The biggest fight my younger sister and I have had in recent memory was over a candy bar. It was a few summers ago, and we were both pregnant. My sister was telling me about a coworker who quieted her tired toddler’s public meltdown by handing her a full-size chocolate bar. I, of course, got all judgey. “That’s horrible!” I said. “So wrong for so many reasons!”
My sister predicted it’d just be a matter of time before I’d bribe or reward my own kid with candy. Please. Bickering ensued, then escalated to expletives, and when she asked if I wanted to make a bet, I kicked her out of my house. We didn’t talk for a week. Sure, my pregnancy hormones — combined with the fact that sweltering summer is awful — certainly didn’t make me the most patient woman in the world. But also: I’m a food writer, with food issues (all of them!), and I already had a plan for how my kid would eat and how I’d help him develop a healthy relationship with food. None of that included candy.
Fast forward a couple years to me potty training my son. At the first sign of a regression, I rewarded him with M&Ms every time he used the toilet. (BTW, it totally worked.)
The fact is, it’s easy to make smug, sweeping statements before you actually have a hungry, tired, bored, sick, or dirty child of your own. So, to atone for all the side-eye my childless self used to throw at moms in the wild, here I’ll shamelessly share five other things I said I’d never do as a parent and… well, I’m sure you can finish the rest of that sentence.
“I’ll never use the TV as a babysitter.”
As a seasoned mom, let me tell you just a few of the times the TV is a great babysitter:
- When your human babysitter calls in sick and you have a conference call.
- When your child is sick and you have to do four loads of laundry and disinfect a mattress.
- When you are sick.
- When your child didn’t nap at daycare and has turned into a tiny toddler monster and you have to cook his dinner before he turns into The Hulk.
- When you haven’t showered in three days and you’re pretty sure you can smell your own feet even when you’re standing up, and you’ve put off shaving your legs and washing your hair for so long you’re starting to feel itchy all over.
“I’ll never get tired of reading to my kid.”
I’m a professional writer and I used to work in a bookstore, so long before I became a mother, I dreamed of passing along to my child a love of books and reading. When I was pregnant, I excitedly bought up all the best board books and some of my own childhood favorites. I actually remember thinking, “One thing I’ll never get tired of is reading books to my son!” Well, let me tell you that after reading Hop on Pop for the eleventy-billionth time, I wanted to burn all the damn books. And I kind of wish I would have — before he got into Five Minute Spider-Man Stories.
“I’ll never feed my toddler fast food.”
Sometimes you just need to be able to get your hands on some food quickly without having to get your child out of the carseat. Enter the beauty of the fast-food drive-thru. But, hey, everything in moderation, right? And you know what? McDonald’s is delicious. So there.
“I’ll never let kids stifle my ambition.”
I was certain that having a kid wouldn’t make me less motivated to work. I remember my childless self even telling a friend who was debating a big job offer, “Well, you just need to decide whether you want to have a full-time career or be a full-time mom.” (Cringeworthy now — I know!) It turns out that leaning in sounds totally doable before you actually have to find an “in” that leaves you enough time to pump twice a day and snuggle your baby before he goes to sleep. And having it all? Sure, as long as your version of “all” includes a full-time nanny and housekeeper and personal assistant to manage your calendar and appointments and even order your groceries for you — or at the very least, a ridiculously organized stay-at-home spouse. Otherwise, it’s more like, “settling for keeping most of it together for a couple years.”
While we’re slowly making gains, in some sectors more than others, the truth is that most of the American workforce isn’t set up to support working mothers. And to be honest, while I do work, and am grateful that I can work, I also kind of wish I didn’t have to work right now. It’s a cliché, sure, but it’s true that they really are only little for so long. My career may suffer for it, but I’m surprised by how okay I am with doing the bare minimum right now.
“I’ll never — ever! — drive an SUV!”
I used to be such a good steward of the environment. I rode my bike and walked as much as I could, got my meat and veggies directly from local farmers, and there was even a time I bragged that I only went through two rolls of paper towels a YEAR. Back then, my biggest pet peeve was SUVs. To me, they were just flashy gas-guzzlers, and anyone who drove one was a real jerk. “Just wait until you have kids,” people would tell me. My response was always something along the lines of, “Nope, never!” But when my sensible hatchback sedan got rear-ended (and totaled!) at a stoplight with my four-month-old son in the backseat, I decided to screw sensibility and opt for safety — which meant five-star crash ratings. And I folded. My SUV isn’t a huge one, and it even has an eco setting to help with gas guzzling, but I still felt a little dirty when I drove it off the lot. The feeling didn’t last long, though. I quickly realized I liked sitting higher up on the road, I was calmed by the idea that my family was safer, and I was relieved that I could have my dogs and my kid in the car at the same time. Plus, how else was I supposed to get those huge packs of paper towels home from Costco?