The number of decisions you're tasked with making increases by a factor of about 1,000 once you become a parent. In fact, it starts even before the baby arrives (hello, birth plan that I never followed). Even though you might (read: probably) not feel great about all of them, there are certain parenting choices that don’t make you a bad mom. Really. No, seriously. I promise. For example, I may question my decision to send my son to the same school as my daughter, when they are two very different people, but it was the best choice to make for our family at the time.
I’m always second-guessing myself as a parent, but there’s rarely enough time to actually slow down long enough to sufficiently beat myself up about making a "bad call." I’m keeping my kids alive, they’re integrated members of society, and they mostly remember to keep their hands to themselves and to put their dirty clothes in the hamper. I'd call all of that one big fat win, even when it doesn't always feel like I'm winning.
As parents, we have the best intentions and think we can fulfill our own (sometimes impossible) expectations, like consistently organic meals and play-based learning methods and filling our home with toxic-free cleaning products. But the truth is, we have to cut corners in the name of safety, practicality, usually finances, and definitely sanity. I may not be proud of these decisions, but here are some parenting choices that definitely don’t make you a bad mom because, well, they didn't make me a bad mom either.
Relying On Microwavable Meals Most Of The Week
Both my partner and I work full-time. We cook big meals on the weekends to serve as leftovers for reheating through the week, and supplement with packaged broccoli, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, etc. from our freezer. It’s our reality, and it works. Some frozen veggies are just as healthy as fresh, FYI.
Working Late So You Don’t Have To Deal
I don’t do this every day, and I’m lucky that we have a terrific after-school babysitter who can stay a few minutes later than usual if I give her a sufficient heads up. So, if I know my energy level and mood are making it intolerable to deal with whiny kids who are hellbent on driving the closest adult clinically insane, I ask my partner if he can be home from work in time and just give myself a break from the chaos. We’re all better for it, really.
Not Making #SundayFunday Plans
When the kids were younger, we’d plan to get out of the house on weekends for some activity; packing the diaper bag, change of clothes, lunch, snacks, and books for the subway ride. We’d race back in time for their naps and gear up for some other plan to fill the hours between their rest and dinner. It was exhausting. Now that they are older, eight and almost six, and we’ve moved into an apartment that affords us all some more space, I like being home more. The kids are less reliant on us to entertain them, as they play by themselves or with the downstairs neighbors. Yes, we get out of the house for fun things, but I’m choosier about what we do. I can’t keep up that frenzied weekend pace.
Purchasing Halloween Costumes
I am not crafty. Well, except that one time when I tried to make my daughter "Maleficent horns," and the tutorial called for wrapping a plastic bag around her head. (Uh, nope.) I’m destined for failure when it comes to DIY, so that’s me, at the drugstore on November 1, snatching up the marked down costumes in what I hope will be my children’s sizes for the next year.
Discouraging Them From Having Birthday Parties
I’ve thrown my kids a few birthday parties, ranging from a gathering of a few 4-year-olds in the multi-purpose room of our apartment co-op, to an exhausting sleepover with seven 7-year-olds, to bouncy house/pizza extravaganzas with over 20 children. No more. I’d much rather keep it small and, in turn, more significant. For my daughter’s eighth birthday, I took her and a friend to a Broadway show. For my son’s upcoming birthday, we told him he could pick a place to visit in NYC he has never been (he chose the Freedom Tower) and we’d make a family day of it. I think birthdays should feel special, and stand out as a unique experience in celebration of their special day. Also, I'm tired of planning parties.
Not Chaperoning School Trips
I always chaperone one school trip, per kid, a year. Other than that? Nope. My kids won’t stop being disappointed by this, I’m sure, and I won’t fully be cured of the working mom guilt that comes with this scenario, but I have to remind myself, and them, that at least I get to go once and isn’t that better than never?
Showing Them Movies They May Be Too Young To Watch
My husband and I love movies; they were an integral part of our respective childhoods. We want our kids to have the same experience by showing them certain films that mean a lot to us. Should we have shown our 3-year-old Star Wars? Probably not, but we watched it with her and fielded her questions and she, and her younger brother, have grown to be huge fans. We’re not showing them Jaws yet, though. Not because it’s scary, but because they’re not quite old enough to quit fidgeting during the talky parts.
Not Signing Them Up For Organized Sports
Right now, our schedule doesn’t have the bandwidth to add an activity that requires multiple practices every week and weekends peppered with games. My kids are still young and haven’t yet developed any deep passions about much of anything (except dance: my daughter loves her ballet and tap classes). We will look for opportunities for them to try sports, but only if those pastimes don’t take over our calendar. I’m just not soccer mom material.
But, if they get really interested in something and I can tell they totally love it, I’m all in. In the meantime, I’m fine with them not having a ton of extra-curricular activities while they’re in elementary school.
Loosening The Screen Time Limits
We have a screen time rule in our family: none on school days (except for a half hour Friday evening since they don’t have homework obligations). It works for us. That means, the kids indulge in a couple of hours of Netflix shows or video games before breakfast on the weekends. True, it means they usually get up earlier than they would on school days to get their viewing in, but it also means I can stay in bed a little longer which, you know, is every parent’s number one goal in life.
Not Ordering School Pictures
I mean, of course I get them for the grandparents. I’m not a monster. However, I really don’t need 18 wallet-sized photos of my kids’ mugs against a background that could be a set from a public access talk show.
Refusing To Post About Their Accomplishments On Social Media
I’m a little competitive, by nature, so to rein that in I made a personal rule that I don’t share any of my kids' achievements on Facebook. I know myself too well; I’ll start obsessively checking the comments to see who liked, who loved, who was wowed by something my kid did. I can’t go down that road. I want to, trust me, but I don't know (or want to know) where that road ends.
I have no issues with other parents posting about their own kids, and I am always giving the thumbs up in response. My kids deserve all the kudos in the world for accomplishing something they’ve worked their butts off for. When they’re old enough to curate their own lives on social media, that’s the place I'll fully support #humblebragging. Of course, nothing will stop me from posting an adorable or hilarious or possibly-embarrassing-for-them-in-the-future anecdote because I am their mother, and that is my right. Bragging rights go to the grandparents, who haven’t quite figured out Facebook.