 

For it to truly be a competition we would need to be grouped according to various factors, because it would need to be fair.

 

No, it’s not a competition.

 

This thing that seems to fester below the surface, rearing its head only in response to the latest media craze, is all internal.

 

There is no prize at the end of the parenting journey.  In fact, once you enter into it, the journey never really ends.  Just ask your mom.

 

And yet, moms feel pressured.  They internalize input from various outlets and react accordingly.

 

They go to great lengths to demonstrate that they are just as much mom as that mom over there…

 

That they might even be more mom than the mom down the street…

 

That they are, indeed, mom enough…

 

The real problem, of course, is not finding a way to become the most mom.  Being the most mom ever is unattainable, after all.

 

The real problem is the fallout that our children experience when moms feed into this fabricated competition.

 

The real problem is the emotional repercussions of all of this obsessive momming.

 

Pressure has a trickle down effect.  It starts at the top and it slowly works its way down to the bottom.

 

And there, on the bottom, are the innocents.  The ones who are supposed to focus on fun, learn through play, and, above all, to be loved beyond compare.

 

Riley had mixed emotions as we walked down the street to attend her Kindergarten orientation this week.  For a variety of reasons, preschool has been a struggle this year.  Coming off a great first year with incredible teachers, this year just paled in comparison.  She felt different and less self confident from the very first week, and it hasn’t improved much since.

 

Kindergarten has, for the most part, been a source of pending excitement.  Walking to school appeals to her, as does going to school with her best buddy.  But, after a year of ups and downs, separating remains a challenge.

 

Needless to say, my expectations were low on this particular day.  I assumed she would stay by my side as we visited each classroom.  That would have been just fine with me.  This was, after all, an opportunity to get to know the Kindergarten classrooms and see the students in action.  It was a day meant for observation.

 

I was pleasantly surprised when she marched right into each classroom and made herself at home.  In one room, she drew a solar system.  In another, she colored a fish.  And in a third, she played house with some other children.  She had the time of her life.

 

I stood back, smiled often, and cheered her on.

 

But I couldn’t help but observe some other experiences throughout the morning.

 

One little girl preferred to stick close to her mom.  Her mom wanted her to join with the other kids.  The longer it went on, the more anxious the mom became.

 

At one point, she placed the little girl in a chair and told her to draw.  The little girl complied, scribbling a few colors on a plain white piece of paper.

 

When she returned to her mother with the finished product her mother took a quick look and said, “That’s it?  You didn’t make much of an effort.”  The girl quickly looked to the ground and disengaged once again.

 

My heart broke for that little girl.  While I’m sure that she draws more complex pictures at home and at preschool, it was probably the best she could do in a new and overwhelming situation.

 

The anxiety her mom experienced when her daughter didn’t meet her expectations (in front of many other moms) trickled right down to her daughter, and made her feel like a failure.

 

Obsessive momming isn’t healthy for anyone involved.  It leaves moms feeling inadequate, and children feeling like they aren’t good enough.

 

It causes anxiety and disappointment across the board.

 

It’s not that I don’t have great hopes for my children.  I most certainly do.  But, at the end of the day, my greatest hope for my children is that they live a lifetime of happiness.

 

And that happiness begins with a happy, pressure-free childhood.

 

Because it isn’t a competition.

 

 

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Every Mom is Mom Enough

Every mom is Mom Enough.

 

You can listen to the hype, if you feel like beating yourself up for a while.

 

You can believe the negative spin, if you’re into cyber-arguments with other moms.

 

You can even scroll through the what-ifs in your mind for a while, if you feel the need to indulge your feelings of guilt (we all have them, after all).

 

Or…you can walk on.

 

You can choose to avoid the arguments.

 

You can remind yourself that you are, most certainly, Mom Enough, no matter how long your nursed those babies of yours and regardless of where they slept.

 

There is no war between attachment parents and non-attachment parents.  There is no medal to be won for the “best” parenting choices.  There are just little ones who need us.  Small people who look to us to help them learn and grow.

 

Infants need a few things…

  • Unconditional love
  • Nourishment
  • Hugs, kisses, and snuggles
  • Protection
  • Empathy
  • Patience

 

Even on the hardest days, when showers didn’t happen and sleep was non-existent, you most likely managed to meet their every need.

 

Older children need a few things too…

  • Unconditional love
  • Nourishment
  • Hugs, kisses, and snuggles
  • Protection
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Self-esteem
  • Assertiveness
  • Independence

 

Most moms know the difficulty that is a day with overtired toddlers and tantrums 35,000 feet in the air.  Most moms know the pain of a child scorned by his peers and the helplessness of standing back and letting him assert his own needs.  Even on the hardest days, you most likely managed to meet their every need.

 

Teens need all of the above, and then some…teens also need:

  • Freedom
  • Unconditional support
  • Gentle guidance
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding

 

Moms of teens know the anxiety of the missed curfew, the party that might include drinking, and dating.  Moms of teens know about rebellion, self-esteem issues, and friendship trouble.  Even on the hardest days, you most likely managed to meet their every need.

 

It doesn’t matter if you subscribe to the latest and greatest theory in parenting, consult a professional along the way, or just learn by experience.

 

It doesn’t matter if you breastfeed or formula feed, use cloth or disposable diapers, or co-sleep or sleep train.  None of that matters.

 

What matters is that you provide unconditional love, nourishment, affection, and empathy.  What matters is that you always help, and never hurt.  What matters is that you are forgiving, patient, and a positive role model.  What matters is that you care.

 

As you celebrate Mother’s Day, and every other day of being a mom, please remember this:

 

You are all More than Mom Enough.

 

And there is no space in this world for Mommy Wars…

 

The Great Mom Debate

You can read this study and wonder if you’ve made the right choice, the best choice, for your family.  You can think about the alternatives and long to be in the group that seems to have it all figured out.  You can let the guilt wash over you as you silently tally up the times you’ve felt isolated, depressed, or questioned your parenting skills or choices.

You can do all of that, but that won’t do you any good.

You can watch this upcoming TV segment and become enraged that such a segment even exits.  You can blame Anderson Cooper and lash out at the moms who willingly participated in a show that perpetuates the “mom wars” among us.  You can take to Twitter, Facebook, and Google + to air your grievances against Anderson Cooper, The Huffington Post, and any other “news” outlet joining the “mom wars” bandwagon.

You can do all of that too, but that probably won’t do you any good either.

The segments will air and the articles will be published.  They will say what they want to say and spin it to get more viewers.  As John Mayer once pointed out, “when they own the information, they can bend it all they want.”  That’s the power of media.

The real question is why does such a study even exist?  How did parenting become so difficult that more and more moms (and dads) are reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety and relying on medications?  When did life become so difficult? 

And, most importantly, what can we do to stop this cycle?

We are living in difficult economic times.  That is no longer considered news.  Most families include two working parents.  Many parents work more than one job to make ends meet.  Health insurance is not to be taken for granted.

Social isolation plays a big role in the world of the stay at home parent, particularly when the kids are very young.  Competition among moms is high for a variety of reasons.  Mom guilt lurks around every corner.  So does the financial guilt stay home moms experience when times are tough and the financial responsibility relies on the other parent.

Every parent has stress right now.  Every parent has happiness right now.  Every parent experiences a little bit of both.

The challenge is to find more support for parents everywhere (both working and non-working) so that fewer people experience symptoms of depression and anxiety overall.

Because the people who truly lose in all of this are our children.

Infants and children pick up on stress, depression, and anxiety.  Studies have shown depressed affect in infants of mothers struggling with depression.  Children imitate those symptoms.  They start to experience difficulty sleeping, low appetite, social isolation, frequent tantrums, and other behavior issues.  They don’t deserve any of this.  They deserve to roll down hills, run through the sand, and chase butterflies.  They deserve to experience the unbridled happiness that should be taken for granted during childhood.

If our kids grow up unhappy because we were too busy arguing, comparing, and wallowing in what could have been, then all of this is meaningless.  Our day-to-day lives might be very different, but our goals are probably very similar.  We all want to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids who will one day go on to do the same.

Instead of focusing on the negative by arguing over who has it the best, who endures the most stress, or who is the “best” mom, I say we all band together and form a unified front against these so-called “mom wars”.

Because, at the end of the day, every mom has a similar story to tell.  Every mom has once been covered head to toe in vomit with a kid in each arm while willing the washing machine to work just a little bit faster.  Every mom has fought back tears when leaving a child behind for the first time.  And every mom has fought to protect their child in one way or another.  We are not that different, all of us moms.  In fact, we are very much the same.

So let’s make a deal:  Let’s agree to stand tall as a group and stop feeding into the “mom wars” frenzy.

Let’s:

Provide support to one another, because #allmomsrock.

Stop judging.

Help another mom in need.

Focus on the positive.

And…

Stand up against the “mom wars”.

We all have a story to tell.  Let’s share our stories and listen to the stories of others.  Let’s celebrate our differences and make every effort to learn something new along the way.  Let’s be the friends that we want our children to be.  Let’s stop this “war” and give the media one less topic to cover.

If Verizon Wireless customers all over this country can, in a single night, stop Verizon from adding extra charges to their wireless plans, just imagine what the moms can do if we really join forces.

And that, once again, brings us back to The Mom Code.

What do you say moms?  Are you with me?

 

Mompetition No More on Yahoo

“It might be the stilettos versus the yoga pants. Or it could be the organic fruits versus the fish shaped crackers. Perhaps it’s the home school moms versus the private school moms versus the public school moms. And let’s not forget about the PTA moms versus the working moms. They’re in on this too.

It doesn’t really matter which subset we’re talking about because it all boils down to one common problem: Mompetition…”

Hey Friends…I’m over on Yahoo today talking more about the “Mompetition” that seems to be sweeping the playgrounds, and just about everywhere else. Won’t you stop by Yahoo and read “Mompetition No More”?  Please share your thoughts in a comment over there.  Let’s get this conversation started!  Thank you!

Ending the Mompetition

““Mompetition” is not a new idea.  In fact, mom bloggers write about it often.  They might not be using the cutesy term, but they are writing about the feelings moms experience when other moms attack them.

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

When I first became a mom I had high hopes that the mean girls from adolescence would have transformed into friendly moms who enjoy pleasant social interactions.  Wrong.  I thought a morning at the park meant instant connections with other moms with kids of similar ages.  Wrong again.  I thought that, at the end of the day, we would all be in this together.  Still wrong.

It turns out that those mean girls, and possibly a few others, have a new routine.  They’re no longer using words like “slut” to describe girls who offend them in some small way.  They are no longer spreading vicious rumors and writing hateful comments on school lockers.

Now…they are engaging in Mompetition…”

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading this article.

 

Mommy Moment