Our Story Begins:
Quality Over Quantity
“The ideology of intensive mothering insinuates that children’s healthy development depends in large part on how much time they spend with their mothers and that mothers are unique and irreplaceable, especially for young children.”
This is a quote from a new study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. It reads a bit clinical and it’s not the crux of the study.
The study, you see, wanted to determine if the amount of time a mom spends with her kids is the most important thing. There’s a theory out there called “intensive mothering” that implies that moms should spend all their time with their children. Familiarity breeds success, in essence. What this study claims is that the amount of time you spend isn’t as important as the quality of the time you spend.
The news outlets went bat-guano crazy over this information. “Moms of the world, rejoice, you don’t have to feel guilty any more” was the line.
Why should you feel guilty is my question? I get it . . . the study even posits that society agrees with the “intensive mothering” theory spelled out in that first quote up there: mothers are unique and irreplaceable. I agree with the idea that you can’t replace your mom. I disagree that it’s the death knell to my children that my wife is now gone.
I get irritated when the 24-hour news cycle gloms onto things like this and starts pushing the press releases because they’re touting the virtues of something that I simultaneously knew and had no choice but to adapt.
I’m the only parent in the house. Period. There is no “mom” here. Even if I fall in love and get married again this will not be “mom.” I am their parent and I’m not looking for a parenting partner, the kids won’t have another “mom.” So by the virtue of that first quote my kids are doomed, simply, irrevocably, doomed.
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To that I scream “B.S.!”
What the study is saying is that you don’t have to be with your kids every second of every minute of every hour of every day. You just have to be engaged while you are there.
Well . . . duh!
Excuse my literary eye-roll there and my irascible nature of pointing out that the “intensive mothering” theory was wrong but . . . it’s always been wrong. My wife, when alive, was a working mom and that didn’t hurt my kids at all . . . and yes . . . they went to daycare.
But more important: my children have lived the last four years without their mom. My twin sons, the boys you see up there, lost her when they were seven. In just over a week they’ll be 12. They have had almost as many years without a mom as they have with one.
Since Andrea, my late wife, died my son – the king of all temper tamtrum throwers – has not thrown a tantrum. Not one…single…tantrum. His brother, who has a slight stutter, entered the speech competitions. Their sisters are artists in their own rights. They are thriving, and have thrived even more in the years since their mom passed. Not because of it, they just have. They have lived.
I fostered all that. You know how? By being part of their lives.
The amount of time you spend isn’t as important as how you spend the time. When you are with your kids be with them. No phones at the table eating dinner – and you should eat dinner together. Vacations should be together. You should go to the store, walk the trail, and be available.
The study posits things I’ve said here before: we are not “my kids’ mom” as the end-all, be-all, only example of our nature. I am a Dad (first) then a musician, journalist, writer, laundress, chef, baker, storyteller, actor and a million other things.
It’s valuable for my kids to see that I have an identity . . . and that they are not my sole identity. That’s not healthy – not for me, not for them. So why parent like it is? That doesn’t breed independence or success.
The study says it’s education and economics. I’m not wealthy, but I’m educated. More important, though, I teach, talk and read with my kids.
I am . . . involved. I’m not a mom . . . I’m a parent. THAT is what’s the important part.
What about you? Are you involved? Are you “intensive” or are you engaged?