Monday, May 31, 2010

day 148: time off from little ones?

“Josiah slept FOREVER today, so I got bored. It stopped raining after lunch, so Mommy said I should go outside and jump on the trampoline—I think I was getting on her nerves. My three big sisters got done with their school work and came out and jumped. We played ‘California Earthquake’ until Mommy finished her writing on the computer.”            “Jonathan’s Journal”

Today’s excerpt brings up a reality that we all must face as parents of preschoolers: sometimes taking care of toddlers and preschoolers by yourself all day long can be tiresome, and even annoying. It feels as though there is rarely a break. Somebody always needs something. Getting other things done can seem impossible at times. And people tend to think that you don’t have much to do. After all, you are just home with a couple of little kids!

Twenty years ago I read an anti-feminist book in which the author said that we should not want to farm our kids out all the time. That we should take care of them ourselves. That we should not need time for ourselves or breaks from our children. Well, I was suspicious from the beginning. First of all, I was an extremely attentive mother of four small children—and frankly, I wished for breaks that I seldom seemed to get. Secondly, this woman obviously had many breaks. She had written two best-selling books and was working on a third—while she was having babies and caring for toddlers and preschoolers. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble taking advice from someone telling me to stay home and take care of my own kids while, clearly, she could not have been doing the same all the time.

I feel that these sentiments are dangerous to young moms. They make tired, exasperated mothers feel like they are bad or wrong in thinking that an afternoon of free time would be a good thing. They paint an unrealistic picture of child care and set moms up for failure.

At the same time, I think there is equal (if not more) danger in the opposite extreme we see today: women who simply do not want to do the hard work of raising and training their toddlers and preschoolers. I am not referring here to women who need to work to make ends meet (and certainly not to single mothers). I am pointing to women who take the concept of needing a break sometimes to every other day needing Grandma to take the kids or a babysitter to babysit or ripping and running every day instead of staying home and training these little ones in a consistent, peaceful environment.

Advice? Do the hard work now that it takes to raise toddlers and preschoolers in the way God is leading you. Don’t delay. Don’t shirk your responsibilities. Know that some day it will all pay off. And if you need a break, take it—guilt free.

I never felt the slightest tinge of guilt having a babysitter one afternoon a week for the toddler and baby, so I could take the older children to the park and the library (or McDonald’s play place in the winter). It broke up my week. I had some time off to look forward to. I got some uninterrupted time with my olders. I had a few hours every week in which needs were not so intense. Likewise, I never felt guilty for my date nights with my husband (though early on they were few and far between due to finances and moving to a new area in which we did not know anybody for a while). I was doing the hard work of raising children…doin’ the stuff day in and day out. And the fact that I needed some time off occasionally did not make me a bad mother.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Mama needs her sanity, too, folks. There are few other "jobs" in this life that require your constant attention and continuous demands to be met.