If you’ve ever hung out with a group of moms—and I’m willing to bet you have—there are two things you almost definitely talked about. The first one is sleep (you want it, you need it, you’re not getting any). The second? Kids and food. From breastfeeding or bottles to first foods and the next ten thousand years of endless school lunch-making, feeding your kids probably takes up more hours of your parenting life than you ever imagined. Honestly, did any of us anticipate the time and energy needed to provide sustenance to those tiny, always-growing snack monsters on a daily basis?
Food is tricky. If you’ve got picky eaters, you’ve got a guaranteed showdown THREE TIMES A DAY. Allergies? You have way more to navigate than the average parent and are constantly on guard for their safety. Got a kid who eats well and has no allergies at all? You’ve won the lottery, but guess what—you still have to prepare meals for them multiple times a day until they’re old enough to work a stove (or a takeout menu).
I have a lot of friends with “challenging” eaters at home, but I drew the other straw and got bad sleepers. My kids have left me sleep-deprived for over six years, but are amazing eaters who (usually) consume healthy foods without complaint and enjoy a wide variety of things. They’re willing to try new foods, clean out their lunch boxes most days, and are easy to feed at any type of restaurant (Thai, Indian, Mexican, and Greek are all big hits here). Our kids don’t have any food allergies or restrictions (though we discovered the hard way that introducing dairy too soon can result in a shower of hot milk puke). Yes, it’s awesome.
(Lest you think I’m bragging too much, let me remind you that they’re terrible sleepers. Seriously—they took ages to sleep through the night, had awful night terrors as toddlers, and then moved on to full-fledged nightmares, which lead them to our bed at 2 am at least twice a week. I’m tired ALL. THE. TIME.)
My husband and I would like to think that our children’s good eating habits are a result of our very excellent parenting, but honestly, it’s probably got more to do with luck. I want to pat myself on the back for this one, but the truth is, I didn’t do anything special to reach this point. Never did I secretly blend vegetables into the muffin batter or cut sandwiches into enticing unicorn shapes. We have a sit-down family dinner every night, but there are no hard and fast rules about eating a certain number of bites or finishing your meal (though we don’t make alternatives). Treats are allowed in moderation, and while I avoid McDonald’s like the plague, my kids know the Starbucks menu off by heart. The thing I’m the most strict about is table manners, and honestly, that’s a work in progress. But my kids eat really, really well! In summary: we had no real plan, and things worked out ok.
This cannot be an advice article because I am grossly unqualified to teach anyone anything about motherhood. We’re all just doing our best, winning and failing as we go along, and this is one thing that has gone well in my household. How did I do it? I have no idea. We just fed them whatever we were eating from a young age, and they ate it. We like a lot of different foods, and so do they. Luck, skill—I don’t know. But given how poorly my kid’s sleep and all the other ways I’m NOT winning at parenting, I’ll accept any congratulations I receive on this apparent achievement. You think I’ve done a great job because my kids eat vegetables, sushi, and salad? THANK YOU, I will take that compliment because I need to hear it. We all need to revel in those brief moments of parenting mastery because this stuff is hard. And in that spirit, hey you! That mom over there with the picky eater—you really shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.
I tried SO hard to get my kids to sleep through the night and I failed miserably. I put almost no effort into raising adventurous eaters, and it just happened. In your home, it could be the reverse—so why feel bad if your kid lives on grilled cheese right now? You did nothing wrong and it won’t be forever. Yes, it sucks when you scrape the remains of a nice pasta dish into the compost bin because it wasn’t Kraft dinner. I get it. But hang in there, and don’t feel responsible or let mom guilt rule your life—kids are notoriously picky control freaks who live to torture their parents however they can. Your pain-in-the-ass kids are totally normal! So take a deep breath, think of all the ways you ARE winning at parenting, and go for sushi after the kids are in bed. They’ll join you one day.