I found myself in a conversation with co-workers today (who don’t yet have kids) trying to explain a day in the life of a parent. A parent with two rowdy, active (and sometimes gross) little boys. It was not too long ago that I sat in their shoes, outside looking in at the mysterious world of parenthood. I thought I knew what I’d be getting into, but I don’t think it is humanly possible to anticipate the way having children will turn your life upside down. It’s in these moments that the contrast between the kid-free lifestyle and mine is stark. Here are people who meet up with friends whenever they’d like, workout after work, and live lives that revolve solely around them. I used to do that too. And then you have parents, who rush home from work to get kids, play with the kids, prepare a meal, discipline the kids, feed the kids, read them books, bathe the kids, brush their teeth, put them to bed and clean up all the toys (and dishes… and laundry). And then, if we’re lucky, there is an hour or so that can revolve around us. Unless of course, the kids won’t go to sleep or stay in bed, or heaven forbid you can’t get Disney Jr. off your TV, in which case, even less of the evening is yours.
Now let me be clear on a couple of things. This is not to imply that people without kids are not busy, do not have responsibility or do not have stress. I know that they do. That’s not my point. And second, don’t mistake my realist account of an evening with children to sound as if it’s the most awful thing in the world to do. Quite the contrary. There is no amount of free time that can compare to the smiling faces waiting to greet you when you arrive home from work, arms open wide, yelling and grinning ear to ear, “Mooooooommy!!!” Five days a week it is one of the best moments of my day.
But the other side of those blissful instants is that kids are a lot of work. Nothing is simple. My earlier laundry list of nightly activities may imply that it’s like a checklist that you move along, neatly marking through each completed task as if it happened on time, as scheduled. But it rarely, rarely does. Because one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about being a mom is that when you have kids, you are no longer in control. And I’m not talking about behavioral issues here where the kids are making the rules and think they are the boss. No. It’s control that you give up yourself. When we sign up to be parents we start living by rules (that while they are not dictated by our kids) are in their best interests – we adhere to a schedule, eat dinner at a reasonable time, make time for naps, clean up our language, baby-proof the home, turn our once nicely decorated houses into a place with juice-stained carpet that looks like a toy store threw up all over it. Like it or not, kids pretty much run your life. (Note – run, not ruin).
So let me explain what the nightly routine yesterday really looked like. Playing with the boys meant pushing them on the swing longer than I planned, but they were having so much fun I didn’t want to stop. It meant starting dinner late and being interrupted a dozen times because the boys were arguing over yard toys. It meant disciplining Brogan after he took two deck chairs to the very back part of the yard (after I told him not to) – and then listening to him say “they’re too heavy” to bring back – oh and him freely peeing in a random hole because duh, mom, your supposed to pee in holes. It meant feeding them dinner on the porch enjoying the beautiful weather, but being interrupted because a neighbor passing by excited the boys out of their chairs to go have a chat. And then a yellow jacket landed in my mashed potatoes. And then flies were swarming the boys plates. And no one finished their meal. And then it was time to take daddy his dinner to the gym. But that meant changing their clothes (that were absolutely filthy), and changing a diaper – of a two-year-old whose favorite game is to turn over… or kick… or run away… or all three when it’s time for a change. And then we finally got in the car – 30 minutes late. We delivered the food to a hungry dad, hung out for 10 minutes and hopped back into the car. We got home, started baths late. And then bath time was interrupted by Brogan figuring out how to use the blinds above the tub… and then noticing that he could see the rocket he lost on the roof from that window. And then Beckett (of course) needed to see it too. And then the blinds when up, and down, and up, and down. And miraculously, they were (sort of) clean and we finished the bath. And then snacks meant cheese sticks and pretzels (that of course got spilled all over the floor) and waters (that of course got spilled all over the floor). No time for books. Skip ahead to bedtime and they go down pretty easy… and I’m only called up twice with “Mommy, Beckett’s out of bed!” So I finally start to relax and realize I can’t find the damn remote and the TV is stuck on Disney Jr. blaring Sherif Callie. I literally thought I might have a nervous breakdown. But I didn’t. I composed myself. I realized the remote upstairs would work the cable box in the living room too. But wait. If I go upstairs the boys will see me and they’ve actually been quiet for 5 minutes (although I was sure they were not yet asleep). All I wanted to do is watch Modern Family, but that channel, my friends, was 304 channels away and so for fear that my very last nerve may die if I attempted the 300 plus clicks on the cable box, I turned it off. And then I ranted on Facebook about it. And then I sat in silence until I was certain the boys were asleep and tip-toed up the stairs to steal the bedroom remote and watch my shows. And they were funny.
And so to my friends without kids who are curious what it’s like to be a parent, simply put – it’s chaos. But while it has its challenging moments, it is the most rewarding, most awesome experience ever. I am blessed to have been given these spirited children who prevent me from even thinking about having a dull moment. The chaos doesn’t compare to the way they love unconditionally, the way that need you or want you. Or how you see them learn and grow every day right before your eyes. It is one of the hardest jobs and greatest honors all rolled up into one.
The journey is a little bumpy… and impossible to fully plan for. It is truly chaos – but I really love every single day of my crazy life.