I’ve been working this gig now for 3o months. My oldest is 2 1/2, the baby is 9 months and some change. It’s been a pretty insane transition for me, for anyone who knows me personally, you understand what I mean.
My life before children was not what you would call “child friendly”. I was a busy career girl with a full time school schedule on top of it with a husband working two jobs. Most of our dinners came out of the freezer and in the event I DID actually cook, it was usually a baked good of some sort with alcohol inside it. (Guinness brownies, Irish Cream cupcakes, Amaretto cake, etc) Every day when I got home, I had a ritual of walking in the door, putting my stuff down, putting on comfy clothes, getting a Newcastle out of the fridge and sitting on the patio with my computer and a clove cigarette for about an hour. We went to clubs, we went to ren-faire, we went to the beach, to movies and dinners out, drank wine at the UVA Bar in Downtown Disney, we took our vacation time each year to go to ComicCon in San Diego, spent way too much money on fancy toys you can’t play with and randomly stayed in fancy hotels by the beach just for fun.
We had a LOT of “close friends” and a family birthday at least once a month, so just about every minute of free time that we did have, was usually taken up by a friends or family event. We went to birthday parties, Christmas parties, Halloween parties, parties for no reason, 4th of July parties, Memorial Day parties, etc, etc, etc… we were pretty much at someone’s random gathering at least two times a month or more.
When I was pregnant with my first; Liam, we had just moved into our home a few months before he was born. We had a little gathering and watched a few horror movies then decided to begin hosting weekly “zombie parties” for all our friends to gather and watch The Walking Dead, which was scheduled to air on Halloween. We had a successful Halloween party where we watched The Walking Dead and handed out candy. A week later, Liam was born and we continued to host the zombie parties on a weekly basis throughout the first and second seasons. We also hosted a large birthday party for my husband the first week of December when Liam was only three weeks old. My point is, we were busy. We had friends, hosted gatherings, maintained relationships by showing up to events that were important to people and did our best to have an open door policy for friends and family if they wanted to just stop by.
By the end of the second season of The Walking Dead, things started to change. I couldn’t watch the show with Liam in the room anymore and because we chose not to sleep train, I couldn’t guarantee he would be asleep by the time the show came on. I first noticed it when he was a little over a year old and I was watching the show Supernatural, which has been one of my favorites since it first aired. After a particularly violent scene, I looked over and he was staring at the TV. Wide-eyed and horrified, stunned into silence and stillness. I picked him up and he shook out of the “trance” he had been and I looked at my husband and said, “okay, that’s it… here we go.” With a sigh, I looked at my son and turned off my favorite show. I haven’t seen it since.
It had happened. Officially. It was time to turn off our favorite pastimes, turn on Disney Jr and face the reality of our new lives. We were parents and I was a mom- not a girl, not just a married woman, not just a friend, I was a married friend with kids and we were a family. We didn’t make a big fuss about it, but we began to distance ourselves from the life we had before. This wasn’t a conscious decision for the most part, it was a matter of simply being aware of our surroundings and respectful of others. I couldn’t just cart my infant along in a carrier and go about my life as normal. I did try, but quickly I realized it didn’t quite work that way. When our friends drank and smoked and got crazy, watched horror films and ran up to him excitedly, accidentally making him cry- I realized it just wasn’t the place for him to be and so, it was no longer a place for me to be, either.
We didn’t resume our zombie parties that next season. Instead, we started going up to my mom and dad’s for dinner. At that point, we were still being invited to parties, our friends assuming we would be willing to leave our baby with someone to get a night out. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), we were full fledged attachment parents and were unwilling to just drop our baby with someone and just go, so the longer time went by, the less we saw of our friends who either didn’t have children or had older children who could be left home by themselves or even old enough to participate in the festivities. I found myself caring less and less about going out and when I did, it was less about looking attractive and more about not looking like “that mom” that hasn’t seen daylight in a month. I cared more about whether or not I could find two earrings that matched or a shirt that didn’t have a spit-up stain on it that actually made a decent outfit with a pair of pants that fit me.
Maybe some moms would do things differently. They would hire a sitter, pump some milk for the night and go to the party with zero guilt in tow. They’d get dressed up in a sexy outfit with dangly earrings and wear a necklace that a baby might choke on, go have a martini… extra dirty, extra olives, no ice, in a chilled rocks glass…*sigh*… ANYway, they’d then come home, pump & dump the liquor-filled milk and feed the baby a bottle from frozen milk, then call it a night. Everywhere I go, people tell me “you just haven’t gotten there yet” when talking about needing a night off from my kids. They are right. I haven’t gotten to that point. Maybe it’s coming and eventually I will understand the desire to get away but for now, I’m not in a place where I don’t want to be with them. I don’t think it’s fair for me to go do that and cause them distress just so I can go be stupid for a few hours. I mean, it’s not that I don’t love my friends, but parties just aren’t fun.
Here’s what going to a party for me looks like now; since I continue to nurse, it’s literally just me, sober, standing in the cold, outside because everyone smokes, trying to make conversation with drunk people who are having a way better time than I am while I think about the fact that I’m having a let-down and my baby is probably refusing a bottle right then, miserable and not understanding why I’m not there. While I’m thinking about that, whoever I was talking to has realized I wasn’t listening and has moved onto someone else and I’m alone again feeling awkward and out of place because no one there has kids or will understand the emotional ties to a physical let-down, the irritation of having my bra suddenly being too tight and the pain of engorgement. No one gets it unless they’ve been through it and I’m convinced the longer time goes by, the more people forget because many parents of older children don’t seem to notice or think it’s an issue at all. Let me tell you, walking into a house with crying babies who missed you while you were away just to watch people talk to each other and not you because you no longer have anything in common with them, just sucks for everyone. So while they say “Oh I’m so glad you decided to get out!” (While I know they’re secretly judging me for the fact that I don’t go anywhere) I’m sitting there thinking “Why did I do this, again?” It’s a thankless, lonely situation being friends with people who don’t have kids and don’t understand the parent perspective.
Occasionally, we still get invited to parties but at this point most of our friends know better. They invite us because it’s polite, not because they expect us to come. Likewise, we invite them to our parties because we would love for them to share their time with us but we also know our gatherings are likely the last place they want to be. There are the occasional events that we really try to get to; weddings, receptions, graduations, baby showers, wedding showers, their children’s birthdays, events that signify life-changing events and important milestones in our friend’s lives but outside that, we pretty much stick close to home these days.
My life has changed exponentially since having children. In just 30 months, I went from being a career woman with a 2 hour commute, no debt and a frequent buyer card at Sephora to a stay at home mom with a grocery budget and the last remnants of my fancy make up collection being rationed down to the very last speck because my free money now goes to new shoes for the boy and sun hats for the baby, birthday presents that I stash in the closet months in advance and our weekly outing to the farmer’s market. I went from managing 30+ direct reports with a consistent and steady agenda and workload to one household and two children with an ever-changing daily outlook with thousands of unknown variables that can and do alter my daily plans.
I wonder if the version of me that lived in the corporate world would even recognize who I am today. I wonder if the 20’something me would approve? As I consider that, I see her strong, well manicured figure with salon perfect hair, nails and toes, her new clothes and that Newcastle in her hand, I see the clove she’s smoking and the attempt at understanding in her eyes, but she really just doesn’t have a clue. She looks at me like I’m insane- like I’m giving up something of myself, my freedom, my ambition, my personal future. She couldn’t be farther from the truth and it’s only because she just doesn’t get it.
Well honey, guess what.. I’m a mom now and this is what it looks like and even if the childless ones disapprove or simply cannot understand it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m not doing it for them. I’m not doing it for the 20 year old version of me. I’m doing it for the babies. I don’t expect the ones without children to understand. It’s okay that they don’t… I’m not doing it to win popularity contests or to see my name on anyone’s marquee with the phrase, “most impressive multi-tasking powermom of the year”. I’m just doing what seems right for me. I’m following my heart on this one and going with my gut instinct. Following our intuition is one of the most challenging lessons a human being ever learns. We fight against it and deny that we know what to do, even doing the opposite just because we can’t believe we may have been right. Well, I’m finally doing that. It’s not for everyone and trust me, it doesn’t win you a whole lot of friends, but it does provide a tremendous sense of satisfaction to know that your babies know (not just get told) that they are safe and loved at all times.
I would love to hear from our other mothers- what does motherhood look like for you? How do you follow your instincts when so many might tell you it’s better to do the opposite? How has your life changed since babies? Please feel free to share!