5 Things I Said I’d Never Do as a Parent Until I Became One
In University, I studied human growth and development. I learned about the dangers of co-sleeping, the risk of obesity in kids who ate too much junk food, and the lack of social skills due to screen time.
So I vowed I would be the perfect mom and follow the latest parenting guidelines. Then I actually became a parent. Every year since I have done almost all the things I said I wouldn’t do. And it doesn’t make me any lesser of a parent. Here are 5 things I said I’d never do as a parent until I became one.
Related: Mom Burnout is Real, Here are 5 Ways to Avoid It
1. Co-Sleep with them
In my child-free days, I imagined my life as a parent. My kids would sleep in their own rooms, in their own beds, every night, throughout the entire night. My husband and I would get a full 8 hours in our own room and everyone would wake up perfectly rested and pumped to take on the day.
Then reality hit. I can’t count the number of times our daughter left her bed, came into our room, stood beside me while I was completely immersed in a Ryan Gosling dream, and spoke directly into my ear, “Mommy! I can’t sleep.”
And instead of ushering her back to her room and risking waking myself up from my lovely fantasy, I’ll just move over and let her climb in. Then our son came along and he won’t sleep unless my husband is beside him, leaving me as the third wheel to get kicked and punched by his tiny yet surprisingly strong fists, elbows, head, and feet.
2. Give into picky eaters by making two dinners
My husband and I are devout foodies and we love trying everything and anything. We hoped and prayed that our kids would have as wide of a palate as us. And it was for a while. When the kids were very little, they ate anything that we ate.
They were still learning how to eat; food was exciting. A slice of multigrain toast with banana and peanut butter was a fascinating experience. However, jumping forward a few years, the open attitude toward food didn’t last.
Now with the ability to vocalize their demands, a stronger attitude, and exposure to all sorts of junk food at their grandparents’ and friends’ houses, my kids have gotten pickier about food. They just will not eat what I make for dinner on some nights.
My husband and I love spicy food and the kids just can’t handle it. I’ll make our favorite spicy Thai curry while heating some grilled cheese sandwiches up. It’s more effort but I’d rather have happy and full kids than hangry ones.
And that’s just how it is sometimes. I’m hoping their tastebuds will change as they get older and they become more adventurous.
3. Yell and swear in front of them
As someone who has worked almost a decade in emergency health services, I’m the type who can perform under pressure, not panic and think clearly during stressful events. I think before I speak and generally, with my kids, I can usually maintain a calm and relaxed composure.
However, there are moments when I just can’t take it anymore. This is usually when I’m hungry, tired, and haven’t had any time to myself to decompress. I will yell and swear. These are not my best moments. I remember the first few times I screamed, my daughter was very afraid of me. Guilt consumed me afterward and I apologized immediately.
Now I tell myself that it’s okay to lose my temper sometimes and to not be so hard on myself. However, it’s a sign that I need to practice self-care and give myself a break.
4. Give them screen time
Before having kids, I secretly judged other parents who gave their kids screen time. I would see a mom whip out her phone to distract her child at a restaurant and I’d think she’s taking the easy way out. Why didn’t she come prepared with toys, scrap paper, and crayons?
Now I completely understand. I’ve let my kids use the iPad to play games, and watch YouTube. Yes, I know some of the stuff they’re watching is junk; however, it distracts them enough to give me time to do the things I need and want to do.
There are nights when it’s just me and the kids and I desperately need to cook dinner, do laundry and get a quick shower in. That hour of screentime I give my kids have been a lifesaver.
I’ll even put YouTube on so I can do a quick yoga and meditation routine in the other room. It refreshes and energizes me so that I can be a more present and kinder mom who yells and swears a lot less (see my previous point).
5. Continue to shop while dealing with a tantrum
Before becoming a mom, I would see parents at the store who would look completely nonchalant while their kids were kicking and screaming, begging them to buy the latest and greatest gadget or toy. How come those parents didn’t seem obligated to leave?
They would continue shopping and putting things in their cart. I would have been completely mortified if my kids behaved like that.
Now I get it. It’s this sacred rule that only parents understand. It’s a deep sense of empathy and sympathy that all parents feel whenever a kid throws a tantrum in a public space.
Parents are busy raising the next generation of humans who will take over the world. We can’t leave because we don’t have time to go to the store again. Let us be, shopping in our zombie-like state and crossing off our neverending to-do lists.
Let our kids express their big emotions. We will get out of your hair as soon as we're done.
Moms don’t always need to be perfect. Vent over in our Mom’s Corner and check out the latest: Should I Feel Guilty if I Hate Being a Mom?
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Katharine is the author of three books, has been published in scientific journals, and has co-authored chapters in health research books.