There are many self-imposed rules that we have broken as parents over the past six years parenting three (soon to be four) children. I offer them up to other moms looking for some reassurance that there is no one right way to parent, that no two kids are the same, and that sometimes you just do what you have to do to survive. ☺
1) The baby/toddler/child will never sleep in our bed.
I broke this one early – probably because of the two-fold reality of cluster feeding a new baby all night long and the persistent fear of SIDS. I felt like I was either sitting up breastfeeding my first, or checking on her every few minutes to make sure that she was still really breathing. The bassinet near our bed wasn’t even close enough, as I tried to survive a whole night in a semi-sleep: never fully asleep nor fully awake. Thus entered the co-sleeping basket in our bed that kept baby right near my side – easy to touch, check and nurse. (This is the same product my husband and I laughed hysterically about before our baby was born. It was one of our first servings of humble pie…the reversal of “Never will I ever…”).
By the way, it didn’t stop there! A newborn, turned into a baby, into a toddler still nursing and still spending at least a part of the night in our bed. When our second was a year old, he would fall asleep across my chest and couldn’t be moved. Now our third climbs into bed every night. Our solution has been to get a king sized bed and to roll with the punches. Just when you think you’ve hit your limit, kids start sleeping in their beds through the night (when they don’t have a nightmare, or a cough, or a tooth coming in, or growing pains…). As long as people are sleeping, I frankly don’t care where they are sleeping. My husband and I always get time alone at night to catch up and we’re all still alive and functioning so I call that a win.
2) My kids will never watch TV/iPhones/iPads.
We really try to minimize the need to plant the kids in front of a screen. We go out to eat during the early bird special so no one is overtired, and bring crayons, coloring books, and sticker books to keep the kids entertained. Sometimes, we even bring stories to read. We try to get outside as much as we can in the afternoon instead of inside where the TV lives. We only have one TV that we keep behind closed doors in the family room and two old iPads that we reserve for long road trips. We keep backpacks in the car with a rotation of books and activity books.
But sometimes, for everyone’s sanity, we resort to screentime. When kids are up too early, the iPad is my best friend. When I need everyone to stay in one spot, stop fighting and stop making a mess for one second so that I can get dinner ready, Netflix is on at our house. When the kids have been asking every two minutes into a three or four hour trip when we will be there, Paw Patrol is on their iPads. And yes, if we go out to dinner too late and the kids start falling apart, you will see them on our phones. Don’t judge til you’ve been there.
3) My kids won’t need to have formula.
I was determined to transition our oldest daughter straight from breastmilk to milk. I remember with my first, I actually tried making a “toddler pancake” recipe that called for breastmilk as one of the ingredients. Seriously? Bad enough that I was making some strange pancake recipe from scratch, I couldn’t use formula to make one step at least a little easier? (By the way, our youngest eats Eggo pancakes from the freezer and loves them).
With our son, I got a little more lenient, and phased in formula so I could phase out breastfeeding all the time. He was a kid that would have breastfed all night long if my body could do it and if I let him. With our youngest, a sickness that left her five weeks in the hospital on a feeding tube meant that I was pumping like crazy to try to keep her fed instead of letting the nurses give her formula. Given the extreme stress we were all under, along with the fact that if I wasn’t in or traveling to the hospital, I was trying to spend some time with my older two before I went back to the hospital, meant that pumping this much really wasn’t possible. She got formula at three months, and now at 17 months, is a healthy, happy girl. Another rule meant to be broken!
4) My husband and I will go on a date at least once a week- if not every other.
A lofty goal to be sure, but one that just doesn’t happen in our house. I love my husband, but we find ways to connect during the week that don’t require getting out alone. We are used to taking our kids with us almost everywhere, and they are used to coming. We include them in conversations, and can still talk to each other too over a beer. It works for our family right now better than sorting through sitters, paying them to watch three kids, hoping the kids will actually go to sleep with someone they don’t know well, and paying for a night out on top of that. We take date nights or afternoons when we can get them, but we don’t stress ourselves out trying to make it happen every week.
5) I”ll never waste money to hire someone to help clean the house.
There are few things that are luxuries when you become a mom. Maternity leave is not a luxury. Staying at home with kids is not a luxury. Paying someone to help keep the house somewhat in order? That is a luxury that I am so lucky to have right now. With three kids running around tearing the house apart, it is worth every cent to have my sanity restored by someone else coming in and helping twice a month. If we have to cut back on other things to keep this one thing- especially at eight months pregnant when I can barely bend over to pull on a pair of pants, it is totally worth it. Another rule broken!
These are just a few of the rules I’ve broken, and I know I’ll be breaking many self-imposed rules as our children get older. I’ve already heard myself say the words, “My child won’t have a cell phone,” and know that I can’t guarantee it to be true.