Lately I've been thinking a lot about how my life was before I had kids. Like most people probably do when reminiscing, I can only recall the positive aspects of my pre-Motherhood days. I remember sleeping late on the weekends, going to the movies to see non-animated features without a single talking animal to be found, and eating long, peaceful meals while discussing my hopes and dreams with my husband. Fast forward to the present. Now I'm woken up early every day by a six-year-old taskmaster who just so happens to be my daughter. For some reason she absolutely needs to know the day's agenda and since I'm a free-spirited person who hates routine, I often have to make one up to appease her. As for the movies, we don't go much anymore and if we do, it's to see a cinematic production of one of the kid's favorite TV shows. And long, peaceful meals? What are those? Now my husband and I gobble down our meal like it's a race, while cutting up our kids' food and scolding them for being wasteful
Ah yes, things were swell back in the good ol' days. We carelessly spent our disposable income on whatever we wanted; now the only thing disposable around here are diapers. We could come and go as we pleased and fly by the seat of our pants. Now our pants are just covered in stains from being grabbed by sticky syrup-coated fingers. We used to drive hot sports cars that we researched for months before buying. Now we own a car that can have as many carseats crammed into it as possible. It all happened so quickly! How could life as a parent be this different?
When my newlywed friends ask for advice about what to do before having kids, my answer is always the same. Sleep, travel, and get “me-time” out of your system because you can pretty much kiss that goodbye once you become a parent. Most of the time I think I've scared my friends into never wanting kids and I often say spending a day with my family is the best birth control out there. Bottle that stuff up and I could become a millionaire! Unless you're a parent yourself, you can not possibly understand the chaos, unpredictability, and mayhem kids can bring to your life. You could be the most structured Mom in the world, but when your baby wakes up with an ear infection on the morning of your meticulously scheduled outing to the zoo, you're gonna need to go to Plan B.
Yes, there's a lot of thinking on your toes when you're a parent. Ask any Mom or Dad and they could tell you a number of stories dealing with having to think fast and be resourceful when it comes to the kids. My Mother likes to tell the story of my older brother being dedicated at church so many years ago. For some reason my Mom bravely dressed him in white and as soon as she brought him up before the congregation...blowout! There was excrement all up the back of his shirt and down the front of my Mother's. What could she do? Kids like to embarrass us. I'm sure some of the congregates were revolted that day, but anyone who was a parent just nodded in sympathy for my Mother's plight.
This is probably why I did become even more of a free-spirit than when I was childless. I'm not sure if it's an innate personality trait or if it's because my parents themselves were unstructured with us, but I've always hated schedules. I'll admit, and please don't tell my kids, that I didn't like going to school. I liked being at school, but it was everything I had to do, in the exact same order everyday, to get there that bothered me. It felt oppressive and punishing to wake up before the sun, force down a gloomy bowl of cereal, and make sure I had all my belongings together to stand at the cold bus stop waiting to be transported to school. Somewhere during my school years I decided I was more suited to spontaneity and whim. And sometime after I became a parent, I decided that was my Mothering style as well. It's not that I'm lenient in any way. In fact, I'm one of the strictest and most restrictive parents I know amongst my friends. It's just that once you have kids, you realize that while it's noble to try to make everything go according to plan, it's very unlikely that it will.
I know some Moms who try so hard to stick to a schedule that they become depressed and the kids suffer for it as well. Making Johnny have lunch at exactly noon every day whether he's hungry or not, or racing home from eating out so you can plop Sally in her crib at 7 PM on the dot makes for a sad life in my opinion. You have to find the balance of going with the flow without letting the kids take control. I'm a work in progress as a Mother, but a lot of it does have to do with bringing everything into homeostasis. Making sure the kids eat enough vegetables to offset their intake of sweets. Making sure they get enough sleep without forcing them to lay in bed bored to tears for three hours because they are full of energy on a particular day. And most importantly, making sure you give them as much discipline and guidance as you do love and praise.
I know that once all three of my now very young kids get older, I'll be able to recapture some of the tranquility and peacefulness of my childless days. I know my body will never be the same, nor shall my relationship with my husband. But my life now is way more fulfilling than it was before the children. Life is a give and take. I gave up leisure time, extra money, and sleep, in exchange for sweet hugs, glowing moments of pride, and an inseverable bond to the man I love. I wouldn't go back in time for a million dollars. The good ol' days were good, but the present is invaluable.