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The Evolution of Mothering (or “Parental Drift”)


The Evolution of Parenting

Remember when you used to say you would never wipe your children's noses on their shirts or let them play outside barefooted because that was just tacky, and then you had yourself 7 more children [2] and now you have to warn them that if they get in that van without shoes on and with that shirt on they are facing the strong possibility of being picked up by CPS or animal control?

Or maybe that's just me.

What I'm saying is that over time, partly due to necessity, and partly due to experience and wisdom, our standards and ideals do a little shifting.

For example, I have slowly evolved from a strict "Well Trained Mind" homeschooler to a much more relaxed "Charlotte Mason-ish" type with a hint of self directed learning thrown in for good measure. Because of the needs of our large family and Mama's sanity, this evolution was necessary and beneficial to everyone involved.

Sometimes though, this shift is unintentional and when we notice how far we are from our goals, we can correct our drift and get back on the right path.

This "getting back on the right path" happened in our family this week.

Back BTJL (Before the Job Loss) we used to require our kids to pay for the events they wanted to attend [3], like movies with friends, or youth group trips to Six Flags. They were fully aware of this, and would consider whether an evening of fun was worth what it cost them in labor to get the money they would be spending.

Then, when my husband suddenly lost his job [4], every extra curricular activity came screeching to a halt. No more gymnastics lessons, no summer camp, no movie nights. We were completely focused on paying our mortgage during that time, and our children understood this.

Then after a few months of unemployment and a couple of part-time jobs, my husband landed the best paying job of our marriage! We went from literally no income to a plentiful income in a matter of weeks!

So we kinda sorta went crazy with our celebrating and spending.

After months of saying "no spending", we said yes to everyone and everything.

Yes, you can have money for a movie. Yes, we can give $100 to a friend's adoption fund. Yes, you can have a new purse. Yes, we can donate money to the church camp scholarship fund (like someone did for us). Yes, we can give a friend money to pay her rent this month.

Until one day, I checked our bank account and we had $17 in there.

No kidding.

So, we had to pull back and start saying "no" again.

The evolution of parenting

That's when I remembered our goal of giving our kids the gift of being responsible consumers. I had to remind myself it isn't mean to say "no." I needn't feel as though I'm depriving them of something when I tell them if they want to go to a youth event, they may pay for it themselves. I am actually giving them something very important. I am giving them the sense that money is earned through labor, and spending it is a voluntary act, based on whether you believe the product or activity is worth the labor it costs.

This sudden shift in my thinking, back to our original values and goals, was a shock to my kids recently. When I announced that I would be happy for them to go to the 2 activities their friends had planned this weekend, if they wanted to pay for it, they thought maybe I would cave in if they protested. I didn't, and in the end, one teen decided the cost wasn't worth it, unlike her siblings who went without her.

Here's the thing. Sometimes our parenting philosophies and methods change because we reevaluate our old goals and make adjustments accordingly. But sometimes they change without us noticing, and we have to get them back on track.

If your parenting has changed, evaluate why. Maybe it's a good thing and a better fit for your family. If it was an unintentional drift, don't sweat it. Just make some corrections and get back on course.