Before I had my bean – before I was even pregnant – I had a million ideas about the kind of parent I would be. There were things I knew I would do, and others I swore that I wouldn’t. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. There seem to be a lot of changes of heart after your parenting ideal becomes your own version of those high-speed action movies where you sit on the edge of your seat, hoping the hero (ie. you, the parent) makes it out alive and unscathed.
Sometimes we end up doing (or not doing) whatever it takes in the moment to stay alive, on time, (relatively) clean, “rested”, and sane.
Here are a few of the things I said I’d never do as a parent, that have changed for me in my idyllic version of child-rearing turned reality.
Parenting Ideal #1: “I’m going to make all my own homemade, organic babyfood”.
Reality: I don’t like cooking. It’s a torturous chore for me to put together a simple, often over cooked (Oh my gosh! Was I cooking??!), tasteless or taste-risked meal for myself and my patient hubby. Why I thought I’d suddenly turn into Martha Stewart with the womb-escape of my firstborn is beyond me.
The majority of my babe’s input comes from chopped up whole foods, what I can scrounge up from what we adults are eating, and a whole lot of prepackaged “squishy packs”. These little gems I found come from a variety of companies, in a wide range of food choices, and actually seem pretty healthy as they tend to include only natural ingredients like spinach, kale, quinoa, brown rice, chia seeds, amaranth, yogurt, and various fruits and veggies. Many of the brands use lemon juice or citric acid as the only preservative.
Want to know how many times I’ve made an actual, puréed baby food, specifically for my munchkin? Once. One lame-arse time, and that was only very recently with the motivation of these reusable squeeze pouches from Squeeze Please. I intend on making more now that I have these handy-dandy little pouches, but it’s also pretty easy to simply throw in some yogurt or applesauce with concentrated powdered greens and still get some solid use of these. So we will see. (Edit: By the time I’m actually posting this draft, I can actually say it’s happened twice. Thank you, Squeeze Please pouches!)
Parenting Ideal #2: “I’ll never give my baby a soother.”
Reality: When you’re laying in a hospital bed for the second sleepless night, with a screaming newborn that will not nurse, sleep or settle, you will do whatever it takes to get your new scream-machine to calm the bleep down and give you five minutes of quiet. Unfortunately (at the time, anyways), our little love would have none of it and never did take a soother. While we’re happy we don’t have to wean her off the suckies, we tried pretty darned hard to get one in that wailing little mouth.
Parenting Ideal #3: “My child will not watch any TV until she’s at least two years old.”
Reality: As an Early Childhood Educator, I’m very aware of the fact that children under two’s brains are not ready to process TV’s fast-paced, brain-numbing, creativity-stunting, often overwhelming and situationally confusing shows, movies and commercials. However, I would be lying if I said I haven’t occasionally turned on an episode of Pocoyo or Bubble Guppies to mesmerize my toddler while I fixed a much needed meal or finished a time-sensitive task that just needs to be done without a wiggle worm clinging to me. Life is about balance, and a few theme songs and educational cartoon adventures are not going to turn my little one’s brain to melted cheese or deny her the opportunity to succeed in attending the university of her choice. Sometimes mama needs a moment. I promise her brain has not turned to mush.
Parenting Ideal #4: “I’ll never feed my little one Goldfish crackers.”
Reality: These little toddler and preschooler munchies put the “crack” in cracker. I love them. She loves them. After looking at the ingredients more closely, I realized that they’re actually just as “healthy” as any other baby and toddler cracker or cookie. Except for this: they don’t have sugar in them, which is very surprising since every other “kid-friendly” choice in the supermarket includes sugars in some form. Plus, I choose to buy the “Whole Grain” variety, so they’re practically a health food. Okay, maybe not exactly, but hey. Live a little.
While I do think it’s important to offer a nutritiously balanced diet, a treat here and there isn’t going to ruin anything. She will survive with a little sugar here and a processed snack there, and will probably be less likely to receive such a great shock to her system when she does have those pure-sugar-and-chemicals treats later on.
Parenting Ideal #5: “We don’t need a video monitor. Those things are creepy.”
Reality: We managed for 18 months by just listening to the knocking around while little Z presumably was tossing around in her crib, and would open the noisy door when we needed to check on her, inevitably waking her up after trying so hard to get her and keep her asleep. Then I borrowed a video monitor when we went for a recent trip from home. Being able to take a quick glance to make sure she was where she should be, and not have to make any noise checking on her and risk waking her, while feeling much more relaxed that she was safe – that was glorious. I quickly changed my mind about how invasive and creepy these little tools are, and my hubby ordered this one from Amazon before we even returned home. (Disclaimer: The previous link is an associate link, and if you end up ordering this monitor via this link, I will receive a small commission.)
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure your little ones are safe. If you live in a space like we do, with steep stairs leading out of our toddler’s bedroom, who will soon be moving to her toddler bed since she could definitely climb out (she can also climb baby gates – the joys of raising a climber) and can open the door to her room, you will probably understand the relief I feel being able to see and know exactly where she is and what she’s up to. Otherwise, I’d be barging into her room all the time (what privacy was I thinking I was protecting?) and worrying sick about if she was about to tumble down the stairs or open up her diaper pail. Sure, humankind got on just fine before without these, but we also made it without toilet paper and vehicles, and I’m not about to give those up for the sake of “the good ol’ days”.
There are a million other little things, I’m sure, that I could include in this list. Parenting is a whole lot more complicated than you could ever imagine before you’re in it, living your own unique version of life-after-birth. It’s messy, and tiring, and frustrating. It can also be enlightening, enjoyable, and incredibly fulfilling. Reserve your judgements about other parents’ choices – you will never know what their journey is all about. Keep your mind open and commit to making your individual parenting choices based on what you and your children need – in your unique time and place – and let go of everything that doesn’t serve you.