Four Parenting Cliches That Need to Go….and One That Needs to Catch On
I have four kids. The oldest one is five. Which is why I've adopted a new phrase - the "onehanders". A onehander is anyone whose age can be counted on one hand, so I call my kids "my onehanders". I use it all the time - "I'm sorry I'm late, but I have four onehanders and they all ran in different directions"; "We had a great time at the beach, but it was a little crazy because there are 9 grandkids and 7 of them are onehanders"; "I haven't taken a shower in a week because the onehanders can't be trusted"; etc. I'm thinking if we all start to use it, it could really catch on!
But we all know there are things moms say to each other that are not awesome.
#1 - Enjoy Every Moment
Let's be honest. Moms who say this aren't remembering every moment. They're remembering the enjoyable ones - like when they're asleep or how cute they look in pictures. Because this is life and it's not always enjoyable. Like the moment I had a 5 year old with simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea, a 3 year old attempting to pour his own milk, and an 18 month old pulling eggshells out of the trash can. Did I mention I was 38 weeks pregnant? Yeah. I promise you, no one was enjoying that moment. Looking back on it I don't think "oh wasn't that sweet". I think, "Thank goodness they went to bed eventually and I got a new day". I was talking to a sweet mama friend one day who was exhausted because her infant was on a sleep strike. She attempted a brave face through the exhaustion and said, "But I'm trying to enjoy it because I know they're only little once". I laughed and said, "It's ok if you don't enjoy every moment. This mom thing is hard. There are lots of good moments to go around". Y'all, she teared up and looked so relieved. It was like no one had ever told her that it was ok to admit it was hard. Can you imagine the pressure we're adding onto already exhausted mamas when we do that? We don't mean to, we just forget and underestimate the importance of our words.
#2 - This is how I do it
You know what I'm talking about when I say "the Mommy Wars", right? They were invented by the internet. Here are some of the major battles in the Mommy Wars:
- crying it out v. no-cry v. co-sleeping
- breast feeding v. formula
- staying at home v. going back to work
- attachment parenting v. free range parenting
-homeschooling v. private school v. public school
But, really, moms can turn just about anything into a battle. "Oh, you let your child use electronics? Johnny doesn't know what a tv is" "Oh, you buy your clothes at Gymboree? We only buy from consignment sales. We don't want to be wasteful." "Oh, you gave your child a name that starts with a vowel? We didn't want our child to be teased" "Oh, you have 5 children? We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to give them enough individual attention and didn't want to overpopulate the world." "Oh, you only have 1 child? We didn't want our kids to be spoiled" "Oh, you let your child eat sugared cereal? Suzy just loves her bran flakes" "Oh, you bought trucks for your little boy? We didn't want to stereotype our children" (FYI - I'm not making fun of anyone who does any of these things. I AM making fun of anyone who judges other moms this way.)
Seriously. CHILL OUT.
#3 - Are you pregnant?
Nope. Don't go there. Unless she has said, "oh, hey! I'm pregnant", then no. Don't ask.
#4 - Just wait until he’s older!
Ok, here it is. My absolute, hands-down, totally, without a doubt least favorite thing that moms do to one another. It takes so many forms.
Pregnant Mom: “I’m exhausted because I can’t sleep!” Other Mom: “Just wait until the baby’s here – then you'll know what tired is!”
Mom of an Infant: “My baby’s crying is wearing me out” Other Mom: “Just wait until he’s a toddler – when you add volume and language it's way more annoying!”
Mom of 1 toddler: “I want my child to eat healthy foods” Other Mom “Just wait until you have another one – he'll be eating cookies for breakfast”
Mom of a preschooler: “I feel like we’re so busy!” Other Mom: “Just wait until your kids are in school – you'll be nothing but their chauffeur”
Mom of an elementary schooler: “Other kids in his class are mean, and I’m trying to teach my child to be kind” Other Mom: “Just wait until he’s a teenager – then the drama really begins!”
Mom of a teenager: “This kid's sports are costing me a fortune!” Other Mom: “Just wait until you have to pay for college – that’s really expensive!”
Mom of a college student: “I miss my kid!” Other Mom: “Just wait until they graduate, get married, and move away – then you’ll never see them!”
It goes on and on and on. It usually feels like a game of one-upmanship – “my life is harder than yours” – although, like all mommy advice, it often comes from a good place. But it drives me ABSOLUTELY BONKERS. I’m going to break character for a minute, and be serious to tell you this:
Moms – Your life is hard. Right now, wherever you are, it’s hard. It may get harder, it may get easier. But right now, what you need is support and understanding in where you are. And to get through this hour and this day.
Other Moms – Let’s be supportive of all of the moms in our life. Let’s try “Oh, that sounds hard. I bet you’re exhausted! Here, eat this chocolate while I pray for you” rather than “Just wait"
P.S. – I wrote this to moms, but it applies to non-moms, too. Please don’t tell a single person “You have so much freedom – just wait until you’re married” or someone without kids “You have it easy now – just wait until you have kids”. It’s not nice, I tell you. It’s not nice!
So there it is. Advice from someone who has no clue what she's doing. Excuse me, I have some moms of babies to talk to. It will probably go something like, "Oh, enjoy every moment of them being babies! As long as you're not co-sleeping, giving them formula, or letting them play with gender-specific toys, you'll be fine. Just wait until you have onehanders....it's going to get harder! You're expecting again already? They're going to be so close in age!"
Sarah O’Dell spends her days taking care of her four onehanders (3 boys and 1 spoiled rotten baby girl) and trying to come up with creative responses to “You sure have your hands full!” As an extrovert who spends most of her time at home with little people, she is frequently found on Facebook sharing the details of her less-than-Pinterest-worthy days to make other moms feel a little more normal.