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Rule 20: Take Time For Now

Aug 13, 2008
Carolyn Pleasance is a 38-year-old first-time mom with a two year old, two part time jobs and the best husband she could ever ask for. They have two cars, one cat, and a house that looks like the Little Tykes factory.

When I was a child, I started a list of "Things I'd never do when I had kids of my own." My mom used to laugh as I added yet another item (normally right after a bought of righteous indignation over what I wasn't allowed to do).

I've remembered most of what was on my list, and my son, who's two, has benefited from the careful consideration of my childhood, since it's shaping his. I know that there's a time and place to stay up a little later, that it is okay to jump in a puddle, and that you can stand in front of the TV and not go blind. I also know that carseats are non-negotiable and that love means sometimes having to say "no." Little did I know that I'd let a big "no no" slip by, one I'd never realized existed.

My dad is an avid photographer. I have memories (and photos) of myself, posed at this monument, this flower clock, animal or body of water. Sometimes I'm scowling, sometimes smiling, always standing by the "thing" we've come to see. We went a lot of great places; saw a lot of wonderful things.

Fast forward to my son's firsts: trip to the zoo, trip to the park. There's mommy, taking a million photos, trying to get him to pose with this animal, that monument. There's my little boy, scowling, trying to escape to run, play, explore. He wants to experience the world; it's ALL the "first time" for him. I'm trying to make him have an "Experience" and he just wants to chase the sun across the sky.

We went to a small local zoo when he was about a year and a half old. He'd never seen a camel, a tiger, or a bear. There I stood, next to the enclosure, camera at the ready, waiting for the moment he'd see his first live wild animal. What did my little guy do? Ran past the animals and jumped right into the little climbing car in the playground! His idea of an "experience" was to enjoy what he knew was fun, playing, running, saying words that he'd learned (car, rock, dirt). He wasn't there to see the camels.

I was recreating my childhood, the need to make sure he had an "experience" when we went places. It's too much pressure; nobody has fun when they're trying to have an "experience." The preconceived notion of what he'd get out of it was the one thing I'd forgotten to add to my list of "no's."

My list now includes the rule: let him see things the way he wants to see them. When I try and 'cram' experiences into his life so we can have 'quality time' it actually keeps him from having the real experiences every child should: a mom who's there, playing with him on the jungle-gym, being in the moment, taking time for now.

I know that my mom and dad wanted to ensure that I had a childhood full of travel and family fun, and they did it, while both working full time. As a working mom, I want my son to have the same fun with me, but on his terms. I can't promise not to take a million photos though, that's one great thing I learned from my dad.

As excerpted from "42 Rules (tm) for Working Moms" Super Star Press, 2008.
About the Author
Laura Lowell is the executive editor and author of "42 Rules for Working Moms." She has gathered practical advice and information from working moms all over the world to share with others. She lives and works in Silicon Valley with her husband and two girls. http://www.42rules.com/working_moms/index
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