With all the buzz recently from Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua, Jennifer Moses, and others, about what parenting philosophy is appropriate for raising good kids, it’s difficult to figure out what’s right. Thankfully, one M.D. has a very simple answer.
Dr. Meg Meeker, author of the new book “The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity” (Ballentine Books, March 8, 2011, ISBN 978-0345-51806-4), says the answer is within each individual mom no matter what your kids do – strive for happiness yourself and everything else follows.
Even before our children are born, we live in fear, constant fear. Fear we will do something wrong. Fear we will hurt them somehow. Fear we will produce bad kids. Fear of failure.
Meeker, a 25-year physician and pediatrician, says it all starts with giving birth. Some moms fear that if they don’t give birth “naturally” (my quotation marks since there is very little natural about a hospital birth), without drugs or at home or in the water, or something along that line, they will feel guilty about going the easy route. It’s almost as if someone will call you a wuss for having a baby.
Then moms worry about breastfeeding. Is the baby eating enough? What if I have to give him a bottle instead of nursing? Did I nurse long enough? Should I go back to work or stay home?
Our heads are filled with the self-destructive dialog that breaks us down and makes us feel bad, right from the beginning of our children’s lives. “Moms are paralyzed to do what’s good and right,” Meeker tells Family First.
Our goal should be, according to Meeker, to raise a healthy 25 year old adult. By that, she means we need to worry less about the journey and think about the big picture. If they drink one bottle of formula in the middle of the night at 3 months, do you think they will still be able to decide what kind of car insurance they need someday?
When you worry less about the details, it simplifies your life and helps you be a happier person. This is what is different about Meeker’s book than many of the other motherhood books that have been the buzz lately. She asks, “Do you think they care if your brownies are from scratch, from a mix or from the store? No, they just want to eat a brownie with you.”
Meeker says she very much wanted to be clear on the subtitle of the book – “Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity”- because to be a happy, relaxed, in-the-moment kind of mom, you have to feel good about yourself.
So many times we worry about what we are not giving our children when we should concentrate on what we do give them – our love, our time, our undivided attention. Meeker says children just want to play with us and enjoy time with us. They even want us to discipline them.
Being a friend to them, and not a parent, does them a great disservice, she says. They desire boundaries because it shows we care what happens. While most parents are terrified of upsetting their children (Think Veruca Salt from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), the truth is that we need to give them limits and say “no.”
Meeker referenced a study she knows of where 20-something male prison inmates were interviewed. The general conclusion was that the majority of the inmates stated that they wished someone had cared enough to say “stop it” when they were screwing up, before they were incarcerated.
If that doesn’t motivate you to say “no” to things and feel good about it, I’m not sure what will. Meeker says, “You have your whole life to be your kid’s friend.” Once they have grown into their own identity that you helped shape, you will have a friend for life.
Meeker details her own experience with her oldest daughter. They butted heads until her daughter was 10 or 11 and then, her daughter got it – Mom’s in charge. Meeker says the teen years were a breeze with her. She even coaches parents that if you discipline with love, your children will stay close to you; it won’t push them away as many parents fear.
So, relax, have fun, and go with the flow. Your kids are always watching what you do and how your react. They read your face and know if you are paying attention or not. If you are stressed, angry, competitive, resentful of your peers, or fearful of your children, they know it. If you are happy, relaxed and know who you are, you will have happier children and a happier life.
Please read more about Dr. Meeker at www.megmeekermd.com.