Why (occasionally) leaning back from motherhood helps me be a good mom

It has been 6,240 hours since I became a mother. I’m more than 60 percent of my way to becoming an expert.

I’m only half-serious, of course.

Working hard some of the time allows me to play the rest of the time.
Working hard some of the time allows me to play the rest of the time.

Some experts say that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to reach the top tier in what you’re pursuing—soccer, piano, basket weaving, whatever—research that underlies part of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (hence the name of my blog). I’m doing my best to become a good mom. I figure that all these hours of breastfeeding, changing diapers, peek-a-boo, bath time and front carrier walks add up and are teaching me not only about my daughter but about what it takes to be a loving, kind, patient, dedicated mother.

A new book by Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, asserts that logging a lot of hours doesn’t cut it, though. This article over at Brainpickings summarizes some of Goleman’s points.

He maintains that your attention when you’re practicing is a necessary component to reaching your full potential: You can’t just phone it in if you want to be great.

In terms of motherhood, I couldn’t agree more. Becoming deeply attuned to your child follows from paying close attention and loving her wholeheartedly.

There are definitely parts of the day I mother on autopilot, though. There’s only so much third-person banter I can keep up (“Mama feels kind of ridiculous talking like this all day long!”). I figure Peeper is just fine playing by herself in silence sometimes; her developing vocabulary will be fine.

Other times I have to get work done. The other morning, for example, I had to conduct an interview for a story I’m writing, and it wasn’t nap time. So I plopped Peeper in the Exersaucer and surrounded her with toys while I made a phone call. She screeched, perhaps indignant that I was looking at my laptop instead of at her, but I had to continue on (hoping that my source didn’t mind the pterodactyl background music).

I hope that eventually she picks up that my career is important to me. She’ll see that I strive to balance work with family life. She’ll also notice that I love what I do, and that will perhaps inspire her to pursue what makes her happy, too.

In motherhood, then, I think that being “on” 100% of the time does a disservice to children. Leaning back rather than in—at least for a portion of the day—helps my daughter learn independence, something she’ll need to become a well rounded individual.

It also teaches her that she’s not the center of the universe. Well, ok, she kind of is the center of the universe—that’s why I plan my social life around her bed time and get up to feed her throughout the night. But eventually she’ll have to be flexible and realize that her needs wants can wait.

As for the remaining 3,000+ hours til I reach the pinnacle of mommyhood (ha), those hours will entail a mix of being fully attentive and being content to let Peeper play with a dog toy on her own.

0 thoughts on “Why (occasionally) leaning back from motherhood helps me be a good mom

  • March 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Agree wholeheartedly, and chuckled at that parenthetical! It’s been at least a year since I shifted into talking about myself first person, but third person slips out sometimes. I suppose that’ll ease the imminent transition back? :p

  • March 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I think motherhood is a state of being, and that there are many facets to it in terms of components to practice. I don’t think it’s viable to be the perfect mother in every way a mother can be- and you have to pick the ones that matter to you (master diaper changer but maybe not from scratch baby food maker, etc). I also am with you that I don’t think motherhood is necessarily about being a mom 100% of the time, and that she benefits from you also having your own time to be you, and teaches her that it’s ok to pursue your own independent interests, and have several of them!


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