7 Time-Sucking Things I Won't Be Doing for My Kids

working mom holding baby
iStock.com/sanjeri

Before I had kids, I admired the sheer dedication, not to mention talent, of the moms who could create magical childhood experiences for their kids.

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Of course, having only seen the end result -- whether it was attending the elaborately planned birthday party or viewing the epic photos from the cross-country summer vacation -- I didn't see what went on behind the scenes.

Then I had kids. And I came to realize just how much work and time was involved. But even while I might have predicted the effort, there was one thing I couldn't have known: that my kids really wouldn't care. Here are some things they'll never miss and that just aren't worth the effort.

1. Elaborate homemade birthday cakes.

I have a friend who used to spend three days baking and decorating to create a dessert that would be decimated by toddlers in 30 minutes. And guess what? Her child preferred store-bought cupcakes. I have a similar memory of my mother whipping up buttercream frosting when what I really wanted was an ice cream cake from Carvel. Now I ask my kids what they want and then decide whether it's something I can make in an afternoon or something I can just buy. Turns out my kids are fond of the simple layer cakes I make from box mixes and canned frosting, and decorate with store-bought decorations.

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2. Over-the-top birthday parties.

Whether it's the "destination" parties that involve parental consent forms and a hefty participation fee or the country club soirees that have more guests in attendance than I had at my wedding, I'm not a fan of the new trends in children's birthday celebrations. They seem to be more about the parents' social status (and bank account balance) than the child's birthday. So far, we've managed to keep it reasonable -- crepe paper streamers, balloons, paper plates of finger foods, a box-mix birthday cake, and a few friends -- and my children haven't noticed or cared. In fact, my 5-year-old's request for his next birthday is, "A family day where we go to the park and have a picnic." Done. Thanks, kid.

3. Homemade Halloween costumes.

Maybe if I could sew, I'd feel differently. But I can't, and any attempts to do so only end in tears and injuries. Plus, my kids are more than happy with store-bought costumes they can continue to wear long after Halloween. Their dress-up box is overflowing with past years' costumes that are mixed and matched as their imaginations allow. Anything I would attempt to whip up wouldn't last through the night.

4. Playdates.

Playdates seemed like a good idea when my kids were preschool age. It was an opportunity for them (and me) to get some socialization in a scheduled bit of time. The problem is, most toddlers and preschoolers aren't very good at playing together for more than a few minutes. The couple of times I attempted playdates, I ended up with kids in different rooms of my house doing different activities. Or worse, kids who decided during the playdate that they didn't like each other while I and the other kid's mom gritted our teeth for the too-long duration of the playdate.

5. Fancy lunches.

True story: The first time I saw a Pinterest article about creative bento box lunches, I had no idea what they were referring to. Then, in equal parts fascination and horror, I scrolled through slideshow after slideshow of cute, stylish lunches that were prettier than anything I had ever made -- or eaten. While I love the sandwiches shaped like animals and the vegetables carved into multi-hued flowers and arranged in edible dioramas, I just can't. My rule is simple: Making the lunch should not take longer than it takes the kid to eat said lunch.

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6. Camps, classes, and activities that fill up all their free time.

It's only April, but already my mailboxes (email and physical) are filling up with flyers and pamphlets about all of the Wonderful! Awesome! Educational! Exciting! things my kids can do this summer. From horse camp to classes at the art museum to spending their days on a working farm, my kids can have a nonstop, engaging summer from the day school lets out until the day they return in the fall. Honestly, I'm tired just reading about everything they can do. Is it great that they have so many opportunities? Absolutely. Do I feel compelled to book their summers? Not at all. There's something to be said for long, lazy (and, yes, sometimes boring) summers. Summers spent exploring the yard and making things out of found treasures, summers at the neighborhood pool, summers where they discover some new things they never knew about themselves -- whether it's that they can finally read a chapter book by themselves or that they can belch their name. There are only so many summers in childhood, and while I want my kids to learn new things and have fun, I'm also in no rush to fill their schedule (and mine) with organized (not to mention, expensive) activities they'll have forgotten by the time September rolls around.

7. Elf on a Shelf.

He's creepy. I'm forgetful. The end.

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