It is very rare that I pick up a book that is so much fun I can’t put it down – especially one on parenting, but when I received Jen Singer’s You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either) to review I seriously could not put it down! In her book, Jen gives us 14 secrets to finding happiness between Super Mom and Slacker Mom. Admit it, we all know Moms that fall in to each of those categories!
For 21st Century mothers, there seem to be just two choices: Super Mom or Slacker Mom. One’s bad for you; one’s bad for your kids. So what’s a mom to do? Jen offers secrets for raise perfectly good kids in that sweet spot between flash cards at breakfast and “donuts for dinner, kids!”
Jen’s book is full of common sense advice, served with a side of humor and sass. The chapters have titles that are also the secrets like “Super Mom is Faking It”, “Your Kid’s Birthday Party Isn’t Your Coming-Out Celebration”, “Your Kid Shouldn’t Be Wearing a T-Shirt That Reads Future Trophy Wife” and “If You Think You’re a Cool Mom, Your Kids Think You’re a Pushover.”
Here is a quick question and answer session with Jen:
WP: How did motherhood get to be so competitive?
Jen Singer: It started with the very first Baby on Board sticker, most likely stuck on a 1985 Volvo. Since then, our society went child centric – and a little crazy, too. We’ve raised the motherhood bar so impossibly high, we can’t reach it. We drive our kids to not one, not two, but three activities and sports in a week – sometimes in a day. We use flash cards at stop lights and play music for our kids in utero. (Have you ever tried to listen to music underwater? It sounds all wrong.)
WP: That’s why we all feel like slacker moms, right? We can’t keep up.
Jen: And then we give up, and eventually, we’re serving donuts for dinner and letting our kids watch Desperate Housewives, because it’s easier than sending them to bed. But that’s bad for our kids, and trying to be a Super Mom is bad for us. There’s a sweet spot in between where you can raise good kids without losing yourself.
WP: So how can moms find that in between spot?
Jen: The first secret to finding happiness in 21st century motherhood is to realize that Super Mom is faking it and Slacker Mom isn’t as cool as she appears to be. The town über mom probably only gets to put her feet up at the gynecologist’s office. The rest of the time, she’s frantically trying to make perfect kids in her perfect house. She’s exhausted and her kids are, too.
The cool mom, on the other hand, has no idea what her kids are up to while she sucks down Diet Cokes and watches like-minded women on Moment of Truth. And now that there are web sites where kids as young as eight can build a virtual bimbo, breast implants and all, that’s pretty darn scary.
WP: But what if you want to do right by your kids? Don’t you have to sign them up for lots of activities just to keep up with everyone else?
Jen: Here’s one of my tips: Don’t be a frequent flyer. In other words, you don’t have to fill out all those flyers for karate and drama camp and math enrichment just because they come home with your kids. Pick one or two activities that your children are excited about, and sign up for those. And – I know this one is hard in the age of travel sports – let your kids play one sport per season, especially if they’re under 10. It’ll be easier on them and on the mileage of your mini-van.
WP: What if all the other moms are doing it?
Jen: Be a rebel mom. I know it’s hard to be the only mother who puts her foot down and doesn’t let her kid watch The Simpsons or play Halo. These days, it’s also much harder to shield our kids from age inappropriate media because there’s so much of it out there. But it pains me that even second graders watch CSI, which has gruesome crime scenes that even make grown-ups like me flinch. It’s more work to be your kids’ filter nowadays, but it’s also more important than ever to protect them from things they’re not ready for because there’s so much of it out there.
WP: Do you think the Internet helps or hinders today’s moms?
Jen: One of the best things for modern motherhood is the Internet. Also, one of the worst things for modern motherhood is the Internet. On the one hand, we can find blogs and web sites like this one that give us a sense of community, answer our parenting questions and even make us laugh. But we can also innocently look up the rash our kid has and wind up convincing ourselves that it’s a flesh-eating parasite from the Amazon, when we haven’t even gone hiking park, let alone in the jungle. Google wisely.
WP: What one tip would you give moms who are trying to find happiness?
Jen: Use triage. Pick out only those things that are truly important to you and your family, and aim for those. Take volunteering jobs that allow you to see your kids, like being a Cub Scouts den leader or escorting on the class trip. Build in playtime to your calendar – for the kids and for you. Move the computer into the family room so you can see what your kids are doing online. Then let everything that’s less important go. Really, do you have to bake cupcakes for your child’s birthday celebration at school when the bakery will do that for you?
WP: Do you think you’re a good mom?
Jen: It depends on the day! When my kids were toddlers, I used to feel guilty for folding laundry instead of entertaining them, even though I was spending upwards of 100 hours a week with them as a full-time at-home mom. I thought I had to constantly create teachable moments in order to prepare them for the future. But I really needed to teach them independence and self sufficiency. I’m not going to be there to help them pick out lunch or manage homework at college, after all. A good mom gets her kids ready for life on their own – and prepares herself for life without her kids.
I really appreciate Jen chosing Weary Parent as one of the stops on her blog tour! She has some great wisdom to share and I have now found two more blogs to add to my daily reads!! Jen’s personal site is MommaSaid.net and features her take on daily life. Additionally, Jen writes for Good Housekeeping on their Tale of Two Tweens blog. I just love it!
Go check out her book! Your sanity, sense of humor and your children will thank you for it.
Images courtesy of Jen Singer.