I meditated. I did lots of squats. I visualized the rainbow flowing out of me and the lotus opening. In the end, however, I begged for the epidural.

We prepare so much for childbirth and parenting because it seems it can be mastered like algebra. Celebrities are pregnant in heels on the red carpet and then parading their newborns on the pages of People. It looks easy, until you get there and you don’t have a night nanny or an iota of patience left to deal with another hour of screaming. I don’t mean to scare you, my childless or pregnant friends, but you’ll be too tired at the beginning to care about any decision other than to sleep.

When I announced that I was planning a natural childbirth, my mom told me that there was no award for making it through without drugs. Now, everyday, I either say or do something I had sworn I wouldn’t. By the time Baby J is a teenager, I will probably be exactly the parent I despised.

Sometimes what you need most is reassurance that you’re not totally screwing up. You’re not a bad parent if you…

1. Send your child to a cheaper daycare or preschool without an outdoor art studio or herb garden because you think culture is for grown-ups.

2. Give up breastfeeding or start formula so both you and the baby can be happy, healthy and free from excruciating pain.

3. Work outside the home because of financial needs or emotional sanity, or stay at home so you can keep up on Dr. Oz’s talk show.

4. Let your toddler eat food dropped on the ground, sticky or not.

5. Leave your kids so you can spend alone time with your spouse. I knew someone once who bragged that she had never had a night away from her kids in 5 years! Insane and a liar.

6. Serve a collection of items from the fridge and call it dinner. Does your kid really know that brussel sprouts don’t go with peanut butter?

7. Determine how long you will let your baby cry it out by the number of minutes left in your show.

8. Choose not to clean because it just gets dirty again anyway.

9. Be irresponsible once in a while: listen to your iPod at the park, drink wine to make it to bedtime, or let ’em suck down a fast-food soda.

10. Read the abbreviated version of books or skip sentences that require a lot of mouth energy.

11. Wear comfortable pants everyday so you can go from sleep to exercise to errands without effort. It’s not because your jeans are still tight, right?

12. Dump the poop from a diaper in the toilet and put the diaper back on the baby, but only if you’re out somewhere and don’t have a new diaper handy.

13. Get a gym membership for the cheap drop-in childcare even though the only reason you run on a treadmill is to feel less shame when watching Toddlers and Tiaras in closed caption.

14. Plan what to write on your blog while letting your children “play” on Dad’s computer.