The Best Parenting Advice Kathy Buckworth Ever Received...
Kathy Buckworth is a Mississauga, Ontario humourist, author, blogger and (extremely busy) mother of four children: Nicholas, 7, Bridget, 10, Alexander, 16 and Victoria, 18. She has penned four books about the joys and annoyances of parenting, including the Supermom series, and her latest book, The BlackBerry Diaries: Adventures In Modern Motherhood. ParentDish.ca spoke to Kathy about ditching the "milestone" anxiety, tweeting with other moms and trying to find the time for a bathroom break.
Q: What's the best piece of parenting advice you've received?
A: The one that springs to mind for me is "you know your own baby." I know that sounds really simple and easy, but it's counter to people who complain that, "there's no textbook for kids." There isn't a textbook because each child would need a different textbook. And for someone who has four kids, you would think they might be similar, but they're not -- my kids are totally different. It's to do with everything: sleeping, eating, when do they walk and when do they talk? Everybody gets so caught up in What To Expect When You're Expecting and, oh my God, they [kids] haven't hit the milestones. You know what's right for your own child and it's about always keeping that in mind. I heard this advice at a dinner party when I was pregnant for the first time, which is when you don't even know what you're in for. I was like, "yeah, know your own baby, whatever, pass me some food!" And when I tell people who are pregnant, I think it means nothing to them. But when they have the baby, maybe they'll remember.
Q: What advice would you give a new parent?
A: I think it's the greatest thing in the world for new moms to join mothers' groups because I think you learn so much from other moms. You realize you're all in this together, you're not the first mom who feels like a big failure, and you're not the only person up at 3 a.m. And one thing that wasn't around when I had my first kids is something like Twitter or Facebook, where you can share with women at any time of the day or night from across the world, women you've never even met. All these great stories about what you're going through and what they're going through at the same time. The connection is really important. And you know what? Sometimes the guys just don't get it, we need to go to other moms.
Q: What is the most challenging part of parenting for you?
A: I'm a little bit of a Type-A and I worked in corporate marketing for 20 years, so everything was very scheduled. You had targets and you hit them and you checked things off your to-do list. I think the lack of control over my schedule is still a really hard adjustment for me to make -- the idea that my time is not my own. I may have a to-do list that's 20 items long, but if my child is sick, I only get to add to that list, I don't get to cross things off it! Or it's like, OK, I've needed to go to the bathroom for 45 minutes, what's going on here?
Q: How do you handle working and parenting?
A: I always have an issue with the words "balancing" or "juggling" because I think it implies that you've got to be doing everything exactly right or something's going to land on the floor. I see myself managing it through what I call a "blended lifestyle." What I mean by that is, I might get up in the morning at 6:30 or 7 and start working, but then I have to stop for half an hour to make breakfast, lunches and pack knapsacks. And then I'll go back to work for 10 minutes, and then I'll get my kids to the bus stop, and then do an interview and then do some writing. So it's all mixed up. I think the days of the 9 to 5 and the Monday to Friday are gone, and we really have to get that out of our mindset. When we have it in there, it mucks us up because we think, "It's Monday at 3 p.m., why am I not working? Why am I throwing a load of laundry in?" I'm very comfortable now with mixing up different parts of my day, and my to-do list is a combination of "buy a turkey" and "write three chapters."
Q: There's recently been a backlash against what some call "soft parenting" that has created spoiled, bratty children. What do you think?
A: I think we have become more and more child-centric, with the child being the boss and running the show more than when I was a child. I joke that I am an autocratic parent. I use the line "because I'm the boss, that's why" all the time. And I don't think it's just how you're parenting in the home, it's things like, every child gets a kindergarten graduation and everybody gets a trophy for soccer, there's no winning or losing. I think in general we've become overly sensitive to children's feelings. It sounds awful when I say it that way, but if they're never failing, or losing, or getting a bad mark, or if they're being told they're wonderful all the time, all of a sudden they get that first job and someone says, "You did a bad job," and they say, "But I want a ribbon!"