15 Things You Can’t Do After Having Kids

image by photostock at freedigitalphotos.net
image by photostock at freedigitalphotos.net

If you can consistently do any of these things while being the mom of two or more kids, I want to know your secret!

  1. Keep your temper. I don’t care how patient or Zen-like you are, some things that your kids do are going to drive you bat-shit crazy and you won’t believe the words coming out of your mouth.
  1. Be guilt-free. Of course after you regain your calm you will feel pretty shitty for screaming at your kids and be convinced that you’ve damaged them for life. On days you don’t scream there will be plenty of other things to fuel your mom guilt, trust me.
  1. Have sex. On a Saturday afternoon…or Sunday morning…or on the couch….or during naptime (kids have radar for when parents get naked, I kid you not).
  1. Hear what your spouse is saying over the din of incessant talking, screaming, banging, fighting and other noise. “What?” “What’d you say?” “I still can’t hear you!” Forget about communicating, or anything resembling a conversation, before the kids’ bedtime.
  1. Finish a thought. Whenever you begin a thought, you will be interrupted by a child’s voice. It’s best to avoid thinking until after they go to sleep, but you’d better think fast because you will likely be interrupted when they’re awake again after a short while. My baby has already woken from her nap three times since I started writing this list. After the second time I soothed her, she was asleep until one of her wall decorations fell and made a loud thud. Shit like this just keeps happening on the merry-go-round of motherhood, and there’s no getting off.
  1. Finish a to-do list. You’ll end many a day fretting about what you didn’t have time to do, whether that be sorting through outgrown clothes, finishing a photo album, taking a shower, doing some work, or paying a bill. Shit will just not get done.
  1. Have alone time that doesn’t involve a trip to the store or doctor’s office. If you do get a rare moment at home alone without kids, it feels like Christmas and the Super Bowl rolled into one. Don’t waste that time on anything productive.
  1. Enjoy preparing a meal.  I guarantee that when it’s time to make dinner three things will increase all around you: 1) the noise volume, 2) your children’s desire for attention, and 3) your frustration with having to cook with one kid attached to your leg and the other prodding you with never-ending questions. You might as well uncork the wine now.
  1. Eat out. Ok, to be fair, you will still eat out every now and again, but rarely will you think the experience was worth it, especially if you have kids 5 or younger. And forget good restaurants, you will resign yourself to dining options that include play areas.
  1. Eat warm food/drink hot coffee. Eating and drinking barely over room-temperature food and coffee is the norm. Sometimes you’ll try to reheat your food, but rarely succeed in eating it before it cools down again.
  1. Worry about germs. When your first child is a baby, you’ll be very concerned about germs and carry around a mini-hand sanitizer attached to your diaper bag. By baby #2 you will be cleaning your floors a lot less often, barely remembering to wash their hands before they eat, and not even flinching when another kid hands your baby a toy he’s been mouthing.
  1. Keep up with friends. You’ll still have friends – but unless they also have kids and live close by, you probably won’t see or talk to them for months at a time.
  1. Keep a neat house. Kids will destroy it – the floors, the toilets, the kitchen – and, my god, the laundry piles they will create. And you will be too tired to deal, especially by kid #2.
  1. Be the perfect parent you thought you could be.  Being in the trenches changes everything. Most parents don’t pull off a perfect day, much less a perfect week, or longer. It’s too hard. You’ll say the wrong thing during a tantrum. You won’t set the best example. You will have moments of extreme frustration and really wonder if you were cut out for parenthood. You will read books that tell you how you messed up some stuff,  and you will encounter moms who seem to have their shit more together than you. Keep Calm and Mother On.
  1. Neglect to be grateful. No matter all the hassle of everyday life with kids, most of the time you’ll watch them with wonder and amazement over how you made something so beautiful and pure. And the unconditional love flowing on both sides makes it all worthwhile, right?

Let’s connect: @MJ_Dylan on Twitter, Misfit Mommy Memoir on Facebook.

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My Kids Take the Best of Me

20090906-Stacie+John-90This is Day 11 since I started the blog, and I am now attempting to finish my third post. As expected, the practice of building self-discipline to write (nearly) everyday has been difficult. I have thought out posts in my head that I have yet to transcribe on paper. I have doubted myself and my ideas. I have postponed writing time until later. I’ve looked for inspiration, and found some, but not the time to record it.

I spend most of my time being a mother. From the time my baby girl wakes, in the 6 o’clock hour, sometimes earlier, until my son’s bedtime near 8 o’clock, I have just one to two hours to call my own, and that’s only on days that naptime goes well. And it’s challenging to pack creativity into baby’s nap time. Downtime or to-do lists frequently come first.

At 37, I think I am not that accomplished professionally or creatively, a truth that stings me at times. I used to be a world-traveler, a graduate student, a young professional starting a career. Then, all of that movement and transformation got funneled into motherhood.

I live a mostly quiet, routine life. I thoroughly enjoy my kids, and I thoroughly enjoy when they are sleeping.

And my days continue to whisk themselves away, as though they are leaves on a mighty tree, plentiful but finite in number.

My past life (before kids) sometimes seems like an unfinished novel, with page marked, lying under some papers on a shelf or table. I keep meaning to pick it up and finish the story, but when I try to someone always calls my name, or drops something all over the floor, or wakes up crying. Most days I feel too spent to spend time engaging in anything but total relaxation after their bedtime.

But, still, time passes. There are fewer leaves left on my tree, and a shorter number of experiences left to call my own.

I read today that Virginia Woolf kept a regular diary for 26 years. I admire that discipline. So, I too am going to continue to write as frequently as I can, to try to navigate myself closer to my personal goals.

And when motherhood calls, I’ll answer readily because I know that the days when my children need my constant attention will be over soon enough, and I don’t want to miss any of it.

Let’s connect: @MJ_Dylan on Twitter, Misfit Mommy Memoir on Facebook.

What Parenting Is Like – 24 Hours In My Life

I call myself “Mom Interrupted.”

The last 24 hours certainly haven’t been the worst or most extreme of my parenting experiences. There have been bouts of sleep-deprived rage and the many times I’ve had to clean runny poop out of the carpet that have topped the woes of the last day.

However, in case you’re wavering about having children, or already pregnant and wondering what to expect, or if you already took the initial leap into parenting and are debating whether to add a second child to the current chaos, I will lay out my experience of Wednesday to Thursday this week:

Wednesday lunch:

Arrive home from five-year-old Max’s dental check-up with a quick-and-easy lunch of chicken fingers, fries, and coleslaw. Serve Max’s and baby sister Josie’s lunches. Reheat my lunch. Turn to see baby fling sippy cup on floor. Wipe up spilt milk. Try to find something else to feed her. Hear Max saying something from the living room, but can’t make it out. Pour my drink. Refill Josie’s milk cup. I am still hungry but also need to go release the pee I’ve been holding in for a while. Pee.

Reheat lunch again. Sit down. Baby wants something else to eat. Ignore her screeches while I take a first bite of food. Max wants another snack. Return to kitchen and round up quasi-healthy nutrition, and then sit back down to “enjoy” cold food.

Often meals are interrupted by Max saying “I need to make a poop” and then three minutes later: “I’m duh-un!” followed by “Can you wipe my butt?” So Wednesday lunch went pretty well by comparison.

Wednesday afternoon:

Put baby down for her nap. Ignore housework and writing work to give Max some attention. Curled up on the couch and watched the end of Despicable Me. Read books. Got him ready for his daily “quiet time.” Took a breath, sat down and fired up my computer to start writing – something that has been on my to-do list for many years. Knew that Josie would wake up as soon as I logged on. Less than 10 seconds after I finished the thought, heard her wake up and call out.

Any chance of work time or alone time is out of the question until after bedtime. The sweet, blissful relaxation of nighttime. Mommy’s recharge time. Except when it isn’t.

Wednesday night/Thursday morning:

Once you are through baby’s first year, most of the time night time is what it should be – a complete break from being a parent to restore yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, and to have a little time to be the non-parent version of you, and whatever pleasures that includes.

But there are growth spurts, illnesses, bad dreams and various other reasons that require double overtime from parents. Last night was one of those nights.

Max wakes me up at 4am, “I threw up in my bed.” Me: “Okay, hunny, sorry you don’t feel well, get into bed with me and I’ll clean it up in the morning.” He tosses and turns for 30 minutes next to me. I put him on the floor next to the bed with a pillow and blanket. “Mommy really needs to go back to sleep, please keep your eyes closed and try to rest.” Almost fall asleep. Hear husband snoring and wake up. Almost fall asleep again. Now Josie is crying and Max is still awake. Get up and survey  the damage on his bed. See with relief that his “throw up” is dry-heave clear fluid. Strip wet sheet off his bed and tuck Max back in. Baby has stopped crying. Gratefully crawl back into bed.

Wait 20 minutes. Josie’s crying again. Go in to nurse her and lay her back down. Get back into bed. Max runs into room saying “I threw up in my bed again!” I ask: “Was it a little or a lot?”. He estimated “a medium amount.” Left it ‘til morning, and invited him back into bed with me. Hope to sleep. Got up and followed him to the bathroom when he said he needed to throw up again. Still just a little bit of clear dry heave. Wiped his mouth. Got back in bed. He continued to twitch and turn so back on the floor he went. Wait a little while. Husband’s alarm goes off at 6:40am. The three of us cuddle in bed.

Tell Dad to go downstairs and get Max some dry cheerios. He gives him different cereal with milk, which Max does not eat. Decide to send Max to school, since he had been off the three previous days and today was the first day back. And it was dry heave after all. Coach Max to eat dry cheerios to settle his stomach. He does not throw up. He starts acting more silly and energetic. Off to school he goes.

Thursday mid-morning ‘til now (1pm):

Drink two cups of coffee and eat bacon. Also, feed baby. Play with baby. Read to baby. Lay Josie down for nap. Baby’s fighting her nap. The dreaded call comes at 10:38am from Max’s school. Thankfully, he has not thrown up again and has no fever. But he’s a bit fatigued and not really doing much work. Get Josie from her crib. She has a poop. Pick up Max. Get home and announce that everyone is going to bed! Change a smelly diaper, make up Max’s bed (not necessarily in that order). Max shows his silly, defiant self, not acting very sick. Feel annoyed and snap at him to get to the potty, get his clothes on, and get into his bed for a nap ASAP. Nurse the baby down. Check on Max. Not asleep. Start dryer. Check on him again. He appears asleep.

OMG! I hit the holy grail of motherhood – both children simultaneously sleeping during the day time!

I need to shower and write, but instead I prioritized researching and phoning a local elementary school that actually keeps doors locked during the day (the ones closer to me don’t). School safety is important to me, especially since Max is a rising kindergartener and has always attended a locked pre-school.

Hang up phone. Start writing. Actually get to finish this post! Although through the last 10 minutes (now 20 minutes) I have heard Josie make various non-emergency sounds over the monitor.

This was a completely true story and I hope you enjoyed it. At least Max is still asleep (oh, wait, he’s awake now, too.) Send him in Josie’s room to entertain his sister. He comes running back in as I finish up: “I need to poop!” And we’re off again, until bedtime.

But there was no runny poop in the carpet. That is always a good day.

First Post: Hello, It’s Me

101_8740   So much of my life I’ve forgotten. The moments, thoughts and feelings have accumulated, piled one on top the other like in my cluttered house. I had a tough childhood and found myself when I moved to France for a year at the age of 19. I wrote very little of it down.

So much has happened since — I was a 20-something backpacker and grad student and a 30-something new wife and mother. In between, I lived and traveled in Asia, wrecked several relationships, spent two nights in jail, embarked on marriage and motherhood, organized a protest movement, suffered multiple miscarriages, and experienced the joy of rebirth.  Through it all, I’ve continuously reinvented myself, so much so that I have a hard time relating to previous versions of myself.

Yet, I’ve spent so little time writing down my inner dialogue and experiences that I’ve lost so many details to the erosion of time.

At 37 years old, the one piece of writing I have committed to is keeping a journal about my kids’ lives, for them. While it’s important to me, it doesn’t make me the “writer” I always have thought I would become. And while I’ve used my aptitude for language to earn myself money, I’ve done very little to find my authentic voice, practice my craft, or express my soul.

The great thing is I can always reinvent myself, if I remain open to growth and self-disciplined enough to persist even when life gets hard. And the great thing about me is that even though I am a perpetual procrastinator, somehow I always seem to come through in the end.

So on the 17th day of this new year, I commit myself to a daily writing practice and to keeping a blog. I don’t expect to become Hemingway or win a large following, but I feel like this step has been procrastinated most of my youth and the woman I’ve become wants to stake her ground. I want to see if I can become the person I think I was meant to be, but who I haven’t gotten around to cultivating yet.

Even if this blog doesn’t become a springboard for a successful writing career, I need to have a creative project so I can keep my individuality alive, and have a better way to remember my life.

When I am 85 or 95 and about to expire, I want to be able to fantasize that I am 37 again, raising young kids and cuddling with my husband, my family’s life together still mostly ahead of me. And, when I die, I don’t want to disappoint myself with dreams I didn’t follow.