Parents know all too well that raising children is no easy feat. At times, it can be exhausting, exasperating, or even monotonous — no matter the age of your children. Raising kids will drive you to the brink of sleep-deprived insanity and, before you know, snap you back into reality again. Still, despite its regular challenges, being called “mom” or “dad” is a gift that is immeasurably rewarding and parenting is chock full of daily delights and sweet surprises. Of course, it’s also filled with poop and snot and spit-up and sass and other not so adorable things, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, right?
Parents are, of course, only human, which means sometimes that keen parental judgment can become clouded by fatigue and frustration. Next time you eat a half-sucked chicken nugget off the floor like a true mombie or audibly countdown the seconds until bedtime like it’s New Year’s Eve, rest assured that we all have our less than stellar moments. Here are a few things all parents do, but will never, ever admit to. Don’t tell anyone we told you.
All parents tell their kids some white lies
We tell our kids that honesty is always the best policy. Nevertheless, as parents, we don’t always practice what we preach. We tell white lies to protect our kids, avoid uncomfortable topics, or, frankly, get ourselves out of annoying predicaments — like when we pretend the ice cream store is unexpectedly, unexplainably ‘closed.”
While this kind of white lie may come in handy, Alyson Schafer, a parenting educator, told The Washington Post that it’s a damaging type of duplicity and “a lazy answer.” Fair enough, but all parents have likely used at least some form of a white lie — and not just to stop a tantrum in its tracks.
If you tell your little ones that Santa comes to visit on Christmas or that the Easter Bunny hides colorful eggs on Easter Sunday, you are technically telling white lies, too, as pointed out by The Washington Post. Call it deceit, we say it’s keeping the magic of childhood alive. Vicki Hoefle, a parent educator and author, agrees. “The Easter Bunny and Santa are just about maintaining tradition in a culture that celebrates them,” she told WaPo. “It’s upholding traditions that are important to you.”
All parents bend the screen-time rules
Parents may set out with strict plans for limiting screen time. While it’s admirable to keep technology to a minimum, it’s also not entirely realistic. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged two to five years old be limited to 60 minutes of total screen time per day, but, sometimes, Mom and Dad just have to plop a kid down in front of a tablet to get stuff done.
Screens — in all their forbidden glory — can essentially distract (okay, babysit!) the kiddos for a bit. So we let our toddlers get hypnotized by Barney or Elmo beyond the one-hour mark or allow older children to play video games until their fingers start to cramp up. It’s a balancing act, and moderation is key — some days will be filled with more outdoor play and stimulation while others will be chock full of Blue’s Clues. It’s all good.
Anya Kamenetz, author and NPR education correspondent, echoes this sentiment in an interview with CNN Health, explaining that “humans have always used stories to help things make sense … and deal with emotions.” Yes, television shows do benefit your kids in some ways, so turn off the guilt if you need to turn on the screens.
All parents pretend to be asleep sometimes
If for the last few weeks you’ve done all the middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings, you surely feel it’s only fair your partner does his or her fair share, too. But instead of calmly and rationally talking this scenario out in the daylight hours, you may find yourself doing something far more passive-aggressive: You pretend to be asleep as your little one wakes and cries for assistance. Sleep deprivation will make you do far crazier things.
A 2013 poll cited by The Guardian, found that at least 11 percent of parents admitted to feigning sleep so they didn’t have to get up and tend to a crying kid. Many moms and dads also confirmed that they got less than six hours of sleep each night, and three out of ten sets of parents who later separated said a lack of sleep played a role in their relationship’s demise.
Instead of creating resentment and exaggerating your faux snores, come to an agreement about who will do what before you go to bed. And, as advised by the experts at Parents, take turns so both parents can get adequate rest.
All parents hide in the bathroom for a little "me time"
If the bathroom is your sanctuary, your private thinking space, and your me-time escape, someone most likely calls you “Mom” or “Dad.” Yes, parents will occasionally hide out in the bathroom to get a little bit of physical and mental space from their adoring (read: needy) children. Moms and dads crave some sporadic solitude and the bathroom is often the only place they can escape the verbal demands of snack-obsessed kiddos. So the next time you are thinking of interrupting a mom or dad supposedly using the potty, let them have their peace and quiet and take your business to another powder room.
One mommy blogger admitted to her sanity-keeping bathroom jaunts in an article on Mommy Nearest, writing, “If I want to focus at all, it has to be in the smallest (and now most sacred) room in the house.” She further revealed, “Keeping my sanity is beneficial to everyone. So I tell my family I ‘have to go to the bathroom.’ Maybe one day they’ll figure out what I’m really doing in there, but that day has not come.”
All parents feel relieved when they see another person's kid having a public meltdown
It can feel like you have a giant spotlight on you when your child decides to have a seemingly out-of-the-blue meltdown in the middle of the grocery store checkout line. Rest assured, though, it happens to every parent at some point or another, and that red-faced feeling of utter shame and humiliation is normal. The decision feels paralyzing: Should you carry though with your errand with a kicking, screaming sidekick or abort the mission and promptly head to the car, flailing child in tow?
Even more confounding still is the fact that seeing someone else endure this same struggle is somehow comforting. Sure, we empathize. Yes, we want to help. But, in addition to relating, most parents feel relieved when they see a fellow parent’s child act as irrationally as their own. One mom echoed this in a post on Moms.com: “I will feel solidarity with that stressed out mom and mentally fist bump her as she does what she has to do.”
And what should she do? According to Parents, never cave. “When you give in,” the site explained, “this teaches your child that tantrums get results.”
All parents will forget to play the Tooth Fairy at least once
According to a poll by Dental Delta, the average going rate for losing a tooth these days is a whopping $4.03 — tucked under a kid’s pillow, of course. But what happens when Mom or Dad, er, the Tooth Fairy forgets to visit and pay up? Don’t scoff; it happens to the best of us.
When Idina Menzel forgot to play the part of the Tooth Fairy when her son lost a tooth, she tweeted about her flub, and fans immediately empathized and shared their own stories. USA Today rounded up some of the best social media responses, including some savvy excuses to use when the Tooth Fairy is a no-show. One dad told his kid that the Tooth Fairy was having “wing surgery” again while another convinced his child that she only works every other night.
All parents will snoop on their kids at some point
Parents want to know what their kids are up to, who they are spending time with, and what online platforms they are engaging on. And while mutual trust is, of course, important, curiosity and worry can drive moms and dads to take some potentially invasive steps. When two-way communication fails, parents may find themselves turning to snooping. These days that means more than reading a kid’s diary. Parents are utilizing apps to track their children’s movements, scroll their text conversations, and eyeball all social media presence.
While some supervision will give parents reassurance, parents should distinguish between healthy monitoring and intrusive spying, Jaci Russo, founder of Social Nation U, advised when speaking to USA Today. Additionally, as noted in Time by Lisa Damour, psychologist and the author Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, “Regardless of how closely we decide to monitor our teens’ lives digitally, no amount of surveillance can take the place of having a sturdy, working relationship with them.”
All parents will co-sleep at least once
It can be hard to deny a little one when he comes padding into your bedroom in the wee hours of the night looking for snoozy snuggles. But moms and dads know that the cuteness of these cuddles is short-lived. Kids are veritable bed hogs — all elbows, knees, and feet. Somehow a 30-lb five-year-old can dominate a king size bed, leaving just a sliver of sleeping space for mom and dad.
Still, most parents find themselves bending the co-sleeping rules now and again. Jodi Mindell, spokesperson for the National Sleep Foundation, tells WebMD that there are usually two reasons parents choose to allow this: “One is a family lifestyle decision; it’s important to the parents. Reason two is reactive co-sleeping. You don’t really want them there, but it’s easier than having to solve a problem at 2 a.m.”
Her advice if you do need to comfort a kid at an unreasonable hour? “A lot of parents forget that they can go to the kid… You can sleep in her room [on an air mattress].” It might not sound as convenient, but it’ll help to avoid a co-sleeping habit.
All parents will wipe their kids faces with a licked finger
If you’ve ever licked your finger and then smudged it across a child’s face, congratulations: You are now a bona fide member of the mom club. It’s not the most hygienic habit, of course, but desperate times often call for desperate measures. When your kid has ice cream stains on his mouth or dirt smeared across his face, you probably want to fix it fast — and that can mean absentmindedly spit-shining a cheek or chin.
Besides being kind of disgusting, Boston Parents Paper pointed out that it could be potentially embarrassing to children, who squirm and dodge to get away from our saliva-covered fingers. It can feel especially smothering to your little one when other kids are around, bearing witness to this unique form of helicopter parenting.
Additionally, the article acknowledged that parents often embarrass their kids in other ways: public kisses, hugs, and tickles — all of which may not fly with your kid. Give them space and follow their lead. And always bring wet wipes.
All parents check to make sure their sleeping newborn is still breathing
Bringing a newborn home from the hospital can be a stressful life event. As a newly minted parent, you are suddenly responsible for an adorable yet helpless blob of flesh and bones — this reality can be heavy for first-timers. It is totally normal for a new mom to worry about the health and wellbeing of her newborn baby. And at some point, every new mama will find herself panic-running into her baby’s room to make sure he or she is still breathing.
This acute anxiety will usually wane, but a study out of Northwestern University found that obsessive-compulsive behavior in new moms can be the result of hormonal changes. It can also be adaptive, as this is a period of major transition. Either way, it can develop into a “psychological disorder” if it begins to “interfere with a mother’s functioning.” In which case, it’s time to call the doctor and get some help. An astounding 11 percent of women experience a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms after giving birth, compared to just two to three percent of the general population, according to the research published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
All parents will sometimes feel jealous of their childfree friends
Parents love their children beyond measure, but sometimes we need a night off — and not the kind of evening where we come home from wining and dining to find that the babysitter has yet to get the kids to bed. No, every once in a while a mama wants a full free pass from the frustration, sleep deprivation, and tedium of full-time parenting. So, yes, it’s totally normal (but not entirely admirable) that parents occasionally get jealous of their childfree friends. In parents’ eyes, people without kids can do what they want, go where they please, and sleep as late as their bodies desire on weekend mornings.
Of course, we wouldn’t trade a few hours of extra snores for a moment of mom life, but the occasional envy is normal. As one mom pointed out in an article for CafeMom, women without children can often travel on a whim, work uninterrupted, and pursue side passions. She also conceded that they don’t have to share their chocolate.
All parents will occasionally start wine o'clock before five o'clock
Who among us doesn’t enjoy the occasional wine mama meme? Indeed, many moms (and dads) like to unwind after a long day of parenting with a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or a cocktail of choice. But while the rise of mommy wine culture can be considered humorous, the truth behind it can be considered cautionary.
In Today’s Parent, Lauren Ferranti-Ballem wrote about her hatred for the expression “Mommy needs her wine!” She described it as “infantilizing.” Adult women don’t need to be pacified with a glass of wine the way a baby needs to be soothed with a binky, she opined. Nevertheless, Ferranti-Ballem revealed that women in 2020 are drinking more alcohol now that in years past — and the numbers are especially high for women above the age of 35. “You know, around the time we’re white-knuckling motherhood,” she noted.
The concern comes when a mom uses wine as a crutch to help her hobble through the harrowing witching hours with her kids. Yes, the occasional glass of Cab can take the edge off — even if wine o’clock comes before five o’clock. But it should never be considered an essential to help you push through until bedtime.
All parents sustain themselves on their kids' leftovers
When was the last time you had a solid meal of your own? Parents tend to put their own needs on the back burner the moment a little one arrives. Important activities like, you know, eating suddenly become optional. We throw whatever we can find down our throats in an attempt to quell our hunger, fuel our bodies, and move on. Most parents will attest to making a meal of their child’s scraps on more than a few occasions. A chicken nugget here, some mac and cheese there and, if you’re really lucky, some apple juice to wash it all down.
Still, there may be more to our need to feed on these half-chewed leftovers. In an interview with NPR, Dan Pashman of The Sporkful talked about this culinary compulsion: “There’s something about the cumulative effects of parenting … [that] can sort of wear you down. I think you get to this place where you’re kind of feeling a little sorry for yourself. And there’s some food in front of you, and you’re vaguely hungry and you’re just like, ‘Maybe if I put this in my mouth, everything will be better.'” Or maybe not. Either way, bon appétit.
All parents do the diaper "sniff check"
Changing diapers is par for the parenting course. Typically, a newborn has a bowel movement three times a day, as noted by Healthline. For breastfed babies, that number could reach as high as 12, though. Wiping a tiny human’s bottom becomes so ingrained in a mom and dad’s daily life that they don’t even think twice about doing regular bum sniff checks. Yes, most parents have no qualms about getting their nose up close and personal with a diaper to find out if it’s soiled.
What’s more, a study cited by Live Science found that moms are actually less offended by the smell of their own child’s poop. Researchers had 13 moms smell soiled diapers belonging to either their own baby and that of another person’s baby. The moms regularly and consistently “ranked the smell of their own child’s feces as less revolting than that of other’s babies.” It’s not coincidental, nor is it nepotism. This could actually be nature’s way of ensuring that a mom has the will (and the nose!) to take care of her new little love, the researchers noted. No foul odor can stand in the way of a mama’s affection.
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