(Thanks a million for the outpouring of kindness yesterday. Undeserved and overwhelming.)
Since my vehicle is almost always highly occupied, I enjoy the perk of the far left lane when cruising some of Denver’s increasingly congested major highways, a privilege I can thank my numerous children for.
This morning found me boldly venturing to the nearby splash pad with zero snacks or sunscreen (which I applied before we left the house and will be patting myself on the back for all day long), the full crew clad only in swimsuits and sandals and no thought for the return trip home because I live on the edge, where I proceeded to only mildly helicopter from a bench perch while the splashing commenced. I had some time to reflect on how different mothering a larger family looks and how much more sustainable, if only based on sheer exhaustion, this version of me is. I made a mental note of this as I changed a filthy diaper in eyeshot of the woman sharing my picnic table perch who beat a hasty retreat to an adjoining bench, realizing that perhaps my standards, in some categories, have slipped too far.
Here are things I no longer do as a mom.
I don’t worry about structured play time/crafts/activities. I was never super into this to begin with, but there were definitely a few ill fated Pinterest crafting sessions when my older boys were toddlers that ended in glittery tears. I don’t even buy art supplies any more, save for the requisite twice yearly crayon and marker restocking. Maybe this makes me a monster. Maybe it makes me a genius. But when my kids want to get artistic, they have to make do with paper and crayola and that’s about it. It’s amazing the things my especially artful 5 year old has crafted from scotch tape, tin foil, and ziplock bags. Life finds a way.
I also don’t really do activities yet. Library story time, sports, lessons, etc. It’s just not the right time for us yet, and nobody is clamoring for it, so why rock the boat? We’ve had a couple rounds of swimming lessons so some people are approaching water competency, but apart from that I can’t think of a compelling reason to further complicate our schedule until it’s necessary.
Cook real meals. Sort of. 80% of the time it’s some chicken/veggie/starch encore or breakfast for dinner. Lunch is turkey, hummus, pb&j and carrot sticks. Breakfast is oatmeal or bacon and eggs. Nobody’s hair is falling out yet.
I realized a couple years into motherhood and marriage that I actually don’t enjoy cooking, and even less so when half the crew is rejecting the entree night after night. So I perfected a dozen menus that I can cook from memory and with zero motivation (chili, soup, curry, chicken parm, burgers, korean beef, fajitas, etc.) and I just…make those. Over and over again. I honestly prefer laundry to cooking and would rather be folding clothes than working on a new recipe, so I figured until I get an aspiring Julia Childs coming to me wanting to test their wings, our cuisine will be simple and our evenings will be more peaceful.
Let my kids play with screens. I have more street cred here (and they have definitely noticed) with my dumbed down smart phone, and they know there’s nothing interesting on there but maps and the camera. We don’t have a tablet and we have a strict no video game policy until further notice. Our 6.5 year old would happily play 4 hours of Minecraft a day, he has let me know in no uncertain terms, but not in my house, buddy. I don’t care if I’m socially hamstringing them (fairly confident I’m doing the exact opposite) or if it’s just delaying the inevitable addiction that humanity is now all but doomed to (but at least their brains will develop for a few years first), or if every other kid on the block has their own iPad.
They get an hour or so of tv most days, but they’re limited to PBS kids or maybe something on Netflix if mommy is willing to lend the laptop. It’s been a good transition to scheduled programming via PBS where they have one choice during any given time slot, because if it’s not a show they like, they just don’t watch it. The grownups in the house only watch tv/movies once or twice a week, so it’s easier to enforce behavior we’re already modeling. It’s not that we’re particularly virtuous is this area, it’s just that without Downton Abbey or Madam Secretary to look forward to on Sunday nights, we don’t actually find anything worth watching. Football season is another story, however.
Care about what other people think. My tolerance to this was already pretty high when we moved back from Rome, because after navigating the city bus system with two toddlers I felt like I could pretty much handle anything. And since I’m home most of the day by myself, if I cared what a circus parade we look like when we’re out and about, I’d basically be a hermit. But I don’t care. And when Dave is home at night or I get to go out by myself, the last thing I want to do is grocery shop. Let all of Costco stare, I don’t care. I’m too distracted by the hunt for where they moved the La Croix to this week to notice if anyone is looking at us anyway. And when the “you’ve got your hands full” comments start coming, I just respond blandly and mildly with “yep.” or “Sure do.” and maybe since it’s Denver and there are plenty of free spirited weirdos around, nobody really seems all that gobsmacked honestly. Or maybe I’ve reached the magical number of no comment.
Feel bad about making siblings share/play together/serve each other. As an oldest child I am mindful of not wanting to burden my firstborn overly much, but as he is a sanguine boy and not an overachieving choleric female, I think we’re in safer territory. We frequently ask the kids to do things for us to help serve a younger sibling, whether it’s running for a diaper, reading a book to someone, or pointedly including your sister in your game because you can’t say “no girls allowed” when she’s the only girl, punk. But nice try.
They also share rooms and toys and clothes (gender permitting) and have few truly personal possessions. There are a coterie of stuffed lovies which are true private property and thus sacrosanct, but otherwise, the booty is communal, and must be respected as such. When birthdays or Christmas roll around, the new gift is given with a 48 hour grace period before sharing will commence. Usually they void the 48 hours on their own accord and freely offer their new treasure to their siblings to experience as well, because (I tell myself) they like to share. Or they’re at least very used to it.
I can think of a handful of other less virtuous achievements, mostly involving not requiring people to get fully dressed most days (ahem, Luke) and cleaning lots of things using diaper wipes, but I think you get the idea. More kids is more work, but it’s also more streamlined. There is less stress (most days), more joy, and there are much, much dirtier floors.
What standards have you found “adjusting” as you’ve grown into your motherhood gig? Does anyone else let their one year old eat cold hot dogs straight from the fridge? Asking for a friend.