Mothers practice several types of self-preservation. Sometimes, our self-preservation comes in the form of inviting a friend over so that we can download our lives on each other. Other times, we save our sanity with a text message to our partners asking if they will pick up dinner — again. We’ve all occasionally survived on five-minute increments of alone time behind a locked bathroom door. I have personally preserved my “self” by taking a bath, drinking some wine, making a phone call, laughing at a movie, fixing my hair, going for a run, or eating ice cream. But sometimes self-preservation comes from becoming a “Lobotomy Mom.”
I’m not talking about a real lobotomy, of course. The practice of separating the two sides of your brain with a well-placed ice pick in the eye socket is not really in style anymore. I first heard the term “Lobotomy Mom” from a friend’s therapist, who was trying to help her figure out how to handle her younger kids arguing with each other. She said, “Stop. Remove your brain from thinking. Become a Lobotomy Mom.”
I see becoming a Lobotomy Mom as the act of temporarily shutting off that part of your brain that says you should jump in to save, protect, guide, steer, or otherwise add your input into what your children are doing.
This is a crazy notion, I know, and I find this as hard to do as anyone else. But here are some times when we could all practice being a Lobotomy Mom and, in turn, help ourselves remain sane.
1. When your kids are having a disagreement
I have noticed that when my kids are arguing (and there isn’t blood being shed) that they tend to work it out much faster if I keep my opinions to myself. When I come in, their focus shifts from trying to convince each other they are right, to trying to convince me. It would be like if a marriage counselor came in every time you were having an argument with your spouse.
2. When they are working on homework
I don’t actually understand their homework anymore, so this is just best for everyone. And God help me if I try to explain anything the way I learned it because I will use the wrong language and do the wrong things and just be wrong.
3. When they are getting dressed
This is the battle I have the hardest time stepping back from. But really, if they want to look like a total weirdo, it’s on them, and I have had to let this go.
4. When they are cleaning their rooms
First of all, kids are crap at cleaning and will never do it the way you will (the right way). But if they don’t ever get the chance to do it, then they will always be crap at it.
5. When they are playing quietly
Do you ever find yourself saying, “Huh, it’s so quiet. I wonder what the kids are up to”? If your child is old enough to not be sticking things in an electrical outlet or shoving coins up their nose, then let them be. I often have to tell myself this.
6. When they are doing something dangerous, but not life-threatening.
I believe that before children become adults, they should be able to climb a tree, whittle with a pocket knife, deconstruct an appliance, ride a bike down a huge hill, walk on a slackline, and shoot a bow and arrow. I did all of these things, and I believe I am robbing them of something if I can’t let go of my own fears.
7. When they want to play with someone at the playground, but it’s not going well
It’s absolute torment to watch your child be unsuccessful in finding a friend. Torment. I have stood at playgrounds and watched both of my kids ask another kid to play, only to be rejected. I can give them skills, words, and confidence, but I can’t make a friend for them. I have to detach my brain.
8. When they won’t wear their coat
My son once had to stay in at recess because he didn’t want to bring his coat that day. But he has never complained about wearing a coat again. Mission accomplished.
9. When they are doing something creative
Kids’ brains are so weird. If you allow them to wave their creative freak flags, they will produce some fascinating stuff. We all have to stop ourselves from wanting the sky to be blue and the grass green and the frogs with only one head.
10. When they are doing something you asked them to do
Even if they are doing it totally wrong. Stop thinking. Just let them do it horrifically wrong. It’s good for both of you.
We could all use a little brain separation from our kids now and then, and I vow to lobotomize my mom brain more often. They might learn how to take care of themselves a little bit more, and we might start to have a life that doesn’t revolve around them. If we all preserve our “selves,” then we will have a lot more to give anyway.