I remember being on maternity leave with my first child, Braden, and complaining to my husband that I never had time to eat lunch. Or shower. Or check email. Or do laundry. Or perform any kind of self care or household chore.
I am sure I was sincere in this sentiment, and I do remember a general feeling of exasperation. I remember reaching the point where I gave in, and took a shower with the bouncy seat in the bathroom. I remember rushing as quickly as I could to get the shampoo out of my hair. Shaving was out of the question, of course, because the baby was crying, dear God, and I must get to him.
With all due respect to my former self....
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Need to eat? Need to shower? Need a breather, for God's sake? Put the baby down in a bouncy seat, a swing, the crib, on a dirty towel on the floor. Anywhere. It's okay if he/she cries, you know. For a little bit. He/she can't go anywhere. Everything will be a-okay.
Do you hear that, Shannon from 2008? PUT THE BABY DOWN AND LET THE BABY CRY. EAT A SANDWICH. Because you know what, Shannon from 2008? You are going to have two more babies and THIS IS AS EASY AS IT'S GOING TO GET.
I am now a mom of three boys, all of whom are under 6, and one of whom is turning seven months old today. I am still breastfeeding. Including the breastfeeding, I serve 13 meals a day for my three children. Nevertheless, someone is always hungry. Someone is always peeing or pooping and many times, not in the proper receptacle. Someone is always crying. Someone always needs to be picked up or dropped off. Someone is always sick. Someone is always hitting someone. And someone always, always, always needs my attention in some way.
Three kids means that the day is no longer about enrichment or general happiness. It is about survival. Are all the kids breathing? Are they relatively clean? Did they eat at least one full meal? SUCCESS!
You wonder how it is you ever thought anything else was so hard.
Motherhood is an ever evolving journey. I remember going to my neighbor's house years ago, when I was a mom of one, and Braden was almost 2. She had three boys, one of whom was Braden's age, and she let them all play downstairs in the basement by themselves. I was shocked. I couldn't imagine putting my son, my baby, my delicate little love, in a room where I couldn't see his every move. And she, the mother, was not entertaining them? Or giving them any attention at all? How weird, I thought.
Lets fast forward three years.
When my oldest two children come home, I shove them downstairs, or outside, the first chance I get. Have fun! I say, as I whisk them down the stairs. When I hear them yell, or fight, or even cry, I don't even go downstairs to check on them. Instead, I just yell - Work it out!, unless there is a certain threshold cry, which indicates that someone is genuinely hurt. Then I begrudgingly descend, assess the situation, scold the perpetrator, and return upstairs so that they can continue playing on their own. The goal is to get them to stay down there as long as possible.
Lest you think I am a callous mother, it's not like I'm sitting upstairs eating bon bons. No, I am nursing the baby. Or making dinner. Or cleaning up. Or folding laundry. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm showering. And do you know what I do with the baby when I do that? I put him in his swing. In the living room. Sometimes he cries. And that is okay.
I do things now that I never would have envisioned myself doing when I started out on this motherhood journey. For example:
- I get my kids McDonalds once a week.
- I no longer make homemade, organic baby food. I serve my baby food from a jar.
- When other kids come over and slobber all over our toys, I don't clean and sterilize them.
- When one of my kids is sick, I no longer lysol all the door handles and surfaces.
- When my kids remove their clothing and run around half (or fully) naked, I just go with it.
- I rarely use thermometers - my lips on their forehead are amazingly accurate. And I don't take them to the doctor every time they have a fever.
- I don't take our nice, fancy camera to every playdate or park excursion.
- I let my kids watch a lot of TV. I'm not going to specify how much, because it's kind of embarrassing.
- I let my baby cry it out. And he sleeps 12 hours a night now.
- I breastfeed in public and don't apologize for it one bit.
- I will drink a glass of wine and breastfeed anyway.
- I don't monitor "milestones" or worry about them at all.
- I do drop off playdates at as young of an age as the other parent will allow.
- I don't call references for babysitters or insist on meeting them first.
- I let the dog lick the baby's hands and face (and mouth, sometimes).
- If my kids drop food on the floor, I generally allow them to still eat it (unless it's a particularly gross floor - but my threshold is pretty high).
- I allow them to scream "Echo" at the top of their lungs in parking garages.
- I don't give my children my constant attention, and I don't feel solely responsible for their entertainment.
Shannon from 2008 never would have done these things. But Shannon from 2008 was a bit clueless. Shannon from 2008 did not have 3 children.
This is a rite of passage every parent must go through themselves. If someone would have told me, six years ago, that I would do any of the above, and that I should chill out and enjoy this "easy" time with my one child, I would have laughed in their face. It was hard for me at the time, and it was real.
But perspectives change. And in some ways, it's one of the cool things about motherhood - we evolve so much as parents, with each subsequent child, and with the passage of time. We learn, we adjust, we make mistakes, we shift priorities, and ultimately, our children thrive anyway. I chose this "hard" life for myself, and I love every second of it. All three of my kids have been such a gift not only to me, but to each other. I may not be able to be their constant playmate, but I don't need to be.
And I think we're doing just fine. We're surviving, and then some.
But please, first time moms out there: Put your babies down and take a shower. And pour yourself a glass of wine. It's going to be a crazy ride.
Like this post? Like me on Facebook by clicking here!