More Thoughts on Perfect Parenting.

In support of Wendy at Things In Your Head with one of the best posts EVAH this week, I will admit it too- I really dislike playing with my kids outside. Go ahead and call CPS now, I’m not going to retract it. And since I gave up the running for Perfect Parent, I’m not real worried about losing out on that either.

As Wendy pointed out, when we were kids our parents told us to go outside and play, and we did. End of story. They weren’t expected to entertain us or be our constant playmates, thats what other kids were for. I remember being as young as two or three playing outside by myself in a yard that not only was unfenced, but had train tracks running through the very back of the lot. I can feel the gasps from here- How did you ever survive?? Back then there was a clear line between kids and adults. Kids played, adults did whatever adults did. Adults did not schedule their entire lives around what the kids wanted. If they could work it in, great. If not, oh well. I can’t imagine a person of my parents generation spending the entire day shuttling kids back and forth to school, sports and playdates, even if they WERE a stay at home mom. Yet like so many of my own generation, that is exactly how my time is spent.

Our lives are so child-centered it’s not even funny. John Rosemond is by far my favorite parenting ‘expert’, though funny enough is probably the most controversial out there right now. Why? Because he has the nerve to stand up and say that something isn’t right here. That a household should revolve around the parents, and not the kids. That kids should spend as much time on their own as possible, NOT being entertained by their parents. That all this ‘self-esteem boosting’ activity is actually going to do more harm than good.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t spend time with our kids. But there is a big difference between spending quality time, and micromanaging to the point we have no time for ourselves. How many of us have felt like we have lost ourselves in motherhood, and that we have to really work to discover who we are underneath the burp cloths and nursing bras? Yet how many of us could rattle off the name of every Blues Clues character or the lyrics to every Backyardigans song? Does that not say something about our priorities?

Our end goal in raising children is to make them completely self-sufficient so they can go off and make happy, successful lives for themselves. I’m not so sure I’m on the right path to doing that when they do not seem to be able to entertain themselves for more than 5 minutes at a time without needing my attention.

Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at what we are pressuring each other to become?

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38 thoughts on “More Thoughts on Perfect Parenting.

  1. What a wonderful, REAL post.

    You hit it RIGHT on the head, and my hand is raised up HIGH. My 4 siblings and I were told to go outside to play, and we did. There wasn’t a real worry about me sitting on the front lawn, right next to the ROAD, or climbing on the stone wall in the backyard, into the SWAMP. And I walked down the street to my best friend’s house to play all by myself all the time.

    My kids’ lives are so very different. It is a different world. But I DO know all those tv songs, and I DO hate going outside with the kids, too.

    What a thought-provoking post you have here. Thanks for making me revisit this topic.


  2. Truthfully, this is exactly WHY I doubt my parenting abilities. I really like to see Alexander play on his own. I also don’t particularly enjoy outside activities. Well, maybe that’s because for six months of the year you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. I do spend time with my son. I like to sit down and ‘talk’ to him, one on one. I like to snuggle and tell him I love him. I like to put puzzles together with him. I DON’T do this constantly. In fact, more often than not, I’m doing one thing and he’s doing another. Whether it’s watching T.V., playing on, or playing with toys. I enjoy just being with and around him, and he knows he’s loved. I thought I was the odd-mom out, maybe I’m really revolutionary? Yeah, I like that idea!


  3. Oh! Also! This is one thing I like about having lots of children: the more children there are, the easier it is to make them all go play with EACH OTHER.


  4. Thank you. I’ve known that my childhood was significantly different from that of my own children, and you’re right: There’s really no reason for us as parents to be micromanaging our children’s lives to the point where we barely function as adults any longer. I’m printing this up and taking it home to my wife.


  5. Aw woman, you rock! And it’s really too bad we don’t live anywhere near each other – it’s so nice to have people who understand!!!


  6. Oh, and John Rosemond? LOVE him…..LOVE – yes he is controversial but people have been raising children since time immemorial and yet we seem to be the first generation that wants our kids to just LIKE us, not obey us – he has some great ideas on the marriage as the focal point of the home too – you know, eventually, your children will grow up and if you have done your job, leave home! Then it is you and your spouse again – you have to make sure there is something to come back too

    Excellent post, hon!


  7. Ahh, another good post. I do not like going outside at all unless we are going somewhere. Max is perfectly happy to go out into our yard alone or w/ his puppies and play. He has his sandbox, workbench, kitchen and all kinds of balls out in the yard. I like that he can go out and entertain himself.

    My older boys cook, clean and do their own laundry. When they move out they will know how to take care of themselves and be self sufficient. If they want to do an extra curricular activity they have to research it and present it to us, as well as how they are going to work off the money it costs. We don’t sign them up for things and break our necks making sure they have a full day.

    Don’t get me wrong, I take my boys out 2 weekends a month and we do family things, zoo, six flags, shopping but it’s not required they attend. If they want to stay home and not participate in a family event that is fine, they just can’t whine about not getting things bought for them. I get the other weekends to do whatever I want which I usually strive not to get out of my PJs and not leave the house. I read and cuddle on the couch w/ Max and talk to the older boys about school and their online games.


  8. LOVE this post! So many of my neighbors (moms) are out playing football, baseball, kickball, even pond hockey with their kids 24-7. I wonder how these sahm moms ever get anything done! I do play with my kids, but not ALL the time.


  9. I kinda wonder how we got here from then…I don’t remember feeling sad or like I missed my mom a lot, so why the need to keep kids occupied all of the time now?

    Is it fear of danger? I read on SO MANY blogs about how different it is now, how it used to be safe and it isn’t now…but honestly, the statistics don’t back that up. The crime rate has gone down, fewer children are kidnapped and so on than when we were kids. There is a greater perception of threat, but no more actual threat. So why are we afraid to let our kids play outside without us? Wendy, like me, has an only child…and when they’re young, it’s unreasonable to expect them to be outside on their own…and if your neighbors aren’t sahm or sahd, the kids are probably at preschool or daycare, and then there might not be any other kids the right age in your neighborhood….but at some point, they should be OK to be out there with the neighbor kids, having fun and arguing and doing all of that kid stuff. I wonder how our overprotected, over shuttled around kids are going to end up raising THEIR kids? Will they be super self-centered, because they are the center now, and ignore their kids? Will they try to raise their kids the same way we did? Interesting questions you brought up this morning. 🙂


  10. It is such a relief to know there are other mom’s who have the same parenting style as me….I thought I was the only one! Thank you for this post!


  11. What a good post. I’m with you. I had 3 so they could play with each other…ha ha. But seriously, we were allowed full reign of our neighborhood and only had to come home once the street lights came on…or else when my mom whistled for us, with her piercing shriek of a whistle that could be heard for miles and my siblings and I scampered home. Did I really just use the word “scampered”?!


  12. Great post Sara- I love John Rosemond too- I look forward to his column and have read some of his books (from the library.) How are kids ever going to learn to be adults if we don’t give them some examples of adults doing their own thing? We’re people too!


  13. Yes, I totally agree with this post. My kids are 6 years apart and (almost 12 yr old) follows around behind me constantly. Yet my 5 year old pretty much can entertain himself. I tell my daughter to go find something to do..she doesn’t need me stuck up her butt. Nor do I need her stuck up mine.


  14. “How many of us have felt like we have lost ourselves in motherhood, and that we have to really work to discover who we are underneath the burp cloths and nursing bras?”

    Actually, I think going through a point in life where you feel you’ve lost yourself in motherhood is probably close to universal. I don’t think it’s something unique to our generation. I know my mother experienced it, minus the nursing bra b/c I was bottle fed. 😛

    And I hear in the media about these parents who micromanage their kids lives but I don’t think I’ve met one IRL yet? I wonder where all of them are? hehe.

    Oh and I admit it…I can’t stand John Rosemond.

    I think the majority of parents nowadays are doing an even better job raising their children than the generations before.

    And I think the fear factor, which doesn’t have the stats to support it, is caused by the media….the same media doing all of the talking about micromanaging kids lives. I think they are taking the small minority and making it out to be bigger than it is.


  15. I love Rosemond, too.
    And no, it’s not my job to get all dirty with the kids outside. I, however, will clean them up after they play outside alone.


  16. It’s about time someone was brave enough to fess up!!!! I detest “playing outside”… I mean… for crying out loud… if they are outside doesn’t that mean I should get 20 minutes of me time? We used to play in our front yard with the neighbor kids and no parental supervision… lucky for me we live in the country and only have to worry about snakes and coyotes… but hey, isn’t that what our dog is for? 🙂


  17. My two daughters stay at home with me and I am thinking about home schooling. It is funny though because I think I have more “me” time than most. The driving kids to preschool just to pick them up again and then off again etc is enough to make me want to HS. We schedule playdates, moms groups etc but limit them to 2 times a week. I work really hard on “teaching” my kids independence. Up until 2 I spend a lot of time with them and at 2 kind of get them started in playing and walk away….I have no idea what I’m doing or if it would work for any one else but yes I agree that we are hyper in managing our kids. I do like to dig in the dirt but that is just me. A little selfish. I like to garden but hate the weed pulling so they do it.. I do agree with letting them learn the hard way at times within reason of course. If they fall because you were not standing on top of them then mabey they won’t do that “over” challenging climb again? I am kinda waiting for the day my kids climb over the wall to the neighbors house! …whatever…Love your post!!Agree but have no idea who Rosemond is???oh well


  18. I couldn’t agree more. here here!

    My boys can play well alone or together for 20 minutes or so and then they need me…but we are working on it! I can remember playing outside all day long while my parents did whatever it is they did inside….hmm…what did they do inside all day? 🙂


  19. Thank you for writing this! I think I’ll piggyback on your post for my post tonight. As a teacher, I’ve seen this shocking increase in kids who can’t and won’t do their assignments independently. I figured that this had something to do with the ‘nanny’ nation. You know, nannies get paid to play with our kids, not do the dishes, bills, laundry, floors, etc. But I think it also has to do with the way in which we as moms, and society, tells us how to raise our kids.


  20. I agree. My mom used to say that her mom said “It’s easy to raise kids so that you can stand them, the point is to raise them so they can live in the world.” part of that is self-entertainment, and I also say the more kids you have the more they just kind of learn how to live with each other, and therefore the world.


  21. ohhh just today we went to the park and my 3 year old kept checking in with me, though I was a mere 2 feet away from her on a bench… GO PLAY! That’s my mantra…


  22. While it may seem counter-intuitive, I think the key to teaching kids to play well alone is not teaching them. I alternate between proud and embarrased to admit that I downright ignore my girls for hours. I know that they’re safe, they know where I am, but they’re fine by themselves.

    And I have never heard of John Rosemond – off to Google him now!


  23. Yes, yes, yes and yes! This kind of modern societal expectation drives me nuts! I spent my childhood in my backyard and all over my neighborhood while my parents did their thing. That is not to say that they ignored me. I have many happy memories of spending quality time with them.

    I also agree with Smiling Mom wholeheartedly since I’ve seen the same thing in my classrooms. There is a whole generation coming up who have no idea how to be independent. My children will not be part of them if I have anything to do with it.


  24. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s why I adore the book The Three Martini Playdate. But problem is, I have no idea how to get to that ideal (i.e. kids entertaining themselves.) They are both such cling-ons, and I confess, without guilt, that it drives me crazy.


  25. I think everyone at one time or another feels lost in motherhood.

    I know I do right now and am struggling with where my former identity went???

    I admit too…I am not a fan of playing outside with the kids. They are more than happy to sit in the sandbox while I watch from the kitchen window 😉

    Great post!


  26. I could not agree


    In a way you make me think of my 79 yr old mother in law who had 5 kids way back when. 1 being dh. :0) And back then, in the village that they lived in…the kids would go out and play amongst eachother. MOM never played with them. She loved them, fed them washed them etc. But never played with them. And they all grew up relatively “fine” lol.

    I do not recall my father ever coming to one of my baseball games as a teen. It never even dawned on meback then. That he should. I wouldn’t dare miss watching one of my daughters skating practices…or at least have one parent watching.

    Yes, it’s a different world nowadays.


  27. Oh, amen to that! I’ve always said that my job as a parent was to turn my children into people who will one day leave me – and be perfectly prepared to do so. How can they do that if we control every minute of their day, every day? I think you can go to far and miss everything (like my mom did), but there’s always a happy medium. Great post!


  28. A-freakin’-men!

    I am odd mommy out in my neighborhood. I’m the one screeching at the kids, “Get back outside, and don’t come in unless you’re bleeding, have to pee, or dead!”

    There’s a reason we moved to Podunk, and a reason my hub put up a lovely swingset with a sandbox under the tower part. And while my oldest hasn’t yet started Kindergarten yet, I’ve already vowed:

    ONLY one sport at a time. And only ONE non-sport at a time. Period.

    Play, ride your bike, dig in the dirt, squish ants in the driveway, hell–run circles around the house singing at the top of your lungs! Find something to do, before I start assigning you housework!!


  29. I wonder if perhaps the inability or refusal to do classroom assignments independently could have a bit to do with the fact that they are assigning homework to kindergarteners? They are of an age where it is pretty darn hard to do homework alone? And then the increase in the amount of learning material they are required to learn? Is it maybe a combination that school is putting too much on them at too early of an age and the parents are stepping in to help and the pattern is set from the get go.

    But that’s my viewpoint from the Alabama public education system who has a negative reputation to overcome and I think they are overcompensating for their poor image. At the expense of our kids. Quarterly exams in kindergarten with a cumulative final? Yeah, I have to help out with quite a few assignments we get at home because he is flat out too young to do it alone.


  30. I totally agree!! I love that my son can play by himself. We did for the most part growing up, why can’t our kids? I was so proud of him the other day when I went to sign him up for preschool and he went running to the playground without so much as looking back to see if I was staying.


  31. Something I have been spouting off about for the past decade…and usually judged harsh for doing so LOL Having raised 7 kids, the sense of entitlement and inabilty to do for one’s self in this generation is truly maddening! You are on to something, so keep speaking up 🙂


  32. In reference to Wendy’s comment. I totally agree about the leaving home thing. I have two teenage girls just graduate high school on Thursday. I’ve been “reminding” them since Christmas that I have done my job, they now have the skills they need to spread their wings and jump out of the nest. After all this, I see some dumb study on TV about how more and more college grads are returning home because they can’t cope with the outside world! Hmmm. I wonder why?


  33. I used to like Rosemond before he got into trouble for re-using and making up columns. Alot of newspapers stopped carrying his column because of that, including my hometown newspaper. I like the website of the lady who used to work for him, the Mean Mom. Check out her website at


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