I read an article this week in a parenting magazine that got me thinking. It was an interview with Julie Bowen, the mom from Modern Family. She has three young boys, including twin toddlers. The quote that stuck with me was advice someone had once given her about motherhood. Basically, the person told her to be an awesome mom 75 percent of the time, and not worry about the rest. I thought that was an interesting concept, and one that I’ve pretty much been following without realizing it for the past few years.
Bowen told about how she tries to do well with bed times and vegetables, but the rest of the time, she just focuses on having fun and loving her boys. What a great concept. We do the best we can as parents, but we’re bombarded from all sides about the “best” ways to do things. And the flip side is that if you’re not doing all those “best” things, you’re somehow cheating your children, or dooming them to a life of failure.
The truth is, kids just need us to be there for them. To be devoted to them, and to know how very, very, very much we love them. Sure, vegetables are a good idea too, but it’s so easy to get hung up on the rules of the game that we forget how much fun it can be to play.
We measure ourselves against other parents: the new mom who got right back into her skinny jeans, the mom who packs an all-organic lunch in reusable lunch totes, the mom who exclusively breastfeeds (looking just like those blissful pictures in the baby magazines), the parents who manage to have a tidy house and get places on time, despite their brood of offspring.
As much as we tend to judge ourselves, moms are also guilty of judging other moms. Especially in this age of social media, we’re constantly hearing about the “Mommy Wars.” Working moms vs. Stay-at-home. Breastfeeding vs. Formula. Cry it out vs. Rush to the Rescue. Crunchy-Granola-Organic vs. My Kids Occasionally Eat Happy Meals. It’s enough to make you nuts, especially with how “right” and self-righteous the polar ends of the spectrum can come off.
The truth is, most of us parents end up somewhere in the middle. It’s the nature of the beast that you can’t be a 100-percent-perfect parent. You can make yourself crazy trying, but even then you’re probably spending so much time sweating the small stuff that you’ll miss some of those amazing little moments that make parenting so awesome. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the parenting of three kids, it’s that even the best-laid plans can fall to pieces, and that some of my favorite moments and memories were completely unplanned, stolen moments with one or more of them.
So, we’ll work on the vegetables and stuff, but I’ll also admit that my three-year-old knows that he orders a Plain McDouble at the Golden Arches (usually with apple dippers, if that counts for anything…). I’ll plan on breastfeeding this new baby, but I’ll also admit that there are already a few cans of formula in the pantry for a back-up. I washed down my prenatal vitamin and DHA supplement with a swig of caffeinated coffee this morning, because I’d had one of those nights.
I considered cloth diapers for about 30 seconds, but I’ve spent half my parenting career with two at a time in diapers, so Pampers it is. Lots of times I cook from scratch, and other times I nuke chicken nuggets or make grilled cheese with a processed, wrapped-in-cellophane slice. I’m a (so-called) stay-at-home mom, but I have other small jobs and volunteer work that take time and energy. We limit TV time, but I’ll admit: My boys are watching 101 Dalmatians right now so I can get some stuff done.
The bottom line is this: I’ve learned that I can’t be perfect, and I’ve given up trying. I’ve learned that there are certain areas of parenting where it’s OK to compromise, and I can be happy about my decisions because, for the most part, those compromises allow me to spend more time just enjoying my kids, or allow me to have a small measure of sanity necessary to properly care for them. The one thing I’ll never compromise on is showing them how much I love them. So if it means fish sticks instead of chicken cordon bleu for dinner because I had to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Goodnight Moon 35 times each to a sick kid, so be it. Hopefully I’ll have time to nuke a few green beans to go with them, but there’s tomatoes in ketchup too.