The Wisdom of Mary P. (part two): Benign neglect: It's a good thing

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Mary P. is now my patron saint of exhausted mothers. Oh, how I wish I had read this post when my first child was a baby. Oh, I wish I hadn't had to learn this the hard way. And it was a long and hard lesson, indeed.

The impetus of this post was an email conversation Mary P. had with a friend who was saying that she felt she had to spend all of her time with her baby. After all, she was a stay-at-home mother, so what was the point if she wasn't spending all of her time with her baby?

I have written about this before. I called the post, "Bullying the neighbors," because some of us whose kids are older plead with the mothers of toddlers to learn from our experiences. You do not have to spend every minute of the day entertaining your young child. In fact, as Mary P. wrote: "Not to put too fine a point on it, this is crap. Arrant nonsense. An unattainable goal, and, moreover, it's BAD FOR YOUR CHILDREN."

I have to agree one hundred percent. I thought I had to play with my son all day, even when there were dishes to be done, and even when I was bored or tired or I just needed some time to myself. My son became dependent upon my entertainment skills, and viewed it as a punishment when I would tell him that I needed to get something else done. I hadn't given him the skill of being able to entertain himself.

We eventually navigated out way through it, but boy, I wish Mary P. or someone similar, had set me straight first.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.