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August 12, 2008

Confessions of an Uptight Mom

Amanda Recently, a few friends packed up their husbands, kids, and tents and headed off to multi-day music festivals. They camped, barbequed, and used slightly-nicer-than-average Porta Potties. My husband, slightly jealous, suggested that perhaps we could try something like that next year. But to me, three nights of throwing the routine to the wind, of not being able to wash grimy hands properly, and of sleeping on the ground – with kids who don’t even sleep when in their respective bed or crib – sounds like hell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve shied away from something that others would find fun. I bailed on a plan to spend a few nights down at the Jersey shore with some friends because I didn’t think I could handle two kids on the beach with no help. We recently ran out of a birthday party early because it was getting dangerously close to bedtime, and I believe that my kids get too cranky when they go to sleep even a half hour late. I plan play dates around naps and I drive my mom crazy when the kids are at her house, insisting that she adhere strictly to my naptime, mealtime, and bedtime schedule.

In other words, I’m an Uptight Mom. Part of me wishes that I could be the easygoing, laid-back kind of parent who brings their kids to late-night concerts or parties and doesn’t worry about next day crankiness. I wish I approached every vacation as an adventure, rather than as a bunch of obstacles to overcome (An upcoming trip, during which we all need to share to share a room, fills me with dread).

But I’m not that mom. I don’t have fun when my kids are overtired and misbehaving. I like adhering to a schedule that ensures – or at least encourages – good moods. Sometimes, I think I should be more easy-going. But then I veer from our routine – I take the kids out to dinner at 6, when they would normally be done eating and in the bath. By bedtime, they are so overtired it takes an extra hour and lots of crying (from them and me) to get to sleep. Last night, my in-laws visited for dinner. I told them to come early if they wanted to see the kids because they’d be in bed by 6:30. They didn’t get here until then, at which point my exhausted daughter refused to talk to anyone and went right to sleep. Ditto for the baby, who wouldn’t take a bottle from anyone but me by then.

People with easygoing kids, people without kids, and those unflustered by melt-downs, may not understand why I am so strict or why I pass on invitations that don’t work with our schedule. But it works for my family, and that’s what matters most of all.

Amanda May is a New York-based freelance writer.

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