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.