Mom-guilt seems almost inescapable. One of my friends just had a baby less than two weeks ago. Her newborn was struggling to settle into a deep sleep and she was desperate for a few hours of rest herself. Against her own knowledge on sleep safety, she let her son sleep in a Rock-N-Play Sleeper. Contrary to its name the Rock-N-Play is not technically a safe sleeping space for babies. Still, my friend - and millions of other women - have used it to soothe a fussy child and survive the early days of infancy. Every mother has done whatever it takes to get through hard times; sometimes moms even break the rules to make it work for their family. I have broken lots of rules in my three years as a mom to little ones!
Most of the mistakes I've made as a mom - or, more accurately, the rules I've broken - have been relatively harmless. Thankfully I haven't paid some heavy price for bending the rules. Some parents have! Kim Brooks, author of Motherhood In The Age Of Fear, recounts her arrest after she left her child sitting in the car outside Starbucks for mere minutes.
I knew what I was supposed to do. But I was tired. I was late. I didn’t want, at that moment, to deal with a meltdown. And there was something else: a small, quiet voice I’d been hearing more and more lately. “Why?” the voice asked. Why did I have to fight this battle? He wasn’t asking to Rollerblade in traffic. He just wanted to sit in the car. Why couldn’t I leave him, just this once?
She has a point. In many ways, Kim's choice to leave her kid in the car is a perfectly rational parenting choice. Of course, Kim was making this decision in the greater context of her own day and schedule. Her daughter was waiting to be picked up at her grandparents' home and Kim was running a few minutes late. After struggling to get her four-year-old out of the car and into Starbucks, Kim was stuck. To be completely honest, I can't say I would have chosen differently.
The only significant difference between Kim and I is that no one has called the cops with my license plate number to have me arrested for my parenting choices. Yet.
Just like every other parent, I've fudged the rules when it's suited me. Sometimes my kid stays up past his bedtime, or I forget to brush his teeth. No one is perfect! As far as I can tell, my kids are no worse for the wear. Having a bit of flexibility has kept me sane (literally). It's 2019 and expectations on parents have never been higher. Social media has turned every public space into a viewing gallery. When a toddler throws a tantrum in Target there's a 36% chance a TikTokker will record it and upload it. As someone with anxiety, knowing that I'm being constantly watched wreaks havoc on my mental health. Obviously, my kids will fare better with a sane mother than one on the verge of losing it. Even though I know I'm being watched I've made "mom mistakes"; I've bent the rules.
- My Newborn Slept In A Rock-N-Play For Four Months
I'm not sure how I missed this memo on safe sleep. All of my friends swore by the Rock-N-Play, sharing how it helped their baby sleep soundly! My newborn shared our room and started his night in the Rock-N-Play. Come to find out, babies are not supposed to sleep unsupervised in the Rock-N-Play! The incline can close off their windpipe and lead to suffocation. By the grace of God, my child survived my own naivete.
- I Installed My Son's Car Seat Wrong
- Sometimes My Kids Stay Up Past Their Bedtime
- I've Opened Unbought Snacks In The Grocery Store
- I've Left My Kids In The Car In The Driveway
Mostly because I need to run inside to use the restroom before we actually depart. Sometimes, I've left them sleeping in the car after we arrive home while I put away groceries. Apparently, my neighbors aren't trying to turn me in for neglect (thank goodness)!
- I Forget To Give My Kids Their Vitamins
- Both Of My Kids Slept With A Blanket Before Age One
- Pregnancy Didn't Stop Me From Drinking Coffee
- I Forgot My Toddler's Epi-Pen At Home
I hate to admit I have forgotten to bring the epi-pen with us many times. One of the times I forgot it, Shep ate a peanut butter cookie. He's allergic to peanuts. In a panic, I had to decide to administer Benadryl or take him to the ER. Not my best moment as a mom.
I could go on. My point stands: none of us will escape parenthood without bending the rules from time to time. Most of us will luckily be spared from any real negative consequences. Even when we make an approved choice, when we do everything "right", harm can come to our children. Is it a mistake? Is it just a parent trying their best? That depends on your perspective.