We were all the best parents before we had kids, weren’t we? We just knew everything and there are so many things moms swear they’d never do. I know I did. I would never have kids zoned out on screens; we’d do something educational and outdoors every day. With healthy snacks in our pockets. And those screaming kids in the grocery store? My kid would never. How naive were we?
We think we know how it’s all going to go, and then a tiny human is placed in our arms, and we learn pretty quickly that many of those ideas we had to fly out the window. If you’re like me, you realize that you should never have judged that mom with the screaming kid in Target or the parents who let their kids zone out an entire day on screens. But now we know—because we’re breaking all our rules to get through the day. Here are 20 things moms swear they’d never do but did.
Feeding our children is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. From the early baby days to the hangry toddler years when they meltdown because their tummies are rumbling, their anger at not having dinner on the Olaf plate overrides their desire to eat. It’s super fun. Years and years of sheer joy. Here are a few things moms swear they’d never do when feeding their kids, but guess what? They do now.
1. Make Multiple Meals to Appease Picky Eaters
Because you know what? We just want them to eat. If making cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, AND a plate of eggs with baby carrots gets everyone to fill their bellies so they’ll sleep peacefully, that’s precisely what some of us will do.
2. Feed Their Kids Fast Food
We know you’ve got to get one kid to T-ball practice and the other to dance, and you have a 16-minute window to find dinner. Or you need a night off and know your kids will happily scarf down McDonald’s without whining. No judgment here.
3. Forget to Feed Them Dinner
I remember once, after a particularly LONG day, I sat down with a glass of wine at 5 p.m. and took a much-needed minute for myself. I flipped on Netflix and let the kids tear the basement apart. Except that, at 9 p.m., they came upstairs asking, “When is dinner?” Oops.
4. Watch Them Eat Food Off the Floor
I know, I know. Gross. But at one point in your young child’s life, they’re going to reach down and grab a Cheerio off the floor and eat it, and the world won’t end. One shining moment for me was when my kid dropped his entire hotdog on the ground at a baseball game. You can imagine how dirty the ground is. But we waited half an hour for food and finally just sat down. My husband and I were trying to enjoy 20 minutes of baseball before someone had to go potty, so we didn’t notice he’d dropped it until we saw him pick it back up and take a bite. Were we mortified? Yep. But he survived and is a thriving teenager today.
We will sleep-train! We won’t sleep-train! They’ll sleep through the night at six weeks. We’ll hold them all night if they are fussy, and we’ll turn into zombies if we must. But they kind of run this ship, don’t they? Here are two “rules” moms swear they’d never do in the “sleep” category but usually break early on.
5. Letting Them Sleep in Mom’s Bed
Lots of parents out there have no intention of co-sleeping. Then their kid screams all night unless they are in Mom’s bed, so guess what? Now you co-sleep. I get it. My first two were rarely in my bed. My third was climbing into bed beside us until he was nearly six — nightly. We just wanted to sleep (and for him to sleep), so we did it, knowing he’d eventually grow out of it. And he did.
6. Laying with Them Until They Fall Asleep
How many of you knew, before having kids, that you’d be laying on the floor next to your child’s toddler bed, using a tiny 2-foot by 2-foot blanket for “warmth,” waiting for the minute you could crawl your way out to freedom? I sure didn’t. But was that my life for years? It sure was.
Parenting in Public
Okay, let’s talk about our rules about how we’d parent in public. Did you picture a Mary Poppins-esque parade of adorably dressed, happy children holding hands and skipping down the sidewalk on their way to church or Grandma’s house? You likely ended up 15 minutes late, dripping with sweat while you wrestled your 3-year-old into his car seat because he can “do the buckle all by himself.” And you just realized you forgot to brush your teeth, and the baby pooped up her back. So yes, we all think we know how it will go when we go out with our sweet cherub children, but we’re hit with a reality check quite quickly. Here are three things moms swear they’d never do while parenting in public, but they were wrong.
7. Put Their Kids on a Leash
Listen, society is going to judge us either way. If your kid takes off and dashes through a parking lot, everyone will say, “Why didn’t you have better control over your child?” So, many of us who have “runners” realize we might as well go ahead and hook up that backpack leash. Sure, we might get judgy side-eye, but at least our kid isn’t going to end up in the otter pool at the zoo.
8. Ignore Them While They Have a Tantrum in Public
We used to see moms casually continue shopping for groceries while their kid lost their ever-loving minds in the cart and wondered why they didn’t do anything. Well, now we know. Now we know that sometimes that child is beyond rational conversation. That no “discipline” at this point is going to work magically. And that Mom still needs to get the groceries. Most importantly, now we know nothing was “casual” about her. She was seething, embarrassed, and close to tears, knowing she was being judged. We know because now we’ve been there.
9. Let Their Kids Go Out in Dirty Clothes or Clothes That Didn’t Fit
My middle child, my only daughter, absolutely LOVED a specific shirt as a preschooler. It was a swim shirt—not even a regular shirt—and it was covered in paint splatters because she’d worn it doing crafts. But she loved the feel of that fabric and wore it every chance she could. During the “paint-stained-swim-shirt” period, I also had an extremely difficult 2-year-old son who made going anywhere and doing anything a gamble. That’s why my daughter wore a paint-stained swim shirt out in public over and over and over and why I stopped caring. At some point, moms are just happy their kids are wearing clothes at all.
We all hear how moms often “let themselves go,” so many of us wondered, “How does that happen? I’m still going to work out and shower and do my hair and makeup every day!” And we mean it. Until the babies come, and we’re too tired to stand, and suddenly, none of that matters anymore. Here are three things moms swear they’d never do when it comes to hygiene, but once they hit that point of ultimate exhaustion, rules are broken.
10. Skip Showering for Multiple Days in a Row
As a SAHM, I have done this more than I can count. My kids are 14, 12, and 10, and I STILL do this. Honestly, showering was always what I was “going to do later” after throwing in a load of laundry, tidying up the kitchen, playing outside, running a quick vacuum, and folding the clothes that were now clean. Rinse and repeat. It’s easy to forget to shower or not make time when you’re covered in spit-up, holding a newborn with one arm and wiping a toddler’s butt with the other—all day.
11. Go Out in Public with Spit-up, Poop, or Pee on Their Clothes
I remember getting dressed up for our first date night after baby No. 2 arrived. I did my hair and makeup and wore real clothes (not sweats), but I fed and burped the baby one more time before leaving her with a sitter. At one point during dinner, I turned my head to see something next to me and got a rancid whiff of baby puke, realizing it was on my shoulder and in my hair. I can also remember that same baby pooping through her clothes at church while I held her, looking down in horror as brown sludge was now smeared all over my nice dress pants. (And we were late that day, of course, so we were in the front row. Awesome.)
12. Let Their Kids Run Around with Their Noses Running Down Their Faces
We never thought we’d have kids with snot dripping down their faces, but now we know how this happens. We have two hands, but we need 12. We’re making PB&J sandwiches and refereeing arguments over whose turn it is on the swing, and maybe, just maybe, we’re trying to have some semblance of a conversation with another mom for once. So yeah, there’s a good chance our 2-year-old is over there in the sandpit with snot running down her face, and maybe we just don’t care right now because we’ve already wiped it 972 times so far today.
And then there are the various parenting practices moms swear they’d never do but end up doing, like releasing a few four-letter words in front of their children. Sometimes.
13. Let Their Kids Zone Out on Screens
If there’s anything I’ve learned not to judge parents on, it’s this one. Sure, parents years ago didn’t have “screens” to fall back on, but I’m 100% positive if they did, they’d have used the same crutch we do. Parenting today looks a lot different than it did years ago, which means we are going to parent differently than our moms did. My kids are active in theater, baseball, and hockey. They play outside, take the dog for walks, swim in the pool, and jump on the trampoline. But some days, we’re exhausted, or Mom has a lot of work to do, and they veg out on screens. And that’s okay too.
14. Yell at Their Kids
I did not expect to be the kind of mom who yells, but here I am. Sometimes it’s because I’ve said the same thing eleventy-billion times, and no one listened. Sometimes it’s because I feel invisible, and everyone takes me for granted. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed or anxious or like I don’t have control. It’s not something I’m proud of; I work at it and apologize. But yep, I yell now and then, and now that I’m in the trenches, I don’t judge other moms who do.
15. Swear in Front of Their Kids
How long did it take you to break this one? We held out until our last child was a toddler. Our first two kids were relatively easy and didn’t draw out the four-letter words, but No. 3? Oh boy. That child changed everything. Now they are older, and they know all the words anyway, so we aren’t as worried about it, but there were definitely some moments during his toddler years when I may have muttered some choice words under my breath. By “muttered,” I mean “stated loudly.”
16. Bribe Their Kids with Candy
During the year we spent isolated at the onset of the pandemic, I bribed my child with anything that worked so he’d sit in a chair, pick up a pencil, and do online school. Fortnite skins? Done. Skittles? No hesitation. Like much of parenting, that year was survival mode, and we all did what we needed to do.
17. Let Their Kids Have Electronics at the Dinner Table or Restaurant
I don’t judge parents if they let their kids have screens during mealtime. First, I ate in front of the TV all the time as a kid, and I’m a fully functioning adult. Secondly, parents must prioritize their relationship and sometimes haven’t talked in weeks. If they can speak for 30 minutes uninterrupted because their kids are playing on iPads, good for them. I’ve certainly done it and have no regrets. We talk to our kids plenty, so if we don’t have a family chat during a meal, that doesn’t mean my children’s brains will liquefy and drain out their eyeballs.
Let’s not forget that we all see the #momlife posts and images EVERYWHERE on social media. Of all the things moms swear they’d never do, living the #momlife is right up there.
18. Own a Minivan
Did you say this one? I sure did. I would be a trendy working mom who lived in the city. Fast-forward a few years, and there I was, toting three kids around in a minivan, living on a cul-de-sac in the ‘burbs where all the houses were shades of gray or beige. But you know what? I love that minivan and haven’t looked back. You can’t put a price on sliding doors and a bottomless trunk.
19. Stop Caring What They Look Like
This one hit me early on in motherhood. It became very easy to stop caring. My body had endured the ultimate trauma, my breasts were leaking everywhere, and I never seemed to be rid of spit-up on my shirt. So yeah, showering, doing my hair, applying makeup, putting on a real outfit; none of it mattered, especially during those baby and toddler years.
20. Stop Going Out and Doing Things
So many parents have grand ambitions of traveling, hiking, and going to brunch. And lots of them do, with sleepy newborns. But everything changes once you have a raging 2-year-old on your hands with the capability of chucking your $10 avocado toast across the room. Of course, some parents still hold to this promise and manage to maintain their pre-baby social lives, but for the rest of us, family movie nights at home have become the norm. Why go out when Mom can snuggle her babies on the couch in comfy clothes and drink a beer?
It’s not our fault that we thought we knew everything before becoming parents and went back on things moms swear they’d never do. We had the best of intentions, and the truth is, we still ended up as amazing moms even if we skipped the organic homemade chicken nuggets and rolled through McDonald’s last night. There’s no “right” way to be a good mother, so if you break the 100 rules you had set for yourself before setting out on this journey, give yourself some grace. I’m right there with you; we are figuring it out as we go. My oldest is about to start high school, so I have a whole new list to tackle of things moms swear they’d never do: “Things I’ll never do as a mom of a high schooler.” Let’s see how many I break by Halloween.