How Using Paid Childcare Could Make You a Better Mother
Until recently, I've been struggling to keep up with my writing. I decided to take a risk and hire my babysitter to come in a few days a week to watch Alex, with the idea in mind that I will write enough to cover the cost of childcare. This is no easy feat, and it's a huge multi-faceted risk.
It's a risk because I am afraid I can't write enough to keep up with the cost. It's a risk because I love being with my daughter, and this is time spent away from her. It's a risk because I turned writing into something I have to do, rather than something I merely want to do. Sometimes feeling obligated to do something can change how we feel about it.
Good Enough, Better and Perfect
What I'm finding is that having someone else watch Alex for a little while so that I can go write has made me a more present parent, I daresay a better parent. Let's scrub the word "perfect" from this discussion right now. No one is a perfect parent. We can only try to be better, or good enough parents. Well, I can say with certainty that I'm getting better at parenting.
When I'm with Alex, I am really and truly with her. I'm not writing in my head. I'm not waiting for her to get engaged in an activity so that I can slip back to my writing desk. I'm fully absorbed with what I'm doing without distraction, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Being fully in the moment and paying total attention to a person or an activity makes it so much more pleasurable. It literally changes our brains to make us happy.
I'm spending time absorbed completely in writing when it's time for me to write, rather than multitasking between two activities: jumping between being on the floor with Alex, and sitting at my desk to write. Multitasking was robbing me of a little bit of joy, both in writing and in parenting. Single-tasking makes parenting and writing a whole lot more fun and fulfilling on both fronts.
When Do You Multitask?
No parent can focus solely on parenting 100% of every single day. You're lying if you say you do. We all multitask to some extent, even if it means we're cleaning the house while our kids play.
There are also times when we need a break from parenting, household chores, and our ordinary daytime routine. We crave novelty, we want to be entertained. Some may turn on the TV as an escape, surf the internet or talk on the phone while we half-heartedly pay attention to our kids.Others have dreams they want to pursue: books to write, paintings to create, photographs to be edited and curated.
But it's hard to know how much time spent zoning in and out is healthy. Surely it's great to have some form of escape, but from time-to-time, we all feel that guilt creep in about that time spent paying half-attention. What if you structured your time so that you were clear on parenting vs. time off?
My Version of Better Parenting
I absolutely love spending my time with Alex when it's time for me to be with her, and I know she loves it too. When she escapes into the dining room, looking over her should for me to chase her, I'm right there behind her in hot pursuit. Even after the nineteenth time. And the thirtieth time. And when all of that speed-crawling tires her out and she wants to snuggle into me while I read her a story, you can bet my soul is singing at having that glorious opportunity.
My heart also bursts with joy while I'm writing. I live (and love) to connect with others, and knowing that someone will read these words and they might possibly see something of themselves in my writing, that they might take a little nugget with them to improve their day, that keeps me lit up.
Hiring someone else to watch my child, the thing that gives moms so much guilt, so much doubt about their parenting, is the thing that has made me a better parent.
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