I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to have kids as a young woman. I have never been overly maternal, and unless I met someone who was gung-ho about kids, I felt slightly ambiguous about the whole thing. And then I met someone. And he was definitely gung-ho about kids. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that he was just a giant child. My future husband immediately made it clear that he wanted to be a dad someday. So I decided, and we started our family two years after we were married. And my husband was an amazing father.
But during those years before becoming a mother, I had very strong opinions about things I would never do as a parent. It’s funny how non-parents always think they know how they will parent. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. I also find it funny how, as non-parents, we have this list of things we’ll never do, and we always end up doing them. The universe has a funny way of humbling people.
7 Things I Said I’d Never Do As a Parent . . . But Did
1. Screen Time
When I was pregnant with my first, I read all the studies about how screen time was bad for kids before age two.1 I swore I would never let my kids sit in front of a T.V. or play with a tablet before age two. And after the age of two, screen time would be minimal.
And then I had a baby. Suddenly, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse didn’t seem so bad for my 15-month-old. Especially since I could fold the laundry, eat lunch, or clean the kitchen while she was blissfully engaged in her show. Then I had another baby. Suddenly, playing ABC Mouse on an old iPad didn’t seem so terrible. She’s learning her ABCs! Look how smart she is!
Now my kids are older and know how to work the remote control and the iPads better than I do. I do limit their screen time, however. At least I stayed true to that promise to myself!
2. Junk Food
Before I had kids, I swore I would feed them nothing but organic, homemade food and snacks. I even bought the biggest, baddest baby food maker and all the accessories. My homemade baby food making days lasted one whole week. After that nonsense, I took the “easy” way out and implemented baby-led weaning (the best method for introducing solids, in my opinion).
As my kids got older and wanted to try new things, I still felt very strongly about not giving them any processed food. But then, I caved and gave them graham cracker cookies. And once I was on the slippery slope of easy, grab-and-go junk food, there was no going back.
I still do my best to ensure my kids eat healthy, well-balanced, whole foods-based meals. But I am not ashamed to say my freezer is full of nuggets and my pantry is loaded with granola bars—the organic kind.
As a pre-parent, I swore I would never let my kids sleep in my bed. But then I had my first baby and decided to breastfeed exclusively. We set up a little bassinet and a glider in the corner of our bedroom. The plan was to get up and feed her when she needed to nurse. But because karma is a you-know-what, my daughter was very colicky for three months. So there was no sleeping for me if I got out of bed to soothe her every time she cried.
Shortly after she was born, we admitted defeat and moved her into our bed, where she stayed for the next 14 months. Yes, fourteen long, tiring months of co-sleeping. I want to tell you that we loved it. I want to tell you I changed my mind about co-sleeping and how we didn’t want it to end. But I would be lying. We co-slept until I thought I would lose my mind from lack of sleep. And then, it was time to stop co-sleeping and transition her to a crib in her room.
We co-slept for about six months with my son before he transitioned to his crib in his room. So, while I reneged on my commitment to “never” co-sleep, we only did it for a short(ish) time. I can say that once my kids were in their rooms, they were very good independent sleepers. And it made a world of difference in my ability to get quality sleep, too!
4. Let Myself Go
It’s hard to admit this. Before I had kids, I swore I’d never “let myself go.” I even remember silently judging some of my friends who had started having kids and looked a bit worse for wear. In my naivete, I wondered, “How hard could it be to get back into shape after having a baby?!”
Well. I got to learn that lesson the hard way. I had gestational diabetes with my first baby and gained a whopping 70 pounds. Then, after she was born, it just didn’t want to come off. I struggled to lose any weight at all. And I was so utterly exhausted from sleep deprivation that I didn’t care what I looked like anymore. It took a huge slice of humble pie to realize that getting back in shape after having a baby can be very difficult. And I learned to be far less judgy toward my fellow mamas.
This one is also hard to admit because it makes me feel like a terrible parent. I never wanted to be the kind of mom that yelled at her kids. I wanted to be the kind of mom who used a gentle voice and found the magic solution to reasoning with irrational toddlers. Surely, I could find a way to parent without yelling at my children. But as my kids started getting older and more opinionated, rebellious, and whiny, and all the things kids do that trigger a worn-out mama, I found myself yelling.
It’s not something I’m proud of. And it’s not something I want to continue. But I am a yeller, and it will take some work to find a way not to be. I try not to be too hard on myself; there are far worse things than yelling at my kids to PUT ON YOUR SHOES AND GET IN THE CAR! I try to give myself grace, but at the same time, I strive to break the habit of yelling.
6. Bribe With Food
Once, when I was young and hadn’t the first clue about parenting, I witnessed a harried mom bribe her child to stop throwing a tantrum by offering him an ice cream treat. “I’ll never do that,” I thought. “She should just get her kid to obey her.”
I can hear all of you laughing at my naïve former self. Go ahead. I deserve it. I laugh at my old self daily. After seeing that poor mama bribe her kid with food, I swore I’d never do it. And yet, I have caught myself telling my children, “If you behave in Target, I’ll buy you a cake pop at Starbucks on the way out.”
Listen. It works. And while I’m sure there are many psychological reasons why it’s the wrong way to get my kids to behave in Target, I don’t care. Cake pops save my sanity. So there.
7. Spoil Them
Before I had kids, I swore I would never spoil my children. I’d never buy them something just because they wanted it. I’d never buy them any presents outside their birthday or Christmas. I didn’t want my kids to grow up entitled and selfish.
Unfortunately, I didn’t consider that gift-giving is one of my love languages. I show people I love them by giving gifts. It is a legitimate love language but can also be a problem.2 My husband had to have a “talk” with me about my propensity to buy things for the kids randomly, and he was right. I have had to find other, more financially responsible ways of showing my kids how much I love them. And while I’ll always have the urge to spoil them, despite having sworn I never would, I am learning to find other ways to shower them with love.
Before we become parents, we have wonderfully ideal fantasies about how we will “do it right.” It isn’t until we’ve become parents that we realize there is no right or wrong way to parent. And we learn to be careful with the words, “I’ll never do…” because the universe has an uncanny way of making us eat our words later!
What are some things you said you’d never do as a parent but find yourself doing?