Parenting style, schmarenting style.
Growing up, my mother had a work style, a clothing style, and a personality style.
She did not have a parenting style, and tries not to laugh at me when I talk (in sometimes endless detail) about mine.
My mother was a Working Mom. Like so many mothers, she worked hard...and then worked some more. She has more college degrees than the rest of the family combined, including a Doctorate of Education. She worked tirelessly to help OPK (Other People’s Kids) as a special education teacher, while providing a financial safety net for herself and her family.
Two places you never saw my mom, unless she had no other choice: Sports practice and birthday parties. My mother was the anti-helicopter mom.
And while I sometimes wished Mary Poppins would descend and lend my mom a hand, it never really bothered me that she left us to our own devices at home. Why? Because she was working, and her commitments gave us kids the freedom to be (wait for it) kids.
Here are 7 ways my mom’s (unintentional) lazy parenting techniques have made me a better mom, and are 99.9% guaranteed to raise kind, compassionate, independent, surprisingly hard-working people...even if it takes them some time to get there. (Just ask her about my teenage years. Wait...don’t!)
- Hang On a Minute. Affectionately dubbed “Le Pause” by Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bebe, waiting a few moments before responding to your child is critical to raising independent children (hmm...maybe she did that too well). Mom never jumped first. You had to ask, ask, and ask again. As a result, we are pretty darn self-sufficient. That’s not a bad thing. She was always there when we really needed her.
- You’re Hungry? That’s Too Bad. The only food items that were always in the house? OJ and butter (let me know if you can actually make food with those...we never figured out the secret). My brother and I would empty the dredges of the cereal box in the morning, scrounge up a burger or sandwich at lunch from the pool counter, and knew our mother would always serve a good dinner (whether it was chicken and Kraft mac & cheese, filet mignon and potatoes, or pizza...you just never knew…). Food was not a focus, and as adults, we appreciate food – but aren’t obsessed by it.
- I’m Working. Don’t Interrupt My Unless You’re Dying. Known to ask if we were bleeding before breaking from her work, Mom got “in the zone” when focused. Is that such a bad thing? When I’m passionate about something, my work ethic is strong and dedicated. Hmmm...guess she was on to something.
- A Working Mom’s Nirvana: Wine, Phone, and an Empty Room. My mother sat down in the living room, every night (kicking us out if we were too loud) to talk to her mother on the phone. She’d pour a glass of wine and enjoy a conversation. We’d complain of starvation, and then find something to do until she was finished talking. It wasn’t negligence on my mom’s part, it was self-preservation. As all mom’s know, me-time is essential to sanity.
- TV is not the Enemy. My brother could be on Jeopardy, with his vast knowledge of science and history. The thing is, he didn’t learn it in school. He learned it from watching the History and Discovery Channels. If he wasn’t outside, the television was on. He was never a reader, but is one of the smartest people I know. Damn that television, for teaching him history and science.
- Leave Me Alone. I’m Reading. Book Reading Freaks. We read All.The.Time. I was reading 1000-page books by 5th grade. Yeah, I was “that” nerd, but now I write for a living...so hey, it worked out. (My brother excluded, but he was too busy learning about Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae on the History channel, long before the movie 300 ever came out.)
- A Mom’s Love is Not Equal to Her Practice Attendance. My mother never attended sports practice. And game-day attendance was an evil to be born only if necessary. From cheerleading to baseball, drop-off was the preferred method of delivery. The upside? I never once heard my mother scream at me while I was running down the basketball court. I never once saw disappointment in her eye when I missed a goal, or basket, or cheer (as was often the case). Kids are perfectly capable of playing sports without parental supervision. Yes, even on Game Day.
So while my mother didn’t raise successful kids in the “traditional” sense, in the long run, all that hands-off, “lazy” parenting made me who I am today. A book lover. A learner. An optimist. An independent, free-thinking, strong-willed woman.
I’m also a college drop-out, successful self-employed sales agent, entrepreneur, recovering (almost-successful) suicidal depressive, writer, and unmarried-but-committed mom.
My “negative” traits aren’t my mom’s fault, and that’s what we need to remember when parenting today. We’re so scared of raising failures, that our over-eagerness to parent properly is setting our kids up for failure. We can only do so much, and at some point, have to take a step back and let our children rise and fall, and hope we’ve taught them how to get back up again.
My mom paid attention in all the ways that really mattered. She was a shoulder to cry on, an encouraging word, a supportive presence. Even if her presence wasn't glued to my side.
Learning how to navigate life is something we strive to teach our kids. I may not be a traditional success, but I am hardworking, and value kindness and respect over success and money (though more money is always welcome). For that, I thank my mom’s hard work ethic and lazy parenting style.
Today, my mother’s voice of laid-back reason is the angel to my Millennial devil, often sitting on my shoulder whispering, “Is this really a good idea, dear?”
Umm...probably not. At least I’ve finally learned to listen to her. (Some of the time, anyway).
Thanks, Mom. I’ll call you in a little while.