Then and Now

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Then: A tube top. Now: I’m pretty sure I threw them all away.

Before I had my own children, I had some ideas on what it would be like. I listened when people told me about the lack of sleep, or limited free time, or how the poor dog didn’t get much attention. But I also judged them. How can you not? It sounds like people with kids are just whiners who need to suck it up. Everyone is busy. Everyone is tired. Everyone (or nearly everyone) has a pet that doesn’t get all the attention it wants. How bad can it really be?

Now, nearly 6 years later, I know. After kids, it can be really, really bad. Here are just a few things that remind me what a jerk I was before kids.

Then: “People are so cruel to their pets after they have kids. Sometimes they even — *gasp* — re-home them!”

Now: My cats hide in our closet. All day. They are terrified of my kids, and only come out for attention when they are desperate. Once the kids go to bed, I simply do not have the energy to be physically affectionate with my cats. It feels like my kids have sucked all the energy out of me. (And if anyone is going to get some attention after the kids go to bed, it should probably be my husband.) Frankly, at this point, re-homing my cats would actually be a kind thing to do. Some nice retired lady would shower them with love and attention–whereas I usually remember to feed them, but that’s about it.

Then: “Why don’t people leave their kids at home if they are going to scream the whole time they are in the store? This is totally ruining my shopping experience.”

Now: There are times I need to get something from the store and leaving my kids home isn’t an option. And other times, I want to bring them to the store with me. Sure, sometimes I regret bringing them because they scream while we walk through the store, but I guarantee that I’m having a worse shopping experience than the solo shopper glaring at me.

Then: “Why don’t people put their kids in adorable clothes? Why would they let them out of the house in that?”

Now: I love dressing up and choosing my own clothes, but I really don’t find that this is the battle to pick with my children. Superhero t-shirt? Fine. Princess dress every day of the week? Great. Guess I don’t need to buy you any pants. Basically for my children, the more commercial and mainstream, the better. I won’t get any prizes for unique, trendy children’s clothing. But I really don’t care. They are kids, when else will they get to wear things like fancy princess dresses?

Then: “Get off your phone and pay attention to your kid.”

Now: I know that you can’t possibly ignore your kid all day, so look at your phone if it happens to be the one 5-minute period of the day where they are ignoring you. I guarantee that since the beginning of time parents have found ways to ignore their kids. Who didn’t hear things like “Go play outside” when they were growing up? So if it happens to be a time during the day where you can take some time for yourself, look at your phone or whatever. You deserve it.

Then: “You don’t go to movies or on dates? You know it’s important to make time for your spouse, too. Get a babysitter.”

Now: The last thing I want to do is pay a sitter $50 to watch my kids while I go to a movie and spend another $50 on tickets and treats. And yes, we could get family to watch them for free, but I just don’t care enough to ask for that favor often. And let’s be honest, a lot of movies aren’t that good.  Eventually I can just rent it and fall asleep half way through.

Then: “You are only pregnant for 9 months, how hard can it be to ditch that bad habit?”

Now: Pregnancies last 40 weeks (my first was over 40). That’s 77% of a year! It can feel like a really long time to not crack open a can of soda or drink coffee. And during my two pregnancies I was unable to make myself completely give up my bad habits. I didn’t exercise as much as I should have, I avoided soda but didn’t completely give it up, and I still drank my caffeinated chai tea latte. I figured I wasn’t using drugs or smoking, so I was doing just fine.

So to all the strangers, family, and friends who had their children before me, I’m sorry for any of the silent (or not so silent) judgment. I really didn’t know any better. And now I completely understand.

 

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What’s for dinner?

chili mac

When I had my first baby, I was adamant that our new family would have family dinners every night. My family wasn’t going to eat our dinner around the TV—we were going to spend that time bonding. And at first, with a baby trying new foods and willing to eat and play with anything you put on his tray, it was fun.

But today? Now that I’m a mother of a five year old and 2 year old? Now dinner is the worst part of the day.

I spend the hour before dinner telling my children over and over again that they cannot have a snack:

“No, you cannot have chips before dinner. Chips are a treat.”

“No, you cannot eat some candy. Stop trying to sneak a piece from the pantry.”

“No, for the tenth time, you cannot have some crackers. Dinner is almost ready.”

Once I finally get dinner on the table, my kids spend the first ten minutes complaining about what I made (“Awww, enchiladas? I don’t like enchiladas. They taste yucky.”). My two year old gets out of her chair about fifteen times (“I just need to get something real quick!”). They both need another spoon. Or a different fork. Or some milk.

By the time I finish my food, they still haven’t eaten anything and they are whining about what’s on their plates. Then my husband and I spend the rest of dinner alternating between yelling at them and threatening to take away something that they love. One night I actually held a toy above the garbage and was completely committed to throwing it away. At that point I didn’t care that I was clutching a forty dollar Lego that I would likely re-buy in a few months, I was determined to see my son take one single bite of his dinner.

And every night, I wonder what exactly is so great about family dinner time. I wonder when I will actually spend time talking about my day with my kids or hearing about what they did. I wonder when we will get through the meal without complaining.

Lately, I’ve started to think that it’s worth it. The kids never want to eat what I make and I end up angry that no one appreciated my meal. “Don’t make food a battle,” they say. “Feed them only super healthy stuff that no kid wants to eat,” they say. But they don’t tell you how to do those things simultaneously. (If I hear “Just offer it and eventually they will eat it!” one more time, I might break down and cry.)

I’m so tired of dinnertime being awful, that I’m about ready to give up. While I’m all for family bonding time, it seems like at this point, it’s not bonding, it’s a battle. And frankly, it’s a battle that I’m losing.