Moderation Motherhood: The Parenting Philosophy For The Rest Of Us

by Jen Simon
parenting styles moderation
Nomadsoul1 / iStock

What kind of mom do you want to be? In an era defined by Facebook oversharing, Pinterest planning, and clickbait headlines, the answer can no longer be as simple as “a good one.” It seems like there is no normal idea of motherhood anymore, only increasingly extreme cults the internet commands you to join, which are legitimized by a title some random writer made up.

Giving a name to extremist behaviors makes them the new normal or at least the new cause célèbre. You don’t hover; you’re a helicopter mom. You’re not an asshole; you’re a tiger Mom. For those on opposite ends of the spectrum of parenting styles, there is free-range parenting and attachment parenting. But what about the rest of us? The majority of us, hanging out in the middle without a catchy name to defend—and even glamorize—our parenting style?

I’m calling for a new movement. It won’t be flashy. It won’t land me a book deal. People won’t be writing op-eds condemning or defending me. But guess what? It might just help define the majority of us who don’t believe in, are too exhausted for, or just too lazy to commit to an overreaching, strict, structured parenting philosophy.

So join me, my fellow doing-your-best-at-the-time parents, for we are Moderation Mothers.

Moderation, by its very definition, is not exciting. It doesn’t offer a quick fix or give you rules to which your adherence guarantees your success. Boring doesn’t sell; exciting does. And there’s nothing more exciting than the extreme. It’s new! It’s sexy! Everyone’s trying it and so should you! Even if an extreme version isn’t the best idea, it’s the one that grabs the most attention. And that goes a long way in a culture where even a 2-year-old (like mine) can swipe between videos on YouTube.

I parent moderately. I teach my sons about letters and numbers and science and art, but it’s true—I let the electronic babysitter take over when I need a break. Yes, I want them to eat healthy, but I’m not about to start making all our food from scratch. They eat broccoli, but they also occasionally eat at McDonald’s because sometimes I just need to sit, drink a Diet Coke, and watch them run around. I’m pretty hands-off at the playground; I let my older son work things out if he has a problem. But if an argument turns physical, I’m there, just as fast as any helicopter or attachment mom would be.

The vast majority of parents only want the best for their children, but the best often takes a lot of time, and money, and energy. Who has all that energy? There are a lot of times when I’m not trying to imprint joy or make forever memories with my sons; I’m just trying to get through the day. A lot of us are. And that’s OK.

Most of my kids’ game pieces are in their proper boxes, but hell if I know where a few of them are. I save my sons’ drawings, but haven’t archived them or even boxed them properly. And while I take tons of pictures, I haven’t printed them in a long time, as in “the baby is 2 and there’s only one picture of him in the house” long time. It’s not that I don’t want them to have perfectly notated baby books and a pantry organized by size and label, it’s just that I have more pressing issues like putting away the laundry, washing the dishes and, oh yeah, sleeping.

Motherhood in and of itself is extreme. Your mind, body and relationships go through an astounding amount of changes, never to return to the way they once were. You, you, are responsible to feeding and growing and educating and loving and taking care of a human being! And not just until they go to kindergarten or until they’re 18, but forever. There is never, ever a time again when you’re not a parent.

So why be so strict about it? Why spend hours making your kid’s food look like Legos or quiz them on Chinese verbs during the summer? Why not read an extra book at bedtime or eat birthday cake for breakfast or wear pajamas all day? Moderation Motherhood is giving yourself permission to let some things slide, yes, but also permission to (gasp) actually enjoy this parenting gig.

Being a parent isn’t easy, but if you’re a Moderation Mother, you do the best you can do. And according to me, random writer, that’s pretty good.