Lazy Parenting 101
Someone asked me what my plans for Holy Week and Easter weekend were. I started rambling about how my husband will be working 12-hour days, so I’ll be heading to my parents’ house since taking all the kids to Mass solo is nearly as brutal as The Hunger Games Trilogy. Oh, and I love being with my extended family as well.
“My 2-year-old does okay at Mass if the baby’s not attached to me but when I’m holding him, she immediately wants to be held, too. Then she starts asking to nurse – loudly,” I said.
“So are you tandem nursing?” this fellow mom asked.
Thinking this mom, whom I don’t know all that well, might either start to categorize me as a weirdo for nursing an almost 3-year-old or might be getting ready to canonize me as Saint Mommy, I quickly explained, “Yes, but it’s just because I’m a lazy mom, and all this nursing helps with spacing my babies.”
“I completely understand!” she exclaimed.
We went on to discuss how neither one of us ever planned to follow a set of rules for parenting or to subscribe to expert So-and-So’s mothering ideology. Instead, we wanted to pave a parenting path that worked the best for ourselves, our husbands, our children, and our family as a whole.
For me, this means taking the easy route and doing things like nursing my children for a long time (because natural weaning is a whole lot easier than parent-led weaning in my experience), sleeping close to my babies (and oftentimes my older children as well), and tucking kiddos into Ergos when puttering around the house or when on-the-go.
This style of parenting may intimidate some people. I don’t know why because the truth is I really just practice lazy parenting.
Allow me to explain.
My 90-year-old nana has recently been asking me when I was going to start solids with Thomas. The boy has clearly not missed too many meals, so it’s not that she was concerned about malnutrition. She just thought he might sleep for longer stretches if he was getting some more food in his belly (something that has never proven to be true for my babies; they don’t start sleeping through the night until they’re ready. It doesn’t matter how much food-food they’re gobbling up).
“To be honest,” I confessed. “I hate starting solids. That means I have more messes to clean up, and I’ll have to sit down and feed him instead of just nursing him whenever and wherever.”
See? Lazy parenting!
Now I have started to put him in the high chair during dinnertime, so I don’t have to hold him and have him knock my plate onto the floor when he spasmodically decides to grab something that looks new and fun (and everything looks new and fun to him these days).
I often give him some slices of homemade whole wheat bread that are slightly frozen to gnaw on. Even the bread is made the lazy way with this excellent bread machine and recipes from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine.
At 7 months, Thomas is very happy with his new mealtime experience. I’m dreading having to start feeding him all three meals. Ugh. The mess! The time! I was so lazy with Mary Elizabeth (my third child) that I didn’t give her one nibble of solid food until close to 10 months.
Before I champion lazy parenting any further, I have to stress that one area of parenting that demands more work than laziness is discipline. It is not beneficial to mama or anyone to resort to yelling or coercive discipline in order to get kids to do what we want them to do right this very minute. Yelling is a not-so-nice form of lazy parenting. It’s not effective either – at least not in the long-run. (I speak from personal experience, I’m afraid.)
Yes, it’s emotionally exhausting (and sometimes physically exhausting – and dangerous, too; be careful to not get kicked in the tummy) to calmly wrap your arms around an explosive child with flailing limbs. It takes effort to notice and encourage good behavior and to be less coercive and to use positive approaches rather than empty threats. It’s tough to be consistent and to let your child deal with the natural consequences of not listening when you asked her to put her soccer jersey in the hamper and she forgot so now she has to be smelly and dirty, and you worry her jersey’s tainted state will be a poor reflection of you when, in reality, it’s a reflection that you’re sticking to your guns and imparting a valuable lesson about obedience.
So, yes, discipline is one area where I strive to stop being a lazy parent. Being gentle but firm and consistent zaps a lot of Mama’s limited stores of energy, but it’s well, well worth it.
Losing control more often than you’d like? I understand. Really. I had a nasty case of postpartum depression after baby number 3. It was not a glittery gold time in my life. Praying, humbling myself and asking for help, as well as reading She’s Gonna Blow!: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger helped a lot. I’m a big fan of this parenting blog as well. Good stuff.
Now what about the family bed? Is it always the picture of calm and beautiful bedtime bliss? No way. Sometimes there’s a pinkie toe dangerously close to entering my nostril. Sometimes there’s a snoring 2-year-old. Now I do find baby Thomas irresistible to snuggle with, but I also can’t imagine having to stumble out of bed three or four times each night to nurse him. Instead, we cuddle close and when he squawks, I roll over and pop in a breast. Easy peasy.
But what about that big girl who still nurses? Well, a few months ago when she was asking on the hour to nurse, I decided it was time to gently wean. She didn’t end up completely weaning though, but she now only asks to nurse once or twice during the day and then she wants to nurse at bedtime. It is so stinkin’ easy to get her to bed now. She gets so excited about “mama’s milk” and cuddle time with me that she sometimes asks to go to bed starting at around 6:30 p.m. She nurses for 10 minutes at the most and passes out, and I’ve successfully taught her that she’s not allowed to ask for mama’s milk during the night because the 24/7 diner that is me needs to make sure it has enough liquid gold for baby brother who can’t eat yummy stuff like ice cream.
She still says my milk tastes like a “tandy bar,” and she’s just so sweet during our bedtime routine. I’m not ready to let it go because I love how she snuggles. However, I also love how easy it is to get a very stubborn child to bed. Lazy parenting, once again, my friends.
As for toting kids around in the Ergo, well, why should I try to spend all that time rocking sweet Thomas to sleep when tucking him in a carrier close to me is equivalent to giving him Ambien? Wearing him as an accessory knocks the litte guy out. He’s close to mama. He smells mama. He feels mama. Life is good. No sense fighting sleep.
Oh, and why do I insist on bringing my baby everywhere even to out-of-town conferences, even on a beach trip to celebrate my husband and my 10th wedding anniversary? Well, I do enjoy my little man’s company quite a lot (like his daddy, he’s a very easy-going guy, and I find him quite fetching as well), but I also can’t imagine the grueling work of pumping pints of breastmilk. It’s much easier to give it to him straight from the source.
I shouldn’t even have to mention the obscene indolence of choosing to regularly nap with my baby and/or toddler. It’s not for my precious children, folks. It’s a good excuse for me to zone out and put the laundry on hold. I used to be horrible at “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” but I’m getting lazier with each child. Bring on the naps! Nirvana.
Wait a minute. How about natural childbirth? That doesn’t sound like lazy parenting. That sounds like masochism.
Nope. I’ve been blessed to give birth naturally four times now. I know this is not possible or the ideal for every mom out there, but for me it means shorter labor and less problems breastfeeding. Non-medicated births are often shorter than average, and there’s some research showing that babies born naturally have less challenges latching on.
***Don’t you dare feel guilty if you opted for an epidural and/or if you had a natural childbirth and still had a marathon labor and a newborn who initially had no interest in nursing. The point of this post it to make people laugh and to avoid putting moms who might practice extended breastfeeding or pop out wee ones sans medical interventions on a pedestal. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously, mamas. Laugh a little. Be lazy! Be happy!***
I realize this style of parenting may not be for everyone. Some of you are probably far more motivated than I am to scrape off high chair crust. More power to you. But I just love my lazy parenting. Best of all, my children seem pretty pleased with it, too.
*Are you a lazy parent like I am? Share your most favorite lazy parenting tip.