Note to Self (and anyone else with an opinion): My Kids Have Two Parents

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving, and I've got a whole long weekend to rest, relax, and feel guilty.  Because that is what Thanksgiving is about, right? Oh, it's not?  Dammit, I've missed the point again.

My children have already had 6 hours of screen time today.  That's just a smidge over the 2 hour per day limit recommended by the American Pediatric Association, or as I like to call them, Those Evil People That Ruin Everything.  And unless I come up with some outings or games or just be a really mean person and subsequently run the gauntlet of whining, complaining and weeping that inevitably unfolds, they're going to have another 5 hours today, probably about 10 hours on average the next three days after that. They will probably also eat nothing but cereal, and I never know if either of them actually brush their teeth, ever. Charlotte bathes on her own, but Lawson doesn't, and he will probably not have a bath, because I won't remember until he actually starts emitting an odor of some kind.

Every message I get from both my brain and from every messenger in society is that all of this is MY fault.  I'm THE MOM.  I'm the one who gets tsk tsked by relatives, doctors, "experts," and of course other moms.  I have a friend who told me that a total stranger recently stopped his car to criticize her level of attentiveness to her child while her family was out bike riding.  Her husband was also there, but the stranger had no lecture for him. SHE was the bad parent.

In the case of other moms, it's usually not direct criticism--few people will straight up tell you you suck--it's in the form of their own "guilt-sharing" i.e. "You guys, my kids watched an ENTIRE HOUR of screen time the other day but I had a 104 fever and could only play with them for so long, you know?" or it's from their Facebook posts showing all hikes and baking and sightseeing they are doing with their kids.  They mean no harm at all, but you look at that, and you just think UGH THAT IS WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say--my husband is a great man, a good husband, and a loving father.  He works very hard at a demanding job that more than provides for our needs. He also pitches in around the house as he is able.  I am incredibly thankful for him.  It also makes sense in our household, due to our differing workloads outside the home, that I pretty much run things here.  He absolutely doesn't have time to do much more.

But I'm also deeply envious of him.  I envy the sharp focus of his life, its single-mindedness.  Although he has a lot going on at work and probably has to multitask there to some extent and definitely gets really stressed out about it, he can pretty much concentrate on being the best worker he can be and not worry about much else.

Mostly I'm envious that he gets to be a good parent without too much angst.  No one even thinks to discuss with him how many vegetables his children eat or what kind of exercise they get or what summer camps they will do next year.  He diligently combs Lawson's hair in the mornings, but if he didn't, no one would think to themselves, that child has a neglectful dad.  I don't think he loses any sleep over coming up with a screen time strategy or a chore chart or a meal plan.   He's not mildly sick to his stomach right now thinking about the next few days, the yawning chasm of free hours, and considering how to get the children occupied in something remotely edifying.  He's in his office answering emails, and frankly not having much fun. But he's not worrying about his parenting.  And tomorrow he'll (hopefully) take a well-deserved break from his emails to celebrate the holiday.

Look, there's even articles to read about how not to feel guilty. 
He doesn't read the parenting books--OK, I don't read them either, but I do sometimes read the synopses of the parenting books in the New York Times (which is all you need, if even that).  That's where I got the idea of holding a "Family Meeting" where you discuss with your children what your family's purpose and goals are and come up with mutually agreed-upon solutions to problems and things that need to change.  He's not the one who bought the flip chart and markers and sat everyone down and ran the meeting like the trained facilitator that I am.  It actually went very well, and we all agreed that we all need to reduce our screen time and spend more time together, and we came up with some good strategies.

That no one has implemented.  Because that is on me, too. And, guys--as I've said before--I'm just super bad at this.  I am very very very very good at motivating myself, disciplining myself, achieving my personal goals, maybe empowering some other motivated adults.  But you put me in charge of other sorts of people, and everything comes undone.  Or, rather, nothing gets done in the first place.

I have a super charmed life, there's no argument there.  And I'm glad I have a partner at all.  I have so many friends raising kids completely on their own.  But generally speaking I am tired of mothers bearing the overwhelming burden of parenting in our society.  As I scroll through Facebook, most of the fathers (not all! calm down, I'm not talking about you!) are in the background, in recliners, and, well, in the photos, which the moms are often taking.  The moms have also usually organized the gathering or activity, cooked the food or brought the snacks, got everyone dressed and in the car, kept everyone happy and well-behaved.  Sometimes I wonder what society would be like if women just stopped doing all this.  Would everyone just never leave their couches and eat chips and salsa for every meal and rarely bathe?  I think that's probably the case, because I've tested this theory for limited spurts of time in our household, and that's what we do.  Eat junk, watch screens, live in filth.

There's no real solution here. Society has unfolded this way for eons.  Human biology is at least to an extent wired that way (although I am evidence that biology is not destiny...not all women are maternal...).  Women put the pressure on themselves as much as anyone else does.  And lot of women love it. They are born nurturers.

But that's not me, and my husband honestly can't take on much more.  So I'll just keep on sucking and feeling yuck about it.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! You are welcome for the festive message.


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