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Why I Was a Better Parent Before I Had Kids

By marylweimer |

Mommy & DaddyI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I was a much better parent before I had kids.

In my pre-kids motherhood fantasy I worked full time and didn’t feel an ounce of mommy guilt.

I’d come home to a clean house and children who were happy to see me, tugging at my skirt hem and telling me about their adventures in school. (Montessori, but of course.)

They’d play matching games at the table while I prepared a locally grown, vegetarian dinner and they’d never dream of turning up their noses at plates full of quinoa and kale.

(This explains why in my parenting fantasy I was a size 2.)

My fantasy husband and I took vacations aplenty and never fought about child rearing, because who was he kidding? I clearly knew more.

Life was easy. It was balanced. It was free from pee stains on the mattress and lost sippy cup lids. There were no such thing as tantrums and I never lost sleep over my decision to induce labor or breastfeed or to delay vaccinations.

I was a better parent before I had kids because it was all so very black and white. There was right, there was wrong. There was good, there was bad. There were no special exceptions made for children with colic or ADHD or those who couldn’t tolerate the texture of rice, for example.

I hadn’t yet felt the sting of judgment from a friend when I made a different choice. I hadn’t experienced exhaustion. And I certainly hadn’t dealt with a toddler announcing to an entire dinner party that she’d made poo poo in the potty.

In so many ways, parenting is a swan dive into the unknown. I approached motherhood as though my children were tiny mini-mes, not individuals with personalities of their own.

What’s more: when I imagined raising kids I only had one frame of reference- my childhood. I thought only about what worked and what didn’t from my own upbringing and based my parenting fantasy exclusively on that.

But parenting isn’t black and white. There’s a lot of gray area in between the “expert” recommendations and the wisdom of your grandmother. There’s your own set of experiences, your expectations, and those of your partner to consider.

Parenting is messy and stressful and there often aren’t right answers. It’s a game of confident guesswork. It’s crossing your fingers and saying a prayer. It’s sleepless nights and anxious days, and listening to the innate tribal knowledge passed down through the history of motherhood.

If I could go back now and take my judgmental pre-kid self down a few notches I would do it in a heartbeat. Frankly, I’m afraid the reality would scare her a little bit.

And while it’s easy to quantify dirty diapers and screaming toddler tantrums, it’s impossible to quantify the unrelenting weight of responsibility. The need.

The way even on the most hectic days you end up in the black on the ledger book of love.

So yes, I’d have a few words with that “wise” girl I  once was. But the quinoa and kale? I’d allow her continue in her blissful ignorance about that one.

Photo Credit: Kelsey Love Fusion Photo/Flickr

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Other Posts by Mary Lauren:

Changing Baby’s Name at the Last Minute: Do you have a story?

The Measure of a Mom

How to Win the Mom Wars

More on Babble

About marylweimer

marylweimer

marylweimer

Mary Lauren Weimer is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work has appeared in such places as Spirituality & Health and The Huffington Post, and she’s known for her thoughtful and introspective writing about all aspects of motherhood and the parent-child relationship.

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13 thoughts on “Why I Was a Better Parent Before I Had Kids

  1. Leslie says:

    Ha! Weren’t ALL of us better parents then? What’s irritating is the number of people who STILL aren’t parents who think they are better parents than we are.

  2. Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher says:

    Brilliant.

  3. sheri says:

    Perfect. Especially now that my older 2 are MUCH older, those grey areas are even grey-er (?). I miss the old pre-child brilliant parent I used to be……..

  4. Melissa says:

    Right on! I always knew exactly how I was going to handle every situation that came our way. Hahahaha! Even after I had my first and thought I had my groove down, my 2nd came along and switched everything up. I always thought my parents were crazy when they would tell me and my siblings they had to parent us differently. Totally understand that now.

  5. Sarah says:

    That’s a really good thought! I don’t currently have kids, but my husband and I have started feeling out the idea of starting a family. We are both the type to want to talk, discuss and figure things out and will sometimes even throw out “what would we do if_______” scenarios. While we do have a lot of similar ideas on parenting, and take care of our nieces and teach Sunday School, I remarked just last week that we probably made much better parent to imaginary kids. We’ll probably have a good laugh over some of the things we thought we had “figured out.”

  6. Erin Human says:

    Weren’t we all!

    There was one key factor that I forgot to include when I daydreamed about my parenting skills: MY KIDS. Turns out they have minds of their own. Huh.

  7. BA Jones says:

    Great post! A few years ago I wrote a post called I Was A Better Mom Before I Had Kids and I see we’re in the same boat. Thanks for the laugh and reminding me that I am not alone.
    http://4mothers1blog.wordpress.com

  8. @snglparents says:

    Now that Im at the finish line, with my youngest 18 now, I can laugh (and empathize) at all these remarks… and start praying for grand children.

  9. Annie says:

    AMEN! I even went so far as to major in Child Development and taught preschool for 4 years. I was going to be the perfect parent! HA. I have 2 little ones now and all my planning went out the window. I know I was following the rules, why weren’t they?? ;P

  10. Gena says:

    I want to email this to all the know-it-all/childless people I know LOL! Good one!

  11. Also, my house was spotless and perfectly organized. My imaginary parenthood house, not my actual pre-child house.

  12. Onome says:

    Hi, very nice article. But you forgot to include, the lost school bags; the “mummy phrases” that never ends even when u need a break; the messed up party clothes at those times you need to relax; the sand baths on the hair after you have just washed their hair; the odd nights up with a fever; the battle for the right kiddi channel to watch; the messed up dress right after a change and an endless weeping sound for no reason (I can go on for eternity). But its all fun you know LOL!!!

  13. Lisa says:

    This post is brilliant, Mary Lauren! I certainly had many of these perfect-world ideas myself, that is until I started providing daycare to a 6 month old last year (now 16 months). I’ve become so much more humble and forgiving of parents (including my own :) )!

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