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Son Competes for Attention with Mom's Business

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son is four years old and very, very active. I have a small gift basket business that I feel has saved me from losing it by giving me something I love to do. I don't want to give this up, but my son competes for my attention even though I spend plenty of time with him. However, if he is my only focus, I will lose my mind. Can't I do both and well?

A: I am delighted that you have found a business that makes you feel good (and makes you some money). Not many people really feel that great about their jobs. You also clearly take your parenting seriously and want to give your boy the best of what you have to offer. That's the good news. The uncomfortable news is that trying to do both things well is driving you to distraction (to put it mildly). Can you have it all? I don't think so, under the present arrangement. It sounds like your son is home all or most of the time you are also trying to run your business. Trust me, a four-year-old is not and should not be expected to leave mommy alone for long periods of time because she needs to run her business. All he can truly comprehend at this age and stage is that mommy is home and he wants your attention. He can't understand why you wouldn't give it to him as much as he wants. After all, you probably did give him loads of attention before the business, right?

My direct advice is to find ways for yourself to continue to run and grow your business while you establish a different, satisfying child care arrangement for your boy. You know you will be a better mommy to him if you are being fulfilled yourself; if you keep up this present arrangement it seems like you are not going to be the mommy you want to be or the creative gift basket person you want to be. You and your son both suffer in this present arrangement. Whether it's a part- or full-time good preschool arrangement, or a cooperative baby-sitting arrangement, or your renting some space outside the home while someone comes in and takes care of him for certain periods of the day, you need to make finding an alternative arrangement a top priority. Don't feel guilty about not being there for your son 24 hours a day; I bet he will get all the love and great mothering from you he needs in this new arrangement. You do have choices here (unless economically you can't consider any other arrangement) that will only improve life for you and your boy; the transition may be bumpy but I'm convinced you'll both ride it out and have a much smoother ride ahead.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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