I've never behaved in stereotypically ways: not for being female, or Jewish, or a New Yorker. I’ve always considered myself a lot more complex than society’s labels for me. So, when I became a mother I didn’t realize most people would want to categorize my parenting style. Would I be a strict mom? A helicopter mom? How was I supposed to know? I had never done this before. My parenting style can’t be summed up in one particular way. So “mom stereotypes” don’t make any sense to me. Consistency with kids is good, I have learned, but I am not wholly one way or another. I’m a bespoke blend of parenting altruisms and unrealistic intentions.
I don’t feel that kids need to share everything, but I staunchly believe in taking turns. I want my kids to eat healthy but they always end the meal with a small sweet. I can’t put a neat label on my parenting techniques, and yet, the longer I spent in the world of parenting — on social media, especially — the more I noticed these mom stereotypes, as if they were universal behaviors for all female-identifying parents.
Some of my behavior may seem “typical” for a mom living in these times: I have a very specific coffee order, and my go-to weekend ensemble falls squarely under “athleisure wear,” though I never work out on my days off since having kids. But those things are tiny aspects of my existence; they hardly define me. So with that in mind, here are some of those “mom stereotypes” that don’t make sense to me (and never will):
We Only Live Off Coffee...
I’ve been having a cup of coffee in the morning since I was 18. Motherhood hasn’t changed that. My body still can’t handle caffeine after a certain point in the afternoon. I get jittery and anxious and frankly, I don’t need to wipe out my tiredness completely to be a decent parent. I suspect all those moms who swear by coffee have done so since way before having kids.
In our 20s, some friends and I took a wine class (full disclosure: our motive may have mostly been to meet guys). I like wine, but I don’t drink during the week. My relationship with food has always been complicated, being an overeater and an over-exerciser to compensate. I’m frankly afraid of drinking too much, so I relegate the activity to the weekends, and never to excess. I can’t imagine having just a glass of wine every night just to relax. I would instantly fall asleep and shirk all my nighttime responsibilities.
We Only Wear Yoga Pants
I find them comfy, definitely, but yoga pants don’t often come with practically sized, or placed, pockets. How can I be a mom without pockets?
Over the years, I have been able to downsize the crap I need to carry for my kids as they get older. I have ditched the diaper bag in lieu of all the pockets where I have crammed snacks, wipes, tissues (new and used), hand sanitizer, the mittens they have not yet lost.
We Get All Our Ideas From Pinterest
I am the least crafty mom I know. Sure, I have plenty of pins on my parenting board, but they are completely aspirational. Most of the best ideas I’ve poached from other moms. I can see the actual proof of their parenting hacks, unlike on Pinterest where it’s just beautifully staged tableaus of how I can transform seltzer bottles into washi-taped storage masterpieces.
We Secretly Love Kid Food
Look, just because I hoover up the cold remains of my son’s mac-n-cheese doesn’t mean I like it. But you know what I definitely don’t like? Cooking. Or waiting. It’s a little bit sad, but it’s often true that I cobble together entire meals from the scraps left on my kids’ dinner plates. I’m not proud, but I am fed.
We Can Fall Asleep Anywhere
I am tired pretty much all the time, but that doesn’t translate into actually being able to fall asleep. I don’t fall asleep easily unless it’s like 11 p.m. and I’m in my bed and, even then, I may struggle as thoughts race in my head. I’ve tried to combat this nighttime anxiety by not looking at screens right before bed, writing down some “to do” points for the next day so they are on a piece of paper and not in my head, and committing to keeping my bedroom a safe haven reserved for sleeping: no TV and no kid stuff.
I am envious of people who can fall asleep anywhere, catching those restorative cat naps on their commutes home, but a dream state just doesn’t come as easily to me. Maybe it has to do with being a mom and constantly rearranging the details of my kids’ lives in my head to make sure we have our bases covered, but maybe it just has to do with being Type A, in which case, I’m forever operating at a sleep deficit to just exhibit some tiny bit of control of the world. (I’m working on this.)
The Highlight Of Our Day Is Netflix Time
While I do look forward to the 30 or 45 minutes my partner and I spend together watching something after the kids are in bed, it’s not what I live for. A true highlight would be my son rising from his bed in the morning without argument. It would be my daughter remembering to shut the bathroom light off consistently, without being told. Downtime is nice, and my brain needs a break which TV facilitates, but I’d gladly trade a week’s worth of nightly Netflix sessions for being able to see a movie in a theater without the hassle of arranging and paying for a babysitter.
We Measure Our Popularity By The Number Of Social Plans We Cancel
Going out with friends is something I always want to do, in theory. In reality, however, when that night when we’ve made plans rolls around I am often not in the same head as I was when we scheduled the outing. I’m tired. I’m preoccupied with my kid’s surprisingly low math test score (didn’t we, I mean, she, study?), and my feet hurt from wearing these tall boots all day at work. I want to cancel.
But when I don’t, I have no regrets. Spending time with my friends, fellow moms or childfree pals, nourishes parts of me that don’t get fed when I’m strictly in mother or wife or employee mode. Paying attention to my friendships is vital to my health and happiness. It’s just that I rarely make them a priority, putting my family’s and my employer’s needs often before my own.
Not to mention, I hate when people bail on me, especially since becoming a parent. I jump through another layer of hoops to make myself available to go out, kid-free, and when people cancel for non-emergency reasons, I get really pissed. A mom scorned does not hastily look to reschedule girls’ night.
Our Only Relationship Goals Is To Have A Date Night Once A Month
I know the value of making time to put my partnership first. The friction and the bickering definitely increase when my husband and I go for long stretches without doing something just for us, together. But “something” isn’t necessarily dinner or a movie out, or a concert, or even just some cocktails at a neighborhood watering hole. We are usually spent by the evenings.
If we are to make an effort to give each other our best selves, and reignite some of the flamed out romance that is a result of everyday parenting, it usually serves us best to do so in the first half of the day. A simple brunch and a museum tour without the kids does much more than drinks and too many tiny courses at a fancy late night restaurant.
We’re Always On Our Phones
OK. This one is true. We are always on our phones. At least, I feel like I am. Here’s what I’m doing:
- Checking the weather so I can advise my tween on climate-appropriate outfits
- Calling up Hamilton tracks for my American Revolution-obsessed first grader while I start the lengthy process of applying his nightly skincare regimen (he suffers from significant eczema)
- Checking my son’s soccer practice schedule, so I know where to be when
- Texting the babysitter to remind her to take my kid’s Epi Pen with them when they leave the house
- Looking up recipes that make use of the leftover chicken breast, cherry tomatoes and half a grapefruit on the verge of spoiling so that we have some semblance of a decent dinner
- Updating our shared shopping list so my husband knows to pick up chicken breast since the one I thought we could use did indeed spoil
- Checking how many likes that adorable pic of my kids got on Instagram (#kiddingnotkidding)
The point is, my phone is a tool I rely on daily to keep the machine of our family life humming. I do my best to not check email between 7 and 9 p.m., as that is my dedicated mom time with my kids. And I really try to stay unplugged over the weekend, since so much of my job as a TV writer/producer is spent staring at screens.
Do I retreat into the comfort or games and videos on my phone? Absolutely. But not when I’m with my kids.
So yeah, I’m on my phone. But it’s probably not what you think.