Mom-poster syndrome: Let’s tackle the“parental-guilt” monster.
They know you’re hiding. You can hear their insidious little whispers seeking you out, the rapid, echoing padding of tiny toes through the ceiling, and their stickly claws shining with saliva, mouth dotted with cookie crumbs. And they will find you. Here’s how to handle it.
The feminist movement of the last 20+ years has been ushering women towards managing a career as much as being a mother. Be the best at supervising everything; 3 meals, 3 meetings, 3 motivational memes, 3 maternal moments a day. The father role has become evermore important with stay-at-home dads, though declining in number, stands at 232,000 which is a huge leap from the fat zero. The modern family, however is a veritable rainbow of responsibility; “parent” is no longer a title assigned to the baby making machines. It’s all about the love. It’s always been about the love. Because we love kids…always…
Let us get one thing straight; you’re not a bad parent. If you were supposed to spend 100% of the time with a single person, everyone would have been born with a twin. You’re entitled to time alone, you are entitled to peace, you are entitled to a sense of individuality, you are entitled to your autonomy…heck, you earned it. But first and foremost, you learned it.
WHAM! Pandemic. As far as “career” goes; braless in pyjamas in the living room was not the penthouse office in Armani suit and stilettoes you imagined. The kids are at home and you feel as though you’re not giving enough time, space, entertainment or attention to your young one. You’re not alone. In general, full-time working parents reported a lower sense of self- percieved parental efficacy in 2019; That was their perspective when the child was a new-born. We’re talking straight from the hospital, if you’re a high-flying career woman working from home, you already perceive yourself at a disadvantage.
And so if you’re hiding in your bathroom, wardrobe, garage, attic just for a moments peace wondering why you’re not managing this parenting thing properly? Cut yourself some slack, enjoy the silence and remind yourself that you didn’t bring your child into a house rigged with Home Alone traps. Unless you live in the nuclear storage facility of North Korea, even though the majority of accidents happen in the home for children, it might look like a nuclear apocalypse when you return in a couple of minutes…but a few moments to read this is not going to bring about world annihilation.
It is absolutely true that the most interesting room in the house, to a child under 5 is whatever room you are in. And this is also plain true that if a child has access to a main-care giver on tap…they will drink the well dry. And considering you’ve probably spent a great deal of time already with your darling sprinkle, the novelty of child-rearing has you gasping for refreshment…if you aren’t already considering small holding cells in the garden shed.
Let us get one thing straight; you’re not a bad parent. If you were supposed to spend 100% of the time with a single person, everyone would have been born with a twin. You’re entitled to time alone, you are entitled to peace, you are entitled to a sense of individuality, you are entitled to your autonomy…heck, you earned it. But first and foremost, you learned it. Sticking to the specifics, children go from playing individually, to alongside, to interacting with one another (or with whomever is available). In the early years, children jump between these three states in order to establish a sense of self-actualization.
On the one hand, they do this naturally…and, infuriatingly so, sometimes in the middle of an important phone-call with the big boss. But these are important emotional and social transitions that they take with them throughout development.
It is actually important that your weeyin learns to pause, observe, reflect and then act. That it is possible to have love time and lone time that does not hinder their inquisitive nature, does not impact your relationship as main care-giver, and actually begins building the skills a child needs to self-regulate and realise their autonomy.
Let me introduce a familiar item:
The sand timer…but not as you knew it.
The one I’m talking about you can pick them up on Amazon. £10 a piece!
Feeling thrifty? MAKE ONE! With glitter! That’s craft time in a nutshell with some numeracy thrown in for those with their eye on the EYFS!
Large, colourful and a corporeal and visual measure of time that is far less complicated than hands and numbers on the clock! They come in a variety of colours and minutes and, most importantly, it is rainbow time falling through the air like magic (that is my inner child talking, sometimes she’s smarter than me.)
When it comes to using the sand-timers, it’s best to start small and to practice together using play.
A 1 min egg timer.
1. Explain that when the sand is at the top, that means it is start time.
2. Turn the timer and throw the ball a couple of times in your hands. Let some of the sand fall through the hour glass.
3. Then say that when the sand is at the bottom, it is stop time.
4. Turn the timer and throw the ball until all the sand is back in the bottom.
5. Show it fully. Ask your weeyin to tell you “STOP TIME!” when all the sand is at the bottom.
6. Turn the timer and play for the full minute.
7. When they tell you; thank them for letting you know it was “STOP TIME”. Praise them for watching for you and keeping track of the timer.
8. Give your weeyin the ball for their turn saying you will do the same. Introduce “PLAY TIME!” and turn the hour-glass for them.
9. When you can see there is only a little sand left say “It’s stop time soon! Are you ready?”
10. Say “STOP TIME!” when the sand is through.
11. Run this through a few times, your turn, their turn, your turn. Celebrate your achievements here.
12. Use this to end play time by saying “One more turn together playing with the ball and then we stop and can use this another time”.
13. Turn the timer, play and give a warning when it is half way though. Then a countdown to the finish. Celebrate what you’ve done together and how much you’ve enjoyed taking turns with them.
Expand the activity:
Play with the concept of being late and having to wait by pretending not to hear “Stop time!”. Praise your child for both being patient with you to stop AND for waiting for their turn.
Expand the length of time.
They can be used for:
2. Tidying up
3. Turn taking
4. Tooth brushing
Mainly two other things that will give you both a sense of control, routine and security.
5. Love time.
6. Lone time.
A 3 year old has an average independent attention span of 8 to 10 mins before seeking some sort of interaction or reaction to their activity. Sometimes it can be at an impromptu moment when you’re on a call, answering an email, responding to a client, needing to have a full-on brain reset. Children adapt. And, luckily, you’re working for a company that is managed by an adult. Taking a moment within a call or an email to observe your time frame and how long you need, reporting this and using the hourglasses to establish “wait time” or “lone time” is beneficial to your child, and to you when it comes to establishing meaning around social and emotional transitions, and maintaining your own emotional well-being as a parent.
Children play pretend, first, by pretending to do what they see around them. In each individual room in the house, it is possible to have an “Independent play-area” that has the things that you have around you. An old laptop, some crayons, their own special work pad, a toy phone or old phone; kitchen pots and pans; toy tools in the garage, their own bucket and spade for the garden.
I can imagine you now shrinking at the idea of mess. It’s completely natural to quiver at the thought of drawings on the walls or spilled paint. So if you like to keep the house ship-shape, cheap rolls of cartridge paper of even newspaper are your best friend in this case! But regardless of even these things being replaceable, treat them as you would any permanent surface.
When you engage with a child in the early years, you’ll notice that there is no such thing as a single class “room”. Everywhere, everything and everyone is a learning opportunity.
Even the passage of time, every moment using these resources can help your child engage positively in social and emotional transitions wherever you are. Wherever they are. Whenever you’re taking a moment to yourself.