I’m an Orange County mom, which means that if I wanted, I could be under a lot of stress. Orange County is one of the pressure-cooker areas of the Los Angeles metro, home to numerous high-income Type A parents and their overscheduled, helicoptered offspring.
I spent about two years trying to parent like the other moms I saw, the ones who had full-time jobs and still managed to bake custom-designed cookies for every kid in the class. The ones that looked exhausted and wired at the same time. The ones whose kids never seemed really happy.
Then, I dropped out. I told my husband I was saying no to the mom rat race and trying a new method of mommying. It helped: we quickly had more free time, fewer meltdowns, and happier parents and kids. After a year of being a relaxed, happy family, here is my advice for other moms looking to break free:
1. Stop helicoptering
You don’t need me to define helicopter parenting for you — it’s all over the media these days — but I will tell you how to solve it.
Let your kids’ actions have natural consequences.
It’s okay if your toddler falls and skins his knee. It’s okay if your fifth-grader puts off studying and gets a B — or even a C — on a test. It’s even okay if your high-school student doesn’t plan ahead and is the only kid who doesn’t turn in his big class project on time.
These aren’t life-threatening mistakes. They’re teachable moments. Save your helicopter energy and let your children learn from their mistakes.
2. Put family first — no, really
What’s the opposite of putting your family first? Doing everything people who aren’t part of your family tell you to do. Whether it’s the mother-in-law who pushes an infant feeding schedule, or the well-meaning neighbor who insists that you have to get your kid onto the “good” sports team, the only decisions you should be worrying about are the ones that are actually about your family.
That means: do you get to eat dinner together most nights a week? Is everyone getting enough sleep? Is there time for both work and play? That’s what putting family first is really about — not sacrificing your lives because of someone else’s suggestions.
3. Don’t do everything yourself
You want to know the first thing I did when I decided to jump off the mom rat race? Hired a cleaning service. Yes, I believe it’s important for kids to learn how to do chores, but it’s also important to understand that there are some chores you do yourself–like washing your dishes after meals–and some chores that other people do better, like scrubbing baseboards. (It’s the same with anything else: you pump your own gas and vacuum your own floor mats, but let a professional change the oil.)
Switching to a service for once-a-month deep clean and basic home maintenance in between helped give us our weekends back and made us a happier family. For the best house cleaning in Orange County, head over to CleaningOrangeCounty.com.
4. Decide what success looks like
There are some Tiger Mothers who believe success only looks like an Ivy League education. I believe that success looks like happy, well-behaved kids who know how to do well in school but aren’t too stressed about it. Decide what you think success looks like for your family, and act accordingly.
5. Find breaks from being a mom
The best way to jump off the mom rat race is to find at least one break a week where you aren’t “mommy.” For me, it’s my Wednesday night yoga class. For my sister, it’s her city choir. Figure out what your thing is, and make time for it.
These aren’t the only ways to step off the mom rat race, but they’re the ones that worked for me. I also stopped volunteering for committees, making homemade cookies for school events (I told my kids that if I’m doing homemade desserts, we had better get to eat them at home), and generally stepping away from anything that didn’t fit with my family and parenting goals.
What about you? Where are you on the mom rat race, and what do you need to do to step off?