Parents: What’s on Your To-DON’T List?
It’s OK to admit you can’t, even won’t do all the things. It’s time to DON’T more of those things.
I just read the most incredible motivational article! And let me tell you, it was not the traditional motivational drivel that you’re usually click-baited into reading.
No, this little nugget of self-help gold is the real deal — and it’s hilarious. It’s called “Every woman has an ‘I Don’t’ list. And it’s about time we shared them.”
I could not agree more that women in general need to add to their “I Don’t” list, but what I found as I thought about what would be on my list, is that the majority of things I don’t do (or wish I didn’t) are more parenting related than just woman related.
Sure, I work at home and a large part of that work is unpaid work related to my children and household. My husband is able to work (has to work) the paid job he does thanks to the unpaid work I do. Without this arrangement, we could not possibly live the way we do, with me able to cook and take care of the day-to-day at home.
As a woman, mother, wife, human, and parent, the pressures I feel — whether real, imagined, socially, or self-imposed — cause real stress in my life. So, I now consider it my duty to spread the gospel of “I Don’t” that Holly Wainwright has brilliantly and thoughtfully created for us.
Personally, when I’m weighing the pros and cons of doing a particular thing, I like to ask myself what the time spent will get me in return. For instance, the time spent reading to my children has huge, undeniable returns for them and me, so that will always be a big YES. However, creating fantasical lunchscapes in their lunches for school will probably never happen because, well, I think that one kinda goes without saying…
We can’t get our time back, folks! So unless I enjoy a thing and get something out of it for myself and/or my family — it’s going straight to the top of my to-don’t list.
Here’s my non-exhaustive TO-DON’T list, for your perusal, inspiration, entertainment, ridicule, judgement, whatever you feel like you need to do with it. But really, the less parent-shaming, the better.
My Parental To-Don’t list:
- Iron — unless I’m sewing, otherwise, I don’t even consider buying clothes that need to be ironed.
- Play personal chef — I prepare large batches of almost everything I serve to make sure there are leftovers for lunches and to cook less often. There is no à la carte menu at my house and everyone eats the same thing or they don’t eat. Luckily, my children have done well with this philosophy from their first bites of solid foods.
- Make everything a magical experience for my kids — I believe in finding the magic in everyday experiences instead.
- Want a dog — Yeah, I know. But I don’t want to do the things required to keep a dog happy and healthy, so, NO.
- Bathe my kids every day — I like to think of it as cultivating their immune systems, not being totally, inexcusably lazy and forgetful. My son’s twice weekly showers are scheduled on the calendar so we don’t forget and let weeks go by on accident.
- Encourage participation in ALL the activities — Extra-curriculars are great, but two is my max at one time. One is fine with me. I believe in free play and boredom.
- Clean very much — Would I like a cleaner house? Yes. Do I have other higher priorities? Also yes.
- Care if the house is messy — It is. Could I declutter all day every day? Indeed, I could. Would it make any difference? Nope.
- Monitor screen time very well — So far, my son only knows about educational games on the iPad, so when he wakes up at 6:30 AM on the weekend, he can have at it on the math problems while we lie unconscious in our beds for another hour of much needed sleep. I’ll alter this one as needed in the future.
- Care much about holidays — I don’t go all out on decorations or make a big deal of most holidays. I appreciate the value of special occasions, but I don’t like the manufactured side of so many holidays, so we only do what we value personally.
- Do all the spirit nights/volunteer activities at school — this is a tough one because the school always needs money and volunteers. We do what we can reasonably do and try not to feel too guilty about not doing it all.
- Believe in “bouncy house culture” — this is my term for what I see as over-the-top entertainment for kids. Wanna have a bouncy house for a birthday party? Go for it! Will I take my kids to bouncy house facilities voluntarily, for the hell of it? God, no. We are lucky enough have a back yard for running and jumping.
- Entertain my children — with the exception of reading and playing games with them, I don’t consider myself an entertainer. We all live in the same house and we all have things we can do in it at the same time. I can supervise my toddler daughter playing while I cook. She can “help” me with laundry or unloading the dishwasher, but I don’t believe it benefits either of us for me to play with her at all times.
- Shop for birthday presents for my kids’ friends — for a while, I did. But if there’s one thing I despise, it’s junk. I don’t like it when people give it to my kid and I don’t like giving it to other people’s kids. My preference is that kids’ parties not involve gifts, but to avoid making myself and my kids total pariahs, I settled on a policy of $5 cash for everyone. There are too damn many parties and I have no time or desire to shop for stuff that’s going to annoy other parents and not matter to the kid.
- Clean my kid’s room — Ok, when it gets really bad, I do. Occasionally, toys have to be sorted and culled. But he’s old enough to start maintaining a general level of order himself. He wants to live in disorder? His choice.
There are probably other things to add to the list, but you get the gist. And don’t worry, the list of things I DO is exponentially longer. I’m not trying to shirk all of my responsibilities, just prioritize them.
It’s a positive thing — even if this list may be seen as a big negative.
What’s on your list? It does not have to be anything like my list. Some people find ironing relaxing and meditative. Those people should iron to their hearts content. It takes all kinds!
The important thing is to have boundaries. This world is complex, ever faster moving, and stressful as it is. We don’t need to add more stress by trying to do everything — especially when it doesn’t bring us measurable returns of joy, happiness, satisfaction, learning, health, etc…
How each of us measures the returns we look for and value is as variable as the to-don’t lists we will make for ourselves.
Thanks for reading.
Follow along with my adventures in publishing my first children’s book, Opossum Opposites, by clicking here.
You may also enjoy: