Being okay with doing less is actually something to celebrate
I’ve been a mom for almost 12 years, and for half of those years, I was forced to do less by default. I was working full-time with two small children who constantly needed things from me, so an Instagrammable parenting life was not in the cards. Ironically, I was working for parenting sites during that time, so I was very well-versed in all the things other moms were somehow pulling off: juggling extracurriculars, having craft-tastic holidays, and volunteering for all the things.
Doing less started as a necessity, but as my kids grew older and less demanding and I realized I had more choice in the matter, doing less actually became the gold standard for how to run a functional house. Moms who do less, I salute you. And moms who haven’t figured out how to lighten the load a little yet, here are some tips. I believe in you. You too can do less.
I grew up in the ’80s, and every single birthday party followed the same itinerary: invite a few kids over, play some games (usually involving pinning the tail on something and sitting on a balloon until it popped), eat cake, open presents, and send kids home. For my daughter’s 6th birthday, I decided to go for a princess theme. We rented out a place that had “princess makeovers”—little salon seats where the girls got their nails and makeup done. Then women dressed like Disney princesses galavanted around the room and took pictures with everyone. There was a perfect tier of cupcakes with little tiaras sitting atop each one.
You know what all the girls’ favorite part of that party was? When they sat in a circle and played hot potato. Seriously. A real potato being thrown from person to person. Because kids are simple little beings who are easily entertained and I promise you that having a group of friends over and dancing around your living room for a bit will be just as fun for them as going to some faux-fairyland where they get age-appropriate makeovers. We’re doing too much. The next year I bought a little disco light for $12 off of Amazon, and the girls danced and played hot potato. Do less.
There are some kids who are drawn to extracurriculars; I know this because my friends have them. My kids are not. For several years, I forced them to “try some out,” thinking for sure they’d find something they liked. We attempted jujitsu, gymnastics, ballet… nothing interested them. They participated, but no real fun was being had. One day after jujitsu, I walked up to my son and asked him if he enjoyed it. He said, “Not really, but I know you really want me to do something, so I’ll keep going, Mom!”
What? I realized then that not all kids need to be shuttled around from one activity to the next. Kudos to you if you have kids who are naturals, but if yours aren’t into it, don’t stress. Take the extracurriculars off all of your plates. You’re not a worse mom because you’re not spending half your life in your car, taking your kids places they may not even want to be.
I have a lot of former child-free friends who smugly declared they’d never make separate meals for their future kids, and my favorite thing to do is laugh in their faces when I see them feeding their kids marshmallows for dinner. Then I give them a high five, because, solidarity. The thing about kids is that they’re little human beings with their own interests and opinions. Weird, right?
Just like some adults don’t like Brussels sprouts, some kids don’t, either! And you don’t need to stress about it. Find one easy dinner they like and default to it on any day that they’re feeling picky, and don’t feel bad about it. My kids get excited about breakfast for dinner, so I know if all else fails they’ll eat egg whites and toast—and I’m fine with that. Find your egg whites and toast, and call it a day.
Book fairs, holiday fairs, wrapping paper drives, box tops, Parent Teacher Association parties… there is so much (much-needed) fundraising that goes on when your kids are in school. PTAs are amazing organizations that truly help supplement funds so schools can pull off some great programs for kids.
You know what they need besides hands-on parental involvement? Cash. Don’t feel bad about opting out of the physical aspect of it and just giving a donation. It’s a lot. And there are parents who don’t have very small children or don’t work full-time or just simply enjoy the heavy lifting involved with school fundraising. Let them do it, support monetarily, and don’t feel bad about it.
School projects are meant to be done by kids. Alone. Not supervised and directed by a parent. If you are stressing out about a school project, it’s probably because some over-zealous parent totally constructed their child’s, then bragged about what an artistic genius their kid was on social media. That parent is a lying liar. Let your kid make their crappy, age-appropriate project without your help. Then all you need to do is be proud of said crappy, age-appropriate project.
If our kids’ rooms look like an outtake from a Pottery Barn catalog, we’ve gone too far. Kids like to play with things. They like to build intricate lands and return to those lands. Kids need a safe space to call their own, and part of that is deciding how that space will look. Set boundaries about certain things that you think are “too far”—and stick to them. But don’t get down on yourself if your child’s room is a mess. Taking the pressure off of them will also take the pressure off of you.
Making Things Magical
In our effort to make things as magical as possible, we can forget that the most magical thing about childhood is… childhood. The belief in the magical will be there whether you’re able to pull off Instagram-worthy Elf on the Shelf scenes or convince your kids there is a fairy garden that’s taken up residence on the other side of their wall by constructing an elaborate little door. Ninety percent of belief and magic lives in our imaginations—something you’ll remember if you think about your own childhood. You’re not failing if you can’t pull these things off—we’re simply not all meant to craft. And that’s just fine.