Do you ever find yourself asking, “Am I a fun mom?”
The phrase, for me, conjures images of genuinely happy mothers chasing her children around the yard on a sunny day — just after spending the morning baking cookies with them in the kitchen — not caring about the spilled flour on the floor or gooey mess on the countertop.
What does it mean to be a fun mom, exactly? And, moreover, why are we worried about something that may or may not come naturally to us as parents — especially when we are already doing so much in the realm of caretaking?
Focus on what you’re good at
I think it goes back to the self-help adage, Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t. Or, in this case, focus on what you’re good at as a mom, as opposed to things you don’t necessarily enjoy when it comes to mothering.
In a NYTParenting article released this morning (leave it to NYTParenting to spark insight before 7 am), “I Don’t Want To Be a Fun Mom,” lead editor Jessica Grose bluntly admits activities like puzzles and pillow fights simply are not her strong suite.
In the piece, she is backed by researchers (and assumedly millions of fellow parents) when she says:
“The truth is, I don’t actually want to play capture the flag. I just want to want to play, because I want to be able to give my kids joy during a time when their normal excitements are canceled. I can continue to bake with them, read with them and do sticker mosaics with them endlessly.”
I can relate. I love reading books to my son, baking with him, taking walks, and doing the occasional art project. But pretending to be pirates on a pirate ship? I’ll leave that for his dad to navigate.
Some might argue that not doing what your kids want to do is selfish. And to an extent, I might agree with that. My point lies more so in the bigger picture of modern parenting — that while we want to provide fun experiences for our children, we shouldn’t have to feel like we are constantly bending over backwards to appease them and their weird (while hilarious) pretend play.
Author and columnist Drew Magary says we shouldn’t force fun if it doesn’t feel fun for us. I admire this way of thinking. We put too much pressure on ourselves as it is. Do we really need to add to that pressure by questioning our willingness to make clouds out of shaving cream?
“The worst thing you can do as a parent is try to force ‘fun’ when it’s not actually fun for you. And, if you’re trying too hard for rule-breaking fun, you’re no longer a parent. You’re the uncle who’s introducing your kids to cigarettes.”
I’ll clean if you dance to Baby Shark Do Do
Marriage and family therapist Sinead Smyth explains we should take time to compliment our partners on their strengths as a parent, as opposed to fixating on things we view as shortcomings. It sounds so simple, but is really hard to see in the moment. Everything is easier to understand in retrospect.
Dr. Smyth says:
“If we don’t pause and look for the good and things we do appreciate about ourselves and our co-parent, we’re not going to see it.”
In my case, my strengths as a mom lean heavily toward the nurturing side of parenting, like cooking, bathing, kissing ouchies, and getting my son emotionally prepared for preschool. My husband’s strengths lie in playing sports, being silly, having a lot of patience, and taking time out to teach Cy how things work.
But one isn’t better or more right than the other. I think we do a good job of complimenting each other as partners and as parents. That isn’t to say we don’t have disagreements on ways to discipline or foster communication in our fragile 4-year-old.
In an age where “present parents” are praised for foregoing their own identities in lieu of taking on explicit motherhood-ly roles, can we be fun and nurturing? Can we be spontaneous and efficient?
And, if we’re the ones putting labels on our parenting style (cool mom, fun mom, strict mom, healthy mom), does that dignify others putting labels on us?
As always, thank you for reading!
We’ve been reading Wacky Wednesday in our house the past 3 weeks. So, Happy Wacky Wednesday. I’m confident we will be putting shoes on top our heads for the better half of the afternoon.