I’m ashamed to say that I used to be a sheep. One of those people who follow the herd without taking too much time to consider the different options we might have. I have always been one of those people who value other people’s opinions and who can be easily led down a certain path. Saying that, my strong moral compass has almost always managed to steer me straight when I realise I’ve gone a little too far down the wrong path. Thanks mom!
Too much choice!
When you become a mom, there are so many, many, options available to you. The sheer volume of options can be very overwhelming. We spend hours reading books and researching option on the internet, I even wrote a post a while ago about what new and expecting mom’s really need to know: Realistic Advice for New Moms
The options are endless, and they never stop. I guess that’s something we should be exceedingly grateful for, the fact that we have all these options and all these choices, but sometimes, often, it can be overwhelming.
Advice From Others
As someone who has always valued other people’s opinions, I tend to rely more on word of mouth advice than on what the books and the over-commercialised world around me tells me is important or necessary.
About a year ago, I realised that so many kids were doing more. More maths lessons after school, more tennis lessons, more swimming lessons, more dancing lessons and more reading lessons. ALL the extra in-school activities (Playball, Monkeynastix, Art … there are 5 extra options) instead of just picking one or two.
I started to think that I was doing my girls an injustice because they weren’t ‘doing it all’, particularly for my eldest who is in Grade R going into Grade 1 next year. I spoke to my husband and he heard what I was saying and started to worry too that our girls were going to get ‘left behind’ by not doing everything as well.
Time for some perspective
I’m not sure whether it is the fact that I’m getting older now, or that I’m starting to feel like I’m doing an okay job at being a mother, but I have gained more confidence and I am trusting my moral compass and instincts more when it comes to making decisions for my girls.
Whatever it is, I stopped.
I used to be a sheep – but then I stopped
So, I stopped listening to everyone else. I stopped panicking and stressing that I wasn’t doing everything I could for them, because I realised that, in my opinion, I am.
At the beginning of this year I told my girls to pick one extra in-school activity and one after-school activity. I explained to them that whatever they picked, that was up to them, but they could only choose one and they had to stick with it for the whole year.
I also questioned whether all the extra educational maths and reading lessons were really necessary. They go to a very good school, and was it really necessary to pay more for extra lessons so they can be ahead of everyone else in the class? Surely the school should be teaching them what they need to know at their age – isn’t that the point of the hectic school fees? I decided that it wasn’t necessary.
I also felt that if I fill their days with a million different activities, when will they get the time to just be kids?
Some things I don’t compromise on.
Swimming lessons were the only one they didn’t get a choice on because that’s not a ‘nice-to-do’ activity, it’s a life skill they must have. Saying that though, I decided to stop their lessons at the end of May and I will resume them in October – the winter months.
How does everyone else react?
The reaction I got from a lot of the car-park mom’s, dance mom’s and swim mom’s when they realised that I wasn’t following ‘the herd’ was one of surprise.
They weren’t judging me. They were just surprised.
I think the surprise came from the fact that someone was saying something different to what everyone else was saying.
I’m not here to justify my choices, I’m doing what I think is best for my girls. That’s the confidence I have gained. The confidence in knowing that I am doing what is best for MY children. The confidence to make tough decisions and not to worry about what other’s think about them because at the end of the day it’s about what’s best for them.
My girls sometimes complain about some of it. My eldest asks me why she can’t do all the things her bff does, and I explain to her that just because the other activities are available doesn’t mean she has to do them.
Finding the teachable moments.
I also use the choices I gave them, and the decisions they made as lessons to teach them about money. It’s important that they understand that all those things cost money. I don’t mind paying for what is important, but if they want to do Playball AND Monkeynastix, then I’m going to have to stop their dance lessons. I think it’s an important lesson for them, and they are never too young to learn things like that.
Now, I’m not saying that all the other mom’s I’m in contact with ARE sheep. They are doing what they believe is best for their children, and that’s great. I am certainly not judging other parent’s decisions either, but sometimes I wonder if we don’t all get swept along, and if we just had the chance to take a breath, we’d do things differently.
Whilst I’m not looking for validation that I’m doing the right thing because I know that I am, it is nice to know that there are other mom’s out there who also believe that it’s not necessary for our little’s to ‘do it all right now!’. Here’s an excellent piece written by a fellow blogger, the lovely Luchae over at My Spreadsheet Brain with her take on Extra-Murals.
So what now?
So now that I’m ‘not a sheep’, does that make me a trail-blazer? Certainly not. Does it make me a goat – stubborn and confrontational? Who knows … maybe I should ask my husband to answer that question? Or maybe not! I think a large part of my ‘new’ self-confidence comes from my husband, and the fact that he has encouraged and motivated (okay … pushed) me to be more confident, to make hard decisions, and to part of our family’s decision-making. I no longer defer to him in all things, he values my opinion, and we work it out together. I’d like to think he appreciates that too, the fact that we are now more of a team. Thanks, my love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, even if you think I’m wrong. Why? Because ultimately, I still like to hear other people’s opinions even if I’m now confident enough to make my own decisions.