Friday, January 10, 2014

Parenthood Changes Your Life

We are all told, over and over, all our lives long, that becoming a parent completely changes your life. And it is absolutely true. It is also absolutely true that until you become a parent, you cannot possibly conceive of the breadth and depth of that statement. Parenthood changes who you are as a person, how you view life, what you think about the world around you. But it also changes your daily routine. Well, obviously it changes your routine. But no-one ever tells you the sorts of changes it makes, changes that you don’t really expect. Changes in everything from what you eat, to what you wear, to how you spend your time.

I am going to break that century-old pact of silence that experienced parents have apparently made with each other in order to ensure the continued existence of the human species and just hope that babies are cute enough that some people decide to have them in spite of these changes. Here are just a few of the ways your life changes when you have kids that they don't write about in parenting books.

MORNING ROUTINE THEN: Long shower, leisurely blow dry, curl or straighten hair, brush teeth, moisturize, deodorant, careful wardrobe selection from closet, makeup, leisurely cup of coffee while reading newspaper.
MORNING ROUTINE NOW: (Good Day) Brush teeth, brush hair, throw on something from the hamper that still passes the sniff test, three sips of coffee which will be finished later in the afternoon. (Bad Day) Three sips of coffee which will be finished later in the afternoon.

LUNCH THEN: Takeout Thai or Indian food, eaten at your desk.
LUNCH NOW: Peanut butter sandwich crusts, leftover mac and cheese, and slightly browned apple slices, eaten standing over the sink.

MUST-HAVE LAUNDRY PRODUCTS THEN: Woollite and the number of a good dry cleaner.
MUST HAVE LAUNDRY PRODUCTS NOW: Tide Pen and large economy size bottles of Oxyclean.

FREE TIME ROUTINE THEN: Exercise, reading, dinner or drinks with friends, movie, concert, theater performance.
FREE TIME ROUTINE NOW: Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. But seriously, laundry.

TV WATCHING THEN: 24, Law & Order, CSI, Desperate Housewives (oh, the irony), SNL.
TV WATCHING NOW: Sesame Street, Caillou, The Cat in the Hat, Peg + Cat, Transformers, Paw Patrol, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Team Umizoomi, Yo Gabba Gabba, Downton Abbey. (The kids DO go to bed eventually, after all. Well, most of the time.)

DATE NIGHT THEN: Fancy restaurant (anyplace with a French name, valet parking, or involving the word “Bistro”); elegant clothes; conversation revolving around current events, politics, and the latest movies.
DATE NIGHT NOW: Restaurant (anyplace that serves food on actual plates – actually, anyplace that serves food; if it’s a birthday or anniversary, anyplace that serves alcohol); reasonably clean clothes; conversation revolving around children and their bodily functions.

SLEEP THEN: Quiet bedtime conversation with spouse followed by peacefully drifting off to sleep in blissful silence; waking 7 to 8 hours later to the gentle sound of a bedside alarm clock.
SLEEP NOW: Fall exhausted into bed after finishing household chores neglected for several days; immediately fall into ugly snores involving drooling; wake up half an hour later to sound of small child yelling for no apparent reason, trudge into child’s bedroom, offer glass of water, blearily pat child’s back for half an hour until child peacefully drifts into slumber; fall asleep again but wake 2 hours later recalling that child’s preschool has requested food pantry donation and diorama of the Civil War made with only pasta, toothpicks, and Elmer’s glue due at 8:00am; get up and make noodle diorama; grab random collection of non-perishable items from back of cabinet (check expiration dates; return expired items to cabinet); start back to bed but realize children will be awake in 15 minutes; brew coffee, take three sips before children come racing downstairs demanding breakfast, abandon coffee until afternoon.

So there you have it: the truth about how your life changes when you become a parent. But before you make an appointment to have your reproductive tubes tied or snipped or otherwise incapacitated, let me add one more then/now comparison.

STUFF YOU LOOKED FORWARD TO THEN: Promotion, pay day, vacation.
STUFF YOU LOOK FORWARD TO NOW: Hearing your kid read an entire book on his own for the very first time; watching your kid struggle to master a new skill and grin excitedly when he does; seeing the joy on your child’s face as she tells you the awesome stuff that happened at school today; watching your kid’s first concert/recital/soccer game/gymnastics meet/school play; goodnight hugs and kisses; the magic words, “Mama, LOOK!”; the even more magic words, “Mama, I love you.”

All in all, it’s a pretty fair trade. 

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