Being a "mean mom" isn't something I love to readily admit, but the more I think about it, the more I realize my parenting style definitely has a streak of "mean mom" running through it. In our house, we're strict about screen time and junk food, we try to stick to a nap and meal schedule, and I try to avoid the most annoying Elmo songs as much as possible. Honestly, there are so many times when being the "mean mom" saved my sanity, plain and simple.
I remember the first time I realized some of my parenting techniques were a little tough. My daughter was just at the teething and gumming anything in sight stage and she reached for my mother-in-law's phone. My mother-in-law didn't care if she chewed on her old phone, so she handed it over. She got the now-perfected "hey, she doesn't get phones, please" from me, and gave me a slightly perturbed look in return. However, we stuck to our guns and she now knows she doesn't get to play with phones. She can look at them when we're FaceTiming family and friends, but she's not in charge. The few times she's been allowed to hold a phone turns her into a phone-obsessed nightmare.
I'm sure there are kids who have been allowed to have their run of phones and don't turn into tiny terrors, but my daughter's reactions are enough to warrant bringing out my inner "mean mom." Luckily, there's a whole lot of nice mom in me as well, so I promise it's not a total fun-free zone at our house.
Mostly Screen Free
I can't claim we're that holier than thou family that keeps our daughter from ever even seeing a screen, but we do try to keep her from being in charge of the screens. We use our phones and computers for FaceTime-ing with family around the world, so she does use them.
However, we've found that keeping her from thinking she can have the full run of them keeps her from turning into a tiny terror. It definitely makes me feel like a mean mom to remind family members they can't just hand over their phones to her because she seems interested in holding them, but it definitely saves our sanity in the long run.
No Annoying Songs
This isn't going to work forever but, for my toddler daughter, I've realized that eliminating the annoying songs that get stuck in your head for hours keeps my sanity intact. I made the mistake of using a playlist recently that was a little too Elmo-heavy and for days, I've had "Elmo's Got The Moves" in ringing in my head, threatening to make it explode. Preview those playlists and limit the really annoying songs and preserve your sanity.
No Junk Food
If only, right?! But in the era when we kept our daughter from even knowing what junk food was, taking her to the grocery store was a heck of a lot more pleasant than it is now.
Now I've turned into the mom who starts a grocery store trip with a snack that I hope will keep her occupied for the whole visit, but it's a bad habit that threatens my sanity every time. I'm still working out whether it's reversible, ha!
I've been called out for being a terrible human, let alone a mean mom, for letting my daughter cry it out as part of our sleep training, but sleep training her has saved my sanity more times than I can count. While she has never been the most epic napper, we know she will definitely fall asleep on her own (almost always chatting away to herself) and she will sleep for 11-12 hours. Thank goodness, because sometimes making it to bedtime is the only hold I have on my sanity.
Sticking To A Schedule
We learned early on that our daughter thrived on a schedule. It wasn't the easiest thing to stick to when we could be meeting up with friends and I knew she'd only nap in her crib, but sticking to her schedule kept most days from going off the rails by lunchtime.
My family still makes fun of me for covering my daughter in a smock for every meal, but it's saved me from trying to figure out how to get stains out of her clothes every day. I suck at laundry, so I play mealtime defense and keep several of these washable smocks on hand all the time.
I have to admit that it was being the clueless mom that made me have to be the mean mom, which made taking my daughter's pacifier away that much more painful. I didn't realize she shouldn't be using an Avent Soothie paci, the kind they give you in the hospital, when my daughter already had a mouthful of teeth. One day I realized her teeth were starting to form in the shape of the pacifier and we had to go cold turkey on the pacifier ASAP. I did offer an alternative, but she was having none of it. After one week as the mean mom keeping the pacifier away, her teeth had already started to return to a normal shape.
Bottles Be Gone
At my daughter's one year check-up, the pediatrician asked if she was still drinking from bottles. Until then it hadn't really occurred to me that she shouldn't be drinking from bottles several times a day anymore. I'd read it in one of the baby books, but it must not have sunken in. By 13 months, she was only drinking one bottle a day and only really wanted bottles because she could see them on the counter. One night after she had gone to sleep, I gathered up all the bottles, ran them all through the dishwasher one more time, and packed them away. She hasn't asked for one since! It wasn't the most cozy way to give up bottles, and I did wish I had savored giving her her last one, but it saved me battling with her against the bottles until she was 3.