Hello! This is Part III of the You Don’t Have To Have Kids series:
Click here for Part I . It’s really short.
Click here for Part II . It covers the baby/toddler stage.
And now we’re at Part III!
(This is when the kids are growing even more, getting into and in the elementary school years.)
I wrote this series because it’s been hanging over my head for years. Everything in Dim Sum and Doughnuts is for my kids to have when they get older, but this series is especially important because it covers so much for us now—and if they decide to have kids, so much for them later. I am in no way for or against having kids, that’s a personal choice, but if you do, I have a few tricks, tips and go-to’s that might help.
You Don’t Have To Have Kids, Part III
Picking up at #13…
13. It’s not the AMOUNT of time you spend with your kid; it’s HOW the time is spent. All moms are working moms because the mom job is hugely huge. Some moms have an additional job besides the mom job though, and sometimes that leads to guilt. It’s a trap. Don’t fall into it. My kids know their Mommy has to work, and likes to work. I’m a better mommy because I work. Sometimes I snap because I have been working primarily from home for the last 8 years and I’m starting to lose my mind, but overall, it’s better for everyone that this mommy works. Do I miss being at certain parties and school events? Yes, but when I am with my kids, I am with them. And when they grow up, I am confident they will remember the time we spent together and not the things I missed.
14. Who’s the Boss? Don’t ever ask your kids if they are ready to go to bed because their answer will invariably be “NO.” That’s because no kid has ever responded “Yes” to that question, ever. Asking kids if they want to do something will just lead to pleading and negotiating. Tell them to do what you want. Who cares what they want? They’re the kids. You’re the parent. #GoTheEffToBed
15. Family Code Words. The Family Code Word, traditionally, is a secret word the entire family agrees upon to be used for safety purposes. Code words can be used for so much more than safety though! We have lots of code words in our family. My favorite is the one we use in place of “You better stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW because if you don’t YOU’RE DONE.” And it works! They know if Mommy throws that particular code word down, I’m not messing around and they better stop whatever they’re doing that is making me crazy. #MamaDontPlay
16. You will lose your sh*t once in a while. One time, I lost it so bad, I wrote about it. I went completely bananas on my kids. But whatever. It’s OK. Your kids should know you have a breaking point. You’re teaching boundaries. They won’t remember all the details about how and when you lost it, but they will remember you lost it; they will remember what you’re capable of, and they will remember it wasn’t fun. Gently remind them of that the next time you feel that particular kind of crazy coming on and I bet they don’t push.
17. Build trust. I broke a promise to my 7 year old once (a promise I don’t even remember making) and she still talks about it. Apparently, I forgot that I sort of promised her she could get her ears pierced at the same time as her older sister. Who knows? It’s a blur to me but she sounded pretty convincing when she confronted me. She was very upset that I broke a promise, and a promise is a promise. She was right. I used to work with foster kids and I remember the discouragement in their eyes as I witnessed birth moms breaking their promises right and left. The kids never held it against their birth moms, but the sadness was always there. Kids need to be able to trust their mommy.
18. Follow through on your threats. Much like a broken promise, not following through on a threat or punishment is a slippery slope. As far as a kid is concerned, if you make a threat and don’t follow though, you have lost a great deal of your authority. That’s not good. Better you should revise a punishment if you jumped the gun than not follow through. I find myself revising punishments pretty much all the time because the original story is usually not the actual story. (It all seems to depend on who is telling it.) The punishment usually changes as more of the truth comes out. Sometimes it works to their benefit and I lift the punishment a bit, and sometimes I don’t. Either way, there will be consequences.
19. The punishment needs to fit the crime, and the kid. When your kid screws up and it’s time for sentencing, go for what hurts so they learn what they did was WRONG. Make it good and make it last so they think twice about making the same mistake again. Pulling electronics is tried and true, but sometimes we need to get more creative than that. More creative and more painful. My older kid, for example, is very particular about what she wears. She doesn’t let me pick her clothes out too much anymore, but I know her style. I know what she likes and I also know what she DOESN’T like—so when it comes time to punish her, I like to make her wear stuff she hates. Oh, you don’t like this AWESOME Def Leppard shirt? So sorry! Next time it’s the I HEART EMINEM shirt and maybe we add a bathing suit on top!
20. Practice what you preach. Ugh. So hard. I spend so much time trying to teach my kids to say “Excuse me” when someone is in their way, but whenever they are in my way I usually push them to the side while muttering “OMG, MOVE!!!!” so I guess I need to work on this one a little bit more.
21. Parenting is a club. Other parents will offer parenting suggestions, whether you want them to or not. It’s hard sometimes not to be defensive when the advice is unsolicited, because it can sound judgmental. But sometimes the advice is solid so when you’re done being annoyed, you should at least consider it. Other parents have insight that could make your life easier, and if you ever get to a point where you are uncomfortable because you feel someone is being judgmental and annoying, just tell them you appreciate what they’re saying, but you are going to parent the way that’s best for you and your kid—just as they did. #Bye
22. Have at least one Pro Mom in your life. Pro Moms know stuff —MOM STUFF. Pro Moms have already been there so they know what they’re doing, or they’re just awesome moms who are on top of things. I have an arsenal of Pro Moms in my life because I don’t know sh*t. I know things—but not mom things. I don’t know what to do if my kid gets a splinter, I never know how much to spend on kid birthday gifts, and I have no idea when the DIY festival is at school. But that’s OK because I have Pro Moms in my life. Pro Moms are important. Have one or be one.
23. You can be a good mommy even if you don’t “play” with your kid. I love Barbies, I just don’t want to “play” Barbies. That’s because I’m not 6. I never really got into playing with my kids unless it was a something that didn’t make me feel like an idiot. Like a matching game or something like that. If you have an only child, you might feel the need to play more, but just being in the same room together is sometimes enough. Give the kid something to do while you’re busy and that way you can both do your own thing, together.
24. Set boundaries with electronics. In our family, we’re all “No phones at the table!” Our kids don’t actually have phones yet, but that line covers ALL electronics. I’m over the disrespect involved with electronics. My aunt and uncle were in town not long ago and my older kid couldn’t be bothered to get up to say “good-bye” because she was FAR too busy building her art gallery on Minecraft. I flipped out. Have some respect. Get up and say “good-bye” properly or I’m going to sell your iPad and everything in your art gallery.
25. “Doctor please, some more of these…” Try not to pick something that will make you drool or black-out, but if you find you need a little caffeine or wine or whatever to help you through the day, you’re not the only one. Parenting is hard. Side stuff can help.
26. Your friends will change. One of my friends warned me about this, but I didn’t want to listen. It’s true though. Friendships change as our lives change, and even more when kids come along. There are some friends we go through EVERYTHING with, no matter what it is. And then there are some friends who come into our lives for reasons and seasons. Once you become a mommy, maintaining friendships gets harder because time becomes more limited. Stick with the ones who support you, move on from the ones who don’t, and always leave your door open.
I’m not a parenting expert. (I’m not an expert on anything except eating cake.) I’m also not pushing kids. You don’t have to have kids. Kids are a lot of work and being a mommy is hard. It’s responsibility mixed with uncertainty. As Sally Field said in a recent article in The Guardian: “Even with your best intentions, you are never perfect. You’re damaging, and you’re also nurturing. You’re all those things.”
But if you decide to take on “all those things” and become a mommy, I hope you know no greater or fiercer love, and I hope these posts help.
Thank you for being here!
XO, The DS&D Crew