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How Do Over-Achieving Parents Justify It?

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How do over-achieving parents justify their behavior? That's the question I've been pondering this week.

Lots of blogs, columns and articles cite the dangers of over-parenting, even as we -- admit it -- admire the dedication the over-parenters put in.

We resent their cupcakes, even as we're impressed with the time and talent it must have taken to make them. And then we make ourselves feel better about not doing that extra work by rejecting their efforts. It's become quite en vogue to brag about how much we don't do for our children.

A bunch of my friends were sharing this post last week.

The writer, a dad, was admonishing moms to stop going overboard with the crafts because the non-crafty parents find the pressure to craft exhausting. As a non-crafting, free range-ish parent myself, I loved what he had to say ... at first.

I take cupcakes to the school for kids' birthdays, but they're the generic ones that have the little My Little Pony or Pokemon rings shoved into the top by someone who makes $9 an hour at the grocery store.

I don't do goody bags. Ever. At all. For any reason.

It has never even occurred to me to volunteer as the "Room Mom," and I've never chaperoned a field trip.

But as I read his post, I felt bad for the over-achievers. What if some of these parents are crafting and baking and volunteering not out of a sense of pressure, but because they (gasp!) enjoy it?

I'm not an over-achieving mom. My kids look like crap most days when I send them off to school. My daughters had bows in their hair exactly none times this school year. Most days, their clothes don't match. Sometimes, one of my kids will get off the bus in the afternoon and I'll notice that he or she (both of my school-aged kids are guilty of this) has had their pants on backward for the entire day, and not in an intentional Kris-Kross way.

It's common for my kids' lunches to contain enough Red #40 that they ought to glow like beer signs in a honky tonk when they sleep. I bought bento boxes on a whim one day  -- and then filled them with goldfish, fruit snacks and Uncrustables.

But once upon a time, I made homemade cards. Lots of homemade cards. Back then, a good friend was selling the stamps and fancy papers and other paraphernalia that homemade card making requires.

She would host these night-time events where a bunch of us would sit around a table, drink wine and laugh while we followed my stamp-selling friend's instructions for using glue dots, bits of paper lace and odd-shaped scissors to commemorate our cousins' baby's christening. (None of my cousins are Catholic.)

My husband was deployed then, and I had a toddler. Those nights were the highlight of my social life, and the crafting was therapeutic.

But I've also been known to visit the fabric store to spend $90 on yards of fabric, buttons and patterns to make dresses for my girls that I could have bought for $15. I crochet blankets for friends' babies and hats for my kids to wear during winter. (We live in Florida. "Winter" lasts about a week.)

And I really love to bake -- though I'm horrible at the decorating. The homemade Thomas the Tank Engine Cake I made for my son's third birthday looked like Cookie Monster had mated with Jay Jay the Jet Plane -- and then crashed into the side of a mountain.

My point? We all do this parenting thing differently. We all find our joy in different places. That super crafty mom we want to label as an over-achiever probably feels like she's under-achieving in other areas of her life.

Just be kind to each other. One parent's decision to glue googly eyes onto a Reese's cup has absolutely no bearing on you. If crafting isn't your gift or desire, then don't craft. Just don't tell her she shouldn't, either.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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