Just a few months ago I was migrating to the mentality that I was ready to no longer be the mom of small children…I was ready for them to get just a tad older and a tad bit more self-sufficient. Why? Because anyone who has/is the parent of a small child or children knows how tough it can be those first several years.
Now that God has blessed me by throwing our family the curve ball of another baby, I’ve thought about just how much having small children changes things.
Being the parent of small children means:
Possibly losing a few childless friends. If you’re the first one to have a baby, some of your friends may slowly start to notice (and not like) the changes that inevitably take place once you have a baby. I was only a few months along with my first pregnancy when my best friend started to make the shift. I was married — she wasn’t. I was having a baby and my life started to change. I was going to doctor appointments, shopping for baby stuff, and preparing my house. She didn’t want to talk about baby stuff or look at baby stuff. She wanted to do other things.
Once Josiah got here the separation got worse. Josiah was only about three months old when she had got married. Her pre-wedding get together with the girls was a night of going to our favorite hibachi grill and then spending the night at a hotel (complete with a little bit of drinking). I went to dinner, but honestly I didn’t feel welcome. Why? Because none of her other friends were married or had babies and here I was nursing a fussy baby during the hibachi show. And of course there was no possible way I was going to be able to stay the night at the hotel — I had a husband to get home to and a baby to take care of. Despite the fact that she turned up pregnant immediately after the wedding, our relationship never recovered and we stopped being friends around the time Josiah turned a year old. Childless friends aren’t prepared to deal with your baby drama and some of them don’t want to deal with it. There are those gems though that dote on the fact that they can love on your baby and they don’t have to have their own.
Having to turn down invites or not getting invited at all. There are a lot of people out there that can say, “Hey let’s go and XXX,” and then jump in the car and go. However, when you have children that just doesn’t happen. If I can’t take the kids I have to pray I can find someone to watch them (I don’t do babysitters outside of the family). There’s times that I just know going out is not going to happen — especially with a nursing infant. If the kids can go, I have to have enough time to make sure I have diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for Samuel, a sippy cup, the pacifier, find shoes for both kids (they always lose them), get them dressed and ready and get them in the car. I’ve gotten to where I can do all of this within about 20-30 minutes on a good day. Small children tends to take the spontaneity out of most everything (it happens sometimes, but it’s not a regular occurrence).
Those people who can be spontaneous and prefer to be spontaneous may eventually decide it’s better to “save you the trouble” and you stop receiving invites period. Apparently not inviting you at all is better than going through the trouble of giving you a little notice.
Canceling plans at the last minute. Once you finally get to make plans to do something, you pray that you actually get to do it. There are about a million different reasons why you will turn into one of those people that cancels last minute. Last Sunday morning after church Samuel started running fever. It turned out that he had strep in both ears and scarlet fever. That meant there was no church Sunday night, we had to cancel a baptism for our exchange student, no church on Wednesday, and I had to send our exchange student and Josiah to the Mother/Son extreme outing with my mom and her exchange student. By the next Sunday night when Samuel was finally better, I ended up going to Ivan’s baptism half sick because I refused to reschedule it.
Avoiding certain events and outings. As we plan for family trips we find ourselves evaluating the best places to go for the family and places we should avoid. Water parks and other theme parks are not on the top of my list because as the mom I am the one taking care of and chasing around Samuel because he’s too small to participate in most everything. Jimmi gets to have the majority of the fun with Josiah. And when I get to have the fun, Jimmi is trying to corral Samuel. I love being able to camp, but I know it’s going to be more difficult for me because Samuel is quick and there’s no telling where he’d end up if I blinked for too long. We still go and do some of these things but I have to prepare myself and try not to let myself get stressed.
Being a spectacle in public. People are obnoxious and can sometime be jerks. The toddler is acting like a toddler, the baby is hungry, and you’re just trying to get groceries like everyone else. All the sudden though you become the world’s worst parent or the world’s worst citizen and you should have just kept them things at home and starved. You take too long to ensure your children are buckled properly and the person waiting for your parking is an innocent bystander. Have more than two kids with you and people stare and say all kinds of inappropriate things. This is where you get the best unsolicited, ridiculous advice on what your doing wrong and what you should do differently.
Knowing this won’t last forever. All of the above issues can be frustrating and they can get you down from time to time. The most important thing about being the parent of small children though is realizing that this won’t last forever. They will get older and you will look at them and wonder what happened. They will ask to stay up late to play video games and start doing things for themselves. You will eventually find yourself shopping by yourself and making spontaneous plans because the kids are out with friends.
You’ll wish for this time back…or so I’m told. My oldest is about to be 7 years old and I already find myself full of mixed feelings. It’s nice that he’s self-sufficient and can help me make lunch for his brother, but at the same time I’m shocked at how fast he grew up and how much I miss him being my sweet baby. And on those days when I’m yearning for a little spontaneity and alone time I try to focus on the fact that “this too shall pass” and I will probably miss it terribly.
In the meantime I focus on being content with my limitations of where I’m at. I will soon have another nursing baby and he or she will rely on me every 1.5-3 hours 24 hours a day for a very long time. It will be a few more years before I will be able to jump up and go out and I’m OK with it. Those chosen few that have just as much craziness as me will rejoice when we get to spend an evening together and will be there when our calendar’s start to be a little more flexible in the years to come.