4 ways to stop judging in the era of super-parenting.
Jenna shows up 15 minutes late to the soccer game, greeted by some serious side eye from the Pinterest Mom who ALWAYS. BRINGS. themed cupcakes and perfectly polished organic apples. Who tells her she’s JUST. MISSED. her son’s first goal of the season, in that I-feel-sorry-for-you-that-you’re-such-a-mess-tone. Instead of enjoying the game, Jenna stews in guilt and shame, thinking she’s FAILING. MISERABLY.
Parenting has become a sport. We’ve gone from children who should be seen but not heard to hanging on to every last phoneme their little mouths utter. From generations past who told us babies came from storks, smacked us on the butt, and sent us to bed without supper to thinking it’s a cardinal sin if we serve nitrite-meat or forget to pack a hand-written affirmation in their designer monogrammed lunchbox.
Gone are the authoritarian ways of yesteryear, when we’d never heard of sensory issues, and “Because I said so” brought order. Never before have parents been more vilified and subjected to more parenting styles and advice.
Our lives are like scenes from the movie Parental Guidance, where the parents track their kids with video surveillance, hold a funeral for the imaginary friend, and never let their finicky child’s component food items touch each other. We offer seven choices of cereal, remove scratchy tags from all the clothes, and line up sock to toe with mathematical precision.
Our feeds are brimming with how to embody what sociologists Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels call the “new momism,” a set of ideals negatively affecting moms, dads, and kids alike. It’s the kind of pressure that keeps us up to 2:30 a.m. baking cupcakes and cutting out of work so that we, like all the other “good parents”, don’t miss a second of their rehearsals, games, therapy sessions, friends’ birthday parties and litany of organized activities that are supposed to boost their self-esteem and keep them “well-rounded”.
We’ve become obsessive “concerted cultivators”—taking the parenting style of middle and upper-class families to the furthest extreme possible, enrolling our kids in tennis lessons before they are potty-trained, throwing down money for expensive tutoring sessions and nailing down college choices by second grade.
The everyone needs a trophy generation is not just reserved for kids—parents are strapping on their capes, hustling to be all and do all for their kids, all while trying to avoid being accused of tiger parenting, coddling, helicoptering or free-ranging.
Even our best intentions can lead to mindless behavior. Mindful parenting offers us something beyond the latest style, fad or pressure to keep our capes strapped on 24-7. By definition, mindfulness is an active state of consciousness, that helps us observe, acknowledge and accept feelings, thoughts and sensations without judgment. Here are some ways to rethink the pressures of modern parenting and bring mindfulness into focus for your family:
- Adopt a non-judgmental stance. Stop being judgy with yourself or other parents. Realize that there is no perfect parenting method or script. Even when we don’t call our kids to the table in a pitch-perfect voice, or when we use the wrong kind of sunscreen or serve something that’s not organic, it doesn’t mean we are epic failures—or that our offspring are eternally damned. When we stew in shame it prevents us from the kind of connection and mindful presence we need in our families.
- Redefine success. We need to stop thinking we have to raise prodigies. Maybe they don’t need to get to get their 10,000 hours in of practice to be “successful”. Maybe we can teach them that life is best enjoyed when we’re whole and happy, and lies within presence, not performance. That the trophies are NOT. WORTH. IT. if you’re too exhausted to appreciate them.
- Create space to breathe. Over scheduling leaves us frenetic and depleted. Carve out moments for simply being, rather than stayed locked into the metric of doing. Schedule down time (without screens) and hold it sacred. Train your brain to stay in the now and savor each other. Teach your children how to stop and breathe and to take off their own capes too.
- Practice gratitude. Make it sport to practice gratitude, instead of constantly comparing yourself to the Pinterest families who seem so perfect. No family is. Reflect on the characteristics that uniquely define your family. Relish in the strengths, opportunities, resources that you have. Don’t spend all your energy chasing ideals to the extent you take the gift of time with your children for granted.
Lareau, Annette (2003). Unequal Childhoods. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Douglas, S. & Michaels, M. (2005). The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined all Women. New York: Free Press.