Parenting can suck. Really, really, suck. You don’t sleep, your eating habits may be questionable, your alone time is minimal (possibly nonexistent), and you question everything. (Is now a good time to start sleep training? Is the shape of my son’s head ever going to look normal? Have I chosen the right daycare? Should I try to switch formulas to save money?) Yes, parenting destroys your life.
The life, that is, that you had before you became a parent.
And while I miss some of the aspects of that woman and the life she lived, there are many things I don’t miss… and things I no longer question. (Partially because I don’t have the energy or time!)
Some of my favorite changes to my life as a new parent I have enumerated upon in this blog…let’s start with a simple one: clothing.
You don’t have to worry about what you wear in public. Yep, I’m rockin’ the leggings, large T-Shirt with no bra, messy bun, slipper-socks n’ crocs today! If I wore that about a year ago, the looks from others may have been brief as I sauntered through the grocery store, but the vibe would have been there. (Pre-pregnancy, mind you — pregnancy was another time when what I wore mattered zilch and my resting-bitch-face dared someone to say something).
Now, some of you may never had this issue to begin with; and that is fantastic! Unfortunately for me, I’ve always had a level of anxiety in terms of what other people thought of me. I was a born people-pleaser…was. Now, the only person I care to please is my baby.
Newfound patience and appreciation for others. I can remember when I was without child how easily annoyed I became by others around me. It could be that slow driver in front of me, crawling down a one-lane highway. Or maybe the customer who was taking forever to ring up their groceries with their myriad of price checks. (I should note, I rarely let my frustrations be known to others — that whole people-pleaser thing — but I did silently muddle in my vexations.)
Today, I am the person that would’ve annoyed me then. I am a much slower driver. I take my time in the checkout line to make sure all my coupons are accounted for. Yeah, I’m “that” mother. But with “that” mother comes an appreciation for others. You don’t know what is going on in someone else’s life that makes them act as they do. You don’t know what they are feeling or their vantage point of the world. We are all just trying to get by. So who am I to judge? As the proverb goes, live and let live.
Midnight hugs. Oh, I love this one! Throughout the day, my kid is screaming, crying, thrashing — to the point where I think I am going to lose it. But at that late night feeding…silence. You would think he is not the same boy (he even looks different when he is calm and relaxed).
When I pick him up out of his crib, holding him tenderly as he feeds from his bottle, I melt. I can’t help but kiss his little forehead. Then, when he is finished, I place him on my shoulder to burp him. And we stay there. His head on my shoulder, and his arms wrapped around my neck. Me kissing his cheek as he coos, falling back into his gentle slumber. This is peace. This is love.
It. Is. Perfect.
You appreciate your free time sooooo much more. For the first three months, there was little “me time.” My son cried A LOT. He had major gas issues, along with infant dyschezia (fancy way of saying he had trouble pooping). Like many babies, he would cry inconsolably for hours. He would wake up crying. He would fuss. All. Day. Long.
When he reached his forth month, time to myself did (finally) increase. While he is still fussy (he is still four-months-old), he doesn’t cry nearly as much. He also sleeps longer stretches at night. During these times, I am able to rotate between maintaining the house, my hygiene, or my mental state (which will sometimes include napping). Currently, my free time is spent snacking on mango strips and watching the third season of Stranger Things. Regardless of what I am doing, however, I CHERISH the minutes. Seriously. Each friggin’ minute. Prior to having my baby, I enjoyed my time, but didn’t appreciate it the way I do now. (Because heaven knows it won’t last!)
Joining the mom (or dad) club. The support that other parents provide you with is incredible. And, it is not always people you know. They can be complete strangers. The second week after my c-section, I went for a walk at my local forest preserve (I know, I was an ambitious woman). After my ten minute walk (that is when I realized that this whole walking-thing was a bad idea), I met a woman and her dog. She sparked a conversation about the age of my child and how I was recovering. From there, it was nothing but love.
The support she provided — especially her reassurance that any feeling I was having (biggest mistake of your life?), was normal. We talked about the baby blues and the newfound struggles finding balance… And I could not believe how kind this woman was. This absolute stranger. She taught me two things. One, there are a lot of moms (or dads) out there who get it and are willing to support you. Two, as a parent, it is important to support others as well. Really. You never know how much your words may be exactly what they needed to hear.
Your kid loves your singing. When I was young, my older sister would often tell me to stop singing (yell it actually). Not to toot my own horn too much here, but it wasn’t because I was actually bad at singing; it was because I did it so often that it became annoying to those around me. (Although if I annoyed my parents, they never let on.)
Fast forward twenty years and even my husband seems to find my singing irritating at times, but my son? Never! He loves my singing. No matter what song I sing (from A Perfect Circle to Disney) he smiles and shakes his head while kicking his little legs happily. Seriously, even if your voice cracks or you’re out of key, your baby will love every minute of it!
You have a reason to stop talking to people who annoy you, but can’t seem to get rid of. Is there a family member that likes to drop by unexpectedly? Do you have a neighbor that you just can’t stand? What about a coworker that constantly wants to talk to you about their battles with the boss? No more! You only have to say six magic words: Gotta go, my baby needs me. And poof! You are outta there!
And the best part is, it is a legitimate excuse, so you don’t have to feel all that bad about doing it (if you’re that type of person). This can also be used at any event you don’t feel like attending. (Oh…sorry I can’t make it to picnic this weekend, my son is in the middle of a growth spurt and he seems less cranky at home.)
I should note, however, that this can backfire if you are using this excuse as a way to avoid interactions due to anxiety or depression. When the thought of getting dressed, having to converse with someone, or pretending to be happy about parenting is overwhelming, this seems like a quick out.
But don’t do that. During these times, lean on others for help. Don’t think you are being a nuisance. Crawling into a hole (no matter how tempting) is not going to help you move past this.
True love. Your child loves you. They 100%, absolutely, positively, love you. Even if they can’t talk, they show it in a smile. They will grab and hold your fingers. They can cry when you leave a room (this one can be both wonderful and annoying at the same time). Unlike any other relationship you have had in your life, this one cannot compare; it is the epitome of love.
There are a plethora of other positives of parenting, but these are the ones that first popped into my head. I encourage you to make your own list if you are ever feeling that parenting was a mistake; it’ll help you refocus and revalue the things in your life.
As I said, yes, parenting can really suck. But, it can be really, really beautiful.