5 Ways We're Making Parenting Harder

Is it me or has parenting become exponentially more difficult in the last 10 years? When I was a kid, I remember spending my days eating Spaghetti-Os, watching marathons of Muppet Babies, and playing outside for hours and hours with no adult in sight. You know what that's considered now? Neglect.

Maybe this is always true of the current generation, but we seem to have deemed ourselves parenting experts and consider everything our parents did to be wrong. In some ways, this is a good thing (e.g. Riding in the backs of pick-up trucks). In other ways it's just absolutely ridiculous. For example:

1. Birthday Parties

What in the hell has happened here? I remember going to birthday parties as a kid. We simply played for a bit, sang "Happy Birthday", ate some friggin' cake, and watched our buddy open up some presents. Why on Earth have these things morphed into themed parties that take hours of planning, hundreds of dollars and are only appreciated by the people who aren't being celebrated? It's crazy! For HJ's first birthday, I fell victim to this whole fiasco. We had a Milk & Cookies theme and I stressed myself completely out as I accounted for food allergies, activities for older kids, balloons during a helium shortage, and the perfect shade of pink in every corner. I was still so stressed out by the experience that HJ had a grandparents only party the next year.

2. Elf on the Shelf

Simply singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" used to be enough to put kids in check. Now they have a snitch. Not just any snitch, but one in which Mom and Dad have to place in humorous and cutesy positions every night to entertain the kids and remind them to be good. Because completing Christmas shopping, baking for holiday parties, seeing family, going to light shows, and wrapping presents isn't enough to keep us busy during that month. We need to add a stupid elf to the list. (Full disclosure: HJ and B's elf is currently in my closet, ready to make her debut this Christmas.)


Yes, organic is the best way to feed a family. Avoiding pesticides, GMOs, additives, and other preservatives is preferable, obviously. I get it. That being said, I still need to be able to afford to actually feed my family. Have you noticed how organic food is nearly double the price? AND everything can be organic these days. There's organic t-shirts, organic cleaners, and organic candy. There's even organic diaper bags. Seriously? We really need the bag that carries my kid's poopy diapers to be organic? Are we eating it later?

4. Kid's Sports

I played sports as a kid. I was in dance, gymnastics, tee ball, softball and volleyball. The difference between kids' sports back then and now is the fact that our sports didn't eat up every free friggin' moment of every day. Thankfully my kids aren't old enough for this yet, but I have seen it from family and friends. As soon as their kid starts a sporting activity, I NEVER see them again because it never seems to end. They are always at practice, a game, or a tournament. As soon as the summer league is over, then the fall league starts. Fall's over? Oh, great! The spring league is here! I don't blame parents. I blame the coaches and league organizers. Do these people even have kids?

5. Pinterest

As much as I love it, I have to admit: Pinterest is an a-hole. It further perpetuates the notion that parents must do everything perfectly and be the best at everything. Just the other day I saw a pin that taught parents how to apply tattoos to bananas for school lunches. Are you kidding me?! It's not enough to make lunch for your children, but now we have to decorate it? Ridiculous. Also, because of Pinterest, I am guilted into thinking I should have a water table, a colored rice sensory table, make my own finger paints, sew pillowcase dresses, put lunches artfully into cute little bento boxes, and that I should be setting up monthly photo shoots with my wiggly kids. No. No. And no. It's difficult enough to keep them alive, fed, clothed, bathed, and away from my secret candy stash.

Can we collectively agree to take it all down a notch?


Mallory Rempp 4 years, 9 months ago

Dude, I am totally with you on this. I don't have any kids, but I've got one coming in December and just perusing Pinterest gives me serious anxiety. You want to be that cool mom, but at the same time it's going to take a lot of time, cash, and some serious energy. I agree that keeping my kid healthy and happy should be the number one goal. All of that other stuff can come later, if at all.

lnm725 4 years, 9 months ago

I use Pinterest more as a way to save ideas by pinning things I come across into folders and for the most part, totally avoid the main page. I've also found that when searching, to do so for boards - not pins. =D

rivercitymom 4 years, 9 months ago

My kids are just about all grown up - youngest a senior in high school and from this perspective you are RIGHT ON. We all need to spend more time actually enjoying our families and less time making sure things are picture-perfect. Also, perfection is fricking exhausting! Parenting is for the long haul, we need to take care of ourselves and our sanity to make it through. Because just when you think its "over" there are many years of nose-to-the-grindstone getting them through college! Conserve your energy!

tvc 4 years, 9 months ago

I don’t think the message is “take it all down a notch”, but to not compare yourself to others….or take 100 examples of a Mom and assume you must be all of them. Some people love planning events, participating in sports, sewing or other hobbies. I think before we had a very limited idea of “Mom”. As the idea of what motherhood looks like expands, it seems instead of a woman choosing the type of Mom she is, she feels she must be all of them. Just as you were a unique individual with likes and dislikes before you were a parent, you will be a unique mom.

Alpenglow 4 years, 9 months ago

Totally agree! As much as I loved Pinterest in the beginning, it has created a huge monster in all of us who "pin". I particularly feel sorry for expectant mothers (the announcement pictures, the reveal party, etc.) and don't even get me started on what it has done for the newly engaged and for the brides-to-be. You can't even attend a birthday or dinner party without seeing all the food/drinks/decorations taken to a new over-the-top level. It puts soooo much pressure on everyone. Time to step away from the keyboard for all of us. Enough already.

Alpenglow 4 years, 9 months ago

And I totally forgot about the pregnancy and baby bump photos. STOP IT!!! No one wants to see your expanding tummy. What ever happened to modesty? I'm beginning to dread the holidays because of all the nifty things Pinterest puts out there for us to do. And if we don't do it, we feel like losers. Enough, enough, enough.

Nikki May 4 years, 9 months ago

Love this article/post! I feel it. (although, I'm a kid's sports fanatic, and a coach and I have my own kids!) BUT, I agree a lot. Many of the things on pinterest, I do for my CLASS of kids. It's for 12-22 children, not 1 or 2. And even then, I get too exhausted. What the heck? I actually have a pin board called "to do". It's got things that just need to remind me of and fonts I want to download. I have little intention!

Parties got bigger every year. I've loved that my kids want to go to a movie or something with a few friends. WAY easier and it can even be cheaper!

And the best thing in the world is that my kids are too old for Elf on a shelf!

IreneAdler84 4 years, 9 months ago

Let me offer a parenting tip: Birthday parties at Lawrence Gymnastics Academy. 125-200$ (I think that is the current price). If you choose the more expensive package, they do all the work including cake (you pick out at Dillons), goodie bags, and napkins. There are similar deals at LOL, Sunfire Ceramics, and the indoor pool. We have done this every year (almost) since my daughter's 3rd birthday. The kids totally love it and it is blessedly hassle free.

I also recommend watching The Middle. Who ever you are and what ever you do, you can do better than the Hecks.

Elizabeth Halsey 4 years, 9 months ago

I have to give a shout out to Pet World for one of our best parties. I bought my son a guinea pig and all the accessories as a gift. They brought it along with LOTS of other animals to our house, put on an hourlong presentation (adjusted for age of kids present), let them pet and hold things, etc. At the end they told him what was special about the guinea pig - "it gets to live here with you!" All in total about $175.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

Pet World Parties are the best, paws/claws/fins down!

Elizabeth Halsey 4 years, 9 months ago

I have to give a shout out to Pet World for one of our best parties. I bought my son a guinea pig and all the accessories as a gift. They brought it along with LOTS of other animals to our house, put on an hourlong presentation (adjusted for age of kids present), let them pet and hold things, etc. At the end they told him what was special about the guinea pig - "it gets to live here with you!" All in total about $175.

bkok 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm sorry, but the bit on "Organic EVERYTHING" is quite a bit ignorant and self-centered. Organic products are not just about our own health; They're about the health of the planet. Not using harsh chemicals on crops reduces the amount of pollution in our water and soil, and is safer for wildlife. Not only that, but organic agriculture practices have been shown to actually reverse some of the effects of climate change (More information on that here, if you're interested http://www.infoagro.net/programas/Ambiente/pages/mitigacion/casos/2.pdf). So whether or not you're eating it in the end doesn't matter.

And I know organic food is super expensive in grocery stores, but have you ever checked out alternatives like farmers markets or stores that cater to organics?

CatLavallee 4 years, 9 months ago

It's not like they said organic nothing and that nobody should get organic. What I got from it was that if you can't for whatever reason get everything organic, don't beat yourself up over it.

I get some things that are organic but I'm not wealthy enough to afford organic everything. I also don't believe it is 100% necessary. You do what you can, what you choose to, and don't waste time beating yourself up over what you can't do.

Krok2010 4 years, 9 months ago

Your reply to the author is a little bit ignorant yourself. My spouse works for a major baby food company in their regulatory department. You obviously think that because a product says organic that it is 100% organic. By law if one ingredient inorganic it can be labeled as organic. Therefore organic labeled products for the most part is a play on words to mark things up.

grow_nonGMO_organic_produce 4 years, 9 months ago

FYI - Recently I purchased a Tower Garden to grow my own non-GMO and/or organic produce right in my back yard. It has a low carbon foot print and provides more nutrition to you and your family. I chose to make 12 installments versus 1 full payment and think of it as part of my grocery bill. I researched local co-ops but found this to be more economical and better for my family. Plus, I only grow what I know we will eat and will have enough to share with friends/neighbors.


Sunkist22 4 years, 9 months ago

It's the fanatical 'organic everything' people that are truly annoying. Yes, organic is better, but as others have posted, labelling is very misleading, and you may not actually be getting organic.

The best alternative is a garden, even a small one, to help teach your kids. And not freak out so much at the store because you have to have the best and organic!

ourunqualifiedopinionblog 4 years, 9 months ago

I love this post! We actually just talked about the advantages of low-key birthday parties on our blog yesterday. While I love the idea of fantastic birthday parties I think sometimes we need to really think about what is important to our kids. In my case, it was Batman cupcakes and playing with friends.

http://ourunqualifiedopinion.com/the-non-pinterest-birthday-party/ .

nmarkham 4 years, 9 months ago

Definitely let's take it down a notch, except on the organic life. My take? 1) Bday parties with friends every other year (we did it with our 7 children) and keep it simple. Kids still actually have fun with simple things. 2) Get rid of the elf. Granted, 4 of my kids are already grown and out of the house but there will be no elf. 3) Encourage our government to increase restrictions on pesticides etc. to make our food simply more safe. We need easy and relatively inexpensive access to organic living. I actually currently live in Europe and am seeing how this CAN work. 4) School sports are enough 5) Don't even get sucked into Pinterest. I don't bother because I DON'T want to be inadvertently pressured into doing things I don't have time for.

Definitely our time is best spent with our families doing old-fashioned activities: bike-riding, walking, playing in the yard, playing games --- oh, and don't forget the fun family activity of doing chores!---Since when do Moms have to do EVERYTHING? Kids can work too.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

Completely agree... However, the "screaming fanatics" about "organic everything" are not only about the food. Take a look at some of the sanctimonious, condescending, "you're wrong, I'm right, and you're a BAD Urban Hipster!" posts... I'm starting to suspect it's a matter of showing how much disposable income people have, or think they have. "I can afford 120 bucks for an organic diaper bag. You can't. See how much better I am than you? You are destroying the earth with your ikky, unwilling-to-die-in-debt, non-disposable-income-having ways!"

Honestly, I think that everything on this list, with the exception of the parties, is done as minimally as possible, so as to keep the APPEARANCE of "Better-Than-You-Mommy".

JayLABastien 4 years, 9 months ago

As a photographer, I am in full support of "setting up monthly photo shoots with my wiggly kids". lol.

Great post though. :)

MzTMitchell 4 years, 9 months ago

I couldn't have said it better. I'd also like to add that sports is a HUGE money maker these days. My husband is a softball/baseball umpire, basketball referee, and his ex-wife's family runs the ballpark in their town and the next town over. I've worked in the concession stand for them on several occasions. They pull in some BIG money from the tournament fees, t-shirts, equipment, field rentals, food, admission, etc. I never cared much about kid's sports before I became a parent. After becoming a parent and seeing how much time my step-daughter spends playing softball and basketball and who REALLY benefits from it, I'm hoping my own daughter will decide to do ribbon dancing or something instead. lol

natali2666 4 years, 9 months ago

Agreed! Its all about priorities, which people seem to forget these days. Organic is very important and often (especially with produce) it is not double the cost. I have friends that are constantly asking me how we afford to eat organic (and of course we don't eat everything organic!) and I always say we cut back on other stuff. We don't have a cell phone (which eats about $60-$100 per month for most). We don't have cable tv (another $50-$100 per month). We own one vehicle (which we worked hard to pay off). We have no credit cards.

katienana 4 years, 9 months ago

Kids are much tougher and more resilient than parents today seem to understand. They are creative and can find ways to entertain themselves when given the opportunity to do so. Parents don't have to fill every moment for them, entertain them and their friends continually or over-protect them. I'm a parent, a grandparent, and I've been an educator for 35 years. I've seen both extremes and have learned that the happiest, most well-adjusted kids are usually those whose parents have reasonable expectations of their children and of themselves. (Good article!)

Megan Green Stuke 4 years, 9 months ago

My idea of a kid's birthday party (more on this later): make a party for adults. Add balloons and some sort of kid-friendly toy. Enjoy.

Sunkist22 4 years, 9 months ago

As much as I love pinterest, I have to agree that it can stress a person out looking at all the perfect crafts and ideas for decorating. I've pinned a LOT of things, but I think I've managed to successfully do about 4 of them. :)

But I have to also wholeheartedly agree with everything. There are days that I feel like a parental failure because I am just letting my kids do what they want instead of planning lots of activities or sports, and some days letting them pick what they want to eat. We have every now and then a 'grazing' day, with no planned dinner. With odd work schedules it can be hard for all of us to eat together.

I can happily say I have not had a themed birthday party yet. And I am sure our kids parties look lame in comparison to some I have seen. I just hope they appreciate it and are not jealous of their friends....

Taylormom79 4 years, 9 months ago

Until now, I thought that I was a strict parent. Now I realize, I'm only doing the things that my parents did. I spank, I enforce chores, I say "no" often, but I also encourage self-reliance, learning at EVERY opportunity, and saying "I love you" as often as possible. I'm a single mom (50/50 custody), so I think in a way I am trying to cover two roles. I just don't want my daughter to grow up thinking that the things she wants in life will be handed to her. And, speaking of birthday parties, I had planned on having this awesome swim party for my daughter's sixth birthday at a local pool, but the weather was unseasonably cool. I went with a "park" party, where we hung out under the park pavilion, did nails, painted bird houses, and made beaded bracelets. So simple, and all of the girls had a blast! It CAN be done!

Utahmom 4 years, 9 months ago

I love this! I'd have to add one major thing, though: homeschooling. I don't know about where you live, but here in Utah, you're hardly considered fit to be a mother if you dare send your kids to public school with such awful things as Common Core being taught there! Homeschooling is a MAJOR commitment. I'm willing to admit that I don't think I'm capable, but even if I were, I don't think it's the best choice for our family, so, just like the elf and extravagant birthday parties and even the tooth fairy (gasp!), I'm OFF the boat!

dweeks44 4 years, 9 months ago

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR THIS! I'm in tears reading this because I feel defeated everyday for not living up to this false expectation that I've tried so hard not to fall into! I'm going to take a breather and possible put the damn Elf away :) !

Lechelle 4 years, 9 months ago

Honestly, I don't care for this article. I think it's another article telling parents what to do (or in this case, not do), which makes it rather hypocritical.

I say if you do ANY of these five things - hooray! Good for you! If you do NONE of these five things - hooray! Good for you!

Some of these things I do, and I take great joy in it. I take great joy in creating something for my kids, joy in the fantastic memories I and my kids have doing these silly things. And how dare she tell me to take it down a notch because it makes her uncomfortable.

We need to do things as parents that bring happiness to us and our kids. For some parents that means spaghettios and muppet babies and good for them, for others that means a sandwich intricately cut into the shape of a castle with a watermelon dragon attacking it and good for them. Let's just applaud each other, and applaud ourselves, for doing this parenthood thing however we choose to do it.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

Agreed. When it stops being about the kiddos happiness, and you get no joy out of it, it just becomes another obligation, and breeds resentment. When it becomes a hated, arduous task, for the benefit of others judgement, there's no sense in it.

awb15 4 years, 9 months ago

Great article! My parents kept things simple when I was growing-up. My brother and I were not allowed to play every sport and join every club. We had to choose the activities that were most important to us.

I think you really hit the nail on the head, especially the part about buying organic. Organic food is no different from a nutritional standpoint and may be worse for the environment. Agricultural technology is controlled by a strict approval process, involving the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture.

A friend of mine writes a blog about her life running a small dairy farm and raising a family. You may find this post especially interesting: http://farmlifelove.com/2012/04/30/its-okay-to-buy-plain-ole-milk/.

Thanks for the great article and keep on writing!

sarawiety 4 years, 9 months ago

"Other mamas are just weaving together families using what the unique gifts and challenges and interests they have. Just like I am." http://momastery.com/.../quit-pointing-your-avocado-at-me/

guraqt 4 years, 9 months ago

I think this is a skewed perception. It comes across as judgmental and offensive to moms that "want to take the time" to do these 5 stated points for their children and not be critisized for it. It appears that because a mom feels less than for not going all-out for their child that every other mom should have to tone it down a notch to make said mom feel better about herself. I'm sorry but that is ridiculous. We all have choices and that's like saying because one mom can't afford to buy her child clothes from Justice that no one should because it is considered "over the top". Whatever a mom chooses for her children that is her prerogative and shouldn't be made to feel bad whether she goes all out or keeps it simple. Everyone has different ideas about life but judging someone for wanting to provide the finer things isn't right either. To each his own and if you feel inferior than I suggest there is something you need to fix about yourself before you go trying to change everyone else to cater to you. I would never judge another mother because she didn't provide your 5 points and I would appreciate not being judged because I do.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

Actually, I've had the "Better Than You Moms" look down their noses at me CONSTANTLY for not having the time or money to "go the extra mile", or for not doing so when it doesn't affect the child one way or another. I don't think she was criticizing "Better Than You Mom" at all. I think she was DEFENDING the rest of us. The author never said, "Don't". She said, "Don't have to". There is a HUGE difference.

guraqt 4 years, 8 months ago

In the last two sentences of the writer's paragraph before the 5 points listed she wrote "In other ways it's just absolutely ridiculous. For example:" and proceeds to list her reasons. What it boils down to is how you feel about yourself. No one is better than the next, we all choose to do things differently. Because you "feel" you have been judged or looked down upon for not doing as another mother would, you are in retrospect judging others. That is the problem with society, everyone has to be right. Everyone knows what's best. But in reality there is no manual to follow and all anyone is doing is spreading negativity and passing judgment. Just because someone is wealthier doesn't make them better or worse than someone who has less. Usually when income is higher you spend more on things you want or need. When the income is lower you realize what you don't need and stick to what is within budget. I have been to parties with cake only and I have been to luxury parties with extravagant details. I didn't judge I just enjoyed the moment. People need to learn to be happy for others and stop comparing. If you don't want to have big parties and buy organic you shouldn't feel bad about that but because someone loves to put extra detail into everything they do and they love to plan parties, eat organic foods, pretend Santa is real and all his elves are right there with him, and they love to learn new recipes, new crafts and get great ideas on Pinterest...So Be It! Why do we need to agree to "tone it down" when it would be so much greater to agree that we all like different things and that makes us unique? No matter how you twist the words of this article, it still comes down to your own insecurities, period. I don't feel bad for not giving my daughter everything that other moms do and I don't feel bad for giving her things that other moms don't. This is a very skewed article like I said and I think it breeds jealousy, envy and hate. I don't see where there is love or appreciation for differences but I see a lot of condemnation for not being like minded. Rather sad if you ask me.

Cintia 4 years, 8 months ago

I do agree with the writer, especially when parents do it just because everybody else does. And no, I am not taking it to judge others but I am taking it to myself because I don’t want to become a tired mommy that do all those things to kip up with all the things that other mothers does. I want to do things because I really think they are important to my kids. At the same time, I know it is hard to don’t go with the flow. Again great post! Reminded me to write about some things that have been on my mind. For instance, why every little girl now needs to dress up as a Disney princess? That is one of many questions.

Cintia Blogger, A Saving Love…that will change a Child’s Life! Cintia@ASavingLove.com | www.asavinglove.com

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