Nothing reveals the lie that is Dylan’s “Forever Young” like spit-up on a crop top. There is, of course, a deep dignity built into the rearing of children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sully it by holding tight to certain habits.
Here are the trends that you, mothers of the world, should probably let go of immediately (if you want to).
[Editorial note: This article was updated on July 26, 2018.]
1. Feeling Guilty for Not Using Organic Everything
You’ve joined the mommy groups, and in every one of them, there is someone named Gwyneth who wants to send you an email about how you are slowly poisoning your family by cooking with canola oil and using lotions with glycerin. She smiles tightly when she finds out that you don’t spoon-feed your little one exclusively with homemade, organic fruit-and-vegetable purees, like this Sweet Potato and Leek Pâté for Baby recipe that she has included in her email.
You can make that child’s root vegetable and onionish mash and enjoy it, but be sure to reply all to Gwyneth and the other moms with this link to Berkeley Wellness’ overview of canola oil myths and truths, and the Environmental Working Group’s most recent shopping guide, which includes produce that you really don’t need to bother going organic on, Gwyneth. You’re done feeling guilty about everything. Let them excommunicate you from the mommy group.
2. Skipping Your Massage
When it comes time to manage your stress levels by doing something self-care-y, like paying 80 bucks for a stranger to knead your body for an hour while nature sounds play from a small set of speakers, it is surprisingly easy to weasel your way out of it. Even though you frequently think, “Hey, I really need a massage,” there is a huge gulf between this simple desire and the willingness to make it happen.
Maybe it’s the fact that you have to keep yet another appointment. Maybe it’s that defensive monologue that starts playing in your head any time you’re doing something for you. It can be difficult to do things—even enjoyable things—that are purely for your own well-being since we have often been conditioned to view them as self-indulgent.
But it’s time to let this massage happen. The body holds onto emotions in a powerful way, and research suggests that massage therapy can alleviate back pain, reduce anxiety, and improve the quality of life for people living with certain diseases. Plus it feels really good. (There is also evidence suggesting that simply lying down in a relaxing room while listening to music you like and doing breathing exercises has a similar effect, so if you’re low on cash, you’re not out of luck when it comes to stress management.)
3. Paleo and Other Anti-Gluten Diets When You Don’t Even Like Eating That Way
If you have Crohn’s disease or a true gluten intolerance, please disregard the following. If, however, you’re a one of the majority of humans whose guts are just fine with wheat, this message is for you.
The whole “bread is the devil” thing is fine when you’re just worrying about your own nutrition, but when kids enter the picture, you’ve got to meet them halfway. Our argument for giving up gluten-free diets once you’ve had kids is simple: You will not be able to resist sneaking bites of SpaghettiOs. You’ll make things easier on yourself if you can work out a healthy, varied diet that can be shared with a toddler.
Does anyone else give their kids Spaghettios and you just have to take a bite? 😂
— Danny Stanberry (@Draystan83) July 22, 2018
Plus, and most importantly: Life is too short not to eat bread if you want to eat bread. Especially when you consider the fact that, for those gluten-shunners who are physiologically capable of digesting gluten, you may actually be depriving yourself of more nutritious options.
4. Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Other Smart Speakers
There’s nothing like creepy listening technology to turn you into a conspiracy theorist or at least a devoted luddite. Then again, for every 6-year-old who’s successfully ordered a $170 dollhouse, there are probably about a hundred simple requests that these “smart speakers” are incapable of deciphering. (By now, you’ve seen the video. You know the one. That poor toddler just wanted to hear a song called “Digger Digger,” and the Amazon Echo responded with an inexplicable and explicit stream of language.)
Until AI gets its act together, you may prefer to stay well behind the cutting edge of technology. Like, maybe you could invest in an abacus and some papyrus. That’d be safe.
5. Doing the Dishes, Again
You’ve done the dishes every night this week, which is not so different from last week, when you also did the dishes every night. You are with a partner of your dreams. (“A” not “the,” because you are realistic.) Before you had children, your married life seemed like an endless succession of sleepovers with your best friend (plus certain perks!), but since you’ve brought in a third, the tide has been shifting. Your significant other, who was always outspoken about “egalitarian parenting,” now allows you to take on the majority of the housework, all while you feed a small human with your body.
It’s not just you—this is a documented trend. Dishes, of course, are symbolic. Maybe it’s not the dirty plates that you keep having to balance on your own, but the child care, or the emotional labor, as is the case in many heterosexual marriages.
I wish my husband would understand that he is not 'babysitting' the kids – he is parenting them!! Seriously!! It's driving me slightly nuts!
— Cherry Newby (@TheNewbyTribe) February 7, 2017
According to experts, the success of your partnership depends on your partner’s emotional intelligence and willingness to consider your feelings and your life—something that (surprise!) many men are not adept at.
Why is it that when I cook dinner I still do 80% of the dishes, but when my husband cooks dinner he gets to have a national parade and doesn't bother taking his plate to the sink??
— Mrs. MamaTeacherRealtor (@MamaGreen8) July 18, 2018
Be sure to tell them, very clearly and out loud, what you want. If your dude has typically treated you well and is merely experiencing an EQ hiccup, it’s best to talk it out together or with a therapist. If, on the other hand, they’re uninterested in meeting your needs and always have been, we’ve really only got one piece of advice: drop ‘em like a hot…dish.
6. Eating Lean Cuisine for Any Reason
As one new mother I went to high school with, Renee Clemente, recently queried in a social media post: “How in the world can anyone get full on a Lean Cuisine? There are 6 raviolis. Six.”
None of us had answers to this very important question. As it turns out, we didn’t have to. “This is a GD pathetic snack,” she concluded.
Clemente was onto something. What is even the point? These frozen “meals” received a rating of 1.4 out of 5 stars on their ConsumerAffairs page, where they’re thoroughly burned by over 70 consumers, many of whom seem puzzled by the Polly Pocket dinners.
“The meat portion in most of the meals seems to be getting smaller,” notes one reviewer.
Another “very disappointed” Lean Cuisiner complains about finding only three pieces of beef in her beef korma.
Finally, the absurdity reaches a crescendo: “I brought the Peri Peri chicken with couscous, only to find once I cooked it and opened the packet, there was no one piece of chicken in there.”
This frozen dinner tastes like sad.
— Crab (@Blue_Crab) October 30, 2009
Lean Cuisine? How about Leave Cuisine. Save your money and your health and make your own, larger make-ahead dishes using fresh ingredients instead. According to food blogger The Seasoned Mom, you can set aside 45 minutes (come on, Blair, is it really 45 though?) once every week to have five different healthy freezer meals that will each take five minutes to prepare. Even if it’s not a clean 45 minutes, we suggest you give it a go, unless you prefer meals made for dolls.
7. Pretending You Don’t Need Therapy
Life is often struggling. Sometimes we have to put on a brave face and power through the hard times in order to get to the good stuff on the other side. But sometimes—probably more often than most people let on—what we actually need is a mental health expert to work through a whole host of our issues with, issues that we can’t smell on ourselves because we’ve been marinating in them for our entire lives, as were our parents before us.
Reached a new being a mom level. I dream about terrible things that could happen to the kids if I go to sleep for a minute. Seeking therapy.
— Whitney Rio-Ross (@whitlynnrioross) June 23, 2014
Raising tiny people can force you to unearth all the guck inside you, or it can inspire you to double down on covering it up with leaves and moss and the beautiful mind-numbingness of childrearing routine. But if you want to take the best care of them that you can, you have to take care of yourself—and understand how you might be unintentionally passing down destructive thought patterns and behaviors.
Saying that everything is “fine” repeatedly when you feel your grip on reality start to loosen even as you grit your teeth hard and cry harder in the shower? It isn’t good. It is not hip or strong. It is for teenagers from the 1950s and the men you stopped dating when you decided to love yourself. Choose to live your best life and schedule that appointment for your mental health.
8. Believing That You’re Supposed to Be Magically Different After Becoming a Mom
Not trying to troll you here, but why are you reading this article? Be honest—you thought it was going to be a hate-read, didn’t you? As cleansing as a bit of good hate-reading can be, it can also start to grind down your soul, especially if you find an article that confirms all of your secret fears (that you are a failing mother because of X, Y, Z). Trust that those articles exist, because everyone loves telling women, and especially mothers, how they should be.
You are not a bird-whispering, house-cleaning, nurturing-goddess wonder because you’re a mom. Nor are you a livestock animal who only feeds others and stares blankly while slowly circling the same square of land till the end of days. You would die for your kids, but sometimes you don’t even like them—and that’s okay.
Have you seen Arrival? Some moments, you want nothing more than for a race of wise, benevolent octopi to abduct you and remind you that there is more to existence than spending hours of your waking life making homemade, organic fruit-and-vegetable purees. That is also fine.
You don’t stop being a complex human being with a weird, beautiful, despicable, and frantic interior world just because now someone calls you “Mommy.” Wear the crop-top. Put on your favorite pair of acid-wash sequined jeans or throw them out and build a capsule wardrobe that simplifies your aesthetic. Sign up for a sci-fi screenwriting class. Peel the sweet potato. Chop the leek. Learn the hacks but know when to sit still in the chaos. Motherhood is often struggling—but when there’s joy it can lift you like a spaceship beam.