Battle of the Perfect Parent

Stay-at-home Mum vs. Working Mum

Being the “perfect parent” has been a hot potato since forever. Or at least because I’m a parent now and the focus of what I read is more on parenting and family. But, should there be something to discuss here? Are the arguments real?

Am I a stay-at-home mum, or a working mum? Well,  I am a working mother. It is both by choice and by fate, I must say. Probably the same reason stay-at-home moms have. I chose to work because firstly, I treat my job as sacred. My job is important to me. I won’t lie, I need to earn money. And the earnings are what I use to feed my family. My husband does the same. But why both of us? It is because it is also of great fulfillment if I am able to work and help both my family and other people through my job. Do I feel guilty for leaving my child with a relative, or a caregiver? No. Because I trust them, and I trust my love for my daughter. Even if I don’t spend 24 hours a day to be with her, I love her, and working for 8 hours won’t change that.

I have a few full time mommy friends. If I think about how they got to be full time mothers, my realization is the same. It’s either by choice, by fate, or both. In saying by fate, I mean, life situations have put them in that state, and I salute them. From a full-fledged career woman, to being stuck on the four corners of their home with kids, is never easy. Especially if you love your job so much. But I can imagine how great the feeling is. To be able to spend a lot time with your children, and to witness their every milestone are priceless. The dilemma might come to those whose life was drastically changed because of switching roles. But my admiration for full time mommies will always be there.

During a short chat with a friend, she asked at what age I am planning to retire. And I immediately asked her, by that, does she mean retiring from a full time job? I was hesitant on stating a specific age. Instead I told her, “to be very honest, I easily get bored. I couldn’t stop on doing something. Even if retire from my full time job, I am still going to do something, and work on something.” And to my head I was thinking: I can plant mango trees and sell mangoes when my expiration on my job comes. I know a lot of full time mothers who are into building their own businesses. Mothers who are passionate about baking, making crafts, selling things online. I am probably going to do the same, given the opportunity.

I can see how proud parents can be with their life choices. Mommies can be proud that they manage their own time and can spend every single second with their children. I’m very happy for them, really. Who wouldn’t want that? And there goes the mum who brags about having to juggle both work and family. Congratulations, we are one and the same, but there’s nothing to brag about. Are we competitors with full time mothers? Definitely not. In this generation, only noontime shows have the license to compete. We are just being parents. Parents who are doing everything we possibly could, to give our children the best life we could afford.

Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

My friend sent me a message on Facebook on how I managed to feed formula to Antonia. She’s aware I didn’t do exclusive and had to mix breastfeeding and formula feeding. I told her that I followed my instinct, and just fed Antonia with what I knew back then was right. She was feeling guilty because she’s not able to feed her baby with solely breast milk. And I assured her, nothing is wrong with formula feeding. No mother should ever feel guilty, unless you have the opportunity to produce milk, but you chose not to (for whatever reason!). Although there are also mothers who had to leave for overseas work. Who can blame them? No one should ever attempt. Sometimes, parents have to make certain choices.

There are also women who could not produce enough milk for their babies. It happened to me. I breastfed Antonia for only 2 months. I wish it was longer. But it didn’t work out. I tried my very best, but Antonia at that time was very impatient with feeding. Every human being tends to be impatient when they are hungry, I know. But I have tried and she seemed very unsatisfied all the time. I had to feed her every hour. And it just seemed not enough for her. I even asked my mom if she produced a lot of milk during her time, and she easily confirmed that she didn’t. I felt okay and no guilty feeling at all.

Every woman’s body is different. That’s the reason behind that. And there are just too many factors. Postpartum anxiety, recovery from c-section, and even loss of appetite. During my first two weeks after delivery, I had my postpartum anxiety. It was just too hard to live my life each day. Every single day, I was trying to be physically strong like I used to. Life suddenly changed after giving birth and it was really hard to admit that at the time, even carrying my baby was a difficulty.

So which is better? To answer that, as most formula packaging would say, “Breastfeeding is still best for your baby”. But nothing is better than knowing what your child needs, and following your instinct.

Liberty vs. Dependence

There are certain stages for children. I only noticed Antonia enjoying bits of independence was when she was 8-10 months old. At this stage, she was already enjoying playing by herself (that would typically last for 15-20 minutes). After that, she would require someone to talk to her and assure her that she’s not alone.

Every child is different. They develop differently and experience different situations. The key thing is to choose wisely, which are the things we would want our children to be dependent on us, and which situation we can allow them to have the liberty. No right or wrong, really. It’s all matter of weighing things, and we as parents should know which is ideal in different situations.

Exposure to a Device vs. Physical Activities

This is a no-brainer. At least to me. There is no better way, but to balance things and have a proper schedule.

I can safely say, there is NOTHING wrong with letting your kid watch the television, or his/her favorite Disney movie. There’s nothing wrong with introducing him/her to Hi5. The mistake comes when parents allow them to be uncontrollable. When your child couldn’t hear anything but his favorite characters, and don’t even respond to your call; when you cannot ask for his attention, that’s when the error comes. Nothing is wrong with letting them sing and be happy. Let’s admit it, they need graphics, they need to see and appreciate the talking and the story. Unless we can be as lively as Hi5, well then we can probably replace them in our child’s life. I also believe they need it for social purposes. Building social relationships can start with simple conversations like, “oh, I like your Elsa shirt”. They also need to know the characters, and develop their imagination.

Antonia was exposed to watching nursery rhymes until probably 10 months. And now that she’s 14 months, Hi5 and Dora the Explorer are her favorites. She watches basketball too. I don’t let her watch beyond an hour in a day. That’s the agreed schedule. The only time she can see her favorites are during bath and changing time, and at night when we are all eating supper. She eats before us, and normally, while the adults eat, she would be on her bike while watching her favorite show.

I bathe her in the morning before I head to work, every single day. This is our bonding time wherein I sing along with the characters and I do some role playing. Yes, she finds it fun whenever I am in character. When it’s up for her screen time, I would explain it to her patiently, and she always agrees. This goes on everyday. Although there are times she would say “happy” (means she wants to watch Hi5). Most of the time, I don’t give in. But there are exceptions especially if she was not able to watch during her bath time.

In the morning, she’s bound to the park for a good 1-2 hours. Everything else is spent at home, reading books, playing with her toys, and communicating to my mom, or to her caregiver. She’s allowed to play at the park again in the afternoon. I find it great that she develops her social skills and interacts well with others during these times.

At night, she is used to listening church songs, or story telling. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I sing church songs for her, she would easily fall asleep.

This has been her daily schedule. I can’t say it’s perfect. But it works for us. And whenever I say no to her unruly demands, she accepts.

I based this concept on how my parents exposed me to devices. I remember the latest I could watch the television was at 8 PM. We practiced this until I was in secondary school. Full day of Saturdays (until 8 PM too), both my brother and I were allowed to watch TV and play video games. When we try to negotiate and demand for extension, we got the same reply every single time. It was a big NO. My childhood life was 20% screen time, 50% play time at home, and 30% play time outside. It worked, I guess. We were not deprived of anything. Both my parents believe that proper schedule and discipline are the key.

We, as parents should be in control. There’s nothing wrong with introducing our children with devices, really. Video games were invented long before, and I’m pretty sure we were exposed to them too. But it is the responsibility of the parents to set certain limit that children should abide. Again, we are in control. The ball is in our court, and no matter how a child demands, when a certain limit is there, it has to be followed.

There’s no such thing as “perfect parents”. The battle is only within ourselves, trying to be perfect in front of the rest of other parents. The key thing is to know your child’s needs, and learn how to say no if your child demands for more than what is agreed. When you feel things have gone wrong, we can always get back to the drawing board, and make an attempt again on what would work.

Be it you’re a full time or working mum, feeding mother’s milk or formula, you know what’s best for your child. Not every situation is similar to yours, so there’s no point to do battle for your beliefs.

Whether you value liberty more than dependence or vice versa, or you allow screen time or not, balance can be your best friend, and discipline can be your sister. We can’t be the best parent among parents, but we can always be the best parents our children could ever ask and hope for.

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