I think Type A moms get a bad rap, personally. We’re not neurotic or obsessive-compulsive, we're just driven and motivated by accomplishing something the right way, the first time. In other words, we're ambitious and, in my case, we become frustrated when we screw up. There are mistakes every Type A Mom will make, because Type A doesn't mean perfect, so while it's difficult to come to terms with the fact that we will all, inevitably, screw up, we need to embrace the mistakes we make. In the end, and for me, failure is a teachable moment (once I’m done having a little fit about it, of course).
I have another self-diagnosed Type A mom for a friend, and we joke that we could cut our work days down to five hours, or less, and be just as productive. Efficiency drives our parenting style. For a while, I was only buying reversible clothes for my kids. What could possibly be better to a Type A mom than being able to flip a kid’s shirt inside out after an epic spill, and having them look like nothing’s gone wrong?
However, and no matter how hard we may try to avoid them or pretend they don't exist, spills happen. Accidents are a way of life, especially with my two kids in tow, and as much as the Type A in me lunges to gain control, I have to take a backseat when my plans backfire. It would be a waste of energy if I lamented every parenting mistake I made in the name of trying to “get it right.” That’s why I think the following foibles I make as a Type A mom are perfectly OK. It is in these moments, when I’m forced to slow down and do a reality check, I am forced to accept that my way may not always be the best way. I’ll never be finished learning how to be a parent, and these mistakes are proof.
Three changes of clothes? Check. Full package of wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel? Check. The contents of my bulging diaper bag could have seen my whole family through a week in a bunker. I would like to blame the manufacturers of these bags; if they didn’t trick them out with so many cool little pockets and velcro straps to hold all the things, maybe I wouldn’t have tried to bring all the things. However, by the time I had a second kid, I learned to downsize. It didn’t totally put my mind at ease, knowing that I only had one diaper on hand for my kid, but I was no longer sweating up the subway steps, shlepping a 10-pound sack on my back on the off-chance the zombie apocalypse was around the corner.
A mommy and me book club? I’m in. A neighborhood babysitting co-op? Sign. Me. Up. I am mom, hear me roar.
At least, that was my attitude until I started doing all the things I signed my mommy-self up for. No human can raise another human while being an active participant in every single parenting group that sent her an invite. I learned to be judicious with my time and say politely decline invites to things I knew I couldn’t follow through with consistently. After all, if you’re truly a Type A you would totally feel bad if you let anyone down by canceling. Best not to sign up, so you don’t have to back out.
You can’t know too much when it comes to raising kids, right? Um, turns out you can. For every subject (attachment parenting, co-sleeping, redshirting, baby-led weaning), there are pros and cons. You can make a case for any angle on practically any parenting topic.
I would read and research and poll and I collected a ton of info. This was all good, because I was totally prepared with facts (and rants and opinions). But ultimately, the decisions my partner and I make for our kids have to be tailored for our values and way of life. There were some very good public schools we wanted to send our daughter to, for example, but they were in another borough of the city. Just because they seemed perfect for her, didn’t make them perfect fits for our family (as we would have no practical way to get her there and back every day). Facts don’t tell the whole story. Instinct and quality of life have been, for us, the best guidelines to inform the decisions we make for our family.
Overestimating Our Energy Level
As a Type A mom, my to-do list can get unwieldy. I typically end each day cursing myself that I couldn’t get it all done. This is a valuable lesson. I’m starting to pare down my daily goals and weekend plans. We used to try to maximize our time on Saturdays and Sundays by planning back-to-back activities. This totally defeated the point of recharging on weekends. Now, we dedicate one day to activities and make no plans (other than laundry and movie night) for the other day. And my to-do list contains no more than five items because #sanity.
Underestimating Our Kids' Competency
Type A moms like me have this passive-aggressive mantra, along the lines of, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” It’s true, of course, or at least most of the time. However, if you want your kid to eventually do something right, you have to let her do it (and keep doing it) and even though it just kills you to watch a child attempt a task — tying shoes, brushing teeth, using scissors (for art, not malice) — only to have it executed way below your standards, you just have to let it happen.
I had no idea my 6-year-old daughter was capable of making her bed until she asked to do it, herself. It was a crumpled mess, but she had the right idea and eventually she perfected her skill. Type A moms have a tendency to forget that other people can be good at stuff too. That’s OK. It’s a freeing feeling to know we are not the only ones in the house who can change a pillow case.
Checking In Constantly
I learned quickly not to pepper conversations between my school-aged kids with too many questions. It had a diminishing rate of returns, as they were undeniably annoyed by my interest. After I grew bitter and frustrated with their non-responsiveness, I learned I had to change my approach. I couldn’t just dive into a line of questioning; I needed to contextualize it. It helped when I would share my own stories about school. They loved hearing about what I did as a kid, and they couldn’t help but chime in with their own anecdotes. So I got answers to the dreaded, “What did you do at school today?” question, without even asking it.
Providing Too Much Structure On Playdates
There were crafts, then clean-up, then snacks, then board games, then dress-up. I didn’t want to risk having unoccupied hands starting trouble in my house. While this tactic sort of worked (though mostly fell apart after snacks) for my kids and their friends when they were younger, I found that once they were in kindergarten, they didn’t need so much supervision. In fact, it was better for the kids to be left alone in their room (with the door open, of course), and given two rules: hands to yourself, and no standing on the furniture.
When they were hungry, they came out for snack. Self-governing their own playdates turned out to be a crucial milestone for both my kids (and me). They learned that if they behaved, they could be left alone, and I learned that if I left them alone, they often behaved. (Although I would come running to check on them if things were too quiet for too long.)
Obsessing Over Laundry
Seriously, why bother folding everything? Kids’ clothes are so tiny, and mostly stained, so as long as they’re clean, why do they have to be stacked in neat piles? I realized I could just roll my baby’s onesies and they would look sort of organized in the drawer. It satisfied my drive to be orderly, while saving me time.
Fussing Over Our Kids' Appearance
My strong-willed daughter has had fierce opinions on her outfits since she was two years old. I learned, and early on, that it was a battle simply not worth having with her, as long as her clothes were climate-appropriate. Inside, I cringed at the sight of her in mismatched socks and clashing prints.
Even today, at age eight, she is still mixing patterns, embracing her inner Punky Brewster. As garish as these looks are, they’re actually kind of inspiring. She’s not trying to conform to anyone else’s idea of what she should wear. She dresses in what makes her feel good about herself, and it doesn’t get more stylish than that.
Reviewing Their Homework
This can’t be a mistake because we want our kids to do well in school, right? Well, sort of. In the first couple of years of school, I would check my kids’ homework, just to make sure it was completed, as I was not yet home from work when they would do it. Every now and then, I noticed my kindergartner had missed filling in an answer and I’d ask him to complete it. Fine.
However, by the time my older daughter was in third grade and moved on from “early education” (encompassing kindergarten through second grade), I knew it would be more of a help for her, in the long run, to not have me as a safety net when it came to her work. It’s important to do well in school, but it’s also important, I think, to learn how to manage your time, priorities, and focus. I simply ask my daughter if she finished her homework now, but I don’t check it. If she gets something wrong or forgets to do an assignment, that is on her. It kills me, but having her go through the pain or discomfort of getting a bad grade (not because she didn’t understand the material, but because she didn’t check her own work) is a great way to galvanize her to pay attention to detail in the future, and safeguard her against those kinds of mistakes. If she knew I was going to rifle through her homework folder every night and remind her to finish things, she’d never learn to depend on herself.
Comparing Ourselves To Other Moms
Otherwise known as, “Why I Stopped Following Celebrity Moms On Social Media.” I was just setting myself up to fail, especially when a perfect pic of Alyssa Milano breastfeeding her baby popped up. She was so beautiful and in the moment and that never felt like me. It’s hard, as a Type A personality, to not constantly compare yourself to others. After all, I can’t be the best if I don’t know how I’m measuring up.
Thankfully, I’ve become less of a Type A because I’m a parent. Motherhood has shed a light on the futility of comparison. It’s one thing to crowdsource advice on how to get your kid to stick to a nap schedule, but it’s something entirely different (and pointless) to judge yourself on how quickly your kid falls asleep. That isn’t what makes a good mother. Once I stopped looking at parenting as a competition, I enjoyed comparing notes with fellow moms. I no longer felt like I had to “win” at motherhood. We were in this together.