No one will deny that parenting is hard work, but the demands seem to have changed over the years to the point where mother’s often feel like they have to be “wonder woman” or should we say wonder mom?
Fifty years ago a good parent was someone who provided a safe, loving home, plenty of good food, and taught the kids to be respectful of others. These parents protected their children from danger and were concerned about things like feeding their kids and providing shelter. Making sure their children had enough to eat, were dressed properly and sat up straight seemed to be the norm back then. Today there are multiple books about child rearing and of course the information age has added to the explosion of theories about how to raise a child. Parents are stressing more than ever before about producing emotionally and physically healthy kids.
Psychologists say we now have millions of parents around the world who hover over their kids because they are afraid they aren’t going to grow socially, emotionally and intellectually without constant guidance. This is what many people refer to as “helicopter parenting”. It is interesting to note though, there are still some mothers who take a back seat from the get go. These are the women who for various reasons decide they are not going to come anywhere close to hovering. They are in fact, lazy mothers. Some lazy mothers try to hide the fact that they are not as attentive as some of their friends who are raising a family, while others see no shame in taking a more casual approach to caring for their kids. We met one mom who was willing to confess her lazy habits.
Gartha Sharpe loves her career in human resources to the point where no detail of the job is ever overlooked, so when she found out she was pregnant she assumed she would treat her child much like she treated her job; with laser focus. That’s not exactly what happened. The British Columbia native discovered early on that she was not going to be a dotting mother.
“Within the first few weeks, I would just let the baby cry when I knew she had been fed and changed. My friends with kids would pace up a down, go online, call their mom’s, do whatever they could to figure out why the baby was fussing. Did the baby have gas? Was the baby sick? I was like, no – not happening,” Sharpe told BabyGaga.
Sharpe understands that this might sound cruel, but she figured when there was really something wrong she would feel it in her gut. “The mother’s instinct”, she cited.
So this may not sound lazy but more like a personal preference in terms of child-rearing technique. Still, Gartha Sharpe did have some other interesting habits to share with us that could be construed as lazy parenting.
Here’s her list of confessions when it comes to lazy mothering.
Medical studies suggest that reading to and with children even when they are very young has great benefits. Reading exposes the child to language and a variety of content. We have to consider that books use larger vocabulary and a different grammatical structure than we use in our everyday language as we feed, play and care for children. Reading expands their language so in many ways it is the child’s first education. Research shows that babies are soothed by their parents’ voices when they read. Additionally, reading with children can strengthen family ties. It can be fun, involve cuddling, laughing, and conversation. Gartha Sharpe would have no part of it when her daughter was growing up. Why? She said because it was too hard and too time consuming.
“When I first tried it she wouldn’t sit still so I lost my patience and then when I tried it when she was a little older, she did sit still and it took up a lot of time. All I could think about was all the other things I could get done like checking my work e-mail or returning phone-calls,” Sharpe explained.
“My husband and I have always worked long hours so cooking was a challenge even before my daughter came along,” Sharpe complained as she made a confession about cooking with foil packs.
For weeks at a time Sharpe would forgo healthy fresh-made meals and instead buy foil pack or pre-packaged foods, pop them in the over and call it dinner. Most of these packs were processed foods; full of added sugar, salt and other unhealthy preservatives. While she realized they weren’t very nutritional, she said she “couldn’t be bothered” spending all that time in the kitchen just to come up with another great meal every day even though she knew that nutrition was important to all three of them, especially her daughter. “Yes, nutrition is directly associated with their growth and development…blah, blah, blah. Most days when my daughter was young I was just too wiped out to think about cooking dinner at the end of the day,” the mother of one said.
Babies make a mess – they mess in their pants and it can seep through their diapers, they are messy eaters and therefore food gets spilled on their clothing frequently, and of course they drool when they are teething. This adds up to a lot of laundry. Some parents of toddlers report having to do two loads of laundry per day. Gartha Sharpe wasn’t up for this when her daughter was young.
She confessed to BabyGaga that throwing out bibs was common for her and that there were also times when she didn't want to bother washing the baby clothes either so they went straight to the trash. When it came to the bibs, Sharpe realized the cost involved and started purchasing bibs at a local dollar store. She would also frequent a second hand clothing store for babies so she could justify throwing out clothes after one wear. She would try to dress her daughter in the second-hand clothing during the workweek when she knew there was less likelihood to take the baby out and about. When it came time to go out in public, or visit family and friends she would make sure the baby was wearing something newer.
A U.S survey conducted last year showed that seven out of 10 parents reported that their kids participate in extra curricular activities. Today it is easy to find activities and programs outside of school to participate in. Most communities have a wide variety of extracurriculars to choose from, including sports, music, art, dance, science, environmental, and even volunteer activities. Studies indicate that extracurricular activities help build kid’s self esteem, body awareness, self-discipline, and communication skills.
Gartha Sharpe said she gets tired hearing other moms talk about baseball, soccer and music lessons. She said her daughter played outside, played with dolls and created her own dance moves once she got her own iPod. Sharpe admitted that driving her daughter to and from sporting events or a dance class was something she just couldn’t imagine having time for with the demands of her job. When asked about arranging for transportation (a ride) with someone else who might be taking their child to and from an extracurricular she said, “arranging rides seemed like it would be a nuisance”.
Being a parent is a 24/7 job. In other words, there is no such thing as taking a break from parenting once your child comes into the world. Many mothers will say that even when they are at work their children are never too far from their minds. Gartha Sharpe was no different when her daughter was growing up. She thought of her precious girl while on the job; however, at the end of the workweek she admitted to us that she felt tapped out. There were times when she would get home on a Friday night and just didn’t feel like feeding, playing or paying any attention to mothering duties so she would fake feeling ill and ask her husband to take over the child-rearing duties. “I would head up to the bedroom and read, go on my laptop and just browse or shop online. Sometimes I would get on the phone and call my girlfriends and sometimes I would watch a movie in bed,” she confessed.
Thanks to Pinterest and a number of creative websites, there are literally thousands of fun craft ideas that mothers and daughters can gravitate towards and indulge in together. Despite the fact that craft time is something most mothers and daughters participate in together, this is not something Gartha Sharpe ever did with her daughter. Sharpe told BabyGaga that her daughter’s craft time consisted of her throwing the crafts on a table or the floor and telling her daughter to do whatever she wanted, while she did work on her laptop nearby.
It’s a shame really when you consider the benefits of family craft-time. A couple years ago Elmer’s glue joined forces with leading psychologists to conduct research on creative time and discovered important benefits to spending time with your children working on crafts. Their findings suggested that crafting with a parent encourages visual-processing skills, improves fine motor skills, and something called executive function. This is all about guiding a child’s planned behaviour. When encouraged to craft, kids are motivated to pay close attention, thus improving their ability to focus and work on their memory skills, which are qualities they will need later in life.
School days were hard for Gartha Sharpe. She found that keeping up with teacher meetings, helping with schoolwork, and all school related activities taxing with her work demands. Her daughter’s school did a lot of fundraising. When it came to bake sales she would cheat. Instead of home baking, which was a requirement for bake sales at the school, Sharpe would go to a local bakery choose something that looked homemade, put it in one of her tupperware containers and claim that it was her own handy-work. When someone asked her for the recipe she would make up creative excuses like, she lost the recipe or she didn’t have a recipe, she made it up as she went along. Sharpe said she didn’t want her daughter to feel left out or embarrassed by not having her family participate in these fundraisers, yet she couldn’t be bothered going to the trouble of spending time in the kitchen baking homemade cookies or cakes.
While Gartha Sharpe is quick to admit she was a lazy mother, she can also say she was creative at times. I guess those long hours at work really took a toll on her at times because this next confession is one that I’m sure most mothers would never dream of.
When Sharpe was exhausted and her daughter was a toddler she would long for the little girl to go to sleep so she could just relax. It’s hard after all to rest when you have a little one running around the house. In the warmer months, Sharpe would mow a track with the lawn mower behind her back yard and encourage her daughter to run the track. It was like a game to the little girl. She would run the mowed lines over and over again until she was so exhausted she would come inside, lie down and fall asleep. Sharpe said this was the easiest and quickest way to get her daughter to settle down and fall asleep so she could get rest herself.
Let’s be honest, we all have mornings when the alarm goes off and we just don’t want to get out of bed. Perhaps we had a rough night and didn’t get enough sleep or maybe we have been putting in too many hours at work. Whatever the case, the idea of getting up, showering, getting dressed and taking care of the kids seems daunting. Gartha Sharpe felt this way a lot while her daughter was growing up. It was not uncommon for Sharpe to wake in the morning and instead of making her toddler breakfast and sitting at a kitchen table to feed her, she would throw a Sippy cup and a bowl of cheerio’s out on the living room floor, sit her daughter down on that floor and then lay on the couch and watch TV until she had to get dressed for work. When her daughter got older she admitted that she left a box of cereal, a bowl and spoon out on the counter the night before with a note that read: milk and juice in the fridge, help yourself. MOM XO
Sharpe admitted to BabyGaga that this next lazy habit was one that her husband had a real problem with. As it turns out when Sharpe's daughter was a baby she did not give her a bath every night. This is actually okay. A lot of new moms assume that babies have to be given a bath every day. However, public health officials indicate that there is no need to bathe a baby every day since it can dry out his or her skin and babies aren’t really getting that dirty day-to-day.
Having said this, when they become toddlers or young kids and are running around and getting into things, cleanliness and frequent bathing becomes more important. When Garth Sharpe's daughter was a toddler she would sometimes go a week with just one bath and that would infuriate her father. “He was always asking me, did she have a bath last night? Are you giving her a bath tonight? Do I have to take her upstairs to give her a bath or are you going to do it?” Sharpe admitted that bath time was a real chore to her so she would try to limit it to once a week.
Who doesn’t take their small children to the park? Going to the park with the kids is a favorite past time of parents and kids around the globe. It is a great way to get some fresh air and allow the kids to burn off some energy. Moms and Dads usually enjoy the park activities, such as slides, swings and sand boxes as much as kids do. It’s all about interacting with kids and showing them you have a fun and playful side too.
For Gartha Sharpe though, going to the park meant “freedom” – a time to allow her daughter to explore on her own while she sat on a bench and read a book, talked on her cell phone or simply relaxed and took in the scenery. Getting down on her hands and knees and playing in the park was not something she relished. As she told baby gaga, “It was always easier to find someone in the park her own age that was willing to play with her or just tell her to go off and make up her own fun.”
Like many busy, working mothers Gartha Sharpe dreaded housework. After a long week of working the last thing she wanted to do was spend her weekend cleaning the house. When her daughter became old enough (about 7 or 8) she turned vacuuming into a game so she could get her little girl to do the chore for her. She even managed to turn her daughter into a dusting machine when she was still a baby. “When she was little and figured out how to crawl I noticed that she was moving around on a filthy floor so I had this idea. I quickly sewed dusters to her sleepers so that when she crawled she would be cleaning the floors at the same time”, Sharpe explained. She admitted that the baby mop onsie didn’t do a very thorough job, but she thought it was a clever concept, and at least made the house look a little cleaner.
As kids grow so do their appetites. It is common for them to constantly ask for snacks and drinks. There comes a point when they don’t ask anymore and they simply help themselves. This inevitably leads to more dirty dishes; something Gartha Sharpe didn’t like. She was already apathetic when it came to cleaning up the kitchen so when she discovered how quickly her little girl used and dirtied up yet another dish or cup, she came up with a way to deal with the issue. First she went out and bought a large box of paper plates. These were to be used by her daughter, while Sharpe and her husband used all other plates. She also stuck magnets on a couple of cups and hung them on the refrigerator so that her daughter would get in the habit of using them. The idea was use one or two cups throughout the day and evening, not 10.
"It worked out great because she loved that she had special cups and she liked that they stuck to the fridge," Sharpe recalled.
Some parents’ own strollers and some kids have scooters and then there is Gartha Sharpe who owned a scooter-stroller when her daughter was young. So what is a scooter-stroller? Well, the easiest way to describe it is that it is a stroller with a scooter built into the front of it, allowing the person who would ordinarily have to push and walk to glide instead. Sharpe came up with the idea when she saw another child in the neighborhood flying past her driveway on a scooter. She thought it was the perfect solution for those days when she was too tired to take the baby for a stroll. She said, having the scooter made it a lot easier. She could take the stroller to an area that was slightly downhill, stand on the scooter and just let is roll – no walking, no pushing - no straining involved.
"I think there is a company that actually makes scooter-strollers now. Wish I would have patented it," Sharpe laughed.
Despite all the lazy habits, Sharpe did breastfeed her daughter for 6 months. Nutrition and breastfeeding experts do recommend that all babies be breastfed for at least the first 6 months of life and Sharpe took this to heart. Recent studies suggest that not only it is more nutritional for a baby to be fed breast milk; breastfeeding has been linked to the reduction of asthma, allergies and certain types of cancer.
At some point mothers do make the switch to bottle-feeding, but when that time came for the Sharpe baby, Gartha Sharpe saw this as an opportunity to have a break. She began putting her daughter to bed at night with a bottle instead of holding her and feeding her. It not only freed the mother up to do other things, it seemed to sooth her daughter, which helped her drift off to sleep. Doctors actually discourage this because going to sleep with bottle milk can make a baby forever dependent on the bottle in order to go to sleep. Furthermore, leaving a bottle in a sleeping baby’s mouth can lead to tooth decay; something Gartha Sharpe wasn’t aware of at the time.
When Gartha Sharpe's daughter was young, cutting corners seemed like a good idea to her mother. Today, as the still busy career mom looks back at her habits she realizes some of them may have been a little "over-the-top". She told BabyGaga she now knows she missed out a lot due to her laziness; however, she is also quick to point out that her daughter is a healthy, well adjusted teenager now, preparing to head off to University next year - a young lady with confidence and believe it or not, a good relationship with her mother.