In the almost 10 years that I’ve been a parent, I’ve noticed an alarming trend of guilt that seems to be gathering more momentum day by day. It’s so prevalent, that it’s become a part of normal “parent language.” I hear “I’m such a bad mom” from my peers in the trenches every single day. It could be for something simple, like your kid threw a fit in the store and you spanked him/didn’t spank him/yelled at him/didn’t yell/walked out immediately/finished your shopping anyway, or a hundred other responses or discipline decisions that we have to make at any given moment. With so many opinions and cautionary tales associated with each decision we make, it can be easy to second-guess yourself or feel enormous amounts of pressure or guilt about parenting the “right way.”
While I’m definitely not immune to the mommy guilt, there are a few things that I’ve decided I REFUSE to feel guilty about. I’ve drawn my line in the sand, and I’m not budging.
Our faith is very important to Aaron and me. Most if not all of our decisions, values and behaviors are driven by our love for God and our belief in his Word. So we’ve made it a point to teach those same things to our kids. We put them in Sunday school, bible studies, and have normalized daily prayer. We talk about our faith openly and frequently, and encourage the kids to do so as well. I hear some parents say they don’t want to force any religion on their kids, they want them to make their own decisions regarding such a personal thing. To them I say, that’s absolutely your choice, but as for me and my house, we’ll serve the Lord. If I believe in something so strongly that I’ve changed my life, then I want my kids to believe the same thing. When they’re older they’ll have to claim their faith for themselves, and make their own choices about what they believe, but as they grow I’m going to give them the best teaching, encouragement and guidance that I can.
Time with my husband
I want my kids to grow up in a traditional family, because I believe they learn vital things from each parent that they can’t get from the other. The girls are learning how to be a woman from me, but how women should be treated from their father. My son gets love in different ways from both of us depending on our personalities. Not to mention the fact that raising four kids is MUCH easier with four hands instead of just two. One thing we do to keep our family together is to make sure that we don’t put the kids above the marriage. It’s easy to get submerged in the needs and wants of our children, but sometimes we have to sacrifice their desire for all of our attention and focus on our marriage first.
Make your own breakfast
This may not seem as big of a deal as the first two, but it’s absolutely vital for the smooth running of this house. There are a few exceptions where we’ll make the kids a special breakfast, but on the vast majority of mornings, the older kids are responsible for getting their own breakfast. Part of this is because I’m the worst morning person in the world. I’m talking bumping into walls, slurring my words and falling asleep in mid-conversation in the mornings. I feel like I should get a medal just for being AWAKE while the kids are getting ready for school – let’s not push it by making me cook an omelet or poor a bowl of cereal. In pure self-preservation the girls have learned to make grits, fry eggs and toast bagels. If all else fails, we keep our pantry stocked with granola bars.
No crafts for the sake of doing crafts
Ok seriously, most kids craft projects are the invention of the evil twin sister of Martha Stewart. It takes an hour to set it up, five minutes to do, and another hour to clean up. Unless your kids are artistic geniuses, the finished product is really all about the “fun” of making it than the actual beauty of the creation. And glitter? No. Absolutely not. A friend of mine once called it the herpes of the craft world. It gets everywhere and you can’t get rid of it. No “fun” is worth that.
I used to feel immense amounts of guilt about television. I would hear that it caused everything from social disorders to ADD to autism. I would regulate the amount of tv my kids were allowed to watch each day to the point that my sister called me the television nazi. Now I just try to keep it balanced. Eight hours in front of the tv? That’s a bit excessive. You want to watch a movie before bed but you saw Saturday morning cartoons for a couple of hours already? No problem. I need to make a phone call during business hours and My Little Ponies is on? Grab some popcorn, kid.
Grown up music in the car
Kid songs and nursery rhymes are fabulous and they have their place. I’ll sing them with the little ones while we’re playing or learning things, and, not to brag, but I’m seriously awesome at Disney karaoke. In my car, though? Not so much. We listen to adult music in the car – real bands, real singers, no Little Miss Muffets or Hickory Dickory Docks. I keep it clean, because it only took one time for my three year old to ask what a joint was before I took certain artists off the playlist, but I refuse to feel guilty about listening to and exposing my kids to more sophisticated music.
Chores without pay
Yes, you will have chores. No, you won’t always get paid for them. You live in this house, too, and you have to help maintain it. Do you think Daddy pays me every time I do the dishes? Each kid has age appropriate daily chores that they’re responsible for. We have a list of jobs and their compensation that they are allowed to perform IN ADDITION to their daily responsibilities, but those are optional and usually only done when a kid is saving up for some special toy they want.
There are a lot of opinions out there about what you should and shouldn’t do to raise your kids the right way, and what you should and shouldn’t feel guilty about if you do it wrong. There are studies and literature and experts that give advice and warnings. I’m not saying doing the research is bad, or that listening to child psychologists, pediatricians and whomever is an awful idea, but sometimes you have to assess what you need and what your kids need and act on it. You have to decide what’s really important to you and your family. Then refuse to feel guilty if it goes against the prevailing wisdom of the day.