Idle Parent Manifesto: Reject the Inner Puritan

This is the sixth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids . Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We reject the inner Puritan.

Want to know why it’s taken Lisa and I awhile to get to another Idle Parent post?  Because we just couldn’t figure out what to do with this topic.  Maybe it’s because we both possess personalities and parenting styles that are so far removed from Puritanical beliefs.  Maybe it’s because we don’t remember much about Puritans from our high school history classes.  I think Lisa sums it up best:

“I’ve never met a Puritan but from what I remember from history class, they didn’t really seem to have a lot of fun. They were good alright, but I don’t think that they got a lot of repeat party invitations.”

To reject your inner Puritan, you first need to summarize what tenets of Puritan beliefs might apply to parenthood.  The basic tenet of American Puritanism is a belief that godly people were sober, hardworking and responsible.  Nothing wrong with that right?

I believe what the author is trying to get across to us as parents, though, is that there can be a belief that if we aren’t serious and on top of things all the time, somehow we’re failures as parents.

I don’t think Puritans had a lot of idle time themselves, and when they did, I’m pretty sure it was spent on self-reflection with good measure of Bible study thrown in.  Again, nothing wrong with a strong work ethic and a good knowledge of your faith.  I don’t know about you, though, but I need a little idle time and I need it to include some reflection on the latest issue of People magazine.

On top of this inner voice that tells you down time be damned, is that voice’s friend, which tells you that it’s cool to be a martyr to parenting.  Yes, you can be sober, hardworking and responsible all the time.  Let’s see if you get any repeat party invitations.  And let’s see if you can uphold those standards and live a life that includes a joyful relationship with your partner and anxiety-free kids.  My hunch is that, if you do, you’re going to spend a lot of your time angry with others who know that it’s okay to take time for themselves.

We all have our moments.  My inner Puritan comes out when I see Mike taking time out to lie on the couch and watch TV while there are perfectly dirty dishes waiting to be washed.  It also comes out when my kids are happily running about in pajama tops, mismatched pants and unbrushed hair, next to perfectly combed and put-together kids.  My inner Puritan comes out and puts her judgy pants on.

The good Puritan thing to do would be to take the opportunity during those moments to scold, to nag, to do whatever we can to rectify the situation and make ourselves appear to be good and responsible.  The better thing, for you and everyone who has to live with you, would be to take a deep breath and let it go.

So tell us, what makes your inner Puritan come out to scold?

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