Before you have kids, there are certain things you just can’t ever imagine doing. The thought of uploading ultrasound photos to Facebook is appalling. You lose patience with the mom in the grocery store line who can’t keep her kid’s tantrum in check. You can’t help but look at your friends who have kids with a smidge of judgment.
“Can you believe they let their 3-year-old sleep in bed with them?”
But then something incredible happens. You have a baby and everything changes. All of a sudden, the image you had of the type of parent you would be slowly evaporates. You catch yourself saying things you vowed you’d never say, and doing things you never in a million years thought you’d do. You are a parent, and so it goes.
1. You let your toddler have more than 30 minutes of screen time a day.
Despite your best intentions to limit the electronics, your little one can navigate an iPad with their eyes closed. Let’s face it, sometimes the electronic babysitter can be a lifesaver. Need to clean the bathroom? Pay bills online? Grab a shower? In my house, “movie time” is really just a thinly veiled attempt to get some much-needed me time.
2. All your Facebook and Instagram photos are of your kids.
Remember when you used to complain about your friends clogging your social media feeds with pictures of their growing baby bumps? Now you’re one of them, posting every mundane update from your life in the parenting trenches. Status updates about where you are in the potty training process? Check. Pics of your highchair-chillin’ toddler covered in macaroni? Check. I’ve actually dedicated an entire Facebook album to my daughters getting their first haircuts. (In my defense, my kids are really cute.)
3. You no longer put your pets first.
Pre-kids, your dog/cat/goldfish was the center of your world. You doted on them and even referred to them as your babies. Post-kids, it takes all your energy just to remember to feed them. On more than one occasion, I’ve poured Cheerios into the dog bowl simply because I kept forgetting to buy dog food.
4. You have no idea what the cool, young people are into these days.
Remember when your parents were totally lame about your obsession with My So Called Life? Or how they just didn’t get that Wet Seal was clearly the coolest store in the mall? It turns out that wasn’t their fault. In fact, it happens to the best of us. A couple of years ago, when my second daughter was little, I remember asking my hip young cousin what a Kesha was. It’s not that I’m un-cool (I hope), it’s more that I was so wrapped up with caring for one toddler and one newborn that I slipped through the pop culture cracks for a minute (or a year or two).
5. You let your kid have a full-out tantrum in public.
When you enter the dreaded terrible twos (or threes), every day turns into a constant standoff between you and your oppositional toddler. It’s all about picking your battles, because sometimes your kid WILL melt down at the bank. Or on a cross-country flight. Or pretty much any other place you can imagine. But as a parent, you soon learn that the world doesn’t stop spinning because of a tantrum, and strangers just need to deal with it while you put out the fire. Before having kids of my own, I used to feel a mix of embarrassment and pity whenever I laid eyes on a mom with a child in the throes of a wicked tantrum. Now I want to high five her. Instead, I settle for giving her a sympathetic smile that says, “I’m a mom. I get it. You’re doing great.”
6. You struggle to balance work and parenting.
While pregnant with my first, I was teaching at an elementary school in Brooklyn and never dreamed I would have trouble balancing career and family. Maybe those moms with high-powered corporate jobs, but not me! Little did I know that I’d soon be lesson planning over the weekends with a fussy baby latched onto my breast – I was shocked at how little separation there was between work and home.
No matter your profession, it’s a real juggling act, and even the best of us have a hard time keeping all the balls in the air. At some point, you’re bound to disappoint someone: you’ll miss a big meeting to care for your sick child or you’ll show up 30 minutes late to your kid’s dance recital due to a last-minute work demand. It’s going to happen despite your best efforts, cut yourself some slack and repeat the following mantra: you may not be perfect, but you’re doing your best.
Here’s the thing: even if your parenting style isn’t exactly what you had envisioned, you’re rolling with it and making it work. Hang in there, even on the days when it’s easier to weep into your diaper bag on the subway (this would be me). You don’t have to be perfect to be a darn good mom.