The Mama Notes features essays written by different mothers from around the country in the hopes of giving them a platform to share their voice, connect with other women going through the same highs and lows of motherhood. Interested in sharing your story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Melissa Nuñez
A lot of my girlfriends look back longingly on their life pre-kids. Don’t get me wrong- they LOVE their kids most of the time and wouldn’t trade this #momlife for anything. But there is a sense of longing for earlier days. When life was filled with less responsibility, kid-free bathroom time, white skinny jeans, and a fridge filled with wine and cheese instead of gallons of milk and chicken nuggets. A lot of moms feel like they’ve made a 180 from that BK (before kids) life to AK (after kids) life. And yet…I too am a mom and I honestly don’t feel like my life has changed that much. (Gasp!). And I think there are a few reasons that make me feel that way. Here are my top 10 reasons that I still feel like myself, while being a mom:
I actually sort of hate kid-centric things. Am I allowed to say that? I don’t see the appeal of kid’s birthday parties. I don’t want to spend my Friday nights at a kids play gym. I can’t imagine going to a restaurant that only serves “kid” food. So I just don’t do them. I’m also lucky because our closest friends who also have two kids don’t do that many “kid” things either. We just take our kids to things we want to do: going to breweries, going to the beach, riding the ferry, traipsing about the city, going to museums, etc. Now, yes- I do go to Tilden Little Farm here in the Oakland Hills and I have taken my son to the Exploratorium or the California Academy of Sciences which are geared towards kids, but as an adult I also want to feed the goats and watch water become fog and see an albino alligator! I look for things that are fun for both the parent and the kid.
Meaning, I don’t have a bunch of kid shit everywhere. We had a rule when we lived in our San Francisco apartment that when our son went to bed anything that was “kid” related had to go into his bedroom at night. That way, if you looked around our place, you would never know a kid lived there. Now I know people disagree with me here. “The home should be reflective of all the people who live in it!” people say. “Style be damned!” people say. And that’s fine, but that’s not what we wanted to do. My rule is that the people who pay rent get to make the decisions. And I love the tiny human in my house dearly, but last time I checked he doesn’t have a job. I also don’t own a lot of toys (separate subject entirely) and I also will take the extra 5 mins each day to bring things from his bedroom out to the living room and back again at bedtime. I’d rather take the time to move things then have a Mega Bloks construction site in my periphery while I’m binge watching Stranger Things and drinking wine and trying to live my best life.
And by this what I mean is- I plan time for myself. I read somewhere that it’s good for each parent to have a night off from parenting and I would say that I almost regularly over the last two years have had at least one night off from parenting a week. On those nights I might work late, I might go to a gym class, I might hang out with a friend, or I might go window shopping. But that time away makes me appreciate reading a book to my son at night rather than wanting to bang my head against a wall that I’ve read “My First Book of Hockey” every night for three weeks in a row. I also make plans with friends ahead of time since I can’t just text folks on a Friday asking if they can grab a drink like I used to. Since having my son I’ve gone to Vegas to see Britney Spears with two of my good friends, I went to Palm Springs for a three day bachelorette, and I saw Lady Gaga in concert, etc. By putting things on my calendar I ensure that I still do fun stuff.
I’m saying this again because this argument works for sleep too. Before you even start, I KNOW sleep is a controversial issue. Talking about how your kid sleeps, might be more taboo than discussing politics at Thanksgiving dinner. So I am aware that every kid is different, and being a good sleeper sometimes has nothing to do with you the parent and everything to do with your kid. HOWEVER (here is the know-it-all parent comment we all dread) I do feel like we put time in on the front end and its paying dividends now. My husband and I used the cry it out method for sleep training and I did just that- let him cry; even now. For example, we recently went on a trip to D.C. and we were in a new place and he was crying and I said to my husband, “Put 15 mins on the clock” and he cried for 13 mins 25 seconds straight. But by 15 mins, he was quiet. I also refuse to let him sleep in our bed for fear of him interrupting our sleep. Sleep is the best thing you can do for yourself aside from drink water says every doctor I work with and I’m not willing to negotiate on this one. I love sleep and I know that if we all get a good night’s sleep we’re all better people to be around.
Sheryl Sandberg said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the only way women can get ahead in the workforce is if they have a partner equally helping them at home. You can’t be the CEO at work if you’re also CEO of your household. Or maybe you can, but I sure can’t. My husband and I were married four years before we had kids because I wanted to make sure that we both, equally, could do the kid thing. I didn’t want to take a step back in my career and I didn’t want to do this alone. Now, are we 50/50? No. But I might say we’re 60/40. During the tiny baby stage he couldn’t help as much, but from 5 months on he was a huge help. We’ve split up our responsibilities when it comes to our son as well. My husband does the morning routine (getting him up, changing his diaper, getting him milk, getting him dressed) and I do nighttime (bath, pjs/diaper, reading, bed). Although you might say putting kids to bed is the harder job, I like reading books and I like giving him a bath, whereas I HATE getting up in the morning. Also, my husband does all the cooking in our house (and grocery shopping) and I do all the cleaning and laundry. This helps too.
There was a time when a girlfriend said to me, “I think you like dating your husband” when I was whining and complaining and wondering if our relationship was still working (I do this every three years, God I’m the worst to be married to) and it was like a light bulb went off in my head! Being married and raising a toddler can be is hard, but going out to dinner and grabbing drinks and doing adventures just the two of us is fun! So I make sure that we get time alone, away from our son. So far this year we’ve had 24 dates. That’s twice a month. Which when you say that, isn’t that much (the year’s not over though!). Some of these we’ve had to pay a babysitter for (which in the Bay Area is NOT cheap), but we’ve also had VERY generous friends and family agree to help out. I’m also not embarrassed to send an email to my single girlfriends and say “who wants to watch Netflix on my couch tonight? I’ll pay for your dinner and your LYFT home.” And people say yes! I have no shame.
I do have single friends that are going out on Friday and Saturday nights and swiping left on cute guys (I don’t know if that is the correct way to swipe), but I also have friends that are on their couch on Friday’s and Saturday’s watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram. So I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Having friends that are going through the same thing you are is so important.
I add this in here because when I travel I can stay out late or eat fancy dinners (on someone else’s dime) and it makes me appreciate my “routine” at home.
Sharing my body with another human was really hard for me. Once I delivered I thought, “Whoo hoo! All the coffee and deli meats I can handle!” But I was nursing…so everything I was eating, my baby was eating. I was “sort of” still following those pregnancy rules of limiting my caffeine and alcohol intake, which of course is what I should be doing anyway, but I sort of wished I could just go back to my #yolo days of eating a banana and a kitkat for lunch. Also, once I went back to work I felt attached to my pump. Each day I felt like when I was JUST getting into my routine, my 15 minute warning calendar reminder would pop up reminding me that I had scheduled 30 mins on the Mommy Calendar. Set everything up, pump, take everything down, go back to work, and then BOOM! It felt like 20 mins later I had to pump again. Another example would be that I was taking a totally normal Justin Bieber dance class during this time from 8-10pm on Wednesdays and couldn’t go out to grab a drink after since I needed to race home to pump. And all this for 3 ounces? I finally threw in the towel and I’m SO glad I did. Once my boobies were my own again, back in a normal bra under a complicated silk blouse or dress, I felt like myself once again.
Now this seems like an ass hole statement to make (who the hell is this lady?), but the reason I’m including it is because one thing that makes you feel wildly different is how crazy different your body is during and after pregnancy. Things happen that you can never un-see. But I think fitting into my “before pregnancy” clothes made me feel like me “before pregnancy” which for me, I needed. Also- I spent too much money on my wardrobe. Just for my wallet’s sake I better stuff my tush into those fancy jeans again.
And there you have it. Of course I’ll never be the exact same BK version of myself. But why would I? Life is infinitely better now with my toddler side kick. Even if that means I’ll never pee alone in my house ever again.