Twice now, I’ve tried to write an article for an online life skills blog for parents. The piece was about nurturing intrinsic motivation in our kids, rather than using extrinsic motivators to bribe positive behavior. This is a concept I wholeheartedly believe in, have used with children, and find to work. Ironically, my motivation for writing the article was the $75 pay if it was selected.
I long to know my work is valued. I deeply desire to know that I’m competent, that I have some idea about how to do my job well, and that I could possibly even have wisdom to impart on others. But after a frustrating second attempt at writing something I actually know about and have in depth experience with, I sat back, closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath. And I realized why I was struggling.
I cannot put yet another piece of writing out there that may cause another mom to doubt herself.
I imagine some unassuming woman in another part of the country, cruising through Facebook while her toddler naps, too weary and worried she’ll wake up the sweet babe if she turns on the shower, TV, or dishwasher, and especially if she cracks a LaCroix. So she sits on her spit-up stained couch, scrolls through her newsfeed, and takes the clickbait for my article. Maybe the editors have called it something like “Are You Killing Your Child’s Natural Motivation?” or “5 Phrases to Say to your Toddler to Motivate Them for Life.” It’s irresistible. She clicks on the link, hoping to find some validation that she’s already doing it right. She’s scrolling through the bulleted lists, her eyes scanning for words she said to her little one today….and doesn’t find them.
Instead she finds things she only sometimes says or does, and a few things she does that could actually be hurting. And she likely follows a few links imbedded in the article, taking her to other pages that heap on more “shoulds,” more guilt, more strategies to learn and implement and perfect. She’s up to her neck in it when her baby wakes, and she trudges to the crib, heavier and more weary than before. The time would have been better spent coloring a mandala or reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
So yeah, I’m opting out. It isn’t that the articles out there aren’t good. So many are. I can’t count the times I’ve flown to the internet for help with parenting issues. But we live in a child-centric era, in a culture that simultaneously undervalues women. We’re forced to choose between abandoning our careers for stay-home isolation or working with zero maternity benefits and turning our six-week-old babies over to daycare. We’re mothering in the age of social media, where not only are we bombarded with images of perfect Pinterest lunches, home décor, and meticulously staged organizational systems; we’re also exposed to a slew of parenting articles on a daily basis, many backed by legitimate research, covering every fathomable aspect of parenting, from monitoring screen time and fighting childhood obesity to the kinds of things we should and shouldn’t say when our toddlers take a dump. We’re tired.
It’s time to get back in touch with the voice telling us that not only are we enough just as we are, even with our messy countertops, Kraft dinners and poop-smeared toilet seats, but we do actually know what is best for our own children. I’m not saying never read. Read the articles! But take your big girl brain with you when you do. Know why you’re reading and what you’re looking for, and pay attention when something in you whispers “bullshit.”
You are Pocahontas and that voice is your very own Grandmother Willow. Listen to it. Your kids might get bribed with candy, but at least they’ve got a confident mom.
Erin Landsee is a stay-home mom of three in Iowa City, Iowa.