It started at the height of summer. I would wake in the middle of the night, heart thumping, throat sealing up like a keyhole. This feeling of panic, where did it come from? I knew exactly.
Being a mom.
Ridiculous, but also not so ridiculous. Even with school out for the year, fear dug in with its talons. Was I doing a good enough job raising my son? Was anybody?
As I looked around, I knew I wasn’t alone in my anxiety. Seems like every mom I know goes around in perpetual ‘headless chicken’ mode. For all the talk about letting kids be kids and learn to embrace boredom, we don’t exactly lead by example, do we? Moms these days are terrible at slowing down, myself included. We treat parenting like a sprint instead of the marathon that it is.
Somehow parenting has become a high-powered career, and we—its frantic CEOs—are forever scheduling and micromanaging our employees, I mean, kids. Even in this golden age of globalization and consumer culture, instead of smugly counting our blessings, we work overtime at trying to manufacture perfect Insta-worthy lives, complete with perfect children. And this kind of pressure-cooker parenting is leading to crazy, unprecedented mental health concerns in both kids and adults alike.
As I lay there in the middle of the night deep breathing, I vowed to make it stop. Even though my eight year old isn’t enrolled in a million activities like many of his peers—and we routinely have weekends with not a whole lot planned—I know I’m still guilty of over-parenting or hyper-parenting him.
When your child has special needs like autism or ADHD, the pressure is cranked up. The race against time is on; the stakes are high. We are told that early intervention is crucial to a child’s development. In short, everything he will become depends on what I do or don’t do with him and for him right now. No wonder I can’t sleep at night!
Don’t get me wrong. Therapies do help. I’m not advocating the ‘do nothing’ approach to parenting, but maybe ‘do way less’ and certainly ‘pace yourself’ are better bets.
All I know is this: going around with the weight of my son’s entire future resting squarely on my shoulders is too much to bear. I can’t do it anymore. That constant pressure isn’t good for either of us. It only stresses me out and suffocates him.
He is my child, after all, not some project or deadline I have to meet. It’s not as if I’ll be graded at some later date on the job I did raising him. B minus… C plus… That is not how parenting is measured. No, my role as his mom is to guide him as best I can, not to change him. He is his own person, after all, and I am my mine. No matter how hard I try, I can’t control who he becomes. And I can’t keep carrying that load around all the time. I’m much too tired.
Parenting is such a short stint. I would rather spend that window being with him, not working on him. I would sooner savour each season of his childhood before it inevitably passes.