Before I had kids, I read all the baby books, from the What to Expects to the attachment parenting theories. Then during my kid’s younger years, I read more: the free-range ones, the helicopter ones, and the ones on parenting a strong-willed, gifted, challenged, and any other type of child you have. But what I never read in any of those parenting books — and what I was woefully unprepared for — was how to deal with other parents and families, and what coping skills I was going to need to possess to be able to deal with all the bullshit that comes with it.
Nobody parents alone in a bubble. Rather, as a mothering community, we have mostly embraced the “it takes a village” mentality. And thankfully so, because there are many other mothers and fathers I regularly depend on to help me with the inevitable logistics of raising kids. But beyond who is picking up what kid from soccer practice, there lies an undercurrent of outside pressures from friends, neighbors, and acquaintances that mothers often feel they need to live up to. Somehow, we turn into “Yes” people, people who worry about keeping up with the Joneses, the Joneses’ kids, and the Joneses’ parenting style. We’re forever feeling we’re not good enough, afraid we’re failing our kids, and afraid to say what we really want to say. It’s like we’re constantly defending and explaining ourselves.
It’s time to stop feeling the need to explain ourselves. Just like we answer a whiney kid with “because I said so” without explanation, there are plenty of things we do as parents that we 100% do not need to explain, like:
1. Why “No” is a complete sentence
When asked to do something that I didn’t have the time, energy, or any desire whatsoever to do, I used to feel like I had to justify my “no” answer with a detailed reason why I couldn’t do what was being asked. Guess what? People don’t care, and you don’t need to explain shit. Say “no,” and move on.
2. Your kid’s participation in extracurricular activities (or lack thereof)
That’s just it, they are your kid’s activities. When, where, and how many your family decides to participate in is nobody else’s business. Getting heat from other moms for not signing up for next season, joining the school band, or the after-school environmental club? Let it go, and continue to do what extracurricular activities are right for your family, not anyone else’s.
3. Why you’re not volunteering at school (or Girl Scouts, youth group, or T-ball)
I spent years volunteering at my kids’ school — for everything from classroom subbing to PTA committee work to being the chairperson for large events — and now I’m just plain tired. My kids are also not so little anymore, and I am entering a different season of life dealing with teens and college-aged kids. For this reason, I am doing far less than I ever have at their school. But you (and I) don’t need a reason or explanation for why we are getting off the school-volunteerism roller coaster. Say “no” confidently and without a sentence after it, because you decide what you do, when you do it, and if it is worthy of your time or leaves you resentful and drained.
4. Why you’re taking time off from social media, moms’ night out, and other social gatherings
So, you need to just be in your own head for a little while, you’ve had enough of the comparison game played on Facebook, and you’re just too plain tired for a girls’ night out. Guess what? You are an adult. You get to say who, when, and where you get to spend your free social time. Finding yourself a little more introverted lately? You’re not alone, and you don’t need to explain your reasons to the extroverted.
5. Why your mental health is your priority
When you finally realize that you’re able to do all of the above without explanation, the first thing to thank you will be your mental health, and making it a priority trumps everything. And I do mean everything. Taking a step back from life, taking medication, seeing a therapist, or any other form of recharging your brain batteries by checking out of life for a while never needs an explanation from you to your peers. When you need a break, you need a break, not an inquisition. Period.
Putting yourself, your health, and your family ahead of your concern for how others will react to you having to do or be less should be your number one priority. Leave all the mom explaining up to others who still actually have some fucks to give.