Information overload is overwhelming parents, writes Sarah Watts in The New York Times. For every question you have—breast milk or formula? SAT tutor or violin lesson?—there are reams of information, studies, and books, all intended to sway you one way or another. Parents feel obligated to stake out an identity, like Attachment Parent or Tiger Parent or French Parent. But you know, roles gets old. Below, seven parenting styles I’ve abandoned.
1. Precious Little Bento Box Parenting
With your first kids you buy so much cute stuff—not just blankets and cribs, but also fancy little things like felt snack traps in the shape of polar bears from Etsy and, I dunno, gold-flecked picnic blankets. By the time #2 comes along everything’s looking pretty worn. You find yourself sending your older kid to school with his lunch wedged into a crumpled yogurt container and an old Altoids tin.
2. Sleek Pants, Crisp Blouse Parenting
Pre-kids, I enjoyed finding the perfect pair of jeans or a kicky little skirt. After one kid I still kept it up pretty well. But after two? I’m struggling not to go full sweatpants. As my friend Christina says, “Do not go gentle into that Eileen Fisher,” so I’ve chosen a middle ground of black, loose pants and tops with asymmetrical draping. Evidently the intermediate step between Babe and Eileen Fisher is Yoga Bat.
3. Reanimated Dead Frog Parenting
You know how in biology class you could make the dead frog jerk if you stuck him in the right place with a pin? That’s how I feel when my son screeches in the middle of the night—like a dead thing that someone is still poking with a fucking needle. But now, rather than rushing to his crib immediately, I give it a minute or two, willing myself to stay asleep. Nine times out of ten he settles back down almost immediately, the initial cry just an experimental shot over the bow.
4. Mmmmmkkaaaay? Parenting
Early on I was one of those parents who would crouch at eye level to their kids and say earnestly, “Waylon, we need to think about starting to get on home, because daddy will be home soon and we need to consider what we’re going to do about dinner, mmmmmmkkkaaaay?” Waylon, who is preverbal and has a load in his pants, understands none of this and screams when his consensus-seeking mother tries to pry him away from the slide. But, you know, dealing with children is not a Quaker meeting. Now I just bark: We’re going, and we go. They scream anyway, but at least I don’t feel like I’m failing to negotiate a peace agreement.
5. Tippler Parenting
With kid #1 I would often have a cocktail at 5 while fixing dinner and listening to the news. The advent of kid #2 means I need all my faculties, otherwise my two hulking children gang up on me like muggers rolling a drunk and I end up dragged to the floor with organic polenta mashed into my eyebrows. I now save my cocktail for post-kid-bedtime.
6. Long Soulful Gazes Parenting
In the beginning I read about attachment parenting and the importance of meeting your infant’s gaze at every turn. I watched his every move as he grew; I crouched over him like Dracula while he played. But you run out of time and energy for super-intensive and interactive parenting. And they somehow grow up just fine, maybe even better, without that hyper-focus. At this point, when my second child rounds the corner to the kitchen I’m always mildly startled, like, hey, there’s that kid again.
7. Rubber-Glove Parenting
Why is there always something gritty underfoot? This is one of the mysteries of raising children. I used to really mop and wipe down everything daily, like scrubbing with cleanser and rubber gloves—but now I pretty much just show the grit a Clorox wipe and call it a day.
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