I felt a little guilty yesterday as I rolled through the airport with one small carry-on bag and my purse – and nothing else. I remembered days as a mom of two young kids carrying a stroller and three bags (two crisscrossed over my chest and a backpack overtop that), sweating my way in and out of a bathroom and over to the departure gate - never mind getting myself and the kids through the flight intact!
I cringed, thinking about how physically demanding those years were and how I almost wanted to punch people who said, “How was your vacation?” It suddenly dawned on me: after years of feeling more exhausted than I thought was possible, I actually felt RESTED.
That realization brought tears to my eyes! “They” were right – those people who promised me it would get better – it actually does!
As I sat in the airplane casually eating my snack while watching an entire movie without being interrupted, I thought of all the things I thought I’d never experience again. I was wrong because now that my children are 9 and 7-years-old, I feel like I have me and my life back (for the most part). Parents of toddlers, know that I’m thinking of you, and please believe me that you will feel human again.
One of the things I did, as soon as it was possible, was to set a limit that I won’t get up from my meal unless someone is bleeding or on fire. They laugh at me when I say this, but now they realize that my eating time is part of my “me” time and battles, needs or missing objects can wait.
YES! This ACTUALLY happens. I suppose I should add “most of the time” to the sentence above, but I didn’t want to burst your happy bubble. As the kids get older, there might still be sleepless nights due to illness or picturing Voldemort in the closet, but sleeping more does happen. And, wow, you will feel differently.
I have actually gone to work with my pajamas on. When I posted that on my Facebook page I heard from dozens of parents of all the nutty ways they walked out of the house. I have to say my favourite was: those of you who wore yoga pants inside out with the white tag waving boldly in the wind like a tail behind you.
I still haven’t ventured into wearing anything white but I wear “nice” clothes and keep them mostly peanut butter and yogurt free for the day. (Does anyone else’s kids come running for a hug right after eating breakfast?!)
I have been coaching my children how to handle being in the house when I’m there but having a nap (yes, that happens, too!) or in the shower. They know not to answer the house doors under any circumstances – I lock them all before going into the shower – and not to think cutting an apple for a snack is a good idea. I certainly shifted from an energy consumption mindset to one of happily paying for the longest showers I’ve ever had.
We’ve been working on my kid’s not interrupting skills and have made dinner time a peaceful time. When my husband and I are at the table, we eat slowly and linger there long after the kids have left. After some reminding, the kids now know that if we are still at the table, they need to ask for emergency needs only.
I can’t tell you how simple it is to pack for a trip when I’m travelling by myself. I’ve become a minimalist packer so I can get around airports and streets that much easier.
After your youngest is about 4, kids can for the most part play on their own with friends or siblings, and they can do it for a decent amount of time without needing immediate care. The transition from arm’s length supervision to in-the-same-house supervision is an incredibly wonderful one!
I do have to say here that it is tempting to use that time to work, but giving yourself some time to just do nothing is an incredible gift to give yourself. I haven’t regretted choosing me over my to-do list.
It has been wonderful to be able to leave the house (without a screaming toddler attached to my leg) to go meet a friend for tea or even just a walk. I’ve also been able to have friends over with the kids around – and be left alone for the most part. And I’ve even mustered the energy to go out to concerts at night and make it past 10:30 PM!
I know you are reading this and pleading, WHEN?! WHEN will these things happen? Depending on the personality and abilities of your child, you might see some of these things starting around age 4 - once you’ve made it over the “fournado” hump. I’d say that once my youngest was 5 and he could play with the older sibling fairly well, things really changed for me. Please hang in there and carry on bravely. You’re doing the hard and profoundly important work of raising a person!
Please feel free to pop over to my Facebook page for more parenting help and support – there’s a great group of supportive parents over there.