It’s so easy to parent before the toddler and teen years come along. As you gaze down lovingly at your sleeping infant, you make all sorts of promises to both your child and yourself. But then the toddler years arrive, and you find yourself negotiating in ways that you never imagined.
It doesn’t get any easier as they get older. Life gets incredibly busy, and you find yourself doing or trying just about anything to keep sanity and peace in your family. It’s not that life is necessarily always in constant chaos. It’s just that being a mom and keeping up with all the “shoulds” in life can be a bit exhausting.
At least, this has been the case for me. As women, we set high expectations for ourselves. We think we have to do it all — and do it all really well at that! Over the years, I’ve learned to give myself a break, and it’s been extremely liberating. Here are some of the things I said I’d never do as a parent, but I’m OK that I do.
1. I won’t do fast food for dinner.
I’ve always been a full-time working mom, which makes picture-perfect, homemade dinners a bit of a challenge. I even like to cook! I never thought I would do the drive-thru dinner option, but sometimes you just need to get them fed. And as you’re running from basketball practice to errands to dance, you suck it up and just hit the closest place you can find food. I’ve even been known to do “gas station dinner,” which is basically the kids going into the gas station to pick something out to eat while I pump the gas. Hey, it saves time!
2. I won’t use a housecleaning service.
I’m a pretty thrifty person overall, and I cringe at the idea of paying someone to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. However, I recently discovered the magic of having someone else clean my bathrooms, and it was the most amazing experience. I don’t have the funds to make it a regular thing, but this one is something I wish I would’ve given in to a long time ago.
3. I won’t get more than one pet.
We don’t have time for more than one pet, right? Pets do take a lot of work, but they bring so much joy. I’m currently the proud owner of two dogs, a cat, and multiple fish. I didn’t plan for it, but they certainly help make our house a home.
4. I won't give unsolicited mom advice.
I remember being pregnant and having an infant, and there were so many people who would give me completely unsolicited advice. Some of it was good, but honestly, a lot of it was annoying. Now I have to watch myself saying to a parent, “Well here’s what worked for me…” I try to wait until someone asks for advice before I offer up wisdom, but sometimes I find myself slipping.
5. I won't wear yoga pants as real pants.
Yeah... so this one is hard. I always thought I’d wear only real pants in public. But I’ll admit that I’ve gone to evening basketball games or early morning activities in my yoga pants. They’re just so comfy.
6. I won't let my kids eat in front of the TV.
This one I’m not proud of, but yes, sometimes my kids eat in front of the TV. I do try to enforce a “no TV and no electronics” when I can, but sometimes we’ll belly up and watch a show together while we’re having a bite to eat.
7. I won't let my kids eat in the car.
This one should come right after the one about fast food for dinner, because you almost can’t have one without the other. If you go through a drive-thru for a quick bite to eat, then you’re pretty much stuck with eating in the car. Or those long road trips — yeah, you just do what you can.
8. I won’t drive a minivan.
Even though the minivan years are now behind me, I proudly had one for several years, complete with a DVD player for those long road trips. The extra leg and cargo room can’t be beat, and it definitely made our travels a lot easier.
9. I won't let my kids have cell phones.
The cell phone age is upon us, whether we like it or not. I tried to hold out on letting my kids have their own phones, but at ages 12 and 14, they’re now both equipped. As a way to counteract this, we all try to challenge each other with having down time at dinner, before bed, and just in general. I talk a lot to my kids about how electronics affect our brains, and I strive for a balance with both them and myself.
10. I won’t swear in front of my kids.
This one is a noble goal, but I didn’t stand a chance. I wish there were more to say here or an excuse I could give, but I can’t. Sorry.
11. I won't get involved in their business.
Helicopter parenting makes me cringe, and I hate the idea of getting overly involved in their business. But every once in a while, I know it happens. My son will say, “Mom, stop asking me about it. You already asked me like three times.” I’m still working on that one.
12. I won't let my kids bring people beer.
I live in Wisconsin, where beer is part of the culture. Yet I grew up in a dry county in Oklahoma. When I had kids, I swore they’d never be allowed to fetch a beer for family or friends, sitting around the campfire or just at a backyard party. Yeah — that didn’t last. I think at the age of 4, my daughter was even making 50 cents per trip.
If you have high standards for yourself as a mom, I’d encourage you to give yourself a break from time to time. Sure, we can aspire for greatness. Let’s all feed our kids organic food, always get to bed on time, and have quality family time each and every night. Or if we’re being realistic, let’s do those things when we can and not be our own worst critics during the other times. Good luck, moms!
Stacy Tornio is the author of The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book and the mom of two adventurous kids. Together, they like planning vacations centered around the national parks.