When I go to the park with a friend and our kids, my goal is to give my child a playmate and some good old-fashioned outside fun. But if I’m being honest, I’ve also very much got my eye on some adult conversation and the ability to relax, guilt-free, knowing my six-year-old son is being entertained.
So when I’m on a playdate with a friend who isn’t as committed to grabbing some kicking-back time as I am, and often gets up to engage in the play, I get a little irked.
Mostly, I think, I get irked because my friend makes me feel guilty for not doing the same. More to the point, I think it’s because I don’t want to do the same. I do play with my child and spend lots of time with him, but Mommy needs a break!
And I don’t want to feel guilty about it. But it seems like the culture of parenting in North America right now remains very much in line with this idea that the sky will fall if you aren’t spending every available second working on your child’s social, emotional and intellectual development. I know I’m not the only one who feels this pressure.
I’ve heard this called Helicopter Parenting, where the parents hover above the child, overseeing everything they do and optimizing every potential learning experience. I’m all for playing a game of Find the Letters of the Alphabet on License Plates when you’re stuck in a car for any length of time with your kids. But I honestly reject this pressure to always be pushing my kid and pushing myself to push my kid. I don’t think it’s good for the children and I don’t think it’s good for parents.
I’m partial to this emerging trend in parenting, the so-called slow child movement. Enough with the hyper-scheduling of kids; with the maximization of every moment. They don’t need to have their heads jammed full of every bit of enlightenment possible at every turn. They need to play and run and get bored and figure out what to do then and daydream. They need time and space to themselves. And quite frankly, so do I!
So how about you? Do you feel the pressure to maximize every parenting moment? Do you parent this way? Or are your kids more ‘free-range’ than that?
Karen Bridson is a journalist, TV producer and author of Stunned: The New Generation of Women Having Babies, Getting Angry and Creating a Mothers’ Movement (HCI, 2009). She blogs at http://angrymamas.blogspot.com She also produces a parenting show for Canadian Public Television.