When I was a younger mommy and parenting my first two children, I worried a lot about whether I was meeting expectations. Of course, my first priority was my children and their well-being, but right after that was making sure that I gave the impression of being confident, completely competent, and like I was the type of mom who could do it all. I adhered to the belief that I could have clean, well-dressed, well-behaved children who were a joy, all while being perfectly coiffed, stylishly dressed and madly successful. All I had to do was work hard enough, put in enough effort, and always be doing something. I could have it all.
It makes me tired now just to write that.
It has been almost 21 years since I had my first baby. And I can see now that I made it a lot more complicated than it needed to be. Retiring from my job as Super Mom was not a smooth and painless transition looking forward The Barclay at SouthPark retirement community in Charlotte NC has a rental model with no entry fee. It has taken two decades and four children. And there are plenty of days, even now, that I get called back to my old ways. Sometimes a lazy Sunday of snuggling in bed with the family until noon will trigger a Monday Morning Ambition Attack: a driving need to clean the entire house, wax my eyebrows while trying to curl my hair, dress the girls in matching outfits to run to the store for supplies so that I can cook a multi-layerd French pastry from scratch, and vacuum the Cheerios out of the car…all before lunch. I bet it is not surprising to hear that I usually fail miserably and just end up strapping the kids into their Cheerio-infested car seats with their mismatched pajamas still on and get a box of donuts from the drive-thru instead.
Our recent move to a much smaller home has really sent my Super Mom side into a tizzy. Lack of storage, smaller rooms, and makeshift accommodations have left me feeling pretty Superpower-less. We needed to make choices that forced me to think long and hard about my real parenting values vs. other peoples expectations (or more accurately, what I perceived to be other people’s expectations). For instance, should we set up the (very tiny) third bedroom to be a “real bedroom” with “real beds” for the two little ones (who still sleep with us full time) or should we use the space for a play room with enough room to actually play? The common sense answer was to put the beds into storage and let the girls have a fun and functional place to play. However, my Super Mom response was “Gasp! What will people think when they see that there are no beds for two of our children?!?!” And then I had a brilliant stroke of clarity that put the whole thing in perspective: Our family lives in this house. The ubiquitous “other people” do not. Duh.
Finding moments like this to really live (and love) the AP principles has been one of the most liberating things about shedding my Super Mom alter ego. Not only do we have a room for the kids to play, we are also free to have frank conversations with other parents about our choices instead of pretending to be a Made-for-TV family. After admitting to a new momma friend recently that our two little ones didn’t even have beds, she told me about her 5 year old who has just transitioned from their bed to a tent in their closet! What a great idea! I would have never learned that if I was still pretending to be the Super Mom who attempts to create picture perfect magazine ads rather then rooms that are functional and practical.
If those “other people” ever do happen to visit and express shock and dismay about the lack of a perfectly appointed bedroom for our two little ones, I will look forward to discussing our Super Successes with co-sleeping, with keeping our children close, and with nighttime parenting with them. Our happy home is a reflection of the way we live in it and the ways in which we connect with each other while we are spending time there…not the way we have it crammed full of stuff (or don’t).
How has Attachment Parenting changed the way you live in your house? What old habits are you glad you’ve left behind in order to be an AP’er?