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The Cult of Motherhood

[This post started out as a response to this article, which was taken apart by James Lileks before I could take it apart myself. See here. It turned out to be something else, though the base of it lies in all the same aspects of the article that James pointed out. And because I'm putting it up here so late in the evening, you're getting tomorrow's post today!]

Soon after my daughter was born in 1990, I was encouraged to join a local mother's group. I did that and then was encouraged by some of those mothers to join various other groups - I think one was called Our Babies are Better than Yours and another was Face It, You Are A Lousy Parent. They were loose groups of a couple of women each, and they would force their way into your home once a week to regale you with stories of how practically perfect in every way their children were and how your kids could be more like that. And you, more like them.

I was assaulted on all fronts. On Tuesdays, Grace would drop by and chastise me for using disposable diapers instead of cloth. On Thursdays, I got Mary and her desire to get me to make all of my baby's food from scratch. Friday evenings, Jane would drop by for Impressionist Art Flash Card Hour, and we'd watch Natalie drool and fall asleep as another Degas was held in front of her. Ballet School. This one is called Ball-et-schoooool. Nat was five months old. I told Jane that I didn't think the cards were making an impression on her (ha ha, get it?) and Jane informed me that children just absorbed information like sponges. Osmosis, baby. Renoir. Ren waaaaaaah.

The other days of the week I was visited by a stream of well meaning career mommies. This was at the height of the mommy wars. Stay at home moms and working moms were rumbling in the alleys, knives drawn and guns loaded. It was an ugly time to be a new mother, as you were constantly pressed upon to choose a side. The working mothers would attack you from one side: You'll lose your sense of identity if you don't continue your career! You'll spend your days with formula spit on your shirt and strained pees in your hair and some day you will resent your children for making you live the life of a slave to their childhood and you'll end up an old, bitter hag with a dysfunctional family! And the stay at home moms would counter attack: Your child will grow up with a sense of abandonment! You'll be too tired to help her with homework or read to her! She'll look for love everywhere else besides home and eventually she'll end up on a street corner selling herself for crack!

I just wanted to be. You know, learn the ropes on my own, just like my mother did. But I had people throwing all kinds of books at me, whipping out names of experts and filling my head with theories about family beds and weaning. I was being drilled on the proper way to teach an infant how to count and speak in three languages while simultaneously learning how to make organic mashed sweet potatoes and raise a family of goats for their nutritional milk and really, the only thing I wanted to know was why the hell was my daughter spewing vomit across the room at 90 mph? Oh, sure - the perfect mommies will teach you how to clean the house using non toxic, home made cleansers, but when it comes to projectile vomiting, they are completely useless.

I realized about six months in to this mothering thing that there was a Perfect Mommy cult and half of the members lived within shouting distance of me. My kid shouted, they came running. Pick her up immediately, or she'll feel like she can't trust you! Ok, but my mother said to just let her cry if she's not hungry or dirty and.... NO! Never let the baby cry, it causes irreparable damage!

Damn. Everything I did was wrong. Every move I made was somehow harming my daughter. Every wrong food fed, every pair of pajamas not washed by hand with organic soap, every diaper rash not treated with secretions from the pancreas of a rare breed of llama - I was inching my baby closer towards mental ruination. She was still an infant and already my failings as a mother were destroying her life. Help me, cult of motherhood, you're my only hope!

And so it went. By the time Nat reached toddlerhood, I was being instructed on which classes to sign her up for, which nursery schools to look at, which sports should she play and musical instruments she should master. The cult mommy's kids were scheduled from morning until night, seven days a week. Gymnastics, Karate, pee wee soccer, Spanish, art class, dancing, learning center, computer center, French, etiquette...these kids were THREE!

And all the while I was stuck in a game of tug-of-war between different parenting groups vying for my attention. When I say some of these women were batshit crazy, I am not exaggerating. They followed trends like some people follow sports teams - with this undying devotion. I half expected to show up for the "How To Get Your Baby To Sleep" lecture and walk into an auditorium filled with face-painted women wearing Ferber t-shirts and holding up "Let Her Cry It Out!" posters.

I was finding new motherhood stressful not because being a mother made it so, but because dealing with the other mothers made it so. I could never be sure if what I was doing was right. My values were constantly called into question. My skills were tested. I spent half my time with other mothers defending myself and my parenting choices. When another mother would come to my rescue, two more would pop out of the woodwork to enter the fray.

Why do so many otherwise competent and self-aware women lose themselves when they become mothers? Why do so many of us feel so out of control? And—the biggest question of all—why has this generation of mothers, arguably the most liberated and privileged group of women America has ever seen, driven themselves crazy in the quest for perfect mommy-dom?

And why do they want to drag everyone they know into their world of perceived perfectness? Because it justifies that world, of course. Karen, my super mom friend, was constantly trying to get me to go back to work full time. When she wasn't harping on that subject, she was throwing pamphlets at me for sports schools and dance schools. If I would just join her lifestyle, if I would just assimilate, then maybe she wouldn't feel quite so crappy over the life she was living. If all her friends jumped off a bridge....well, you know how that goes.

It wasn't enough for Karen's schedule to be filled. She had to fill her kids' schedules as well. Her day was occupied, every block filled, from 6am until midnight. Work, clean, iron, laundry, dance class, baseball, dinner, PTA meeting, then home to spend an hour on the living room floor, cutting and pasting construction paper for her son's science project.

Every once in a while, we would get out for coffee. We'd meet at the diner and Karen would look absolutely haggard and I knew what I was in for. Two hours of her non-stop whining, crying, complaining and bitching. She has no time to herself. Her kids leave her exhausted. She practically lives in her car. The family never eats together. She never spends time with her husband. Nobody, but nobody lifts a finger to help her out. She. Is. Just. So. TIRED.

I would stare glassy eyed at her and repeat the same thing I said to her the last time we had coffee. So pull Katie out of French class. She's five, she doesn't need to be bilingual just yet. Tell Jason to choose one sport instead of three. Make them do their own homework. Get a freaking babysitter and go out once in a while.

She would balk at every suggestion. Shuttling her kids off to a dozen different place every single day was her way of showing them she loves them. She signs them up for these thing to make them better people.

Jobs—and children—were demanding. And the ambitious form of motherhood most of us wanted to practice was utterly incompatible with any kind of outside work, or friendship, or life, generally.

But it only had to be that way if you made it that way. I worked. I had friends. I had a life. I had two kids. But I didn't over schedule my kids and I didn't take on more than I can handle just so I could turn around and bitch about how much I had to handle. Martyrdom, anyone?

Yet as mothers many women face "choices" on the order of: You can continue to pursue your professional dreams at the cost of abandoning your children to long hours of inadequate child care. Or: You can stay at home with your baby and live in a state of virtual, crazy-making isolation because you can't afford a nanny, because there is no such thing as part-time day care, and because your husband doesn't come home until 8:30 at night.

Ah yes, the virtual isolation. I felt that, too. For about five minutes. And then I went to the library and found other stay at home mothers. I went to the park and made friends while pushing my daughter on the baby swing. I knew every Burger King with a ball pit in a five mile vicinity and frequented them all, where I found other moms (and sometimes dads) and we would sit and have coffee while our children bounced around the play area. Oh, sometimes a parent or two would stop over at our table and admonish us for letting our children play in that filthy ball pit where kids peed and vomited and spit up orange juice. We'd tell her to lighten up even though we knew she never would. I pitied those mothers, the ones with the ideas of perfect parenting that they were so sure of, they wanted to force them on every other parent in sight.

I ran into every fringe group of moms in my first few years of motherhood. The organic moms. The craft moms. The "dump your child in day care and run for your life" moms. The guilt moms. The No TV moms. The over protective moms, the self-esteem moms, the non-toxic moms. They're all out there and they are all armed with books and pamphlets and the sure knowledge that they know best what's right for your child and your family.

I was discussing this post with a friend as I was writing it and she asked, about Super Moms:

"Are they too dependent on experts and the media to think and parent independently, or do they merely resent YOU for thinking and parenting independently?"

That's a great question and I think it's a little of both. When I was pregnant with Nat, it was boom time for parenting books. A new one hit the shelves every day and new mothers were eating them up. And they all had contradictory information, so if you were going by the books, you never knew which one to follow. So most of the moms went into groupthink mode. Well everyone I know says this is best, so it must be best, etc.

Then there were the women who were astounded that anyone would not follow along with a book or an expert. Fly by the seat of your pants? Parent on instinct? Unheard of! And they hated me and moms like me when our solutions worked out right or when our kids appeared to be just as bright/charming/well fed as theirs. And they lorded it over us when we made mistakes.

Motherhood was a competition, I found out. A brutal, cut throat competition that puts any reality game show to shame. Whose house is cleaner? Whose kid is smarter? Who has the biggest SUV? Your daughter had a 101 fever? HAH! Mine had 102! And chicken pox! How many activities does your kid have in a week? I remember being in a gathering of mothers once where we were trying to set a date to go pumpkin picking together. It was a blur of pencils and calendars for about ten minutes. One mother looked at me - what does Nat have on Thursdays? Nothing, I replied. Heads swivelled. Gasping ensued. Nothing? A day with...what do you call that...free, unscheduled time? They then proceeded to bury me in the ground up to my neck and then took turns stoning me. Metaphorically, of course. =
The article ends on this note:

We are simply beating ourselves black and blue. So let's take a breather. Throw out the schedules, turn off the cell phone, cancel the tutors (fire the OT!). Let's spend some real quality time with our families, just talking, hanging out, not doing anything for once. And let ourselves be.

Thanks, hon. I've been doing that for fifteen years without benefit of your self-realization and subsequent book. It's what most of us have been doing. Had you not been hanging out on the fringe, hell bent on hanging yourself on the Motherhood is Hard cross, you would have come to that conclusion ages ago. Without the government funded caveats you suggest. It's called reality. Some of us live in it, some of us choose to live in alternate hells of our own making, replete with cloth diapers (no time for your husband when you spend the night washing strained carrot poop out of diapers!, empty platitudes (this scribble you made is the best scribble ever!) and home made baby wipes (it's cheaper to just buy the box at the grocery store).

James Lileks wrote:

I never have to worry whether I’ve sold out my gender because I’m not standing in a meeting room explaining a pie chart. Raising Gnat is the most important thing I do. But she’s a child, not a project. I don’t get a bonus if she exceeds quarterly projections.

You don't even have to be a mom to get it. It's that simple.

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Comments

I never understood the intensity over the extremes of both positions, until I understood the validation that was being sought.

Life is about making choices. Make your choices.

My MIL has 6 kids and the oldest is 21 years older than the youngest. She told me that rules for raising children changed 180 degrees over that time. Feed on a schedule. Feed on demand. Pick up a crying baby. Don't pick up a crying baby. She advised me to ignore the rule books and trust my instincts, which I did.

But I did make baby food from scratch. It was easy and inexpensive.
: )

I too, was (and will be with the one on the way) a home-food-maker. It was so easy and literally costs us pennies a day to feed the baby (plus the boob helped too).

My wife's degree is in child development. She threw all that BS out the door with our little one. We've never pressured her, we don't force her to learn multiplication tables, etc. The only thing we've never done is talk baby talk to her and always have tried to talk in complete sentences.

Without any special routine, at 2 1/2 she knows her alphabet, can count to 13 without help, speaks clearly enough so that most people can understand her (she was an early talker), and is very, very, very mature for her age.

And all because Kari & I just did whatever we felt best.

Books are good to read, but much like the Internet you need to read several sources then take a little information from each that suits you best. But forcing a routine that you aren't familiar / comfortable with is assinine.

Regardless of our daughter's intelligence, what makes me happy is the fact that she is a happy little girl who is very secure with her family and knows her mommy and daddy love her.

My son is in 4th grade. One of the "cooler" kids. In unguarded moments he's still willing to hold the hand of his 41 year old father. No small payback for the 10 years of effort in raising him. It's all I could ask for.

Yeah. I've met some of those people. They make all kinds of hell for my wife, who really wants to do a good job as a mother.

and I'm not going to even talk about how great my kids are. ;-)

Best

thing

I've

read

all

year.

My hero.

I found my self nodding in agreement and then yelling out "yes!". after one chapter.
"Exactly!!" after another.

My family looked at me as if I was crazy, but you nailed the entire cult of motherhood right on the head with this post.
Isn't it wonderful how much inner peace you can find within yourself when you stop listening to the "Mommy Brigade" and just let yourself raise your kids the way your very own gut tells you to?
Excellent post, thank you!

I'm not reallty sure when Brad learned about motherhood, or reading for that matter.

You're right, it's a competition. Parenting's hard and important and there's no one right way to do it, and any time those three factors are in the mix you're going to have people defending their own preferred methods pretty fanatically. The thing is, though, you're competing as much as they are. Quote:

Thanks, hon. I've been doing that for fifteen years without benefit of your self-realization and subsequent book. It's what most of us have been doing. Had you not been hanging out on the fringe, hell bent on hanging yourself on the Motherhood is Hard cross, you would have come to that conclusion ages ago.

I.e., "if only you were as wise as me." You WON! You're the fucking zen master! Self-reassurance accomplished!

Look, like most people (I hope), I vastly prefer Lileks's and your approach to parenting to that of the Type-A types described in Newsweek. But that's only because Newsweek chose to focus on the anal-est of the anal. They might as well have put a fucking bullseye on the cover. It'd be like doing a story on the pro-life movement and writing only about guys who stand outside clinics holding jars with fetuses in them. The fact that Lileks could do that fortune cookie bit about how it's critical to "[b]e there. Be consistent. Be kind. Listen. Help." and have it come off as comparatively useful advice tells you everything you need to know about the freak show in Newsweek.

One more thing from Lileks's piece. This is the crux of it as far as I'm concerned:

If Gnat ends up happy and good and boringly middle-class in an Illinois suburb with a good husband and smart kind kids I'll be hard-pressed to call her a loser.

But what if she thinks she's a loser? Like you said, it's all about competition. The control freaks may run themselves ragged but to the extent that they're doing so to facilitate their kids learning skills (including social skills), they're giving them a competitive advantage. And yeah, granted, they might drive the kids nuts sometimes in the process. Might. But they also might be helping the kids feel more confident and they might see those skills pay off later in better financial and romantic opportunities, and that might make the control freaks' kids -- gasp! -- more happy in the long run. And that's the bottom line, isn't it? Not whether the Type-A mommies are haggard while the laidbacks are kickin' it with a latte and preaching the Socratic approach to parenting but whether their kids are happier than yours. As far as I know, the jury's still out on that one.

I don't think that Michele was declaring herself the winner of the competition, but I'm sure she'll respond to that point much better than I could.

The control freaks may run themselves ragged but to the extent that they're doing so to facilitate their kids learning skills (including social skills)...

I don't know about that, Allah. Most of the kids I knew at Harvard who came from the control freak environment were essentially crippled with respect to social skills (of course, I'm making the fatal error of basing my judgment on my own anecdotal experience within a bubbling cauldron of dysfunction, but anecdotal evidence is par for the course on this subject). A lot of unhappiness with those folks.

I think you're envisioning the extreme at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Type-A freaks: The laid-back hippies teaching their twelve-year-olds how to roll a joint nice and tight. The reality of sensible parenting is somewhere in between, I think, and using one's common sense to find that happy medium is the "letting it be" part.

I've seen it both ways: the strictest parents' kids sometimes turn out the worst, while the most laid back parents' offspring never drink or do drugs. I do not have children and I have no child rearing philosophy, but the idea of doing what comes naturally and not paying too much attention to what books and fads say seems eminently reasonble to me. Humankind has been raising children, well, since humans first walked the earth. Trust your instincts.

That said, Allah, since you quit your blog you seem to show up in other peoples' comments and play Devil's Advocate. Do you have a lot of free time, or are you just argumentative by nature?

I.e., "if only you were as wise as me." You WON! You're the fucking zen master! Self-reassurance accomplished!

As usual, Allah, you read with the intent of zoning on something you can make a controversial statement about.

Won? Hardly. There are days I want to kill my children and days I wonder why I ever became a mother. Anyone who doesn't have those days is lying to you. I'm no zen master, but I do know that piling problems onto problems is no way to ease the pressure of your life.

Sure, the women in the article are the worst of the worst, but I knew so many women like that it was hard to tell for a long time what was normal behavior of new mothers and what wasn't.

I have nothing against either stay at home mothers or working mothers - I have been both and know the pros and cons of each situation. But I do have something against hardline mothers who think that just because you're not doing as much running around for your kids as they are, that you're not as exhausted at the end of the night as they are, that you're doing something wrong.

Like you said, it's all about competition. The control freaks may run themselves ragged but to the extent that they're doing so to facilitate their kids learning skills (including social skills), they're giving them a competitive advantage.

Hah. They are not doing it to for their kids. They are doing it for them, for their own ego and own self gratification, because they believe that the more things your kids are involved in, the better mother you are.

What advantage are you giving a kid by scheduling every single moment of their lives? What advantage do you give a kid by hovering over every single thing they do to make sure their childhood is always perfect, sunny and happy? What advantage will these kids have later on when mommy isn't there to paste and color their projects for them or when mommy isn't there to hand out fifteen compliments a minute?

I've seen mothers literally pull their kids out of the house and into the car, the kids screaming that they didn't want to go to baseball/art class/ballet and the mother having a coniption because her kid is unfuckingrateful for all she does for him. Yea, real advantage their for those kids.

Wow. So much to digest. All I can say is, "Amen, Sister!"

A few things I'd like to say about this:

I know I've told you before, but it bears repeating - when you adopt kids from Korea, the pressure is ENORMOUS to raise them in a Korea-centric way. It's kind of sad. My kids don't know any other Korean adoptees (like they used to), because the parents in that group drove us away.

Let me tell you about something that happened just last week. My kids go to an advanced academic Catholic School (they stress the "academic" far more than the "Catholic"). At this school they do "grouping", which means placing subgroups of kids with like abilities together within a class, and assigning them work based on their abilities. In my daughter's 1st grade class they have the red group (reading/math at 3rd grade or above), the blue (at or just above grade level), and the green group (these kids are struggling somewhat). My daughter, Katie started out the year in the red group (she's a math wiz, she just amazes me!)

Anyway, last Friday was parent/teacher conference day. Katie's homeroom teacher called us on Monday and asked if we could come in BEFORE Friday and have a special conference with ALL of Katie's teachers (normally it's just 15 mins with the homeroom teacher). This freaked us out, and we worried until we got to the meeting.

We get there, and have the meeting; we find out they're "demoting" Katie to the blue group in reading. We were so relieved - she was REALLY struggling with reading, while kicking butt in math. You could tell the teachers were surprised by our reaction.

There was something about the demeanor of the teachers that I couldn't place my finger on till later. Then it hit me, it was fear. You could see it in their eyes. You could see it in how they formed a physical defensive "wall" around the table, and how they had a defensive list of reasons that they never had to use. It was almost comical to see their faces when they saw how we reacted.

I said later to my wife, "You now how you can tell that a dog has previously been abused by it's demeanor around people? Obviously Katie's teachers had been put through the wringer before when they 'demoted' a kid. They thought we were going to go ballistic. What kind of a parent of a FIRST GRADER would do that????"

Please, parents, watch "Searching For Bobby Fischer" regularly! Pay very close attention to the words they put on the screen at the end. Remember, most of America's billionaires did NOT go to Harvard! Pressure and 7 year old should NEVER be used in the same sentence!

Of course, that last paragraph was a perfect example of the behavior michele is ranting about, so I think I'll stop now.

Well, I have to say, what Allah zoned in kinda irked me as well, but perhaps I took it the wrong way.

That aside, I SO long for the days when kids were able to just go to the neighborhood park or playground to play baseball or football or whatever. That absolutely EVERY childhood activity (down to playdates) has to be organized, scheduled (complete with rotating snack obligations) just drive me nuts. We tried to do Hockey for a few years, but those parents were CRAZY. A kid can't even TRY a sport or activity w/o a season-long commitment. I have to think, that this has developed because of many parents obsessive desire to ....live vicariously through their child's achievement ?? Sadly, now-a-days, kids are either at a parent sponsored event, or in their bedrooms on the PS2.

I have two (6 and 4) and never really opened a book on how to do it. I just try to be the man my father is. I think we teach our children the important stuff by example. How to treat other people, how to respond to adversity, and how to handle dissapointment.
You can't order your kid not to be mean to the poor dorky kid in class (which was me) and then laugh at dinner about how one of your coworkers always dresses in walmart clothes.

I'm in law school at one of the "top ten" schools in the country. When you get people this smart in one place competing with each other, neuroses come out very quickly. You can divide the people that were parented according to the Michelle method and the anal-mom method in about ten seconds of talking to any given person; the former are socially competent, the latter are exceptionally bright and accomplished 25-year-olds with the social IQ of a third-grader and a terminal case of the douchebags. If parenting my kid to be successful means that he'll be a socially incompetent, insufferable bore that even I can't stand to talk to for more than ten seconds, then forget it.

Great job, Michelle.

Wow, my wife and I talked about the article and Lileks response, and our response was "who are these mothers?". I live in a small town in Maine, though it is populated with many well-educated, middle to upper middle class people, and we have never met anyone as extreme as in the article or cited by all of you.

My initial impresssion was that the article, like so many in the MSM, reflects a small minority of urban/suburban people living on the East or West Coast within 50 miles of a metropolis. Must be something in the water... I sympathize with all of you if you really have to put up with such nuts, but I don't believe these wacko mamas reflect US society as a whole.

but I don't believe these wacko mamas reflect US society as a whole.

Never said it did, which is why I referred to these groups of women as fringe.

Great post, Michele. I knew it would be great.

Great post, Michele. I totally agree.

I raised two children way back in the 20th century and always felt I would be a success as a mother if they both graduated from college and didn't go to jail. By these standards, I was a success. My kids took ballet and piano lessons, etc., but they spent lots of quality time on the block, playing with the other children. We taught them good table manners and how to behave in public. The only advice I took was from Dr. Spock, who told you, "You know more than you think."

Nowadays kids don't go out and play. They have "playdates." What's the use of living in the suburbs if you have to be matchmaker and chauffeur to your kid? I thought the idea of those cul-de-sacs and quiet streets was so that kids could play ball (unsupervised) and ride their bikes in the street.

I was 23 when I had my first, and was relieved to quit my job. I stayed home and read all the works of Anthony Trollope while the kids were otherwise occupied. Then I read all the novels of George Eliot.

When they were both in school all day, I went back to school and prepared myself for a profession. A new phase of life began.

I have really good friends who fit into both catagories of parenting. Want to guess which one I will call in sick to work to babysit for? (its not the one in the article) I love getting to say things like "the baby learned that dog food is yucky today even though it took him 5 times to figure it out" and have her laugh at it too. (if my reproductive organs would cooperate, I would be telling these stories about my own children but they won't so I have to borrow other peoples kids)

No kids here.. Yet. We are literally (as we found out Sunday after church) the last couple in our huge group of friends not to have children.

No big however. We want them. We'll have them eventually. We want to raise them well. But most of all be there for them with lots of love and support.

Yes, I'll take a class on to get the baby to latch on. Yes, I'll ask my friends what they did/did not do. I may do something similar, may do something different.

But I will never measure my love for my child by how another person's child develops.

I once knew an Amishman with 20 kids. He confessed that after the tenth he stopped trying to memorize their names.

I played with a few of them for a while (throwing rocks at bottles, the Amish version of first-person shooters) and all of them had very good manners, a good sense of humor, and apparently lots of brains and integrity. So really, who cares if the old man doesn't know what to call you?

I'm not a parent but as far as I can see, the best way to mess up your kids is to be extreme about your parenting style, whatever it may be. It's the people who correct their kids in excessive and extreme ways, making them feel worthless, AND the people who find it impossible to correct their kids at all, turning them into little monsters, who do the most damage.

If you love your kids and they know you love them, and you give them some sort of halfway decent example of how to live an honorable life, and you avoid going to VERY far extremes in how you treat them, chances are they'll turn out OK even if you end up making a lot of mistakes.

If the idea of your kids turning out OK just isn't good enough for you, if they have to be in the 99th percentile of everything for you to be satisfied, then you ARE going to seriously screw them up.

I once knew an Amishman with 20 kids. He confessed that after the tenth he stopped trying to memorize their names.

I should think, after the tenth, he should start memorizing the various brands of contraceptives...

cheshirecat

Clue to raising kids:

They ain't wheat.

Michele, great post! I'm so sorely tired of the Mommy competitions that have been brewing for decades I want ... hmmm... well, I guess I should keep the violent thoughts outta your comments! ;-)

A child is still an individual human being and there is no one-size-fits all way of raising them. I've had four and I count it that I've done something right that they are all relatively happy and good human beings. They were never MY excuse to relive MY childhood, so I exposed them to a myriad of opportunities and took my clue from what THEY showed an interest in. IE..Heather was a spectacular soccer player, always on Select teams ...and she was aggressively scouted by a couple of the top club teams in our area. But she hesistated in joining because it meant that she'd have to give up so much else, like music and most the fun times she had with her friends doing other things.

I allowed her the decision to turn down club. Neither of us regret that decision.

Yep... Allah, you're kinda off your rocker. ;) Scheduling the heck out of a child's life isn't doing them any favors.

Anyway, you're right Darleen -- once I had my son, I finally understood it. No matter what you read and how you prepare, if you decide to do things one way, you can be really surprised to find out your infant had other intentions. ;) They come out with their own little personalities. Mine had a particularly opinionated one. ;)

Our daughter is 12 now. For the first year or so, my wife went through exactly the agony you describe - she was so scared of doing something wrong. I kept telling her that parents with a lot less resources and a lot less brains than we had have been raising kids for hundreds of thousands of years, and the human race somehow managed to survive this long. Obviously perfection in parenting is not necessary. In fact the two words are probably antithetical. Oh, and the kid? She's bright, funny, confident, very well-behaved and polite, reads voraciously, gets good grades, and makes me smile every time I see her. (Yes, I know that at 12 a lot of that is about to be hormonally changed, but the same principles apply - relax, it will work out somehow.)