When I was 27, my twins were born. My oldest was not yet 4, and my middle child was just 19 months old. Now, the twins are 11, my prototypical middle child is 12, and my oldest is 14. Finally out of the New Mom Fog (yes, it took me about 10 years to emerge), I’m realizing some of the parenting hacks I was most proud of were just plain weird.
All moms put a unique spin on parenting and end up normalizing practices that others would consider bizarre. Here are a few of the brilliant ideas and practices I came up with before I emerged from the fog:
1. Pre-Chewing My Kids’ Food
Nursing a baby (or two)? Another kid complaining their food is hard to chew? Bring it here! I’ll pre-chew it! Thankfully, the kids don’t remember thanking me as I pulled the softer, partially digested food out of my mouth as if I were raising baby birds and not little humans.
2. Using the Bathtub as a Dental Hygiene Trough
With one small bathroom for four kids and me, my solution to the nighttime tooth-brushing nightmare was to line my kids up along the bathtub and have them brush their teeth simultaneously. No need for step stools, and more importantly, I didn’t need to worry about my littlest ones flinging themselves headlong down the stairs while I was helping someone else in the bathroom.
3. Buying Socks Wholesale
If New Mom Fog had faded sooner, I would have realized that 10-year-olds deserve to have socks they call their own. Instead, I kept a bucket of one-size-pretty-much-fits-all-of-my-kids socks near the front door. All of the socks were the same, so even if the dryer ate a few, there were plenty left. And I didn’t need to nag the kids about finding matching socks. Now that they can have their own socks, they are all sock hoarders and refuse to ever wear matching socks.
4. Making Up Songs About Vaccines
No kid likes shots, but once they understand that polio is a disease that could leave them unable to walk, there is more buy-in. The price I paid was that the kids would walk around singing, “Polio! No, no Polio! A shot hurts less than polio, oh, oh!” We had songs for meningitis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella as well.
5. Devising a Protocol for Upset Stomachs
I’m now on version 5.5 of the Upset Stomach Protocol (USP), but even when I was testing out the beta version, the USP was a lifesaver. As soon as the kids were old enough to hold a bucket and turn on a faucet, they learned to vomit in the bucket, dump the contents into the toilet, and rinse it out afterward. USP 2.0 involved quarantines, a huge step up from the first version. There was a training program associated with USP 3.2. The kids not only learned the protocol, but also were trained up to be “enforcers.” In hindsight, “helper” might have been a better word, but stakes are high when you’re dealing with norovirus.
6. Not Dressing Babies
When I was pregnant with the twins, I received a slew of matching sailor suits and adorable pink and blue outfits. Sailor suits quickly became the Wrath of Neptune and onesies my worst nemesis. I literally developed carpal tunnel syndrome from all of the snaps and diaper tabs I had to deal with. I solved this problem by eliminating the snaps. No more clothes for little humans who couldn’t even talk to complain about it. Boom! Parenting Level: 10!
7. Refusing to Own a Television
I thought we’d be so much more productive, intelligent, and special if we didn’t have a television. When we finally got one, my son asked if we were watching a movie about hamburgers. It was a McDonald’s commercial. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would totally use the TV as a giant babysitter, especially when I was trying to corral two squirmy twins and a stubborn middle child while paying attention to a precocious firstborn. Perhaps a TV would have been more interesting to Juliette than pulling out nails from the baseboards and trying to eat them. Yes, that actually happened. Outlet plugs and baby gates were no match for her, even though she was born with a chaperone.
8. Enforcing a 7 p.m. Bedtime
I am a huge fan of the early bedtime. My problem was that my kids never outgrew it. Or, rather, I never outgrew it. When my 12-year-old mentioned her friends get to stay up until 9 p.m., I moved bedtime back to 8:30. Sleep hygiene is important, but I’m sure there were other relaxing, evening activities we could have done together as a family (like veg out in front of a TV I didn’t own.)
9. Suburban Homesteading
It was literally easier to grow food in my backyard and make my own yogurt than go to a grocery store. So, I purchased flour in 50-pound bags and butter in 40-pound blocks. I made all of our bread and pasta. I was pro-carb before low-carb was a thing.
There was also the time I shaved my head so I wouldn’t have to worry about haircuts, got into powerlifting so I could carry up to four kids at one time, and figured out how to go grocery shopping by wearing one child, pushing the double stroller with one hand, and pulling the cart with another.
I’m writing this from work. Yes, I have a job outside of the house! I took a shower this morning and had time to put on makeup. I’m now remarried and have a brood of six kids who are 9, 11, 11, 11, 12, and 14 years old. I’m sure five years from now, I’ll be groaning over the parenting hacks I’ve developed to deal with this phase.
Some parenting hacks are wacky or weird, but if making up your own rules makes your life easier, it’s definitely worth it.