The Most Questionable Thing I Did As a Young Mom

Lenny readers share their stories of navigating life with a tiny human.

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Based on a Sundance award-winning short film, the new SHOWTIME comedy series SMILF takes a hilarious and unabashedly honest look at Bridgette Bird, a twentysomething single mom from South Boston who sometimes doesn't get it right. Inspired by Bridgette, whose story is based on the life of series creator and star Frankie Shaw, we asked our readers to send in their most questionable early parenting moments. Here, they share tales of everything from that time they accidentally put a diaper on their baby's head to bringing their four-year-old to an art-school rager.

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Art School, Baby

When I was 23, I left my small Midwestern hometown, where I had put in three years of wholesome parenting. The most exciting thing I had done there was picking new recipes to try, so when I left my husband and moved to Chicago to attend art school, I went full force into freshman, single-mom-in-art-school mode.

I was shy and new to the city, but having a kid made me stand out. I brought my son everywhere: ragers (I just put him in a bedroom to sleep!), inappropriate nude performances (a little nudity never hurt anyone!), three-hour lectures (here's an iPad!), late-night experimental-music concerts (use these noise-canceling headphones!). I have endless stories about my poor dating choices, questionable financial decisions, and extremely late bedtimes (he didn't have one until he was seven). I don't feel good about most of these choices, but they're part of my story.

I truly believed that no-rules parenting would work as long as there was love. But as I gradually grew up and started to implement consistency and discipline, my son began to flourish. All I needed was a dose of reality: I traded in the whiskey shots alone at dive bars for cereal and kid-friendly TV. I swapped late-night binges for Sunday-night meal prep. I settled down with a man who is mature, owns a house, and has a job. And my son has transformed from a slightly depressive wild child to a fiercely smart and grounded kid.

Now, we live in a neighborhood where most of the bars have stroller parking and all the moms at the grocery store know one another. I'm 32, and even though my 27-year-old self would think our new life is boring, I'd tell her, "Don't knock it till you try it." Because being a mom — especially a good one — rocks way harder than an invite-only, art-house rock show.

Sharpshooter

When my first child was about three months old, my sister came to visit for the weekend. I hadn't left the house since my son was born, but a nearby county was holding a carnival — we decided it was the perfect first outing.

At the fair, we browsed a few of the stands, but I needed to breastfeed. So we headed to the beer garden, the only place with available seating. I hadn't had a drink since before I got pregnant, so after my son was fed, I had a glass of Chardonnay. The wine went straight to my head.

My husband left to get some poutine, and I challenged my sister to a water-gun game. Two water pistols, two women — who's going to hold the baby? My husband returned to find his wife and sister-in-law sharpshooting a big target while a carnival employee held our firstborn son as if he were handling a large burrito. I'm not sure what my husband was more impressed with: my resourcefulness or my aim. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Five Simple Rules

When I found out that I was pregnant, I was 25 and had been very casually sleeping with my coworker for three weeks. Nine months later, I was still with the father, but when we brought our son home from the hospital, I looked up and realized, Holy fucking shit, I don't know either of these guys. AT ALL. I was scared and I made a lot of mistakes in the first few months. Here are the highlights:

  1. I fed my son from a Dixie cup when he was just four days old because he wouldn't latch (and also because we ran out of clean bottles). It worked, but it wasn't pretty.
  2. I took my son to the doctor at a week old in part because his diaper rash was chilling. When the doctor told me to use Aquaphor, I nodded like that meant something to me and waited for her to write a prescription for it. Later I realized anyone could buy it the pharmacy.
  3. One night, I was so tired while I was changing his diaper in the dark that I accidentally put it on his head. I only realized what I'd done as I was trying to unstick his hair from the Velcro tab of a Pampers NB.
  4. When he was around three months old, I took him out for dinner. It started to rain, so I bundled him up in the stroller and raced home. But the stroller hit a curb as I was crossing the street, and he ended up in a puddle with his arms swaddled at his side. I had forgotten to strap him in.
  5. I did not realize that babies are supposed to wear shoes even though they can't walk — it literally never crossed my mind. During his first two New York winters, he wore a hat, gloves, a coat, fleece pants, and two pairs of socks. His poor feet were probably freezing.

By the time my son was two and a half, I had improved a little. But I still wasn't that surprised when his day-care teacher told me that my son had called one of his classmates a "juicebag" after his friend had refused to share a red marker. We pulled through, though. My son is ten now, his dad and I are married, and we have two more kids. Everyone is just fine.

These stories were submitted anonymously by Lenny readers.

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