Today’s post in the final in a series on parenting with Amy Pertl-Clark, Co-Owner and Director of Operations at Harmony Natural Learning Center. We discuss social media, and making time for yourself as a parent. Also, if you liked reading Amy’s posts, check out her suggested reading list!
ND: I have a theory that many parents in my generation doubt their parenting skills because of the constant stream of information, in regards to raising children, on social media. Do you agree?
I completely agree that parents can feel easily lost amidst the bombardment of media telling them what a good parent should or should not do. I believe that parents should always trust their own instincts. You know what is best for your child and your family better than anyone else. Take some time to sit down with your partner and talk about what you want your family life to look and feel like. A conversation about what you cherished in your own childhood may help to guide you in creating this family life. From there, think about your daily routine, the tasks and errands that you have to accomplish. Create a daily rhythm that allows for you and your children to accomplish these tasks comfortably. Think about this rhythm as a time for you and your children to breathe in and breathe out. Breathe in times are when you come together as a family, like sitting down for breakfast or reading books at bedtime. Breathe out times are for individual pursuits, like quiet reading alone or block building with a sibling while mom tidies up the kitchen or makes a phone call. A quote that I have posted on my refrigerator to remind myself to be confident in my parenting is by Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting. He says, “As parents, we’re the architects of our family’s daily lives. We build a structure for those we love by what we choose to do together, and how we do it. You can see what a family holds dear from the pattern of their everyday lives.” So to sum it up, turn off the talk shows, stop reading parenting books and listening to podcasts and hunker down with your own family, for it is only you that knows what your best family life looks like.
ND: One thought I have had is are we are making parenting harder than it needs to be? For example, mothers, even those who work, spend more time interacting with their children than mothers who stayed home with their children in 1965.
Well, according to research, parenting is very different from parenting many years ago because we are expected to do more with our kids than our parents did with us. Many parents today are striving to become parenting experts, where they do everything better than their parents did. With Pinterest just a click away, our birthday parties are becoming hollywood productions and Facebook has become this glossy place where family lives are picture perfect. What we need to do is take it down a notch! There are many things that we are doing better say, for example, our desire to create an emotional connection with our children where they feel respected for who they are as a person. This doesn’t mean that we have to spend every waking moment with them. Children need time to just be, to explore and create without guidance, to think and discover on their own. We, as parents, do not need to guide our children through every single thing. The best times for interaction are during caregiving times – getting dressed in the morning, eating dinner, and bedtime to name a few. In between those times, parents and children should pursue their own interests and tasks like creating art, tinkering with legos, writing in a journal, completing homework, reading emails or doing the laundry. Creating space during the week for special family times, like Board Game Night or Movie Night, will allow parents to feel OK with the time spent on their own pursuits, knowing that during these special times there will be no distractions.
ND: How do you encourage parents to find time for themselves, when the majority of their day revolves around the care of small children?
It is important that your cup remains full so that you have the emotional energy to give to your children from day to day. It may not be possible to get away for hours, but think about the moments in your day when you may carve out a few moments to yourself. It may be as simple as washing your hands as you gaze out the window or going into the bathroom, splashing cool water on your face and then applying some lovely smelling facial moisturizer while your little one is arranging her dolls. Maybe it’s waking up a half an hour before your children so that you can actually finish a cup of coffee while it’s still hot. Think about what you can do for yourself during nap times that doesn’t involve chores. Take twenty minutes to read that book that is sitting on your nightstand or listening to the music you want to listen to. As your children get older, you will be able to get back to the things that you once enjoyed. Don’t think of your life before children as your long lost friend, you will be found again and you will be even better.
ND: Any recommended books or authors that might be interesting to parents?
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne
Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, The RIE Way by Deborah Carlisle Solomon
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn
Slow Family Living: 75 Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy by Bernadette Noll
ND NOTE: A big thank you to Amy for this wonderful series!
Amy Pertl-Clark has spent the past six years helping to build The Harmony Natural Learning Center into a place that protects the innate wonder and curiosity of childhood by offering children the time, space and inspiration to engage in natural play amidst a fast-paced, highly wired, more-is-more culture. It is her desire to help parents trust their own instincts and create an emotional bond that will enable their relationship with their child to be full of love, laughter and joy. She hopes to encourage parents to live a slower family life and use natural play to engage their child in learning. Learn more about Amy and her adventures in literature with her daughter Emmy here.