Unparenting

I’ve noticed something since I quit working to be a full-time mom: there are a lot of moms out there who make it seem like they do a lot of stuff with their kids. Some are super crafty, others are into the education game, and others just do a lot of stuff. For four years, I’ve felt like I should be doing more with my kids and yet we never seem to really do anything.

Case in point: my kids have been playing together for over 3 hours today. Downstairs, or in their room. Far away from me. Completely independent of my supervision. It’s like I’m only here in case of emergency. I’m a red fire-alarm: break in case of fire.

Of course we do things. We go for a walk almost every day and then play outside. I don’t let them play freely outdoors if I’m not with them, since we’re on 4 acres of unfenced, treed land and I haven’t successfully implanted them with invisible fence trackers… They come with me to get groceries. We go to Little Beans or Cafe O Play once or twice a week. I take them to swimming lessons and dance class. But other than that??

We don’t do much.

If they ask for a craft, I’ll let them explore the craft cupboard on their own. GLITTER FOR ALL!! If they ask to bake something, we do. If they bring me a book, I read it. I make sure they get dressed before supper time, and wash their faces and brush their teeth. Sometimes they help me vacuum.

But we really don’t DO much.

Even as a mom to newborns, I wasn’t a structured parent. The most I did was feed on a 3-hour schedule because, let’s face it: there were two hungry critters begging for boobies. It was schedule, or let my skin grow into the fabric of my glider. But we didn’t do baby signing, or tummy time, or anything developmental. Heck, I kept my kids off the ground as much as possible for fear that they would learn to move :) Despite my best efforts, they did learn to sit, crawl, walk, run, and talk back.

Nowadays, my girls have vivid imaginations without my involvement. They sing and dance and play together. They fight and cry together. Occasionally, I call them to the table for food. More often then not, they don’t want to eat lunch because they’d rather play.

I make no excuses. My husband knows I have it pretty easy most days. Of course there are hairy, tantrum-filled days. The bugz are four! But I can’t say I have it hard. He goes to work. My kids watch themselves. I blog and play with my puppy and clean my house a little. It’s a pretty charmed life.

Our life is one big ball of free play.

So when I sit here, not having directly parented my kids for over 3 hours, I start to wonder: am I screwing something up? Or is this relaxed lifestyle just what we need? Am I fostering independence by letting them make their own day-to-day time table, or am I hampering their ability to transition into the “real world” full of clocks and deadlines?

Or is it all just a farce? A facade? Are there actually stay-at-home moms out there that are really doing lots of stuff with their preschoolers every day?? Is every day organized (to a degree), with structured time for learning, playing, crafts, TV, outside play…?

What are your thoughts? Is this lazy parenting, or am I just going with the flow? Is this the parental equivalent of unschooling? Where do you draw the line in your own house? Do you really do it all, or do you just like to pin lots of kids’ activities to your Pinterest boards?

What do YOU do all day at home?

4 thoughts on “Unparenting

  1. It sounds like you are doing just fine to me. Kids learn the most from exploring independently, climbing trees, inventing their own games. Kids that are over-scheduled and constantly being presented with an agenda don’t know what to do if there isn’t a planned activity for them. I have two very active boys and I feel like I spend a lot of time as a referee and just keeping the two of them from giddily inflicting seriously bodily harm on each other or damaging my home too severely. But those moments when they are playing together calmly are heavenly, even if they are few and far between (sigh). Don’t second-guess yourself! Just enjoy!

  2. Don’t worry- you’re kids will do great with a mom that follows their lead for activities and allows their art work, etc. be theirs. I feel bad for moms when they feel as though they need to schedule every minute with their children- you know the saying…we make plans, God laughs. Also, I’m a therapist and I can tell you, from what you wrote, the way you are doing it works best.

  3. Well, I work at home, so that’s my excuse for doing the unstructured thing. But really, I have plenty of time when I could be crafty or involved or whatever and I’m just not like that. I like my kids to play on their own. Sometimes I feel guilty, especially when my big boys are at school, about the 4yo playing alone, but he’s pretty happy so I try not to worry that I’m not that mom who has activities and play dates and plans for him all day long. Summer is better, then we at least go to the park more often and he likes that!

  4. If what you’re doing is wrong, then I’m wrong, too. I have three little kids (ages 4, 2, and 1), and it seems all I’m here for is food prep and booboo kissing. I have friends, though, especially the ones with only children, who spend all day doing activities and sprinting around town to classes. Sure, we enjoy getting out and about, but I have a playgroup of three here ready-made. They love each other’s company (even the 15 month old) and could play pretend for hours on end. I’m grateful I’m not the designated cruise director (that’s the 4 year old for now–she is very bossy, I mean, a natural leader!) and that they have never once come to me whining about boredom. I’m not sure the girls even know that word!

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