Most parents would agree you shouldn't lie to your kids — but lying about them doesn't seem to be as clear-cut. “I did it,” confesses Michele Sileo, a mom of two from Staten Island, New York. “I lied about my daughter's age. The fact that she was potty-trained at 18 months seemed to make other moms uncomfortable, so when they asked how old she was I'd say, ‘Oh, she's 2.’”
Far more common than the little white mommy lie is the tall tale told to make you (or your baby) look better. First-time mom Angela Deniston of Cincinnati has found herself exaggerating her robust 7-month-old's age to thwart unwanted comments about his size. “He's so cute, he should be a plus-size baby model!” she says.
What may feel like harmless truth-stretching can have more serious consequences down the line, insists Christine Carter Ph.D., a sociologist at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and the author of Raising Happiness. “We know there is a correlation between parents who tell white lies and kids who cheat,” Carter explains. “Obviously your baby isn't cheating now, but you have to think about going forward. These are not small lies; you're misrepresenting who your child is on a fundamental level.”
Moms admit to fudging their babies' ages in both directions, suggesting Junior is younger to excuse their own lingering pregnancy weight or wanting him to appear older to defend going back to work. “I nursed my daughter for the first six weeks, and it was a struggle,” admits Kelly Roland (not her real name) of Los Angeles. “When it was time to go back to work, I tried pumping, but I travel so much for my job, it just wasn't working. I was stressed, so I switched to formula. I felt guilty and always thought other moms were judging me. I would say things like ‘Oh, she just weaned herself naturally after about six months.’”
You can always justify your dishonesty, but “lying is a slippery slope; you fib a little, then a little more,” Carter says. “The message you're teaching your kids is that the end result is more important than your actions.”
Carter insists that the path to true enlightenment starts with challenging your assumptions: Are you positive people would think more highly of you if you lost 10 more pounds? “You have to look at all of the alternatives,” Carter insists. “Could you tell other moms about the great potty-training book you read? The more you act with integrity, the happier you and your baby will be in the long run.”