Friday, April 13, 2007

Are You a Hovering Mother?

I got the idea for this post after many sojourns to the public library with my boyz. And I've certainly done my share of surreptitous observation of other mothers, as we all tend to do when in social situations. But then I wonder, maybe it's just me...Maybe I'm a little too relaxed? But I definitely wouldn't consider myself a "hoverer".

I was lucky in that I had 2 friends who were pregnant along with me when I had Eldest and then Middle. So I never went through pregnancy (especially my first) and new motherhood alone. That is, if I were being neurotic and anal over which bottle/pacifier/stroller/carseat/sippy cup to buy, I had 2 friends who were in the exact same boat. In essence, we were all being obsessively weird first-time mothers together, and none of us were the wiser!

But now, I consider myself a seasoned veteran of this mothering gig. Having 3 children in 5 years will do that to a person. Thus, I'm a different parent with Baby than I was with Eldest. Less stressed (granted, the wine helps), more relaxed, more calm, less of a Nervous Nelly.

I think it's vital that children know how to amuse themselves. I shouldn't have to (nor do I want to, or realistically, have time to) be a constant playmate. And for me, this is easier than for some, because I do have 3. Just add sex water and ta-dah, instant playmates!

Granted, when it was just Eldest, he definitely received more 1-on-1 time than I could ever hope to give Middle or Baby now. Unfortunately. (Ack. Yet more Mother Guilt.)

Our house these days is pretty much completely childproofed. So except for the occasional open toilet lid (when Baby seizes the opportunity to give stuffed Elmo a swirly) or an unlatched video/DVD cabinet (when the contents are immediately strewn throughout the household) , the boyz are free to roam and play in their home environment. I don't feel it necessary to constantly supervise/referee or even join in their play. Of course, the lure of air hockey, the completion of a puzzle, or a nice game of Zingo can always make Momma stop what she's doing to come play. But what I've found that works for me (and allows me to get stuff done around the house) is that the busier I am, the better the boyz play and amuse themselves.

I carry this philosophy outside of the Trenches as well. When I take the boyz to the library, for example, we pick out our books (Crap. Froggy again?) and videos and then the boyz PLAY, while Mommy sits and reads magazines and observes the other library playroom patrons. I've noticed that a lot of children seriously don't know how (or refuse) to PLAY ALONE...or even with their peers. No one but their Mommy will suffice.

In the book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, the author Judith Warner writes:

"Educators complain that many children have trouble transitioning to preschool because they've been played with so constantly and have gotten so much of what they want all the time at home. They come to kindergarten overprepared intellectually and underprepared in basic social skills."

She also states that "Too many of us now allow ourselves to be defined by motherhood and direct every ounce of energy into our children. This sounds noble on the surface but in fact it's doing no one--not ourselves, or our children--any good...All this places an undue burden upon our children. By making them the be-all-and-end-all of our lives, by breaking down the boundaries between ourselves and them so thoroughly, by giving them so much power within the family when they're very small, we risk overwhelming them psychologically and ill-preparing them, socially, for the world of other children and, eventually, other adults."

Makes you go "Hmmm....", right? Your thoughts, fellow Mommies?


Greens and Pinks said...

I think Judith Warner is right on the money, especially with that last paragraph. I am inspired to read that book.

Jennifer said...

I hover. I know I do. I let him play by himself at home, but at playdates, I like to watch him.

This will change, I'm sure, with the addition of a baby sister, aka distraction.

Great, well researched post! I'm impressed!

A said...

I have taught preschool for several years and disagree with the social skills statement. Kids are different just as every adult is different. Some will chat your ear off and some are really quiet. I don't find it to correlate with students mothers being SAHM. Now, if your a SAHM and you NEVER leave the house then yes, this might be a problem. In my opinion, that is one reason to send your child to preschool is to develop their social skills.

I do find some truth in the last quote. I do think that some mom's hover to much. In this day and age though it is hard not to. I mean I don't know about you but I can't relax when I take my kids to the park or the grocery store for fear that for one second I look away they will be gone. I do feel safe in the area we live in but you never know. I do know a lot of moms who need to take some time off and do something for themselves!

Heather said...

Good post Sarah.

To be blunt & basing it off of just the info here, the book sounds like baloney. I know a LOT of moms, both working and SAHM, and none of them have been the type to define themselves 100% by motherhood or direct every single ounce of energy into the kids. Who does that? I've never personally known a mom who spent vast amounts of time playing with their kid. So is this author taking a very small percentage of mothers and generalizing their behavior to the larger population of "regular" moms?

I certainly don't spend every ounce of energy on my kids and my oldest had a really hard time transitioning to preschool. He had a hard time going to kindergarten too. He went to Mom's Day out from 2.5, we socialized, yada yada. And he still did. It's just his personality and he has a doozy of one, let me tell ya.

I'll stop there because it will seriously turn into a should-have-written-my-own-blog comment! hehe! maybe I will write one with my own thoughts...??

Good thinking blog! Thanks for the brain exercise!

Shauna Loves Chocolate said...

Fantastic post! Boundaries are wide at this house. Nicholas knows where they are and not to cross them. So at home, we don't hover. When at someone else's house, that's different. Not only may their house not be childproofed, but I don't want to make other people uncomfortable with my parenting style, unless I know they are just as 'free' with their kids. For us, it comes down to the other family's rules and we'll follow suit.

Annie said...

I love this post. I would consider myself a semi-hovering mom. At home I'm very relaxed - my daughter plays freely (and messily) all over the house. All the important stuff is childproofed, and she is good at amusing herself a lot of the time - maybe too much of the time - that's a whole other post ;). Anyway - the 'semi hovering' part comes in when we're at the library like you describe, or at other people's houses, or the playground. I can't relax. At other people's houses it's borne out of respect for their homes and possessions lol! At the library or playground or wherever it's fear of third parties - hate to say it. My child is such an outgoing friendly being, I just don't know that she wouldn't go waltzing off with the first stranger inviting her to. As far as letting her amuse herself when needs be - I let her, and she can do it - but you can bet if I'm not in the safety of our own home, I'll be keeping a very watchful eye on her.

Kate said...

Yeah, I'll be over here with you at the kitchen table, sipping margaritas and no-hovering. I consider it my job to create self-entertaining creatures out of my kids, and as such I only entertain them when they've run out of ideas on their own. As for safety, I know what my kids can and can't handle, and what they will and won't try - so I have a pretty good Mommy-alarm that goes off as needed, but I can let Jacob (2) walk right up to the edge of a puddle and know he won't fall in it.

My hovering friends always look so tired.


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