Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Things SAHM's should stop doing right now


1.Wigging out when your kids won’t eat

There is this ad where the kid won’t eat the lovely balanced meal the mom cooked for him so the plain-Mom-like-person-wearing-slacks hands him a PediaSure milkshake and then proceeds to stare at him while he drinks his hydrogenated vegetable oil ambrosia; all googley eyed, happy and relieved having achieved the prime directive. Whoa. Children will eat when children are hungry. Don’t sabotage yourself by giving them lots of snacks. Embrace the idea of hunger as a metaphor for striving and for anticipation. A child that never knows hunger will never know satiation either. Do your best to make something healthy and tasty and then let it go.

2.Lying to your friends

When we light heartedly chuckle about our children’s unwillingness to go to bed when it’s actually got us out on the roof threatening to jump or we refuse to admit we let the kids watch movies just because they enjoy it in all its passive, escapist glory (just like we do) we play along in a malevolent charade. Not only does is make you a liar, which is bad, it contributes to this idealized vision of motherhood that has been bonking women on the head for decades. Sometimes this job sucks and it’s sucks worse than a “real” job because 1. you actually care and 2. Because it never fucking ends. Anyone that judges you for being overwhelmed occasionally has bigger issues to fry...so to speak. This goes for SAHM blogging, too. Displaying a life sponsored by Glitz Retouching Services cheapens the experience, makes it more about marketing than sharing and more about hubris than support. It’s transparent. It’s boring. It’s more than a little pathetic.

4.Comparing yourself to other moms

Some us like to craft while others would rather stick the scissors in their eye. Some of us like scheduled, organized activities while others get hives contemplating being on time for a dentist appointment 3 weeks from now. Some Moms have $$$, some don’t. Some moms like volunteering at the kid’s school. Some moms think that entirely misses the point of having a kid in school. Some moms are deeply disturbed, unfulfilled, consumerist alpha assholes who need to be reprogrammed. We all have different gifts and different challenges and we all have horrible days when we do horrible things we regret and great days when we do it all right. We can’t be all things to all people. We’ll succeed at being the best of who we are when we stop trying.

5.Reading parenting magazines

Parenting magazines are lightly veiled vehicles for consumerism. They play upon your fears and concerns in order to make you buy them. (Will crying it out KILL your baby???) They try to make you feel like an inadequate parent so you will buy them. (Don’t throw out that 2 liter bottle! Make this fun Easter themed bunny-bank! Don’t you like fun, BEATCH?) They exist to sell advertising, it’s how they make money and they exist to make money. Plus, they are full of dumb ideas like utilizing the vegetable sculpture arts to entice kids to eat. They extol the virtues of the kids eating the vegetables (no shit) as well as the delight you will find in the process. Pause. Blink. Pause. There is some disease of affluence meets inertia of the overly-entertained argument to made here but this activity is dancing so far over on the ridiculous side of the Insane Things Some Magazine Editor Thought Up to Sell Magazines tracks I can’t be bothered. In 99.9% of the cases, the answer you seek would be better put to a friend, your pedie or your Mom.

6.Let your kids watch ads (or ads disguised as shows)

Consumerism is an empty hole, a dead end street, an incapacitating mechanism to subvert creative thinking, analytical ability and the appreciation of the truly meaningful experience of life. Teaching a child to associate happiness with the acquisition of material objects is teaching a child to dig a hole of entitlement and perpetual dissatisfaction they will never emerge from. I would sooner let my kids eat raw chicken while running in the street with scissors than I would let them get bombarded by advertising.

7.Materially rewarding good behavior

I bet this was a parenting magazine idea. Doing the right thing is required and expected. Praise a child when they make a good choice, that’s how they learn. Social approbation is the single greatest influence on behavior. By creating an expectation of material reward for good behavior, we imply that it is optional and begin a game of rising stakes for good behavior. Not only does this contradict the pursuit of household peace, it primes your kid to do the least for the most. Wall Street, here I come!!!

8.Give your kids too much say

Kids like limits. They like them so much they like to visit them, push them and test them all the time! A child should only be empowered to influence events over which they can reliably make good decisions. My 6 year old picks out her own clothes, the book she wants to read and the movie she wants to watch. If I allowed her to pick what she wants to eat she’d eat nothing but cheese and goldfish and need to be surgically un-constipated. My 4 year old picks out his own shirt. If I allow him to pick out the whole outfit he will pick 2 shirts and 3 pairs of socks and then scream bloody murder when I say he can’t wear them. If I allowed him to pick what he wanted to eat he’d ask for one thing and then scream bloody murder because he actually wanted the other thing. Kids want their parents to be in charge. It frees them up to be kids. Throw ‘em a bone once in a while but you’re the grown up.

9. Forgetting to say thank you to the breadwinner

There would be no SAHM without the go to work Dad. Finding common ground when two people are involved in such different and separate spheres can be challenging. In our house I am all things domestic; kids, money, house, car you name it. It was hard for my husband to hand over those reigns and it’s also hard for him to get pulled aside all the time and told “we aren’t doing it that way anymore”. Say thank you as often you can. Offer to get them a beer when they get home and say “How are you?” It’s the little things.

10.Not demanding/accepting respect for the work you do

Being a SAHM is the hardest job out there and it’s the most important. No jobjob holds you more accountable, punishes your mistakes or rewards your success more viscerally, tests your tolerance of ambivalence and self doubt or pushes you to do your best like being a SAHM. In spite of this, being conditioned to equate monetary rewards with good job performance taints our perception of the value of what we do. So say it loud, say it proud and give yourself a pat on the back and a break.

15 comments:

  1. So much to agree with. The first point that resonated with me is that being a SAHM is a job you care about which makes it that much more difficult. And it never ends.

    Pediasure is crazy. Who believes this crap?

    Did you write this for me? :) I'm not sure how to create a blog that doesn't idealize being at home but I do have some good photos, untouched.

    Parenting magazines are terrible. My mother recently subscribed the whole family to Family Fun magazine because it was only $4 for a year. Good God, it was difficult to explain to her that they will give away the magazine to get that advertising into your home. She just can't understand. Sigh....too many battles.

    I especially like number 9. It seems so retro to appreciate the breadwinner (usually the husband) but without his income we couldn't have the life we do.

    Count me as a mother who would gladly cut her wrist than do crafts. (Saying "stabbing my eye" makes me too nervous.)

    Great post. Thanks.

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  2. Nina,
    I actually wrote an entirely different post inspired by your "bad day" but morphed it into this one! My claws came out a bit too much in the first version. Tack is not my strong suit so I have to be careful.

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  3. You always seem to be right there with me on the old thought-waves.

    #1 is near and dear to my heart because my chicklet is tiny....25th percentile for height and 10th for weight. It is so irritating when strangers (and in-laws) say "she is so tiny, she needs to eat more". Both my husband and I are short....our parents are not big.....this child is destined to be tiny. She eats; but not much some days. I am slowly accepting my choice to feed my chicklet a diverse diet which eliminates 98% processed foods, and has a strong base of organic and whole foods, is fine. If she chooses not to eat what I offer her one day, she will make up for it another day.

    #2 & #4 can be combined for me. I started my motherhood career in NYC, the land of super-mums (in theory at least). I was two steps away from a nervous breakdown for the first 8 months of Declan's life. Then, completely neurotic about doing everything "right", even when I gained some of my sanity back. Super-mums intimidate me, I fully admit it. I joined a fried at her son's t-ball procatice the other week and almost had an anxiety attack when surrounded by a gym full of super-mums.
    But when I really look at them, and their children........I know I am doing okay because my daughter is smart, sassy and VERY happy. I must be doing something right.

    All the points about commercialism and rewarding good behavior with "stuff" is right on target for me too. It's easy to get caught up in the craziness. We also limit if not eliminate all commercials from Declan's television/movie time, and I no longer subscribe to the parenting magazines.
    However, it's hard to avoid the unsolicited advice from others, on what I "just have to get Declan". I actually contemplated the purchase of "Your Baby Can Read" because I felt I would be a bad parent if I did not get this for her. But then I thought about this.....she does not show any signs of a learning disability. Would I be messing with the natural progress a toddler should make, just so I could feel proud that she can read far earlier than children have ever been expected to in the past?
    So what if your child can read a novel at age two, and recite the presidents in order.
    My kid knows how to say "Opatee" (her version of octopus) with a big smile and scream it at the top of her lungs while running around the apartment, and it's both normal and pretty darned cute.
    Oh, and we clap here in our home, and give hugs and kisses and big hoorays when Declan displays a positive behavior. Sure, a special bite of ice cream has been offered after a tough day of shots, but that is about the extent of going outside our normal reward system.

    #8 is so important. Around here we would watch Dora and Ni-Hao, with no nap, and eat tofu-pups and pita chips, if unlimited choices were given. We would also make trips to the emergency room on a daily basis since my 18 month old seems to think she can do everything on her own.
    My kid will alwyas have strict limits with us, for everyone's health and sanity.

    #9 & #10 are so important and often overlooked. I went from being the breadwinnner to being a SAHM. I am thankful every day for my husband's support and love, to allow me to stay home with our crazy little person. I also see the error in my ways when I used to think SAHMs could not possibly be as busy as I was when I worked 60 hour weeks, commuted an hour to and from work, and tried to fit in time for my baby. SAHMs are just as busy, just in a different way......a much more important way.
    So here's to meeting the hubby at the door with a beer, a smile and appreciation, and having a secon dbeer in hand to reward mummy for surviving another day in teh SAHM trenches ;)

    I have so much more to say; but I think I have poured enough of my heart out for now. The crazy chicklet is napping, and it is time for me to grab some lunch and maybe even read a few more chapters of the silly summer novel I started, before she wakes up and the fun begins again. I suddenly dont' feel the need to be super-mum and tackle the floors and dishes while the house is quiet...........

    Thanks for being the voice of reason for me Juliet. Your words of wisdom have meant the world to me on several occasions, as I struggled with my transition from very absent mother (not by choice) to stay at home mum.

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  4. I enjoyed the hell out of this read. Thanks a lot.

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  5. Ms. Booty,
    Do you laugh at your dog all day or what? How can you look at that magnificent beast and not holler? Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Where did you find that crazy photo? Now Doug can't stop saying Wall-e while I read this. Who thinks to make an Eve from a hard-boiled egg? Seriously, who comes up with this?

    Great list. We've been working on #1 all week here.

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  7. The food art comes from http://www.designeroof.com/food-art-by-anna-the-red/
    I have a thing for japanese fake food, y'know, the display stuff? This appeals to me in the same way, just totally backwards.

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  8. I'd like to second the one about parenting magazine. They are nothing but ads, fear-inducing articles, and propaganda.

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  9. so true. so true.
    although i'm not a sahm ... so i probably am not allowed to comment on this post.
    so be it.

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  10. Wow! What a great post. I'm not a mom yet, but you can be sure as heck your words will be playing in my mind. Nice job!
    Katie

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  11. I could not stop laughing! What a great post and well said in a funny and honest way. Thanks also for the remarks about the parenting magazines. They make me feel like a failure for not "sculpting" my daughters veggies, not having play dates (I hate the term play date), and not having a designer or themed room for my little girl. Well said lady!

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  12. Awesome! First time reader who was a SAHM and now works at a daycare loving on other people's kids. SO RIGHT ON!!

    By the way, there is no #3 on your list, but I'll extend serious grace since you're doing the toughest job on the planet. ;)

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  13. What a great little discovery --- this post and your blog as a whole. I look forward to browsing around! :)

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  14. awesome list. really awesome list.

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