“I’ll Never Do That When I Have Kids” . . . and Other Lies I Told Myself

Before having kids, I’d always envisioned myself being the “ideal” mother; you know, the one who has Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for their kids, abstains from feeding their kids processed foods, and chooses the “hard” items on the class party sign-up list? Well, that was always my plan. But once I actually had my sweet nine-pound baby, the script was quickly rewritten. This idea of me being the perfect mix of Martha Stewart and Mary Poppins faded away, being replaced by reality and my new role of a mother simply trying to survive the day.

You see, prior to having my own children, I used to scoff when I saw parents giving their child an iPad in a restaurant. I mean, did they not see the latest American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for screen time? I would NEVER be one of those parents! No ma’am; we would use restaurant visits as an opportunity to discuss our goals and values as a family; what our roses and thorns were for that day…and possibly even end the meal with a devotional. Fast forward to four-and-a-half years later, and “Blippi” is now a regular (and might I even say welcomed) attendee at our family restaurant dinners.

Speaking of family dinners, can y’all believe some people (read: me) bribe—I mean, positively reinforce—their children to eat their dinner by promising them dessert? You see, this was never part of my plan. As someone who had worked with a nutritionist, read books on intuitive eating, and used to cook their own bone broth, I had vowed never to barter bites with my child! You see, I just knew that my (future) child would eat what was served to them (on a recycled, fair-trade, BPA-free plate, might I add). They would comply simply because it was the right thing to do and because their bodies craved the healthy nutrients! Back to reality; while we don’t offer ice cream every night as a trade-off for eating his veggies, we do sometimes encourage or nudge my son to eat his chicken and green beans before he can have more fruit!

Now, having lived most of my life in Louisiana, I knew that southern mamas dressed their babies different from people above the Mason-Dixon line. I’d always dreamed of the days that I would have a child of my own to dress in smocked dresses and bubbles, seersucker jonjons and monogramming for days. While pregnant me thought it would a great idea to put a baby in a $40 hand-monogrammed, handwash only outfit, postpartum me quickly realized the faults in my thinking. My child pooped on his perfectly-monogrammed bloomers. He spit up on his seersucker. He got baby food on his fancy jonjons. We have come a long way since those days and we are now the proud owners of hand-me-down outfits, Garanimals, and Cat and Jack clearance clothing; only the best for my little prince!

Prior to parenthood, I had also dreamed of being that mom who brings in homemade treats for every school party. I just knew that when the time came, I would spend hours baking from scratch, and my toddler and his peers would truly appreciate the time and energy I spent crafting said creations! While I must admit that for his first year of school I made banana ghosts, mummy applesauce pouches, and Halloween treat bags with thoughtful and educational non-candy prizes in them…I am now the first parent to sign-up for juice boxes or fruit snacks. Despite my shortcomings as class baker, I have not had any complaints from my preschooler about my contributing fruit snacks to his class parties!

While we are on the subject of parties, let’s discuss the big elephant (pinata) in the room—children’s birthday parties. You see, before having kids of my own, I just assumed that I would always have a Pinterest-worthy birthday party for my child. We would not do “character” parties but keep it classy with a traditional theme such as “Choo Choo! Matthew is Turning 2!” No pre-made party sets from Party City here; all the décor would be hand-made from an Etsy artist or myself, customized with my child’s name. There would be snacks fit to the theme, complete with handmade labels so you knew that the pretzel sticks weren’t simply pretzel sticks but were “lumber” for the train cars! Now do y’all wanna know what really happened? My son’s first birthday party simply had balloons, bubbles for the kids to play with, and yummy food. I had several friends ask me, “What is the theme?” upon which I replied, “Happy Birthday?” I received confused looks; “No, but what is the THEME?” …. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed his simple, no fuss birthday parties every year.

Now, some people enjoy baking for their child’s class from scratch (better be peanut free!), throwing elaborate parties for their children with handmade décor, and adorning their children in dapper monogrammed outfits. Some parents may also excel at limiting their kids’ screen time and have kids who are perfect eaters (who do not require bribery to eat their broccoli). Since having a kid of my own, I’ve learned that not living up to these ideals doesn’t make me any less of an amazing mama; it just makes me a different mama from some others, and different from the one I had originally envisioned. I think my son is pretty pleased with what he got as a mom, though; after all, he doesn’t mind eating Lunchables and PopTarts!

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Madison Stilson
Madison is a Louisiana native who recently moved to with her family to Harmony, a small town in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Madison studied Elementary Grades Education at LSU after which she taught elementary school in Baton Rouge. She is now a stay-at-home mom who enjoys watching “Blippi” and tripping over Hot Wheels that her son Matthew leaves all over the floor. She has an affinity for all things organization; a new planner, label maker, or cubby is like Christmas morning to her. She is often guilty of staying up well past her bedtime reading library books on her Kindle or watching Lifetime Christmas movies. Madison has struggled with chronic health issues for the better part of a decade and is constantly working toward improving her health. She enjoys connecting with other mamas and appreciates the creative outlet that writing provides her.