I seemed to base all my baby activity expectations around photos, ads, and social media posts. Let’s call it the Family Fantasy Filter. Bath time for example. It started with my baby registry and strolling the aisles of Buy Buy Baby’s bath section. Not only was I in a tunnel of bath toys galore, but I also noticed photos on the boxes of families splashing, laughing, and making it seem like this is how one should feel while washing a baby. There were bubbles, colors, squirty things, and babies who squealed with joy. Nowhere was a photo of the turd the baby released or the bored mom mindlessly staring at her baby as she struggled to keep her eyes open.
Well, I registered for a bunch of bath gear and continued to buy more gear with the hopes that the laughter and splashing would entertain me. Eight years later…
I still hate bath time,
It bored me to death,
I celebrated the day she could shower by herself, and
Perhaps there are other things I truly don’t enjoy doing.
It’s time to opt-out, or at least delegate!
Thanks to a hysterical episode of the “What Fresh Hell…Laughing in the Face of Motherhood” podcast titled “Do We Really Have to Play with Our Kids? When Parenting Feels Relentless”, I learned how to bring the topic of “opting out” into motherhood. We can opt out of annoying emails, why not annoying tasks or activities you just don’t want to deal with? When did the pressure to do it all, enjoy it all, and do it ALL…THE…TIME become the barometer of good parenting?
So if we’re being completely honest here, because that’s what I do, here are other select items I wish I could “opt out” of. I hope after you read these you breathe a sigh of relief, laugh a little, and most importantly, realize you’re not alone:
- Anything that has to do with pretending to be something.
- Anything involving fake lava.
- Dress up. Enough said.
- Spa day. If it’s not me alone at an actual spa, nope.
- Time to spill the tea: I hate tea parties.
Am I a terrible mom because I hate playing make-believe with my child?
There were so many things that I believed I had to enjoy in order to qualify in the “fun” mom department. Or at least in the “good” mom department. But it was hard to admit that I wasn’t enjoying every type of baby activity or basic mom duty. Not only did I feel guilty for not wanting to do it, but I also felt guilty for not enjoying it while I was doing it. I didn’t hear other moms talk about the things they didn’t enjoy either. As a result, I believed I was either complaining or inadequate with finding joy in the things Brooklyn and I were doing. Until I acknowledged I wasn’t going to enjoy everything, and didn’t have to, I was going to be bored, irritated, resentful at times and most of all, unhappy.
So how did I escape this suffocating dishonesty?
Luck. Back in May 2019, I stumbled upon the “What Fresh Hell” episode I mentioned above and then started finding other sources of moms being honest about their imperfect motherhood. Connecting with the women that shared my pain allowed me to feel normal and comfortable to start talking about it myself.
Thanks to Margaret from “What Fresh Hell”, I first listed out all the things I hated. Then I listed out all the things that I loved doing. That list was actually much larger than the first. I then started to mentally delegate the things I didn’t enjoy doing. At times I just completely opted out of them to do something else. This allowed for me to make space for the things I loved. To find my own joy. There were so many things I looked forward to doing, and they made me happy doing them. Arts & crafts, nature walks, going to the pool, sledding in the snow, attending a concert, doing a nature class at our local arboretum, reading her stories, and the list goes on. So what if I hated playing “Flo the Waitress” in her fake kitchen with plastic food? Dad loved doing that, so I opted out, delegated, and took her to the pool in the afternoon. Which my husband dreaded. And he’s the best dad I know. Even if he loathes going to the local pool with hundreds of suburban moms, kids screaming, and freezing water.
Who says it always has to be kid-friendly?
I’m here to tell you it’s not selfish to expose your child to the things that you enjoy. It’s a gift. And yes, there are times when I have to give her a bath. But there are other times I simply tell her I’m just not in the mood to do what she wants in that moment. She then learns that it’s not all about her, which helps her in life and her relationships. David Code, a family therapist and author of “To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First”, writes about how our over-focus of putting our children first is doing more damage than we realize.
“Today’s number one myth about parenting is that the more attention we give our kids, the better they’ll turn out. But we parents have gone too far: our over-focus on our children is doing them more harm than good. Families centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents are too quick to sacrifice our lives and our marriages for our kids. Most of us have created child-centered families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy, and attention.”
In my eyes, teaching your child that life isn’t always about them is one of the best gifts you can give them. Sure, it’s important that they know they are important, and there are certain situations where it is all about them. But not all the time. They also need to know what’s important to you so they can get to know you beyond being their mother. So mamas, honor your passions, teach your children about the give-take world, and you’re still an incredible mom even if you hate playing Ninja Princess.