The Lazy Momma Manifesto: The Guilt-Free Guide to Lazy Motherhood
11 reasons why I am proud to be a lazy momma.
When I tell mothers in my classes that I am a lazy mom they laugh and seem a little embarrassed to hear me say this. As someone who teaches parenting classes, helps mums with breastfeeding and promotes gentle and attachment parenting principles, they assume I couldn't possibly be serious. Obviously I am not really a lazy mom—I work really hard to be the best mom I can be for my kids (just as you do). But I can honestly say that parenting my kids in an “Attachment Parenting” or gentle parenting approach often involved the least amount of work, and here is why:
1. Co-Sleeping: My babies slept with me because I believed that it was best for them and best for our breastfeeding success. But it also meant that I got more sleep. I could snooze and nurse and snooze some more and never had to actually get out of bed or even awaken myself—often for as long as 12 hours at a stretch! The research backs me up that mothers who breastfeed and co-sleep with their babies actually get more sleep than formula-feeding mothers and mothers who put babies in another bed. All I knew was that my friends who went to great lengths to get their babies sleeping alone in a cot in a separate room worked much harder at night than I was ever willing to do. Even when I got really fed-up with 2-hourly night feeds, I was just too lazy to attempt to follow the mind-bogglingly difficult instructions on how to train my baby to sleep alone. Eventually each of my girls night-weaned and moved out of my bed, but I can’t really tell you how it happened. I think I was asleep!
2. Laid-back breastfeeding: As a midwife and breastfeeding counselor I taught mothers all the standard breastfeeding positions such as cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, clutch hold and side-lying. But with the arrival of my own baby, I very quickly discovered that sitting upright or keeping myself balanced on my side was way too much work for a lazy momma such as myself, especially at night. While breastfeeding every 2 hours around the clock, I figured out that reclining on a pile of comfy pillows meant that I could relax my entire body and my baby could latch herself and stay there without any effort on my part. I shared this discovery with some of my patients, though I was a little embarrassed to be “breaking the rules” of breastfeeding positioning. Much to my surprise, this position, known as “laid back breastfeeding,” “natural breastfeeding” or "biological nurturing,” is now believed to be the optimal position to take advantage of baby’s reflexes and mother's instinctive breastfeeding abilities,. I know some mothers are reluctant to nurse in this position, as other people (read mother's-in-law) perceive them as being lazy. Once again, lazy seems to work best for everyone when it comes to mothering!
3. Saying “no” to sleep training: Even when I got fed-up with breastfeeding all night, I still didn’t let my kids "cry-it-out." Don't get me wrong--like most sleep-deprived parents, I did consider it at certain points. I resisted partly because I believed it couldn't be good for my babies, but the other reason I didn’t do it—I’m much too lazy! Sleep training is hard work both in terms of time and energy spent, and in terms of fighting your natural instincts to prevent your child from screaming their guts out. Cry-it-out advocates will tell you to harden your heart and stop worring even if the little one cries so hard they vomit in their bed. You might believe that these people are tougher than me, in addition to being less lazy, but it turns out that many of the most famous sleep trainers never had kids of their own. Listening to another person’s baby cry is a lot less work than listening to your own baby cry. And lots of experts will back me up on the dangers of cry-it=out sleep training. Thanks to my laziness, my kids were spared from the stress and trauma of being left to cry it out alone, and now they are happy, confident kids who sleep great—without my needing to "train" them!
4. Sleeping when the baby sleeps. Everybody tells new parents to do this, but nobody actually does it-except me! As I said, I co-slept with my babies and my first daughter pretty much refused to sleep without me. When my husband observed one day that I was exceptionally cranky from an particularly long night of nursing, I decided to give in to both of them and took a nap with my baby. I felt so great afterwards, and my baby napped so well, I resolved to nap with her every day. And that's what I did, right up to the point she gave up naps at age 2 and a half. I didn’t have the same luxury with number 2 (nor did she insist upon it so strongly) but I did sneak in a nap with her whenever possible. Why everybody doesn’t take advantage of this perfect (and temporary) excuse to get a nap everyday, I’ll never understand. But if it is because you are too busy running around trying to clean your house or keep up with your Facebook posts, I wish I could write you a prescription for at least one lazy momma nap with your baby each day—trust me, you won't regret it What I wouldn’t give to have one more nap with a sweet-smelling, slightly sweaty, snuggly little baby!
5. Exclusively breastfeeding: I had a lot of education about breastfeeding as a midwife, so it may have been easier for me than many, but I found nursing SOOOO much easier than formula-feeding (at least based on what I saw when watching my friends). Buying the tins, boiling the water, mixing the bottles, having to get it to the right temperature while their hungry baby screamed, then dealing with the tummy upset, skin rashes and health problems from formula, was all much too much work compared to whipping out a boob and throwing a baby on. Even when I had struggles (a nursing strike at 4 months, all-night nursing binges for at least a year, teething babies who didn’t yet know that nibbling on nipples causes pain) I knew that I was much too lazy to succeed as a formula-feeding mom. So neither of my girls ever so much as tasted formula, and thus avoided all the hazards associated with it.
6. Breastfeeding toddlers: Each of my kids nursed for about 2 and a half years. This was largely because they loved it so much and I knew how good it was for them, but also it was because it was such a useful tool for a lazy mom, I just didn’t want to give it up (even when I kind of did). Breastfeeding helped me quickly settle busy little toddlers to sleep, helped me easily comfort them when they were sad, angry, or suffering from a boo boo, and it meant that even when they were ill and refusing to eat anything, I knew that they were still getting fluids and nutrition. Also, the first year of nursery wreaked such havoc on their health that I didn’t want to give up the immune properties of breast milk too early. To be totally honest, the main reason I kept breastfeeding so long was that I wasn’t ready to give up my daily naps (see above!). And I was right—as soon as I stopped breastfeeding, my eldest turned her back on naps completely and never looked back again. A sad day for this lazy momma!
7. Babywearing: The toughest outing with a baby I ever took was the first time I tried to wrestle my expensive stroller in and out of my car, up and down curbs, and through crowded shops and too narrow doorways. I remember standing in the mall car park while my baby and I both wept in frustration, exhaustion, and rage, seriously considering abandoning the cursed buggy there forever Once I gave up on the pram and carried my baby in a sling or wrap, things got easier. I had my hands free, my baby was happy and slept quietly, and I even got some exercise while I strolled around the shops, or outside, or even just around my house. As the baby grew my strength also grew so that I could still tote kids around on my back when they were 3-years old.. Babywearing was an exceptionally lazy momma boon when I had my second daughter--I can't even imagine how one takes care of a baby AND a toddler without a baby carrier! The pram wasn't a total waste of money--it came in quite handy as a method for transporting beach and baby gear when we went on family outings, all while baby or toddler rode happily in the sling.
8. Baby-led weaning: Such a concept did not exist when I was introducing solids to my daughter back in 2005, but since she hated everything about purees and spoon-feeding we ended up inventing this approach together. As a lazy mom I absolutely hated slaving over homemade baby food only to have her turn up her nose and I resented having my day revolve around “feeding the baby.” As soon as Annabelle Karmel said she was old enough to have finger foods I happily discovered that she would eat anything I placed in front of her. It was lazy momma heaven-she would feed herself bits of whatever I was eating, while I enjoyed my own meal! I ended up using the same approach with daughter number 2, even though she didn’t mind being spoon-fed. Letting her feed herself whatever I had fixed for the toddler was so much simpler than dealing with baby food and making two meals! If only I hadn’t been so lazy I might have written the book that coined the term baby-led weaning and started the current revolution in baby feeding, which is now believed by many to be a healthier way to introduce solids to your baby right from 6 months.
9. Putting kids to bed early: I discovered fairly quickly that things go better when my kids (and I) get enough sleep. They are happier and healthier when they get to bed at a reasonable time, bedtime is actually easier when they are not over-tired, and truth be told, I am pretty much done being a parent by 7pm. Even today my kids are generally in bed by 7 or 7:30, though they are now allowed to read quietly before having to turn lights out and go to sleep. When we do keep them up for a special occasion both my kids have been known to beg to be put to bed! As a lazy mom I suppose I am raising lazy kids, but it works for all of us and the research again backs me up on the value of getting enough sleep.
10. Asking for help: Many new mothers are loathe to ask for help when it comes to caring for their little ones, because they feel they should be able to do it all. As a lazy momma I had no interest in doing it all, and I felt that both my kids and my husband would benefit from knowing that Daddy also has something to offer them. It took him some time, but given plenty of opportunities to care for the kids he got really good at it. I’m a morning person and he is a night owl, so for pure practicality alone we have managed to split up the long days of parenting responsibilities. We have always shared the tasks of cooking, bathing, putting to bed, getting up with, comforting and playing with our girls. It’s great for all of our relationships, and it means that I get to be lazy and guilt-free a little more often. Again, the research backs me up that the time daddy spends caring for little ones benefits all members of the family. We have also always been lucky enough to have full-time househelp so we can concentrate our time on meeting the kids’ needs and can BOTH be lazy when it comes to maintaining the house (a lazy luxury of raising kids in the Gulf)!
11. Lots of down-time: Now that my kids are growing up, my laziness can reach new bounds. They weaned many years ago, they sleep through the night on their own, and they can now feed themselves, dress themselves and even clean up after themselves (not that they want to.) The ways that my laziness benefits them now? We do NOT overschedule them: I absolutely refuse to spend my time shuttling kids to classes, lessons or playdates, and the research backs me up on this one—it isn’t good for anyone! If they have an activity that they absolutely love and we can fit it into our schedule without wearing anybody ragged, then we will do it—but only one per term. We all do best when we have lots of chilled out family time to do absolutely nothing (what a lazy family!)
My rationale for the benefits of laziness when it comes to parenting? It reflects the way we evolved to parent our kids as a human species. Our ancient ancestors weren't reading parenting books nor watching parenting TV shows that told them that they were doing things all wrong and creating "bad habits." They followed their instincts and did whatever they needed to do to both keep their kids safe and preserve everyone's energy for basic survival. We can try to fight these primal instincts, but it takes a huge amount of effort and isn't always successful. Let's face it, babies and toddlers have not evolved much at all over the thousands of years of human existance. If fighting their need for you takes too much time and effort, probably it is not something you are meant be fighting. Just give in, snuggle up, and practice being lazy together!
UPDATE: My babies are now young adolescents, and it gets harder and harder to be a "lazy momma" as they need me to drive them to their many activities. We still practice laziness, though, and protect our down time, and try to go with the path of least resistance whenever possible. And the good news is that my big kids now help out a lot and do so many of the things that used to make motherhood so terribly exhausting. They even cook and clean a bit now! I wanted to update you to let you know once again that I have never once regretted all that lazy mothering--the co-sleeping, the baby wearing, the constant and prolonged breastfeeding. I would like to assure you that far from being "spoiled" or having "bad habits" my kids thrived under that kind of parenting and grown to be strong, independent young women who are comfortable in their own skins, are happy to follow their own hearts rather than the "trends" and peer pressure of middle school and high school, and are still some of the nicest, kindest more empathetic people you will ever meet--much nicer than either me or my husband, so we are not sure how that happened! Be confident in trusting your babies and your instincts, and in embracing lazy motherhood--you will not be led astray!
How have you embraced laziness as a mother and how has it benefitted your kids? I would love to hear your suggestions on how I can take my “lazy mommaness” to the next level!
Good luck and go take a nap!