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Every night when possible, my wife and I do something quite controversial according to Internet standards. After dinner, we ignore our girls.
I know, I know, bad parents. But hear me out. We send them off to play on their own, and she and I spend time just talking… to each other (and it’s awesome). The girls are not allowed to interrupt. They’re not allowed to tell us about what game they’re playing or puzzle they’re doing or book they’re reading. They have to take care of themselves for a while.
And we feel no shame… even if Facebook article links try to shame us for not spending every waking moment focusing on them.
In a trending blog post, Kristen Howerton hits on this same issue [language caution]. She’s been pressured by those around her to stay completely focused on her children while they’re awake. But she’s not buying it. Why? Because parents can’t always be “present” to their children:
“Look, I appreciate the impulse here to encourage parents to be present. We are living in a distracted technological age and we would all do well to take a good, hard look at how the screens in our lives pull us away from our relationships. I'm all for introspection and self-analysis and balance and boundaries. I think our kids deserve our time and attention. But I can't help thinking that the idea that children require our 100% undivided attention 100% of the time has gone a little too far. In fact, I would argue that it's a decidedly 21st century first-world problem to try to figure out how to avoid working on other tasks when our children are around.”
With all that’s required of her, Howerton lives by some basic principles to decide when she can “ignore” her children and get things done that need to be done:
1) Parents are not butlers.
“… I don't jive with the idea that we need to ‘stand in waiting’ in case our kids need something. I don't want my kids to assume that this is my role, either. I'm available—always. But I'm going to preoccupy myself in the moments that I'm not needed, or when they are preoccupied. The idea of standing-in-waiting for my children is ludicrous.”
2) Parents are not cruise directors.
“I don't want my kids to rely on me for their own good time. I want them to learn how to be creative, and to handle boredom.”
3) Parents are separate people with their own feelings, interests, and passions.
“I really believe that seeing parents as real and separate human beings is the first step to children learning empathy. I want my kids to understand that I have passions and interests, too... beyond just being a mom.”
In fact, ignoring some of these issues may stunt our children’s development. By being “helicopter parents,” we fail to prepare them for life, as a recent article on Crosswalk.com explains:
“In another age they were called ‘smother mothers.’ In an attempt to make their children’s lives safer, better, and easier (than what?!) they try to control and direct all actions and interactions. They choose everything from clothing to curriculum to classes to confederates. They are exhausted from hovering 24/7 and complain incessantly about how hard they are working.
“They didn’t read the memo that told them to prepare their children for life by giving them choices, responsibilities, and consequences.
“I saw a different philosophy of homeschooling illustrated by a homeschool dad who explained that a quiver full of arrows (à la Psalm 127:5) doesn’t do anything. The arrows must be loaded in a bow. ‘Shoot them high and far,’ he said. ‘Let them go!’ ”
It’s your turn. Do you think it’s ever okay to “ignore” our children and focus on our own interests? Do you think parents ignore their children too much now days? How do we find a balance?