I REALLY was looking forward to sleeping in Sunday morning. But apparently my children did not get the memo. As my son pounded on my (always locked) bedroom door at 7:30am, I laughed to myself thinking how I used to sleep in until 10 or 11, even noon if I felt like it. Of course this was B.K. (before kids). When I grumpily asked my 5-year-old what he wanted, he replied "Can I come in? I want to cuddle with you." Instantly my irritation melted away.
That got me thinking about how different my life is compared to ten years ago. My friends without kids, or those who are about to have kids, all ask me: "Is it harder? Worse?" I always smile and say, "It's just different. Better, but different. You'll see." "But different how?" they persist. The thing about kids, their impact is hard to measure or quantify. I guess you could, thinking in terms of things lost and gained. So I decided to come up with this list. Maybe you can relate.
What I lost upon becoming a parent:
1. Spontaneity. B.K.: Happy hour? Sure! Movie just came out? Let's go! Weekend in Napa? Which winery? Now, leaving the house requires at least a week of planning ahead, to secure a babysitter, who also has a social life, by the way, so she's never available last minute. And if you have a newborn, the preparations before leaving the house are so exhausting, you don't even feel like going out anymore. And forget about trying to coordinate with another couple who has kids. You'll have to book that double date a month in advance, after everyone's checked their Google calendars to find that one night, by some miracle, that no one has a piano lesson or swim meet, AND can secure child care. A glass of wine and Netflix has become the go-to date night instead. Sex? Only if you put it in the calendar. The only thing spontaneous is the combustion of my cute "going out" clothes, which I imagine throwing in the fire because they're more useful as fuel than just sitting in my closet.
2. Privacy. What unwritten parenting rule is there that the kids will always come to find you just as you're sitting down on the toilet? Who taught them that it was ok to barge in when someone is doing their business? Oh, that's right, I did... because I'm always going in to make sure they wiped, aimed properly or washed their hands. I swear, they're like little heat sinking missiles. They can always find me. I've had both kids walk in when I'm changing, about to take a bath, and trying to sneak chocolate... all times I considered private times once upon a time. Instead I get little hands patting my bottom telling me how big it is. Hence, the always locked doors I mentioned in the first paragraph.
3. Sleep. My loved ones know that sleep is my thing. It is my talent. My first love. (sorry honey) So this one was especially hard to lose. You all know the zombie-creating first few months of parenting a newborn. But for some unlucky ones, this continues for years. The thing is, it doesn't end when they're older. Because there are always nightmares, fevers, science projects, or a host of other reasons your kids will wake you when you are dead asleep and having the best dream.
4. Dignity. Ever catch vomit with your bare hands? Ever want to melt into the floor and disappear after your kid asked a Sikh man if he's Santa? Ever go to work with milk stains on your shirt? Ever ask a stranger if they had a diaper because your kid pooped through every single one you brought out with you? Ain't too proud to beg.
5. Time. When you are putting others' needs before your own, you aren't left with a lot of time for yourself. When I subtract sleep, work, and the time I spend making dinner, doing laundry and shuttling the kids to lessons, I calculated I get two hours max to myself a day. I'd like to read a book, start a home project, or blog. That'll have to wait til the weekend evenings, once the kids go down. Every now and then I wonder what I did before kids, when I had all that time to myself. It all seems so luxurious. Oh, that's right. I used to work out, do my nails, play piano, play tennis, scrapbook, decorate my home, binge watch TV, shop...
6. Money. Which brings me to this next point. Have you seen my preschool bill? Let's just say next year, once both kids are in public school, it'll be like getting a big raise. I started getting excited about some disposable income again. But then we were just told my daughter will need braces. Cha-ching. Dance recital costumes. Cha-ching. Don't get me started on the cost of a college education. Cha-ching. All I see are little dollar signs dancing down the drain. There goes mommy's dream of a 40th birthday extravaganza in Europe.
Lest I scare you off, child-rearing is hardly a zero sum game. What I've lost doesn't compare to what I've gained.
What I gained upon becoming a parent:
1. Joy and wonder. Seeing life through the eyes of my children has been such a thrill. It's like a second chance to experience snow for the first time, Disneyland for the first time, ride a plane for the first time, the list goes on. As adults we get jaded, often just going through the motions, been there, done that. Having kids brings a fresh perspective, a sense of joy and wonder as you teach them and show them the world. I'll never forget my kids' uncontainable glee when they first learned how to ride their bikes, how to read, and how to swim. And the swelling of pride in my chest as I witnessed them reach each milestone.
2. Humility. There's a sense of helplessness that a parent feels when they realize they can't do it all and don't know it all. I think that's a good thing. That braggadocio and swagger of your 20's mellows out to a wiser, more humble version of yourself. That's where prayer comes in. Mine goes something like this: "God, I have no idea what I'm doing. Help these children grow up into awesome adults, despite my incompetence. Amen."
3. Patience. Especially in my business, it's all about immediate gratification and deadline pressure. This does not do much to foster patience in a person. I hate waiting. I won't even go to a restaurant if the wait is over 10-15 minutes to be seated. Amusement park lines? Forget about it. That all changed when my timeline didn't matter anymore to my little ones. Have you ever had to wait for a toddler putting on his shoes while you're late for work? Or how about waiting for you picky eater to finish her broccoli? Now I can outlast the best of them.
4. New friends. I'm not a naturally friendly person. I'm an introvert. But it's been fun meeting so many mommy friends through school, field trips, and birthday parties. There's nothing like bonding over your boys' obsession with Star Wars, or both your kids having the same teacher back to back. I'm looking forward to all the wine dates, I mean, play dates with these mommies.
5. A sense of humor. You know, there are just some scenarios you couldn't even imagine happening before kids. Like never in your wildest dreams. And then when they do happen, they are just so crazy ridiculous all you can do is laugh. It's a tried and true parent coping mechanism. Like that time my friend's kid painted the walls with his poop. Or mine took a permanent marker and tatted up their arms and torsos like two mini gangstas. Or when Syd unrolled all the rolls of toilet paper and spread them across the living room and painted a rainbow on the carpet. There's no other appropriate reaction.
8. Respect for my elders. I love and appreciate my parents even more than ever, now that I have children of my own. Because I finally understand the sacrifices they made to raise me to be the person that I am today. Mad respect.
9. Purpose. I have responsibilities that are so much bigger than me. I am raising two human beings. Their entire lives and well being are dependent on me and their father. It is a startling realization, and actually quite terrifying. But this has given my life a sense of purpose, to be the very best employee, parent, wife, and friend that I can be, so my kids can see that example and strive for even greater things.
10. Super hero status. To my kids, I am Super Mom. I don't wear a cape, but they truly believe I can heal booboos, sooth tummies, conjure up cookies, find missing socks, and whatever else only a mommy can do. Granted daddies are pretty awesome too. But their first instinct is to always call out for me. It's like the Bat signal for Gotham City. My reaction isn't always instant, but they always know I'll come to the rescue. "Thank you mommy!" is all I need. Maybe a sidekick to do the dishes and clean the toilets. I wonder how my hubby will look in a Robin costume.