22 things I learned in my first ten years of parenthood

January 22, 2014 | 120 comments

As I was sitting here thinking of all the awesomeness that this wonderful, new, non-2013 year will hold, it occurred to me that my oldest child will turn ten this fall. Ten! I have officially been a parent for a decade now, and I’ve had six kids during that time.

When I took a step back and considered that I’ve been living in Baby Central for the better part of my adult life, it occurred to me that I must have accumulated some knowledge during that time. I mean, surely I’ve learned at least one or two things about this whole “keeping small human beings alive in your home” thing, right?

Yaya and I behold the new baby back in 2004. I could have never imagined what I was in for.

Yaya and I behold the new baby, my first child, in 2004. I had no idea what I was in for.

Since I have a bunch of important but not-fun work I’m supposed to be doing, naturally I decided that creating a list of everything I’ve learned about parenting since 2004 should immediately become my top priority. All of this is probably obvious to everyone, but I need to procrastinate, so here it goes:

Doll face-down in urine on the couch,  2010

Doll face-down in urine on the couch (2010).

1. It’s important to carefully select the parenting philosophy that you will use to ensure that you have happy, well adjusted children. This will provide you with some long, loud, much-needed laughs after the 857th time you find yourself violating every principle you hold dear just to get through the day.

2. Having a romantic dinner alone with your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your kids.

3. Never in human history have mothers had kids all up in their faces all day, every day. If you feel like you desperately need to get away from the kids for a while, it’s not a sign that you’re a bad mother. It’s a sign that you’re a normal person who’s doing her best under very unnatural circumstances.

4. Don’t pile a bunch of unnecessary rules on yourself during pregnancy. Listen to Kendra on this one and have that glass of wine with dinner.

5. If you think you smelled poop, you did.

Christmas card fails,  2007.

Failing at Christmas card photos in 2007.

6. If your child reads at age four and sits quietly in church and joyfully eats a wide variety of healthful foods, it probably has less to do with your parenting skills than you think it does.

7. If your child is behind in school and often acts like an animal and refuses all food except noodles and ketchup, it probably has less to do with your parenting skills than you think it does.

8. Breastfeeding is a priceless gift you can give your child. So is being a sane mom. If nursing doesn’t work out, don’t waste energy beating yourself up about it.

9. The ability to enjoy baking with young children is a rare super-talent that God bestows on only a select few people. Carefully discern whether or not you have this gift before announcing to a group of toddlers that we’re going to try that fun cookie recipe mommy found in Gourmet Magazine. (This life rule is known as The Insight I Came Up with After that Time Joe Found Me Twitching, Muttering to Myself, and Covered in Flour on the Kitchen Floor.)

Ginger bread houses: never again (2012).

Ginger bread houses: never again (2012).

10. No matter what your family size, there is always going to be someone out there who disapproves of it.

11. Whether or not Goldfish crackers constitute a reasonable main course for dinner depends on what kind of day you’ve had.

12. It’s more important to raise kids who love to learn than it is to raise kids who get into impressive colleges. The two aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Back before we outgrew the triple stroller,  2008.

Back before we outgrew the triple stroller (2008).

13. Think very carefully about your sleep personalityΒ before following the old advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I have never been closer to having my head actually explode than one of the many times a baby woke up just as I was finally drifting off for a much-needed nap.

14. Almost every mother has had a moment where she stares at one of her children and wonders if he or she is seriously insane.

15. It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)

16. In our culture, there is no parenting decision so insignificant that it won’t be debated on blogs and discussed on news programs and argued about on Facebook. Don’t get sucked into that. That time you spent wondering if you’re a bad parent because you didn’t put sunscreen on your kids’ elbows before that trip to the park is 15 seconds out of your life that you can never get back.

Bought one too many kids at the store again (2013).

Bought one too many kids at the store again (2013).

17. That mom whom you perceive only cooks organic foods hand-picked from her garden probably fed her kids PBJ tonight.

18. Before you commit to the opinion that the world is a terrible place and your whole life is a hopeless mess made entirely of fail, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re suffering from tired-think.

19. It would be awesome if your kids could have a mom who had the holiness of Mother Teresa, the energy of Mary Poppins, and the domestic skills of Martha Stewart. But if you’re not there yet, saying “I love you guys and I love Jesus and I’m doing the best I can” works too.

When you forget the blindfold for Pin the Tail on the Donkey,  you improvise (2011).

When you forget the blindfold for Pin the Tail on the Donkey, you improvise (2011).

20. If you find yourself spending a lot of time ignoring the kids to stare at your smartphone, it’s probably because you desperately need breaks you’re not getting, and you’re clinging to these little virtual escapes. Or maybe you discovered Kim Kierkegaardashian on Twitter, in which case, carry on.

21. It never feels like a good time to have kids. There could always be a little more room in the house, a little more money in the bank, and a little more time in the day. There are times when you really do need to avoid pregnancy, but don’t let perfectionism deprive you of the gift of a son or daughter.

22. If you have recently pretended not to see a child who was drawing all over her face with marker because she was finally being quiet and you were in the middle of reading something really funny on the internet, you probably shouldn’t write lists about what you know about parenting.

Still failing at Christmas card photos,  2013.

Still failing at Christmas card photos, 2013.


  1. Laura

    Jen, I love this so so very much. Thank you.

    (Also, I enjoyed seeing THE COUCH in its former glory.)

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I was wondering if anyone would notice that!!! Joe and I were laughing about that when he looked at the post.

      • Julie

        I was glad to see the couch one was old because at first I was worried that it was the new couch!! Great post! I’ve been a parent for closer to 20 years and still agree with all of them!

  2. Little Wife

    I love all of these. All. Of. These.

    I wonder, is it possible to have #18 going on without, in fact, having any children in the vicinity? Because if my meltdown this afternoon can be blamed on that, I’m all for it…. =/

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Absolutely. Tired think is, unfortunately, an equal-opportunity condition.

      • Little Wife

        Oh thank goodness. I knew there was a reason that I wept openly at a video of a dog for the past 20 minutes…. (and that was AFTER the aforementioned meltdown!)

  3. Jodi

    True, every single one.

    A mom for (almost) 8 years, and of 5 children

  4. Regina Donahue

    The happiest of Pro life days to you!

  5. Nicole C

    There were quite a few of these that I really needed to read today! Love your wit, and that you don’t take yourself too seriously! Thank you!

  6. Lindsay

    This is incredible! Thank you, once again, for being a hilarious voice of reason.
    p.s. you look great blonde (circa 2004)

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Thanks!! I saw that and was just thinking that I kind of liked that look. I briefly thought that I should go back to that, but then I remembered that it takes a lot of time and money to keep dark hair blonde. πŸ™‚

      • Julie

        LOVED this! My two daughters are grown now, and my second grandchild is on the way any day!

        I fully agree with everything you said! πŸ˜€

        I know you probably hear this all the time, but trust me (you can write a list of things you learned as an empty nester some day and this will likely be on it!), the “wonder-full” days of parenting are fun days, harried and crazy at times, but they fly by, so savor them while you can! I look at photos in my home of my girls when they were young and I can’t believe they are grown and married! While I love this stage of their lives too, I desperately miss my little girls <3

        Oh, and that blond hair thing… You look fabulous in rich auburn, and when your hair starts to grey, it'll be a LOT easier to be a blond πŸ˜‰

        Keep writing… Keep sharing!

  7. Kelly Kaczmarczyk

    Jennifer Fulwiler.

    I love you. You are a gift from God to many, many people.

    Also, I now feel like I’ve crossed over into creepy internet stalker lady.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      THANK YOU! And short of showing up at my front door at midnight, I don’t consider much of anything internet stalking (although, even then, if you brought some wine it would be cool).

  8. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    #20 felt like you were giving me a big hug and telling me it is going to be ok. You’re the best.

  9. Sarah Bradley

    I love all of these, but I desperately needed to hear numbers 3 and 20 tonight. Thank you for saying them.

  10. Kathryn

    I love how you show that raising kids is both awful and wonderful all in the same moment.

    P.S. I get wigged out every time I see a picture with you as a blonde. You make a beautiful blonde…it is just like, ‘is that really you?’

  11. Amy

    Thank you! There is a sign it there will be hope πŸ™‚

  12. JoAnn in CO

    Yep, you nailed it. Only I’m a little further along the parenting trail, as my oldest is 23, and my “baby” turned 10 recently. We have three in college, and three at home. All the things I thought were important early on, WERE NOT. And so, I can only conclude that all the things I’m stressing about now, probably won’t matter later. I’m a slow learner, but I’m getting there. God bless you!

  13. Lori

    Thanks for this one as we’ll,
    Jennifer! You crack me up. Trying to remember #6 and 7 more these days,. ..and I drew the same conclusion about Gingerbread Houses this year!

  14. Laura Pearl

    This is such an awesome post! You are quite profound and quite hilarious at the same time! I’m past the child-rearing years (the oldest of my five boys is 30 and the youngest is 21)–but I remember those busy, crazy times, and I would have loved to read this on some of those tearing-my-hair-out kind of days. I will pass it on to my son and daughter-in-law, who have 3 daughters under 3 (so far!).

    Thanks for your humor and honesty!

  15. Mary Adams

    Jen, hahaha! That last one I’ve done numerous times, and I actually say to myself, “whatever they are drawing on is fine. I just have to complete ONE blasted task today!”

  16. Hannah

    Thanks for the laugh! I’m expecting kid numbers 4 & 5 in the next couple weeks and things in life are unorganized and overwhelming so thanks for the “chill pill”:-)


  17. Megan

    As a mama with only a quarter of your experience and a third as many children, I needed to hear this. Thanks.

  18. Kit

    Jennifer, You are a gift to me (an old mom and a grandma) but more importantly to my daughters and their combined 10 children and counting! Thank you for your humor, your honesty, your lively faith, and for allowing us all into your family, from a distance! God bless you!!

  19. Julie

    Today was a rough day… the kind that made me think maybe I’m not fit to have these kids of mine, so… thank you for this.

    I was about to start listing which of these points I most identify with, but it’s just too many. So I’ll just report that I read this (28 weeks pregnant!) while drinking a glass of wine with my dinner. And my 2-year-old ate nothing but goldfish and potato chips for lunch. Which I’m totally cool with.

    So, thanks again. Score one for procrastination.

  20. Jackie

    As the mother of four grown children and four grandchildren, I relate to all of these!! I could have used your wisdom when my children were younger and I felt like a failure when I couldn’t keep the house clean and the kids happy at the same time!!I enjoy reading about your wonderful family – thank you for sharing them with us all!

  21. MargoB

    Single gal here, just because Conversion Diary is good reading no matter the topic. I had a great laugh at this line: ” but I need to procrastinate”. – because I can *so* relate to procrastinating but never imagined confessing that *so* out loud.

    (It’s so good to hear other peoples’ real life stuff….reminds me that real + not-perfect-yet is OKAY πŸ™‚ )

    • Margo

      Umm whoa! I have an internet twin!!!! My name is also Margo B. and I’m also single and am a MAJOR procrastinator!! So I’m just kinda freaking out here and laughing at the always amusing, beautiful Jennifer Fulwiler who so deserves a Sheenazing Award! πŸ˜€

  22. Jeremiah 29:11

    Fabulous post.

    Also, the caption of the picture with the kids at the store is hilarious!! Did you buy your kids? πŸ˜‰

  23. Francine

    Oh my goodness, thank you for this. So many of these hit home, especially as I’ve been realizing lately that there’s really no excuse for me sleeping in as late as I do. It’s not like I’m getting good rest when I’m wondering what the 3 yo is up to in the kitchen or bathroom.

    The pin the mustache on the photo? Priceless.

  24. Kendra

    I love this! And not just because of number 4.

    Also 3, and 5, and 6 and 7, and 12 and all of ’em.

  25. Brianna @ Just Showing Up

    The doll face-down in urine? That. That is why I am glad we’re friends.

  26. Amanda

    Love all of these! Absolutely wonderful!

  27. Anne McD

    Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!! Smootchiesmootchiesmootchie thank you! (Sorry,it’s been a rough week already…..)

  28. eko

    Yep – and I wish I had known most all of these 10 years in, it has taken me a little longer. I love that there are mom bloggers, and so much support (I hope irl too) for mamas!!

  29. Hillary

    Hilarious. I have a four month old. I appreciated calling me out on “tired-think!”

  30. Joanie

    Love, love, love this! And the pictures just send it home, don’t they? Thankful for great writing that puts things into perspective!

  31. Felicia

    I loved this post!!! Seriously, thank you so much. I’m crying right now because I feel so bad about everything. #21 especially. Your honesty is sooooo refreshing. Keep it coming. I’m hooked.

  32. Kyra

    As a mother of four (oldest turned six last week), thank you. Also, my twins are currently eating pretzels dipped in peanut butter for breakfast. I’m pretending it’s nutritious.

    Why does everyone think baking with small children is relaxing? It’s not. It’s a way to get screaming hysterics from everyone participating, plus cookies made mostly of baking soda (“No! Don’t put more in!…) and sprinkles. It’s like saying, “Let’s play with glitter, kids!”. Not unless you’re really well-rested, have a glass of wine nearby, and a cleaning service coming next morning.

  33. Kate

    This was just what I needed to read this morning! Thanks!

  34. Amy

    #15 is so true! I can’t believe what an amazing difference it makes in my day to get up an hour to an hour and a half before my kids each day now.
    I just love #19. Perfect πŸ™‚

  35. Sarah

    Love these!!!

  36. Camilla

    All of these were perfectly accurate, coming from a mama of 6 (soon to be 7), five of these in the past 8 years. EXCEPT for #6: How dare you burst my bubble? OF COURSE the reason my 4yo is a darling little 2nd grade scholar who assesses every meal for how healthy it is–Certainly that is because of all my good training and teaching. “Cept that just doesn’t explain the rest of them, does it? πŸ™‚ The photos were wonderful, and thanks for starting my day of with a wonderful smile.

  37. TheresaEH

    OHMY goodness Jen, thank you for affirming my inner mommy (from 20 years ago) that this empty nester still beats herself up about not being good mother!!!

  38. Lynne

    I love that you are the kind of person who takes photos of dolls lying face-downward in pee. In fact, I think that photo alone sums up all the reasons I adore you. Thank you.

    This list reminds me of a quote I recently saw from Padre Pio: “The road to perfection is a long as a lifetime.” To which my friend added, “Or longer.” Oh yes.

    Belated happy birthday! Older and wiser…right?

    p.s. now reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. I’d love to get your take on *that* one.

  39. Sara McD

    Is that THE COUCH?

  40. Christina

    Love this, thank you so much for sharing! Although I am only a mom of one so far, I am learning everyday how to be more patient and realize nothing is perfect πŸ™‚

  41. K D

    I love this post. You have such a knack for writing. With your sense of humor you will survive (and thrive). I hope your brood picks up your joy in life. Happy 10 years of parenting!

  42. Mary Wilkerson

    I am having a rough couple weeks in parenting land. My 2 year old, my 1 year old and my 4 month old are kind of wearing on me and I am feelin’ a bit overwhelmed knowing that this will be my life for the next ten years (I know it sounds awful, but it is true). You just TOTALLY made my morning.
    That is all.

  43. Kristen N

    Thank you for making this melancholic mom laugh and not take herself so seriously. I especially love #19.

  44. Velvet

    Congratulations on the 10 year mark! We hit 13 years (sniff) last week and I was thinking how little I remember, except the good stuff. I laughed and nodded in agreement the whole way through, you’ve done a service by writing this…6, 7, and 8 pretty much sum up my parenting philosophy. I can’t believe how much flack we parents shower on each other. We need solidarity, not comparison and criticism.

    Husband and kids happy and healthy? You’re doing it right. If not, do better, let me know how I can help. Amen.

  45. Beth (A Mom's Life)

    This list was perfect! And I love seeing the couch in it’s original color! πŸ™‚

  46. Jennifer H

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I spent a good portion of my night, crying to my husband about how much of a total failure I am to my children. I needed to read this. And while I know I can improve, I need to remember that most moms are probably in the same boat :).

  47. Camalot1

    Thanks for the excellent perspectives…I recognized myself in every one of these. Currently parenting an 18.5 y/o, 17 y/o and 4 y/o (with special needs). It is good to remember not to take everything too seriously and hey, “tired-think” is a perfectly legitimate medical condition, according to our pediatrician. πŸ™‚ Blessings to you & your family.

  48. Allison H.

    It took me a long time to get to really enjoy my life like this. My first 3 were all about me: how cute they were, how cute their matching clothes were, how cute of a mom I was (It was exhausting but I didn’t know it was exhausting)…Then we converted and had 4 more and began to think about virtue and heaven and sin ~ we chilled out and laughed a lot more, just like your post here!
    (I’m doing that thank you/salaam thing with my hand at my head and heart!)

  49. Andrea

    This is so great. All of it. I almost started crying from laughter. My daughter was stillborn 2 months ago and it really feels good to laugh again.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Oh my gosh, Andrea, I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for your kind words. You’ll be in my prayers.

  50. Ann

    This post is awesome on so many levels! Thank you for sharing your decade of wisdom & humor, and your realistic, but prayerful perspective. Balance is such a tough place to achieve- you must have an internal balance tool that pings when crazy happens, and gives you perspective….I guess it’s called grace πŸ™‚

  51. Rebecca Lee

    I can sum up everything you wrote in one sentence: It’s okay to be a parent who settles. Really? Don’t worry about breastfeeding, giving your kids healthy foods, spending more time with your kids than your husband, and learning to have more patience with your kids? If kids aren’t your first priority, and you don’t like being around them all the time and want to give them scientifically-backed foods and time, why be a parent?

    • terri

      Because sometimes you’re just that exhausted and you can’t micromanage and control every single detail of life. Its not healthy for a child or its mother for the child to be attached to the mother 24 hours a day. Life happens. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and one day your child will be whining at a therapist for something no matter how great you are.

    • Lynne

      Oh Rebecca, if you can’t read this and weep with laughter and hug yourself with pure glee because *finally* someone has summed up your life (and in prose infinitely better than you yourself ever invent)…well then you’re missing out on so much more than chia seeds mixed with breast milk *combined* could ever provide! lol Lighten up, my dear. We’re all struggling to live our vocations and stay sane at the same time. This helps.

  52. Molly

    And since I have some not so fun work to do, I read and loved this! #9 is my favorite!
    I’ve been doing this for over 22 years, but I’m still in the thick of it with five of my ten in the “ten and under” crowd! Thanks for the laughs!

  53. lisa

    so so true!

  54. grandma evie

    true! and eventually they move out and have their own kids and payback is so sweet LOL oh and #5 is most true πŸ˜‰

  55. Deme (House For Five)

    thank you for giving me such awesomeness to procrasti-read when I should be productive. truth in every one!

  56. Louise

    this is all so true I dont know whether to laugh or cry (yes, sleep deprived mum here) such a breath of fresh air!

  57. Kelly @ Love Well

    You have the wisdom of Ghandi, the practicality of Martha Stewart and the humor of Word Girl.

    Will you marry me?

  58. Georgia

    Thanks! This was fun. πŸ™‚

  59. Monica

    I have #14 happen at least once a day!

  60. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    I’m just weeping reading this. 20 and 21 especially. Thank you for telling me I’m not a horrible mother.

  61. Kara

    I… really feel the need to thank you for writing this. My husband and I have been trying to decide whether having children is a step we’re ready to take, and unfortunately all of the pregnancy/parental stories our friends see fit to tell us (“Oh, hahaha, you’ll never sleep/use the bathroom alone/enjoy romantic dinners/have one-on-one time again! Ever! Hahahahaha!”) have really only had the effect of scaring us off the topic. You walk a reassuring line of realistic-without-being-terrifying.

  62. Kira

    That was just lovely. Like a warm, knowing smile in list form.

  63. Lee Ann

    Thanks for this, and thanks for introducing me to the term “tired-think”.

  64. Mary

    You have learned so much in a relatively short amount of time (compared to me)! I guess it was faster since you were parenting so many, mine were spread further apart. Great lessons shared. Much wisdom!

    Those tears in the Christmas pictures! I feel your/their pain.

  65. Ouiz

    After 16 years of parenting, I STILL need encouragement like this, so THANK YOU!

  66. Rebecca

    This was Fantastic!!! Loved it! So relatable, so funny, and entirely true.

  67. Mellisa

    This is awesome I’m raising someone else child and always making excuses not to have my own a lot of this hit home

  68. Paula

    Fabulous list and fabulous photos! I learned some of these things, also I learned that when you become a parent inanimate objects suddenly start moving around when your back is turned, that it is possible to type a one handed txt message into your phone, while a small person is violently tugging at that same arm, and that when times get tough and you need a cheap laugh it always works to ask a 5 year old to try to wink. Keep up the smiles!

  69. Tiffany

    I am a mom of five, ages 11, 9, 7, 5, and 2. We just moved to west virginia from Central New York. We got about 4 inches of snow here on Monday, and have had a snow day every day since then…..today is Friday, and yes it’s a snow day, and now its the weekend. Sigh.

  70. Bethany

    I think you may have just encouraged me, somehow, to have more kids. Please write a book. Please? I’d live to give it out at baby showers-insert evil laughter….

    • the other Becky

      She did! It is not yet actually available to read, and it is about her conversion to Catholicism, but it can only be a matter of time before publishers realize that we will buy what she writes, and they send her off to a desert island to write a book about parenting! One of life’s little ironies, that it is really hard to write a book about parenting when you are one!

  71. Laura

    This was wonderful! I started the day off laughing, I love that!

  72. Heather Bee

    My first time seeing your blog and Oh thank you! That was awesome! Bless you and your family! πŸ˜€

  73. Jane

    I loved this post!

  74. Patricia

    This is great! and soooo refreshing to read. Thank you thank you thank you!

  75. Mom of three boys/one girl

    This is great! After I saw the title it dawned on me that I too would soon have 10 years of parenthood under my belt as my eldest will be 10 in April. These are great – they made me laugh and I couldn’t agree more with most of them…thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share!

  76. Allison

    I am a mother of four and this is the most incredibly hilarious true thing I have read in awhile. God bless you and you have inspired me to write again πŸ™‚

  77. Kathleen Basi

    #10 was totally me. Totally.

  78. Jenny

    Well, I love your Christmas card pictures and I love this list, especially #3! This is all so real and so true!

  79. Amanda

    haha! Absolutely love these! Thank you for each and every tidbit of parenthood wisdom you shared. I laughed. A lot. And I needed a good laugh today. Pray you get to feeling better soon! Stomach flu is the worst!!!!

  80. Kristen Bright

    This is excellent. You always remind me to LAUGH. I take myself and parenting way too seriously most of the time. Thanks!

  81. Angela

    As a mom for the past 26 years and one who just lost that same 26 year old, you made me laugh for the first time this week. I am so glad you put this out there.

  82. Denise

    I had my 1st child at 38 yrs old and 10 mo. later, along came baby #2. I could have used this humor back then! They are 13 and 14 now, and everyone said I would miss that craziness someday and to stop wishing my life away. They are right!

  83. Jake

    Oh man, this is so good, thank you! The one, the only, Jen Fulwiler . . . Thank you and keep on writin’!

  84. Analise

    I love this!!! This week has been extremely rough for me, I have been feeling so overwhelmed with parenting a toddler, (Yes, only 1 toddler) and I have desperately been needing a break with the hubby or by myself, but it makes me feel like a bad Mom for WANTING a break!! Thank you for such a refreshing post :]

  85. Nicole

    BRILLIANT! I do not usually leave comments, but I really enjoyed and appreciated this post!! Thank you for putting it all into words!!!!

  86. Hannah

    I love this!! I have only been a mother for 5 years now but have managed to have 3 boys and a girl. All still alive with limbs in tact! Some days I just have to let that be enough!

  87. Lynn

    I am a mother to four children and have learned these things on an overall perspective-intuitive level over the last 15 years, but probably could not have ever articulated this list like you just did. Thanks for the laugh! If you’ve ever been a mom, and you have any truth in you at all, you know the truth of this list.

    There are days or times when survival and love are the only things you can aim for and still retain sanity.

    I remember one day a few years back when it had been a long and crazy behavior day from all four of them. I ended up feeling like such a horrible mom when I went running out the front door with a shoe in my hand chasing our oldest while threatening to tan him alive only to run into the sleek neighbor from two houses down. A vet, only well groomed dogs as children, and the superior type. She stared at me and literally said “oh myyyy Goooooddddd”. I was so embarrassed but somehow had the nerve to quip back “it’s okay, just make sure you use your doggy bag to pick it up.” Her dog was doing his business in my yard.

    But it was later as I was commiserating my story to my mom that she was the one who drove home your #3 to me. My mom, mother of 7, told me how much harder she saw that it was to raise kids now than when she raised us, and it was harder then than it had been for my grandmother simply due to the fact that we don’t get much breathing space from our children at all. She encouraged me to lighten up on myself.

    God bless you, Jen. You’re a gem.

  88. Jenny

    Thank you so so so so so so so so so much for this!

  89. Tammi

    SO…tears are literally streaming down my face. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. My college girlfriend Mary over at Sometimes Martha Always Mary and my college girlfriend, Teresa over at Full Bus always say how funny and inspirational your blog is….they were SSOOOO right!So happy to add you to my blogs that I read. Thanks for being “real”. God Bless!

  90. Carrie

    Oh my goodness, I think I love you! You made me laugh out loud at least 6 times!

    I can especially relate to #22, as I recently pretended not to notice some bit of naughtiness my older son was engaged in in light of the fact that A) I wanted to finally finish my breakfast while it was still hot and B) I really didn’t feel like starting my day off with another battle of wills.

    Obviously, #1 runs rampant in my home, as well. Thank you for this!

  91. Rachel R.

    Well, y’know, if the kids is ALREADY writing on her face with marker, what difference does it really make if you “notice” now or in 60 seconds? πŸ˜‰

    And isn’t that what EVERYBODY’S gingerbread houses look like?

    My biggest burning question after this post, though, is how did you manage to steer that triple stroller? I am amazed at your prowess! πŸ™‚

    • Rachel R.

      *kid not kids

  92. Janet W

    This is fabulous! We Moms of 6 (I have a 15 year spread) always stay humble from experience. In addition to some classic photo fails like yours, my epic fail as a “tooth fairy” is part of our family history, providing much laughter over the years. My one daughter sent the tooth fairy a note,because she couldn’t believe she forgot…again.

  93. Emma

    I too am a mother of 6 children. My oldest was 6 1/2 when my youngest was born. Your post made me smile because it reminded me of very similar things I have learned over the last few years! I am glad to see I am not the only one learning these things and also not the only one with more kids in the cart than groceries!

  94. Ellen

    I agree with most of your rules, so well said. I doubt you will even see this comment so far down the queue, but I think we all need to be careful about point #7. Sometimes I think we are so used to people saying “It’s not your fault” that we fall into the trap of not doing anything about children with bad behavior. Sometimes it is not our fault, that is true, especially in the case of special needs chidlren. But the reality is, sometimes it is our fault, and not beyond our control. We need to take a good honest look at ourselves and think, have I really done all I need to do in terms of discipline with this child? Or with all my children?

    I know it’s all the rage to write hilarious posts about children behaving badly (I have never quite understood this phenomenon), but we are really doing a disservice to them by not working on helping them to behave instead of grabbing a camera to snap a pic of this behavior to share to all the world.

    While we are not to be wrapped up in what other people think, what kind of witness are we giving when our children are running like wild animals out of control? This is not to say our children need to be perfect all the time, but when we fear taking our children in public because they are so out of control, instead of throwing our hands up and saying “that’s just how they are,” why not do the hard work of parenting that needs to be done and work on discipline? Again, this does not apply to special needs children.

    I was talking to my husband about this, and while we only have 4 children, we have worked hard together so that they are civil when out in public. Is it easy? No. Are they perfect? Far from it. But we have to be careful not to comfort ourselves with “it’s not my fault,” when really, sometimes it is. How many times do we stick a misbehaving toddler in front of the tv to have some “me” time instead of doing the necessary hard work of disciplining? What have we taught that child? Tantrum = tv. Yay for me!

    Now before I get blog-stoned here, I know tone can be misread, so I will say I am not angry, ranting, or trying to sound better than anyone else. I am just trying to challenge people to think beyond “Whew! I’m glad it’s not just me!” to “Is there a remote possibility that I am doing a disservice to my child by enabling bad behavior?” Only a mom knows the answer to that question, if she is truly honest with herself. Just something to think about. Not judging, just challenging all moms to give a hard look to what we are doing with our children, and our time.

  95. Aileen

    Um, on a less serious note than upthread, I sent this post to my daughter, pregnant with her fourth. She told me her cousin (my niece in Colorado) had sent this to her the other day! I didn’t know anyone else in my family reads you. Cool! This was funny, real and honest. Thanks, Jen, love that about you! πŸ™‚

  96. Jennifer Burggraf

    OMG…we would be best buds. I wish we could have a cup of coffee together (not before sunrise, since I’m a terrible morning person…I once threw my 2.5 yr old off of my head at 6:30 am screaming ‘I’M NOT DONE YET’…my therapist still doesn’t know what to do with that one). Carry on momma, the main thing I’ve learned with only my two kids is that life isn’t perfect. If you think it should be you just aren’t having fun. My husband keeps reminding me of a study he heard of a few months ago about people with kids and without kids and they’re happiness level. The without kids category is happiest…then it changes to those with kids. My husband suffers from being a ‘fair weather happiness parent’. Me, I’m happier even with the mess, toil, poop (my sons farts are terrible, worse than my husband’s, so sometimes it isn’t poop), UUS (Unidentifiable Unremovable Stain) and everything that comes with the poop makers. I love it and it’s people like you that refresh my hope in the years to come with my kids when I ‘just don’t know if I can make it to bedtime’. You’re awesome!

  97. Karen

    Our gingerbread houses went from broken-down to fabulous when we discovered that everyone was hot-glue gunning them together. The adults use the hot glue gun; the children place the icing and candies.

    Our Christmas photos went from so-so to much better when we stopped trying to have six people look fabulous in one photo. Most photo cards these days have options for multiple photos. Just make sure every member of the family is in one of the photos on the card. Perfection!

    Still looking for more solutions to life’s problems!

  98. Rochelle

    Today, I needed this. I have been taking life WAY too seriously lately so thank you. I laughed the entire way through and I completely understand every bit of it. You spoke to me. Cheers.

  99. J Gage

    Very funny stuff! Thank you for your wit and love.

  100. Nancy

    Wonderful!!! I am sick in bed, trying to get a hold on a couple of bad sinus/tonsil and bronchial infections. I laughed so hard that I was able to forget the fact that I haven’t been able to breath for the past week.
    Thanks for your honesty. Not many people I talk to “live and in person” get the fact that sometimes the worst stuff about having little ones is also the best. It’s an adventure and it is transformative. God bless you.

  101. Ashley

    Your recent posts on parenting have been just what I needed to hear. As a first-time mom, I’m overwhelmed by everything. It is much harder than I ever thought it would be, and it’s hard not to feel like I’m doing it wrong sometimes. So, it was nice to know that some of the things I think and feel are shared by other moms.

  102. Krissy

    I am hiding in the garage because I need a break. You made my day. Thank you for your procrastination efforts. πŸ™‚

  103. Krishna Weltens

    Love it- thank you! As a fellow mom of six, I can sure relate. So blessed by your honesty and humor.

  104. Christine

    Fun post, but I have to disagree with the encouragement for pregnant moms to drink wine. Some rules are reasonable! Alcohol readily crosses the placenta and will enter the baby’s bloodstream, where the baby’s still-developing liver will have a harder time processing the alcohol than mom’s liver. Even low rates of alcohol use in pregnancy have been linked with physical and/or mental health problems for children later on. The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ALL recommend NO alcohol in pregnancy. Just sayin’.
    And for the record, I am not a teetotaler. I enjoy adult beverages. But I’m not pregnant, either.

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