Reprinted with permission from Layin’ Down Roots.
I woke this morning nose-to-nose with a cute little blonde repeating my name with increasing frequency. Her blue eyes were inches from mine and her chubby toddler fingers were tapping my forehead to reassure me that this was not a drill. Her message was clear and her demands were specific—chocolate milk and Paw Patrol, STAT! In dragging my perpetually tired 30-something body out of bed to lumber to the kitchen, I realized that there are certain things I took for granted in my life before I had kids. Simple things like sleeping past 7:00 on a Sunday morning, eating a hot meal when it is served, and visiting the restroom without an audience. As all parents can attest, life after kids is a brave new world, one that requires a complete overhaul of all previous norms, routines, and expectations. It’s a little foggy in this new world (sleep deprivation will do that) and it’s sometimes difficult to remember what the pre-kid planet looked like, but I’ll do my best to compare and contrast the seismic shift that occurs after the happiest day of your life.
Remember when a Sunday morning meant waking around 11:00 to a hot cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle in bed? Perhaps you would join friends for a brunch buffet and partake in a tomato-infused drink with a piece of celery and a little kick. The biggest decision before noon would be whether to catch up on your Netflix shows or go to Yoga class. Either choice would be fine, since you had the rest of the day ahead of you to complete the other one. The morning was slow and lazy and all yours.
Fast forward a kid or two and that hot cup of coffee now needs to be rewarmed in the microwave every half hour or so. Waking up at 11:00? Please, by that time of day you’ve already made breakfast, cleaned up spilled cheerios on the carpet, changed three diapers, folded a load of laundry, watched four episodes of Doc McStuffins, refereed a fight over an iPad, and are busily preparing a lunch that nobody will eat.
And since we’re talking about the weekends, remember those late Saturday nights filled with music and friends and reckless abandon? Checking out a new club at midnight and catching a cab home at 2:30 was the norm. Summer nights were filled with endless possibilities and limited only by the crowd and never by the clock. After a long work week, Saturday night was freedom at its finest and the party didn’t need to end until the sun came up because the next day could be completely devoted to rest and recovery.
But the weekends are a little different with little feet running around. If the day has been spent at the ballpark, the night will be filled with baths and cereal for dinner. If you enjoyed a fun afternoon at the beach, the night will be filled with baths and cereal for dinner. If the kids ran around with cousins at the extended family cookout, the night will be filled with…you guessed it…baths and cereal for dinner. And, with any luck, this all happens before 9:00 p.m. Staying up until midnight? Now that’s just crazy talk.
Going Out to Eat
In the six years before we had children, my husband and I made dinner reservations with the same frequency as most people make their beds. We tried all kinds of restaurants: barbecue joints and fondue bistros, breakfast cafes and hole-in-the-wall bars. We ordered appetizers and savored the entrees and spent hours talking over candlelight and sampling the dessert special. Our food was always hot, our drinks were always fresh, and the floor beneath our table was always clean.
We still go out to eat now, but more out of necessity and a bad case of amnesia regarding the last three trips to the restaurant. The dining establishment must meet a strict set of criteria: 1. Family friendly (chicken strip kid’s meals and high-chairs), 2. Cost effective (chances are they won’t eat their food anyway), 3. Close to home (in case of a melt-down or diaper mishap), and, 4. Adult-beverages on tap. If they give out crayons they get bonus points, if they don’t have chocolate milk they get crossed of the list. I appreciate the fact that I do not have to prepare any of the meals but going out to eat still does not absolve me from cutting up pancakes, eating cold food, and picking strands of spaghetti out of the carpet.
This is the one thing that I took for granted the most. Plopping myself on the couch for an hour or two without interruption. Sitting down at my desk to work on a project and only rising from my seat when I needed to refresh my diet coke.
I don’t really remember what it was like to just sit down. Because sitting down now is the universal signal for my kids to ask me for something. The water cup needs refilled when my backside touches the recliner, the baby needs changed as soon as I put my feet up on the chaise lounge, the pink crayon goes missing the moment I park myself on the loveseat. I like to call these moments Mom Squats. They make up for my morning run I’ve missed the last 52 consecutive days.
Before kids, it was typical to have a “laundry day.” Usually a Sunday, this was the day devoted to getting the two or three loads of laundry that had accumulated over the week washed and folded and put away. It was a task with a definite end, one that could be completed within a few hours and forgotten about until next week.
But now, everyday is “laundry day.” Actually, that isn’t correct. Everyday SHOULD be laundry day in order to keep up with the massive piles of onesies and colorful socks and baseball pants. But in our house it just tends to build up to a critical mass every week until I break down and attempt to scale the mountain of miniature t-shirts and make a dent in the cotton based peaks and valleys on my bedroom floor. Sometimes I manage to get them all put away (at least for a few hours), but usually I just fold them and place them in a basket to be rifled through in the morning rush of the coming days.
To be sure, I had more energy and free time before my three little ones came along. Before they arrived, my steak was always hot and my lemonade was always cold. And there is no doubt that binge watching the Sopranos beat any marathon of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But I’ve found that the sweetness of a two-year-old calling me Mommy far outweighs the solitude of just being Stacey. And even though I have to share everything now—my french fries, my blankets, and my love—the return on investment is worth the price of my privacy. I’ll take early mornings and early nights over the way it used to be, because the way it used to be was missing a few things anyways. It was missing the heartfelt conversations of bedtime with three little monkeys snuggled up beside me. It was missing the pride and the tears that accompany the big moments—the first steps, the first day of school, the first base hit. It was missing the depth of love that can only be felt when a piece of you is transformed into another individual, one that comes into this world and changes yours forever.