By Tina Calder
I recently read a parenting column online from someone considered quite radical in their thinkings.
And while I didn’t agree with their parenting style I have to admit I was intrigued by their openness, honesty and sheer passion about their role as a mother.
It got me thinking about my role with my son, the values that his father and I have for him and the fact that some people consider us “off the wall” or “alternative” in our parenting style.
Logan will be two years old next month and both myself and his father “work” in some way, shape or form. We are neither full time employed nor earning very much but we are pursuing our paths of destiny.
One of the things we talked about when our son was born was getting back to work – we were both out of work for a number of reasons.
We considered everything from stay at home parents, stay at home mum and stay at home dad to crèche, family care and registered childminder.
We went through the motions believing we needed to get “sensible” jobs that were full time and had set wages.
We almost succumbed until we thought about our son.
Two full time working parents could provide him with a bigger house, a bigger bed room, a better garden, more expensive toys and many more material things but we would be absent from 8am to 6pm every single day and the costs of childminding would be so astronomical that we may not even see the true financial benefit.
So we considered one of us as a stay at home parent and we even tried that – but very quickly we realised someone would have to sacrifice their career and we asked ourselves what message would a tired, frustrated, creatively stunted parent being held back give to Logan.
We settled on our own way. We are both freelance contractors pursuing our chosen careers with vigour, vitality, enthusiasm and creative freedom. We accept work together, separately and have the freedom to try new challenges and discover our own capabilities and push the boundaries.
We live in a small, modest house in the city where we can travel easily and freely to where we need to be – we’ve sacrificed a dream to live by the sea away from the urban hustle and bustle so that we can pursue our careers.
We can’t always afford everything we want but we aren’t so bad at getting everything we need.
We aren’t perfect at house management or budget management or in fact most things domestic but we give it all a go and we don’t beat ourselves up when it’s not perfect.
Our son Logan is lucky to have his uncle as his babysitter. Sometimes it’s for five hours a day, sometimes 12, some weeks three days, some weeks six days. Other days he spends quality time with another uncle who works shifts and has some free time.
Logan has a special bond with his babysitter, a stronger family bond than he would have had previously and he has an adult who loves and adores him and let’s him be as expressive and creative as he wants within boundaries of right and wrong.
I won’t lie, I’m the one who has the hardest, less flexible hours sometimes so every now and again I feel a sense of guilt and a gut wrenching feeling that I’ve let my son down by being absent. But then I remember our goal, I remember what we want to teach him and I realise that every moment I have with him is special – the learning, the playing, the singing, the dancing our “nappy time” song, our “brush brush” chant and the many many many times I say “oh no no said the fish” from our favourite poem.
I see the happiness and love in his eyes when I or his father return home and I realise that by leaving him throughout the week teaches him we will come back.
I write for the newspapers, I manage a music show, I’m a publicist for a few clients and I’ve co-promoted a show at the Ulster Hall this year. My partner is a musician who has recorded music, played the Ulster Hall, supported big names in music, had fantastic press coverage and who is also a keen photographer having had photos published in a number of publications this year.
In our son we encourage creative play from art to music to dance. We want him to have the diverse life we do, who cares if he gets felt tip markers all over him or makes a deafening noise with his toys or bounces up and down on the sofa like a trampoline or climbs the furniture like a monkey? As long as he’s happy, safe, inspired and invigorated then I don’t believe we’re doing anything wrong.
By showing our son that you can reach for your dreams and that being creative is a perfectly natural way to live I hope that we will instill in him a drive to succeed and an ability to dream beyond his surroundings.
Learning the value of money does not mean we need to bring our child up to be materialistic.
Learning to be ambitious does not mean we need to bring him up selfish.
Learning to be creative does not mean we need to allow him to shirk his responsibilities as he grows older.
So I ask the parents out there, when you are spending time making sure the house is perfect and the laundry is neatly folded and the toys are perfectly presented and your child is being good by being quiet are you really doing your best for this little mind?
This little human being who is absorbing the world, it’s culture, it’s surroundings, people, language and more? Are you really spending all your time the way you want to?
Don’t be the parent people think you should be, be the parent you want to be….that’s what we are doing and we’re prepared to deal with whatever consequences that might have positive or negative.
(C) Tina Calder, 2014