things you don’t actually have to do (unless you want to)

As we’ve gotten old and allowed to be lazy, we’ve made some discoveries about things that we grew up thinking everybody did, or found out that other people thought everyone did (even if we didn’t)

  • make your bed
  • fold your underpants
  • declutter
  • puree baby food (they don’t actually need mush)
  • cut old tshirts into same-size pieces to make rags (you can use it as rags without cutting it, you can tear where there’s already holes etc.)
  • shave your “lady-bits” (embarrassingly, I didn’t even know this was a thing until I saw people talking on a mother’s forum)
  • sleep train

ETA:  I’ve heard great things about Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu.

Grumpy Nation, what are some things you’ve realized don’t actually need to be done, or that you were surprised to find other people thought were necessary?

69 Responses to “things you don’t actually have to do (unless you want to)”

  1. cg Says:

    This is a great list! Here are a few of mine:

    Rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher (in fact, you shouldn’t!).
    Wear makeup, unless you want to.
    Stop carrying a backpack.
    Wear heels, unless you want to.

  2. bogart Says:

    Ooh, great topic. Where I live (YMMV, depending on saltiness of roads and perhaps other factors I’m unaware of), wash your car. I’d add, I feel environmentally virtuous by not washing my car.

    Based on some lifestyle/professional decisions I’ve made: wear skirts, heels, hose, pants without pockets. Take anything to any dry cleaner, ever. Get manicures or pedicures.

    Dress small children in anything other than safe, comfortable clothing that is changed often enough to remain sanitary.

      • bogart Says:

        @Rose makes a great point, below. I’d add, sort laundry or think about wash cycles. I’ve got a few things I’ll try to remember to wash on cold and we do try to wash new bright objects separately from light-colored things the first time or 2. But basically everything goes in together on warm, any cycle, and (in my experience) comes out clean.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:


        What we do is I’m the only person in the house who owns clothing that needs to be washed/dried on delicate, so I have a separate basket for delicates that I put teaching clothing into at the end of teaching days. Everything else goes into the same bin.

  3. rose Says:

    Doing laundry for anyone in your household over age 7-9 depending on level of disability (If they can run the computer & or TV system they can learn to run the clothes washer & dryer correctly.)
    Picking up and putting away other people’s belongings (from age 4 on really but no hard line before 8.)
    Being the only person in the household to grocery shop, cook, clean up afterwards, do financial management, take minors to health appointments.

    Why do women let men win the ball dr pping game and teach their sons to dr p it it too? It is not a genetic sex linked biological issue …
    hmmmm DLS time seems to make me grumpier right now……..

  4. SP Says:

    I am glad my baby isn’t showing any signs of readiness for solids, because I haven’t figured out what to do. Purees seem simpler (probably because familiar), but I like the idea of the baby self-feeding… I have no plan.

    You also don’t have to save old t-shirts as rags if you don’t want to. When they visited us, my MIL tried to give me some of my FIL’s old t-shirts that he’d specifically worn on the trip to be discarded (to save space on the way home?)… and… we just don’t need that many rags. My husband has a billion old shirts.

    I don’t typically wear makeup, heels, hose, dress clothes, wash our car regularly, get mani/pedis, pre-wash dishes before the dishwasher, get frequent hair cuts, fold clothes that don’t require it (unless I’m in a Marie Kondo mood).

    You don’t have to follow celebrities or sports. Or join snapchat (or is there something newer?). That’s all I can come up with today!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a lot of good stuff to not do!

    • ket Says:

      You don’t have to follow the baby-lead weaning websites’ advice, but I will say that reading those websites & realizing the kids were still alive & happy helped me decide that solids for baby = soft pieces of whatever I had on my plate, and enormous turkey bones to gnaw on :) It made dinnertime really simple.

      I like Leigh’s list below, too.

      I’ll add a few:
      You don’t have to apologize or explain when you say no.
      You don’t have to schedule extra office hours with the student who always flakes about coming, though you can if you want. (Now I do it only if it really does not inconvenience me an iota.)
      You don’t have to change your bedsheets on a schedule…. but I’ve realized I kind of like having a schedule, because it reduces thought/inertia.
      You don’t have to do educational activities with your kid. She’ll learn her colors and how to talk and how to tweet at the birds anyway.
      You don’t have to wear slips with dresses, but I find it useful.
      You don’t have to wear pantyhose to church. Have proved experimentally than at least three currently-popular Gods will not strike dead a pantyhose-less woman.

    • Leah Says:

      As long as you feed your baby and your baby doesn’t choke, you’re good. I did purees because it was easy. But we also gave our baby chunks of stuff too. Baby led weaning folks make you think you can never do purees or that kids will somehow get confused if you do both. Our daycare did purees, and we did purees when it worked and soft food we were already eating when that worked.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        *raises hand* this baby-led weaning person doesn’t have a problem with purees– she’s just lazy. But there was also a lot less information on the topic online 11 years ago when we looked into it. I don’t remember it being particularly “you must do it this way”. And some recommended things are naturally mushy, like bananas and avocados and cooked squash/sweet potato. Meat as a first food was what was trendy with the People Who Do Things Differently when DC1 was starting solids.

      • Leah Says:

        Sorry, I should have clarified “baby led weaning evangelists on the internet.” I read some stuff that made it sound like my kid would *surely* choke if I dared give them any purees because they wouldn’t understand how to eat food. But kids figure things out pretty quick.

        Yup, we did a lot of naturally mushy things along with soft foods and purees. We started with vegetables to hopefully get a good foot in before giving them a taste of the sweet stuff (spoiler alert: it didn’t matter; our kids love sweets anyway). I think we started with squash, refried beans, and pureed carrots for both our kids.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        How bizarre. It sucks when “here’s something you can do” becomes “our way is the only way”. But I guess it was ever thus.

      • SP Says:

        There is just a lot of ADVICE out there and I can’t even tell what is evidence based and what is just someones opinion, or what has some evidence but has been colored by some purist evangelical. To be fair, I haven’t done any research on it so I’m just gleaning the surface of the noise.

        I like your advice :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        There is SO little evidence-based advice! My two big pieces of advice to expectant moms are: 1. do what feels right to you and ignore advice that doesn’t feel right (assuming you’re not going to put whisky in a bottle) and 2. if you’re traveling without the baby and you’re nursing, you can use antihistimines on the plane to temporarily take the edge off when you’re unable to pump.

        My favorite book is still Our Babies Ourselves, which is mainly “there’s not a lot of evidence on stuff, here’s how people used to do it for millennia and here’s how it’s done around the world– little changes don’t really matter for the important stuff”. But it’s an older book given that DC1 is now 12. Still– it is evidence-based and by an anthropologist. :)

      • Michelle Says:

        Yes – we did a combination and it worked FINE. Purees, naturally soft foods, and little pieces of things. Also, the purees were very thick, not watered down. One of the challenges was finding foods that our baby could actually grab (prior to pincer grip), so I really liked grated sweet potatoes that would kind of stick together in clumps so that she could fist these into her mouth. Some of the “purees” were so thick that she could also use her hands to eat these by just scooping it up. We did spoon feeding as well.

        I agree with the advice of “doing what feels right.” This is actually one of THE BEST pieces of parenting advice. Co-sleeping, breastfeeding “on demand,” sleep training… so many controversial topics. But you know what? THERE IS AND CAN BE A MIDDLE GROUND. We walked the line on each of the above, and everything worked out well in the end. If there’s one thing being a mom taught me, it was definitely to be way less judgmental of other moms (I have tons of opinions and suggestions, but am also very open minded, and I generally try to not offer up my thoughts until solicited).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I was flipping though some of our old parenting posts, and apparently the Grumpy Rumblings parenting philosophy is “Do whatever is easiest (so long as it’s not dangerous)”

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        We found silk tofu (in boxes from Mori-nu) to be an excellent soft food for our son when he started moving from breast milk to solid foods. (Tofu remains one of his main protein sources now that he is 23.)

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

      JB will very happily come over and teach Baby how to eat solids! Ze is all about feeding small children :D :D

  5. Emily Says:

    Bathe your children more than 1-2x per week. Fold kids’ laundry. Wash your workout clothes every time you wear them. Buy an SUV or minivan if you have children.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You speak truth!

      (though I sweat enough that I have to wash my regular clothes each time I wear them or they get crunchy, not to mention stinky :( )

    • Michelle Says:

      Love the SUV one. We survived with two cars with three kids for years, and not for financial reasons. Recently inherited an SUV. I do kind of love it, and it’s a super nice vehicle, but I am still fundamentally against it in principle and am now one of “those people.” Whenever I drive my daughter to some sort of activity or event, EVERY other car in the parking lot is a black or white SUV. Oh well, we will keep driving the Prius as much as possible.

  6. Leigh Says:

    You don’t have to dry dishes right away! (We wash them at night and then they magic! air dry over night)
    You don’t have to share all of your bank accounts with your spouse.
    You can like clothes.
    You don’t have to change your last name when you get married. You don’t have to have a reason not to other than you didn’t either.
    You don’t have to give kids the male spouse’s last name.
    You don’t have to have kids.
    You don’t have to visit your brother-in-law.
    You don’t have to wear t-shirt bras.
    You don’t have to wear a dress to a wedding! (I wore pants once and all the women were jealous of me because it was very cold.)
    You don’t have to eat food you don’t want to (though eating no vegetables or fruits at all might not be good eventually).
    You don’t have to spend all of your income.
    You don’t have to reduce your mental health at the expense of doing something for your spouse.
    You don’t have to do anyone’s laundry except yours.
    You don’t have to do something you’re good at just because you’re good at it.
    You don’t need to shave your legs very often or at all.

    This exercise got addicting! Thank you for the inspiration.

  7. bogart Says:

    More! You don’t have to eat breakfast. You don’t have to eat 3 balanced meals a day — for health reasons, it is likely a good idea to eat a balanced diet, but this can probably be on average over a week, or even a longer interval (obviously, again, YMMV depending on health situation, life stage, and preferences).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ayup. It’s amazing how many different ways that humans have managed to survive via food intake. (Me, I need lots of small meals, but that’s due to my particular physiology.)

  8. Katherine Says:

    You don’t have to change out of pajamas if you’re not leaving the house.

    You don’t have to NOT feed your baby the gerber baby cereal and pre-pureed baby food. (Being on WIC has really helped me not have mom guilt on this – some nutritionists who work for the state have concluded that it’s healthy for the baby, it doesn’t cost us anything because the state is paying for it, and it’s super convenient. If I wasn’t on WIC I would almost certainly be wasting a lot of time and energy stressing out about what solid foods to feed the baby.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      (You can leave the house in pajamas too…)

      It is remarkable how many different kinds of foods babies can eat and still turn out ok. It’s as if evolution has seen it all and worked with it. (Also remarkable: how little research there is and how many “official” recommendations they give without any sort of research base.)

    • Leigh Says:

      Yes on the pyjamas thing! Before FaceTiming my in-laws though, I always change out of pyjamas or they tease me. My husband doesn’t care.

  9. Piesharriet Says:

    Ironing (especially anyone else’s).

    I wish I could figure out how to get a 6 and 8 year old out of the house on time without dressing them myself as if they were toddlers.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We do not own an ironing board and only own an iron because amazon accidentally sent us one and said not to bother sending it back. It has never been used.

      Solution to 6 and 8 year old: Turns out they do not have to wear pajamas. You can let them sleep in the next day’s clothes. (Also my 6 year old LOVES pajama bottoms as pants. Is wearing them today, in fact, along with a sweater.)

  10. gwinne Says:

    Most things listed so far never occ urred to me as things that you are “expected” to do anyway; like, I’ve never felt a social obligation to get a manicure, much less a personal need. Also, include me in the rare to wear make up group, other than lipstick, because I like it.

    You also do not need to have a smart phone or a social media account.
    You do not need to put on real clothes in order to walk a small child to the bus stop (i.e. I’ve been known to go in pajama pants)
    You do not need to fold clothes.
    You do not need to make your kid’s lunch. Or make a fancy lunch.
    I’m guessing there’s a lot more I could say but it’s hard to figure out what I don’t do that other people do…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 still doesn’t have a smart phone. I don’t know how she does it. Well, technically I know how she does it (mainly lots of computer usage and a good sense of direction), but I would have a hard time with it.

      One of my fashionable colleagues moved to my neighborhood a few weeks ago and I felt super intimidated to go out in pajamas, but then I saw her in her workout clothes walking the dog (which are not LA-style workout clothes, but the same kind of ratty college t-shirt/old yoga pants thing I favor) and I realized I could go back to my regular slothful self when I’m out and about at home.

      • gwinne Says:

        Also, you don’t need to do PRODUCTIVE things with leisure time. It’s okay to watch TV. Or whatever your own ‘passive’ leisure activity is.

  11. Leah Says:

    These make me sound slovenly, but you don’t have to wear makeup, and you don’t have to shower every day.

    You don’t have to watch TV (tho I think this blog audience understands that).
    You don’t have to be an expert in something to like it. It’s okay to like a band and not know every single song they’ve ever written or like an author and not have read all her books.

    Something I’m currently working on:
    You don’t have to bring work home every night to be a worthwhile employee. I’ll keep typing that until I believe it. Maybe I should go finish my work at work so I don’t feel tempted to bring it home (because I’m not going to — maybe I should say that I’m giving up both sweets AND working at home for Lent).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Doesn’t sound slovenly to me!

    • Leigh Says:

      You don’t have to wash your hair every day! I do shower every day after some experimenting but I use dry shampoo on the days I don’t wash my hair and my mom can’t even tell I didn’t wash my hair!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Here’s a secret– I have a super dry scalp, and now that I’ve found a shampoo that doesn’t irritate it (Burts Bees Baby) I only have to wash it once or twice a week. Disclaimer: I will still not win any awards for luxurious hair, but it does take a long time for it to get greasy.

      • Leigh Says:

        Ooh I should try that! Thanks for the tip. I have really dry skin and hair, especially in the winter. Though it’s not winter really anymore which is a delight!

  12. accm Says:

    You don’t have to breastfeed, exclusively or in combo. You don’t have to cook everything from scratch (even my saintly mother doesn’t do this anymore). You don’t have to go out and do something educational or fun with the kids every weekend day.

  13. xykademiqz Says:

    You don’t have to go camping. Ever.
    You don’t have to teach kids to ride a bike if they really don’t want to.
    You don’t have to force any enrichment activities on your kids’ throats if they’re not into them. Let them live & support them in pursuing their own interests.
    You don’t have to share all or or even most of your bank accounts with your spouse (although having one joint one helps with transferring funds).
    You don’t have to be joined at the hip with your spouse or your kids or anyone else. It’s OK to need and have space.
    You don’t have to like doing things you are good at. You can totally hate things you are good at. You might not be able to avoid doing them, but it’s OK to despise them while you’re doing them. (I wish I could get out of cooking for the family. I am so over cooking. I don’t care if I never cook again in my life.)
    It’s OK to sometimes feel grumpy, tired, or resentful. This means you are human.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You also don’t have to let your kids sign up for every enrichment activity under the sun. (I tell my soccer coach colleagues that they must love their preschoolers more than I loved mine.)

  14. Debbie M Says:

    You don’t have to buy a house. If you do, it doesn’t have to be the maximum amount you can afford or the maximum amount a lender has approved you for.

    You don’t have to drink alcohol or do any other mind-altering drugs. (I think this is not true in many cultures and even many western subcultures. But I’m so glad it’s true for me.)

    You don’t have to go to church or even be religious.

    I’m with whoever said you don’t have to be an expert at something to enjoy it. Or even to do it.

    (But you can’t actually do whatever you want to when you grow up, like adults implied. I think they assumed I’d be sufficiently brainwashed–ahem, acculturated and educated–to only “want” what I was allowed to do. Some things are not affordable (owning a mansion), some are not healthy (chocolate chips for dinner on a regular basis), some are not practical (revolving bookcases and bat-poles), some things are illegal or can otherwise get you in trouble (letting grass grow too long), etc.)

  15. middle_class Says:

    You dont have to buy gifts for your spouse’s side of the family. It is seriously amazing to me that most of my female friends and colleagues do this, especially if they are younger or newlywed.

    Also you dont have to remember his side of family birthdays or anniversaries.

    Please spread the word to younger women in new relationships. They will thank you later!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      100% this! DH does his side of the family and I do mine (except I help with one of my SIL because I love looking through her amazon wishlist because she and I have similar taste– he also helps me brainstorm for my sister). I also figure that my in-laws would rather be hearing from their own beloved flesh and blood than from the person who married in.

      • middle_class Says:

        Yes because i didn’t take over, my husband got better at remembering. My in-laws love me but i know that any gift or contact from their own son is 100% better!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I will say that DH’s stress levels about this have gone way down since his mother and sister started populating their amazon wishlists. If people that you care for have to give you obligatory gifts, help them out with a wishlist!

  16. Michelle Says:

    Wash your towels or bed sheets (often).
    Have a perfect lawn.
    Wash your car (love this one! will definitely use the “environmental” argument moving forward), though I do clean the inside every so often.
    Get your hair cut more than twice a year.
    Use hand sanitizer (!) (decidedly not a germaphobe…).
    Dress up or do up to go “out” (I mean out to dinner, etc.) I will wear “nicer” clothes if it’s a fancy event or place, but otherwise, nobody cares.
    Hover over your child at every given moment (YMMV, some kids are legit reckless, but mine is responsible).
    Wipe from front to back (TMI?)

  17. rs Says:

    Others have said it, but for me: No make up, lipstick, high heels, uncomfortable clothes or shoes. I like to dress nice high quality clothes, but they have to pass the comfort test. My jewelry is also mostly gone (too itchy around neck or hand).

  18. Linda Says:

    Several people have mentioned manicures/pedicures. I’d add that you don’t have to get polish applied if you do these things! I love having my feet and hands attended to by a pro since I really am not good at filing my nails. I also love to have my feet soaking in warm water and the foot/leg massage that usually is part of the process. So, if you avoid mani/pedis because of the polish issue, then just them you don’t want any polish.

  19. Amy Says:

    I don’t change my sheets weekly. Or on any set schedule. Especially in the winter, when pajamas mean that the only unclothed parts of my body that come in contact with the sheets are my feet and my hands.

    I would never admit this to anyone who knows me, however.

  20. First Gen American Says:

    You don’t have to continue being friends with someone who’s personal drama is more important than the friendship.

    On a similar note, you don’t have to spend time with family members “because they are family.”

    You don’t have to bail out family and friends financially.

    Just say no to one sided relationships and drama kings and queens.

    You don’t have to learn an instrument or do a single sport year round.

    You don’t have to limit screen time every day.

  21. undine Says:

    Great suggestions! The point is (as you say) that no one HAS to do these things. Thanks for calling out so much unnecessary guilt as unnecessary.

  22. Grumpy Rumblings 2019 year in Blogging | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] things you don’t actually have to do (unless you want to) […]

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