Friday, July 8, 2011

lazy moms I don't like

Sure, I look forward to the day when I can lounge by the pool while Lilly swims, jumps, and plays in the water on her own or with her friends. But I don't like the lazy mom lounging with her magazine and bag of chips while her kids--equipped with hefty safety vests--are in the water by themselves. Why? Because it breaks my heart to see how her younger boy (about four years old) keeps begging for her attention while the older sister (six?)--having figured out that it will do her no good to ask for it--bugs me instead for mine.

And why me? Seriously. -- While I love my daughter and her friends that I know, I am by no means a kid person. On the contrary. When my friends became moms years before I turned into one, I could never get the big fuss about it. In fact, their mush brains bothered me, and I was upset by the feeling of having lost my friends.

I know my body language is not particularly friendly towards this kid. I can't stand how her only reply to my responses to her constant "look at me!" or "what's her name?" is "what???"  I've even told her I do not want to talk to her (yes, I did).

I'm not proud to confess that a kid can get to me this way. But her mom gets to me even more. I was barely able to contain myself around her at the pool this morning. I so badly want to approach her about her neglectful parenting. The hurtful act of waving her kids away ALL the time.

Yes, there are moments of exhilarating joy and ecstatic pride, but mostly I feel the tedium when I'm in the pool with Lilly. The constant sameness of helping her jump. I too would love to lounge and be lazy. But I don't, at least not very much. Because I see how lonesome Lilly feels then, and because I want to be there for my daughter in a way my mother never was.

And so yes; I realize my reaction to this mom at the pool and her parenting may be heightened by my own childhood wounds caused by my mother. And I get that yelling at her for what she's doing is not going to fix anything or do any good. She might even let it out on her kids if I say something. So I won't.

Or should I? What would you do?


  1. The 6-year-old approaching strange adults for attention indiscriminately could well be a symptom of failing to bond sufficiently with her own parent. Or of some other situation (autistic kids and kids with Asperger's just can't read the cues you give out to know they're being inappropriate). But even if the cause is something serious like that or sinister like neglect, talking to the mother about it would be totally pointless if you ask me. That's just someone mucking around in another person's parenting and I can't imagine why that would flip some switch in her and change the way she parents.

    As long as there's a life guard at the pool, if you're going to ignore your kids for a couple of hours, taking them to a swimming pool in the summer where there's lots of other kids is definitely the place to do it. In fact, many people would probably consider this great parenting. At our pool kids over 5 don't even need to be accompanied by a parent.

    A 4 and 6 year old should be interacting with people (hopefully kids) other than solely with their own mother. If the mother is their exclusive source of fun and social interaction (especially at a busy pool!) it turns into helicopter parenting pretty fast and robs the kids of the chance to learn to have fun on their own. And if the mom is spending pretty much every minute of every day home with these kids all summer, I see it as a good thing to ignore them some at the pool and enjoy herself. 

    Who knows how much attention she pays to them the rest of the day? Maybe a ton. In which case, let the poor woman read a magazine. A bitter, exhausted mother feigning interest in the repetitive splashings of her kid is not doing the kid any favors. Whereas a mother refreshed from a relaxing browse through a magazine with a snack by the pool with two exercised, stimulated-by-water-play kids just may be ready to jump back in the parenting trenches for the afternoon. Who knows, maybe she'll even break out the finger paints!

  2. Dear Anne - 

    I completely relate to the annoyance arising finding oneself in a situation where feeling responsible for a stranger´s children, even sometimes vulnerable on their behalf. Your post, however, led me to some thoughts of a related topic - more of a digression than anything else - and not related to the situation/context you are describing - which I more than understand and relate to. 

    I have three children, 7, soon 4 and soon 2 and I have been staying home for five of those seven years - during the years and increasing correspondingly with the number of children (...) - I find it such a huge thing and actually quite an essential task for me as a parent to help them finding a way to joy, peace even stretching towards serenity - in just being on their own without outer stimulation by me, their father or television etc. To find peace through playing on their own. Maybe it has to do with my own childhood memories where my day dreaming and the ability to get lost in fantasy play gave me so many opportunities to search inwards, deal with difficult things and find my own center. With my first born, my daughter, I often found myself guilty if encouraging her to play on her own, or not sitting down with her to take part every time I had a chance - however somebody I respected, old and experienced whispered in my ear that the children would take great value in also seeing me as my own person - doing things which were of value to me - not saying yes all the time or erasing myself as a person to tend to their every need. It has been hard for me, I am a yes person and easily filled with guilt - but I also want  my children to know me as I am - not just as their caretaker - and it has become a necessity and a way to stay sane - I want them to know that when I am practicing (yoga), they can join, but not interrupt, if I am gardening, they can help on some bits but some things I have to do and they have to wait (this only works in theory, but I am trying) - just to see that there are parts of me which are separate from them and that is ok.

    This comment became much longer than intended and also very theoretical - most of the time, I am actually tending to their every need, from wiping, to feeding, to playing, to comforting, to school work, and back to wiping again - and if I am not, I tend to feel guilty or restless. But, sometimes I get a glimpse of what can be - and that feels good!

    Hope everything is well - thank you so much for your blog - 

    Love, Gine

  3. Oh, thank goodness you weren't talking about ME! ;) (Seriously, I worried for a second. But then I realized I wasn't in a chair, I didn't have chips and a magazine, and, um...I don't have a boy.) But I probably do seem neglectful of my own kids at the pool sometimes. I usually stand in the pool and chat with my mom friends and every now and then watch Julia swim and help Genevieve jump in. But mostly now that they're as old as they are and can play (G.) and semi-swim (J.) in the water near me but not always WITH me, and often with their own little buddies, I no longer watch every single thing they do or do every thing with them.

    But sometimes I do even feel guilty for that. Which is probably silly, b/c I'm with them EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY ha ha, but I always feel guilty when I attend to my own social needs. Even when my kids are fine with it. But you know me and that I would never sit in a lounge chair snacking and reading while my kids were wearing floaties in the pool. Yikes! I am wondering who it was!!!

  4. I'll have to point her out to you next time and get your opinion! :)

    But seriously; you know, sometimes I think that it's us attached do-it-all parenting moms who feel the most guilt. It's like we can never do good enough because we've set such high ideals for ourselves. 

    One day at the pool this week, I really worked on having Lilly see that I needed my break time too (after she'd had her snack and was ready for the pool again); and I stayed on my lounge chair for almost 20 minutes while I tried enforcing that space for my time as she kept begging for me to come join her in the water again. All that time we were also playing this game (of which all the rules she'd set I'm still not completely clear...), that involved her asking me to close my eyes while she went into the water and then came back for me--a peak-a-boo of sorts, I suppose. So I was engaged with her that whole time.

    But I felt guilty. I worried about being judged by other good mamas at the pool.

    Shannon; you NEVER seem neglectful of your children at the pool (I've never even see you even get a lounge chair!). I just see you there talking with your girls, hearing them; or if you're in a conversation with an adult, I see you letting them know you'll get back to them in a sec. You help them jump and do whatever.

    And you're wise in making sure there'll be friends for J. and G. there for them to play with so you can get somewhat of a break, chatting with your friends. I find my most relaxed times at the pool is when I make sure to have friends there who have children that are also Lilly's friends. Then the kids will play in the water while we adults hang out. I love that. And this year so much more than last year; I feel really comfortable now just keeping a somewhat occasional eye on her that way. Lazy me. ;)

  5. You bring up some very interesting points here. However; from what I've observed and overheard this mom say to her friends, I just don't see her as the finger paint kind of mom. I wish. But instead I picture her turning on the television when they return from the pool, and not with a kids program. But with some daytime soap opera for her as she imagines herself as the Hollywood diva or the (rich, desperate?, suburban) housewife she feigns at the pool, and not as a stay-at-home mom in a small rural college town.

    That said; I can picture a stay-at-home mom planning a break for herself at the pool with her kids. But when I do that, I coordinate it with my friends who have kids that are my kid's friends. So they will play and we will hang out. This specific mom at the pool seems clueless of that sort of planning.

  6. Dear Gine,

    Thank you for taking the time for this thoughtful comment! You touched a nerve there and I can so relate. I can see how I am a "yes-sayer" too who want to, and who strives to be there for Lilly 150 % of the time. But I also want her to see and understand, and get increasingly comfortable with the fact that I am not just "hers" -- not just "her mama:" I am also my own person. And that she's her own person too who can have fun playing by herself (and I love it when she does do that). And I am so proud when each Saturday morning and I put on my yoga outfit, she will say (in Norwegian); are you off to yoga, mamma? And she's totally fine with it (or sometimes she whines a little, but then she's fine with it).

    The thing with personal (mama) boundaries -- I remember a mom I interviewed for my "sleep question" book emphasizing how she wanted to instill that too in her son; that she is her own person also and not just his mom. And to foster that respect in him, for her. And him. Not having received that herself. But instead a mom who tried to "give it all," and who would then burst into whatever anger and resentment had built up in her, towards her daughter; the mom I interviewed.

    I really appreciate that message; of setting boundaries and making time & space for you. For health. Sanity. Balance. Respect. And like you, I strive to foster that too. Be it from getting my time to write some in the morning before Leighton takes off for work, or going to yoga on Saturdays in the morning. And yes; working in the garden with her and then sometimes asking to have her not help right now but instead play in her sandbox or slide on her slide or bike on her trike or whatever (BUT LEAVE ME ALONE) because I really just have to get these seeds planted and well, you know. We could do it together and it would take an eternity of bug bites, or I could do it real quick.

    And then I feel horrible. Guilty. A terrible mom. For not being more patient.

    It's so so SO hard sometimes to remind myself it's OK -- to set boundaries; to just create a little space for me. Without feeling selfish and neglectful and not like that ideal mom I want to be.

    But I'm not ideal. I'm me. And I'm a mom who wants to be always there for her. And I'm also a mom who wants to model and show her that I AM in fact my own person TOO worthy of respect. -- And as such, I also simply crave time for myself. And especially to write. But also, seriously, sometimes, to lounge.

    I like what you say about getting a glimpse of how things can be; I can totally relate to that. It's those magical moments where the balance works out and you just want to hold on. Or keep recreating them. I think that's a good thing. Thank you for that reminder!

    With love and thankfulness,

  7. :) Thanks, Anne! I'm glad we are friends. We agree about so many things!!! I totally agree about us attached moms feeling the most guilty. It's so true! We have such high standards for mothering that we wonder if we've done wrong if we do anything for ourselves--which of COURSE is not true, and deep inside we know that.

    We were at the pool on Sunday and boy was it crowded! :) We'll be there Friday a.m. for sure and maybe earlier too.

  8. yes, indeed! ;)

    We were at the pool again too; it was crowded! No wonder in this heat. We might head over again today if it's the same. See you soon!


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