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How to Really Behave Like a Parent

Photograph by Twenty20

There's a graphic I'm seeing everywhere on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter that tells us the rules for how to behave when you're a parent. It goes something like this, "There comes a point in life when 'FUN' no longer means clubbing, drinking, being out 'till 4 a.m. or thinking about yourself. Fun means Disney movies, family dinners, bedtime stories, long cuddles, a messy house, sleeping by 10 p.m. and hearing little voices say, 'I love you.'"

It then encourages you to repost if you are indeed abiding by the rules of parenthood—which I might have done, but I was reading it while I was at a club, sipping a cocktail with my husband and thinking about what a good time I was having.

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True, my kids will be 18 and 20 in a few months so it's not like we left them home alone—in fact there's a good chance they were probably off clubbing as well. But from the time they were born, my husband and I swore to never stop having fun, even if it meant that we would someday disobey almost every line in a graphic that was posted on a social network that hadn't yet been created.

We should all keep our kids safe, happy and love them to pieces. But it doesn't mean we give up every aspect of our lives.

It goes without saying we should all keep our kids safe, happy and love them to pieces. But it doesn't mean we give up every aspect of our lives. If being in bed by 10 p.m., never thinking about ourselves and a lifetime of Disney movies was required for the job, do you think anyone would ever sign up?

Rule-breaking parents everywhere, I salute you. Here are my new rules for parenting, which I plan to make into a fancy graphic as soon as I finish making my family dinner. (See, I'm not all bad.)

1. Go ahead, think about yourself.

There's truth in that tired airplane-emergency analogy about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first and then your child. Do something that you want to do, that doesn't include a playground, a toy aisle or a ball pit. Follow it with a meal that doesn't include chicken nuggets or a juice box, and then finish with a movie that isn't animated or involve an upbeat moral lesson of any kind. You'll be breathing better in no time.

2. Stay up really, really late.

Did you know that you can reset that switch that makes you go to bed at 9 p.m. as soon as you have kids? Also, Netflix is 24 hours and many restaurants serve until the ungodly hour of 10 p.m. There are quirky documentaries for you to see, appetizers being served that don't come from the microwave, and other ADULTS out there just waiting for your interaction.

3. Go out to a club, have a drink.

Rest assured, there's no one at the door checking your ID who will turn you away because you're a mom. And talking about your kids will be even more fun with some music thumping in the background and a drink in your hand—even if it's orange juice.

4. Watch a weird movie with your kids.

We have friends whose kids were brought up solely on a diet of Tim Burton and Hitchcock movies, and as far as we know they didn't grow up to be psychopaths.

5. Rebel against the family dinner.

The romantic notion of the whole family gathered around a table at 5 p.m. for dinner isn't always possible in today's times. I'll often feed my kids earlier and then grill steaks for my husband and me at 10 p.m. after he gets home from work, and my kids are fans of our impromptu cookouts at 9 p.m. (on a school night.) As far as I know they aren't psychopaths, either.

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I'm absolutely in favor of a few rules for parenting—without them we'd all be leaving our kids alone with the dog while we run off to Tahiti, or letting them eat chocolate sprinkles for every meal. But can't we be parents and still have fun at the same time? I say yes. Except for twerking when you're out at the club. No parent should ever be doing that.

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