7 Lessons I'm Taking From My Own Childhood to Simplify Mom Life

Mom and daughters eating on car boot
Image Source/ iStock

I loved my childhood. I know every generation thinks they had it better than the one after them, but honestly, things were so much simpler back then. There were no cell phones or Pinterest or social media obsessiveness. I look at my daughter now, and there is some level of uneasiness when I think of how different her childhood could potentially be if I allowed myself to get swept up in all of it. I want her to be able to have the kind of childhood I had. But I’m not going to lie, I feel alone sometimes in wanting to hold onto the past, while my friends stress about soccer schedules conflicting with dance recitals. 

I know for a fact that my own mom, while still leading a full life, had it easier than moms do today because she didn’t have to deal with the things we parents go through now. There seems to be a big push in our culture to over-schedule and go over the top, because we think we’re raising well-rounded kids. Sometimes it feels like a desperate attempt to keep both my daughter and me grounded and present in an age of technology and tiny tot hockey. Here are 7 cues I’m taking from my own childhood to simplify life for my family.

  • 1. I don't need to impress anyone with lavish birthday parties.

    For my daughter's first birthday, I invited fifty of our closest friends and family and spent three hours painstakingly designing cute pink and grey decorations from Pinterest, because I thought that's what would make it memorable. But by the time the next one rolled around, I remembered that my own mom never so much as blew up a balloon for my parties and I turned out just fine. So I made a lasagna for our immediate family and threw together some mismatched Minnie Mouse paper plates and called it good. And guess what? The kid never knew the difference.

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  • 2. It's okay to prioritize family time over activities.

    I grew up coming home after school and playing outside with my sisters or the neighborhood kids. Weekends were spent doing things as a family instead of attending sporting events. While I think it’s great that kids have socialization and exercise, I just really want to put our family first. Plus, the thought of hanging out at my kid’s soccer game every weekend makes me want to die of boredom.

  • 3. Dinner happens at the kitchen table.

    I remember rolling my eyes as a teenager when I had to come home from a friend’s house to eat dinner, but now that I’m older, I realize how meaningful those dinner conversations with my family was. It’s probably going to be the best time of the day to connect with my family because the best stories are the ones shared around food. Plus I figure if I can trap my daughter with her favorite meal, I can find out all sorts of dirt going on in her life. I’m turning into my mother.

  • 4. My kids can entertain themselves.

    We as parents feel the need to constantly provide our kids with endless activities to prevent that dreaded thing they call boredom. We don’t like too much downtime. I screwed myself as an adult because I can barely stop myself from whipping my phone out to play on social media while my husband runs to the bathroom at restaurants.  But some of my best memories involve my parents leaving us to our own devices. I distinctly remember stealing slices of bread from the kitchen and using them to play Vagrants in the corner of the backyard with my sister while my mom organized the hallway closet. All we were missing was the real campfire and hobo stick. Face it, a bit of boredom is good for all of us.

  • 5. I don't need to capture every moment on camera.

    Throughout my adult life, I notice how much I rely on taking photos instead of just being present and enjoying the experience. Take, for instance, our first family vacation. I regret how many photos I took of my daughter on the lake instead of throwing rocks in the water with her. I don’t remember growing up with a camera in my face, but the photos my parents did take of us are so cherished -- maybe it’s because we don’t have 11,000 of them.

  • 6. There's nothing wrong with low-key vacations that don't cost a lot.

    I want to grab that bed and breakfast in the mountains and spend our time hiking. I want to drive several hours back to Lake Superior and spend the weekend there like we did every year growing up. My husband and I have taken nice trips where, when we come home, we’re more exhausted than when we left. Vacations are supposed to refresh you, right? As busy moms, we need to find that vacation spot where we can have some rest and relaxation, even if we have tiny threenagers screeching in our faces.

  • 7. We should value face-to-face interactions.

    One of the things Facebook has ruined for me is the ability to truly catch up with a friend over dinner. We’ve already seen each other’s news and now we just get together to fill in the blanks. In a world of self pay kiosks, home delivery, and text messaging, I want to teach my daughter that it’s still OK for us to talk directly to someone, be it a friend or the cashier at Panera. 

    As moms, we’re always going to be busy. But my hope is that we can all take some snippets from how our own parents lived back when they were raising us, and use them in our own lives. I think a lot of us desperately need to cut down on some of the crazy we have going on and work on living in the moment. Because we deserve it.