WHITNEY: Parents deserve praise for small victories
It felt really, really good to rock my baby/big girl to sleep last Sunday while chatting with her grandma and great-aunt Mimi.
Moments earlier, she was bringing me my boots, shoving them against my shins and insisting I put them on — the signal for “let’s go, Mumma, I’ve had enough and I’d like to go where I can catch a nap (i.e. the car).” But I was only back home for a couple days and wanted to catch up, so I asked her to sit with me in grandma’s rocking chair instead.
I’m not the nap giver. Dad is the nap giver. He’s home during the day, and together they’ve mastered the early afternoon nap routine. I’m the night-night parent because I take the evening shifts. Bedtime is our thing, so asking Olivia to take a nap for me is something I approach with an “I’ll take what I can get” attitude.
But last Sunday when I asked her to stay at grandma’s just a little while longer, she konked out on my shoulder, all warm, soft and cuddly, and I felt like a gold medalist. I made a nap happen!
It’s one of my parenting insecurities, so to speak, and I’m sure most people have one or two. I worry about the fact that I can’t get her to nap, imagining it’s a reflection of my choices as a parent. I choose to work, but if I didn’t, I bet she’d take a nap for me and I bet there’s a lot of other things that would be different if we spent more time together. In fact, I constantly worry about the implications of my choice to work — a symptom of privilege, I’m aware, because many people can’t frame the dilemma as a “choice.”
I asked my husband what he worries about as a parent. His answer was simple, but telling.
“I worry if I’m teaching her enough,” he says. “I want her to be smart.”
He’s actually a brilliant teacher, and incredibly smart in his own right. He has shown her how to swipe a touch screen and taught her the names of her body parts. He’s also a huge proponent of the Petting Cats Gently Movement. I can see he’s a successful teacher, even if it is his biggest parenting insecurity.
But if I can easily brush off his worries as nonsense, why can’t I recognize my own worries and insecurities in a similar way?
My friend Alex, who’s a few years younger and about to graduate from Ferris, is either very good at puffing up my self-esteem or crushing my ego, depending on the day. She was hard at work with the former one night when she texted me about “redefining motherhood” for her by pulling off the working mom thing. It feels self-congratulatory to even retype the sentiment here, but I’m starting to think we could all benefit from a little self-congratulation at the end of every day.
Is this too new age-y? Am I treading on the grounds of self-actualization and self-love here? Yeah, probably. But for all the struggles and challenges of parenting — whether you’re working in or out of the home, whether you’re the nap giver or the bedtime parent — we deserve praise for pulling it off. Kinda like a piece of dark chocolate after a good workout. (We all eat chocolate after working out, right?)
And to that end, take a moment or two to commend another parent in your peer network, even if it’s your spouse. Tell them they’re doing a good job, even or especially in a moment of chaos. Sometimes we need a little reminder — maybe unspoken in the form of a child’s peaceful nap, or some verbal acknowledgment from a friend — that we’re doing a good job in our roles as parents.