I Parented Like A Sloth Mom For A Week & Here's What Happened
Who doesn't love sloths? They literally just hang out all day. They are in no rush. And as a busy mom of a 2-year-old daughter who comes (literally) everywhere with me and a 5-year-old son, who has to be rushed to school in the morning, the idea of slowing down is always a welcome one. So naturally, when I heard that there was such a thing as being a sloth mom, I had to give it a try.
The principles of sloth parenting are fairly intuitive. Keep the fuss to the minimum. In fact, keep all energy expenditures to the minimum. This doesn't mean that the children are ignored. In fact, if the children want so glom onto me and hang while I chill/write/binge on Mozart in the Jungle, I'm all for it. If something doesn't have to be cleaned, you don't bother. If you can talk to your kid while putting your feet up, do it. If you can convince your kid to curl up with you instead of making messes and getting in trouble, all the better. As Terri Rupar writes in the Washington Post, sloth parenting is all about what you don't have to do:
To be honest, I was smitten.
I had a sneaking suspicion that I might already be slothing it a bit as a parent. (And, yes, that is now an acceptable verb. I deemed it so.) But I was going to go that extra mile and really cut corners. I was going to parent as much as possible while seated. I was going to lovingly cuddle my kids as much as they wanted, and I was going to let go of the paranoia I often feel that other mothers are way more together than me. All in all, I was just going to focus this week on embracing my not-togetherness.
So I put up my feet and lovingly ignored my children, and here's what happened:
How Sloths Deal With Snow
This experiment couldn't have been timed any better. I'm in the DC area and we were absolutely slammed with snow following Storm Jonas. There was so much snow that I was trapped in my house from Saturday afternoon until Wednesday morning. My kids were obviously trapped with me. And, we all survived, but cabin fever is very, very real.
I was determined not to try and fill my children's time with Pinterest experiments or art projects (which is what I would've normally done to help pass the time). And I was even more determined not to have to take them out in the snow very much. I hate snow. With a fiery passion that burns so hot and yet still doesn't manage to melt any of the snow.
My Facebook feed was inundated with parents taking their kids sledding. Some hiked great distances to find a hill. I'm fortunate that I have a great big hilly field right behind my house, and so I watched from the window as a set of parents actually shoveled a proper sledding chute down the hill because the snow was too deep and powdery to be any fun. Good for those parents. Seriously. Their kids are some lucky children.
Instead, I told my 5 year old that the 2 year old hated the snow (which isn't actually a lie), and that we'd go out eventually. When I did finally let them out, I sat inside behind a glass door, occasionally opening it to remind them to "not go too far" and to "stop throwing snow in your sister's face." I had a book and a mug of hot tea. And I felt so very slothy.
Sloth Parenting Is Surprisingly Similar To Attachment Parenting
Attachment parenting has a reputation for being somewhat hardcore. (The Are You Mom Enough? article being a prime example.) I mean, if you go 100 percent by the book, you basically don't ever put your baby down and you keep them by your side 24/7. And I am most definitely an attachment mom. I basically didn't put my children in containers of any kind (swings, carseats for anything other than car travel, strollers, etc.) when they were first born. They slept with me. They breastfed as much as they liked. They never had to separate from me if they didn't want to. But I want to be clear about something: So much of my attachment parenting decision stemmed from laziness.
You know what's hard? Calming a baby that is super pissed because they're so hungry they're hangry. It's much easier to never let them get hungry. It was also easier for me to care for my children a majority of the time because I was the one that was lactating and whose body was better designed for naps.
I also consider myself a free-range parent. I let my kids come up with their own amusement. I let them settle disputes among themselves unless it comes to the aforementioned bloodshed. (It never does.)
It wasn't that much of a change to spend the afternoon cuddling my 2 year old in bed while I played Plants vs. Zombies with my 5-year-old son. I was cozy. My kids were cozy. I was having fun. They were having fun. If my 2 year old wanted to nurse while I read a book (also in bed), then that's what we'd do. If my 5 year old wanted to build LEGOs, he didn't even check in with me, he'd get them out and play for an hour. (And, let's get real, I cleaned them up after they went to bed because that takes less effort than making him do it. Maybe not the best long-term solution, but I was being a sloth mom! Cleaning it up at all felt unnecessarily virtuous.)
The Makeup Incident
While so much of the week sort of blended together, my daughter found a stash of my makeup. My daughter is obsessed with makeup. I'm honestly not sure where she gets it. If I wear any, it's because I'm feeling extremely fancy.
I always have two options when she finds my makeup: let her play with it or wrestle it from her grasp. But, this week, being a sloth mom, I pretended just not to see that she was getting into it. I could've plead with her. I could have insisted she let me help her, that we put eyeshadow only the eyelids and that we only use the lightest lipgloss. But, no, I was being a sloth mom. So I just let her have at. And boy, did she look fabulous.
Just rolling with the punches was so much easier than getting riled up or trying to intervene. My daughter loves makeup, and to me, there's no harm in letting her play with it from time to time when we're in the house. Of course I'll teach her that she doesn't need makeup, but if she feels great when she's wearing it and we're just having fun, I'm fine with that.
With ordering in off of the table due to all of the snow I was forced to prepare meals myself. I had not been super prepared for being snowed in as long as we were, unfortunately, and I'd only gotten ingredients for a few dinners. But pretty quickly, I was just looking at the pantry and going from there because we were running out of options for meals. When I had used up some of my stores of pasta and jarred sauce, I decided to fix them the ultimate sloth dinner: a bunch of veggies and a hot dog. Maybe it's not exactly with sloths eat, but sloth moms do not get frazzled. So if it meant veggies and hot dogs for dinner, no sweat! We had both.
I heated up some frozen green beans, I washed some cherry tomatoes and I opened a can of corn. I arranged them on the plate in the shape of a face. They each got half a hot dog for protein and that was that. It took about five minutes. And you know what? They were delighted. They never clean their plates, but they did that night.
Sure, making it into a face was almost Pinterest-worthy, but the whole operation took no time or planning.
Our lunches that week were even less planned. I let my kids graze. They have access to oranges and apples, rinsed grapes, and cherry tomatoes. They know how to get the cheese sticks out of the fridge and fruit bars out of the pantry, and only my 2 year old needs any help unwrapping things. And her brother was there to help out.
Movie Nights For The Win
I'm probably not the only mom in the northeast who was having multiple movie nights during the storm. For us, movie nights are maybe a weekly occurrence. They involve eating dinner in front of the TV and maybe some popcorn. Since the kids were into it, I decided we could have movies almost every night of the week.
I'm not saying this is a revolutionary idea, or even that it was particularly slothy of me. Except that normally, once the dinner is done and the kids are happily parked in front of the tv, I run around like crazy trying to get stuff done. But instead, I sat on the couch and either watched with them or I read a book. If my kids wanted to sit on my lap, it was fine. I had some prime snuggling time. And since snuggling and nesting is part of the sloth mom philosophy, I was more than happy to embrace it.
Additional Ways I Slothed
My son doesn't like crusts. I don't like having to make multiple sandwiches. So I cut large areas around the center of the sandwiches I made and fed those to my daughter, who doesn't care. That's not just slothy — it also cuts down on waste!
I taught my 2 year old how to fold laundry. She isn't a pro, but she helped me and had fun. I'll be taking advantage of this in the future. When my daughter had an accident, I let her run around naked for the rest of the day. I got my kids to lie in bed with me to read by letting them choose the music we listened to. It was almost a whole half an hour before they started roughhousing. That's about 25 minutes longer than it normally takes.
I let my kids peel their own oranges. Normally I'm not patient enough and I don't like a trail of peels everywhere, but we had time. Oodles of time. And that kept them busy for at least five minutes.
You know what else we did this week? Pillow. Forts. Lots of them.
Did I Like Being A Sloth Mom?
Really, a lot of this experiment taught me that I'm already a sloth mom in a multitude of ways. The takeaway was more that this isn't something to feel guilty about. Who cares if you look the other way when your kid uses their sleeve as a tissue? This was an exercise in picking my battles.
I also don't think the kids even noticed a difference. We had so much fun time together this week. We also had a nice time when we were in different parts of the house. My kids got to be a little more self-reliant. I discovered that if my daughter is thirsty and asks her brother for water, he'll go to the drawer where we keep the cups and he'll drag a step-stool over to the sink. That type of thing was really lovely to witness. (And it also meant less work for me.)
I definitely learned that my kids could do a lot by themselves when I gave them the time to do it. I guess that won't always work because now that we're dug out of the storm, we have places to go. But I'm going to try not to view the times when I choose to lie on the couch with a book as me "being lazy." It's just me doing something I love. And being cozy. And demonstrating what I would love for my kids to do for fun.
All in all, I will fully embrace my sloth mom tendencies. And I will enjoy how they fit in with free-range parenting and attachment parenting. Every day is a new adventure and each challenge requires flexibility in our parenting style. I'm happy to have gotten to try out sloth parenting during a snow storm, and if we get slammed with snow again, you'd better believe I'm going to enjoy being a sloth mom.