This isn’t going to be pretty. It may not even be funny…although, it may be so ridiculously poignant that it may ironically be humorous. This isn’t going to be sexy or romantic and quite honestly it may be frightening. For a moment it may even seem like a campaign against procreation. So if while reading, any of this rings true, then please read on. Past the struggle, the burden, and the facade of expectation, there, in the depth, you will read about the truest most authentic love in existence. And when you meet this love, there will be no question about the path of sacrifice which led you there.
I used to be a high functioning individual. I was able to self-care from the very basic to the more complicated. In my adult life I attended college and earned a degree, I attended graduate school and earned a Master’s, I earned certificates and licenses, I worked several jobs. In my adult life I grocery shopped and cooked, I cleaned, did laundry, made doctor and dentist appointments and kept them. In my adult life I functioned normally and smoothly, without regard or consideration as to what it would be like to not eat, use the bathroom, or sleep by my own accord. That’s not really what comes to mind when you romanticize with your partner about how cute your unborn children will be. However, it is the reality that sets in abruptly when those said cute children arrive.
If you’ve read my other entries then you may be sensing a trend, but I assure you this isn’t a pity party or a universal complaint towards children, merely an acknowledgment of the transition into parenthood. And a severe change it is. How else could you explain the complete disorientation and often bewilderment of otherwise highly competent mentally and emotionally stable individuals (who now often find themselves amidst a tantrum meltdown crisis in the middle of Target on a Saturday afternoon).
From the moment we brought them home, our darlings were ever-present and in charge. We worked in shifts, which is expected and often successful. But what happens when you’re on your own, when the only person you’re shifting with is yourself? How do you manage to care for yourself and them in a way that meets your life standards? My answer is…that I often don’t. At some point it seems you have to compromise your previously impenetrable idealistic view of what proper parenting should look like. Let go of “I would never or I never”, because I’m telling you right now that “you will” and “I have”.
I have found myself in situations, mostly public, where if I could have produced a three-ring circus or an infinite supply of chocolate just to appease them in the moment, I would have done so without hesitation. Let’s be clear about this, I am completely against appeasing them and giving into their whims, but I’m also into staying sane. I would love to shout out “Do you know who I am?” and ramble off my credentials, but somehow I just know this won’t make a difference. I’ve kind of decided I don’t want to mimic their disgruntlement, which challengingly means being nice when they’re being naughty. In a seasonally appropriate analogy this means to treat them to avoid being tricked, or trick them with treats, whichever. This is not always possible but I try. It’s also because in order for boundaries to work you have to follow through on consequences. If you’re like most parents, then you probably often threaten to take things away from them or leave your current location. And like most parents, you’ve learned more than once that your little ones often don’t care that much, probably because the majority of us say it 35 times before we actually do something about it…if at all. They know this. And our reality is, we don’t really want to leave where we are because of the utter inconvenience. This cycle encourages the power struggle to ensue which may last for hours, or days, or I don’t know…18 years or so.
When I am out on my own I may have a double stroller and a shopping basket, a Bjorn and a shopping cart or single stroller, a shopping cart and a dragging-her-feet toddler, or carrying both baby and toddler while somehow by the power of David Blaine pushing a cart. Not really sure how we get through our errands, but I’m always left thinking I could use an extra pair of hands (and periodically I also wish someone would carry ME for a change). Our trips are often interrupted by two or three visits to the bathroom to accommodate those newly sporting underwear. Murphy’s Law requires that the restroom always be on the complete other side from where we are, which means speed pushing our stuff with us, or leaving it behind and hoping it will be there upon our return. Occasionally we have to stop for snacking, cuddling, and retrieving dropped items. What the average person shops for in 30 minutes takes us approximately 3 hours. So we’re not average in that way…and that has become Okay.
And so we find ourselves in all sorts of situations, equipped with the knowledge of the possible outcomes of the scenario. For example, daring to dine out around dinner time could go surprisingly smooth and without incident, or it could go horrifyingly bad (either way, prior to our departure and despite my best efforts, the ground underneath us will look like a carnival site full of debris). We bring toys and books and crayons, most of which become uninteresting after 5 minutes, which means we must keep an ongoing supply of fascinating and fun food coming to entertain and please. We must eat our own food in shifts and keep our plates away from little grabby hands, sometimes so far away that we struggle to reach them ourselves. We may have to walk around the restaurant several times…and we’ll definitely have to visit the restroom. If lucky, we’ll eat half of our meal and bring the rest home. We won’t even consider coffee or dessert. We will have a clear image of the restaurant’s carpeting as we will have spent a significant amount of time under the table picking up spoons, napkins, crayons, toys, nuks, sometimes rescuing a child, and generally clearing out the debris.
These are the well-known truths of life with young kids. There are no easy errands, no just “running out”. There is nothing unplanned. There are no more cute purses, just big bulky bags. There is eating on the run, and drinking 8 cups of coffee instead of water, there are stained clothes, and one-handed multi-tasking. And the result is, well, you see it everyday when you see your little darlings light up at your sight. Mumbling the words “Mama” or “I need help”. The occasional “Thank you Mama” and the always sweet “I love you Mama”…a personal favorite from my little one is “You are my favorite friend”. And from my mostly non-verbal darling, a gaping open mouth implying she’d like a kiss. They know that you take care of them. They may not know the sacrifice, but they know when they’re loved and fed and dry and clean and cozy. And therein lays the deepest truest unspoken give-up-your-whole-life-for LOVE.
I used to be high functioning…and actually, I am higher functioning now, able to manage three lives (and a half, my husband partially manages his own life) despite my ragged-frazzled-inability-to-finish-sentences-at-times appearance.