10 Things To Do Before You Become A Parent

March 18, 2009

I heard a song once – one of those songs that you hear on the radio in someone else’s car, or over the soundsystem at the grocery store – that had a refrain about some woman regretting the fact, in her middle age, that she’d never driven a sports car around Paris, or something to that effect. I can’t remember exactly; what stuck with me, mostly, was the thought that well, I’d been to Paris. So – I thought – I probably wouldn’t have that regret. Which, as it turned out, was quite right: I’m not yet in my middle age, but I can see it on the horizon, and I’m happy to report that there seem to be no travel-related regrets forthcoming.

That said, I do have some regrets, of a sort; they’re just not of the bucket-list variety. My regrets – such as they are, now that I’m a parent, with responsibilities and accountabilities and very limited ability to do as I please – are more of the man, I wish I’d appreciated that when kind of regret. (Regret is a bit strong. Let’s call these retrospective yearnings.) I was thinking about this yesterday, as I lay on the couch with a cranium-rattling headache, trying to amuse the baby by weakly nudging a rattle toward him with my foot. In that moment, the idea that I might ever regret something like not being able to take off to Paris for the weekend struck me as absurd. Paris, schmaris. What I regretted most in that moment was the fact that in my pre-motherhood life I did not appreciate the luxury of being able to take to my bed when I was sick. Which got me thinking: if I knew then what I know now, what would I have done more often or appreciated more before I became a parent?

1. Get sick, and like it: I know, being sick is supposed to be a miserable thing. But is it, really? Assuming that your symptoms are not too brutal, and/or that you’re able to medicate yourself into a happy stupor, there is much to enjoy about being sick. You stay in bed all day, drinking hot steamy drinks and slurping chicken soup and watching bad game shows and soap operas and Dr. Phil and maybe thumbing through some tabloids and napping and just generally enjoying the Vicks VapoRub-scented experience of convalescence. If you live with someone – and especially if that someone is a spouse or romantically beholden to you in anyway – you can bitch and whine at them and they will bring you more soup.

You cannot do this when you have small children. There are no sick days when you have small children. When you have small children, you cannot take to your bed and watch television and huff VapoRub. You have to parent. So what it you’re dripping snot on the head of your wailing baby? That baby isn’t going to feed/soothe/change himself. You’re on duty, bitch. Deal with it.

2. Take naps. Take lots of naps. The kind where you doze off on the couch before dinner, the kind where you nod off at your desk at work, the kind where you just say screw Monday and go back to bed for an hour. Because what I said above about being on duty? That applies 24-7. Which means, no, you can’t just take twenty minutes to “rest your eyes.” Unless the baby is having his own nap, in which case you’re welcome to try to nap, but I’m guessing that you might want to shower/bathe/eat, too, and you’ve probably only got forty minutes, so.

3. Shower/bathe. Enjoy your showers. Take lots of them, and make them long and hot. Also, baths, if you’re a bath person. Long hot baths at all hours of the day. Twice a day, even! With bubbles and oils and magazines.

Oh, sure, it’s not like you’re forced to stop bathing and showering when the kids come along, but you will find that your bathing/shower regimen is seriously curtailed. You’ll skip days – those days when eating and sleeping seem more pressing than cleanliness – and when you finally do get around to performing some ablutions? You’ll be scrambling through that shower in less than three minutes because the baby is in his crib, shrieking, or you’ll be splashing briefly in a lukewarm tub because the hot water tank got drained when the toddler’s tub needed to be refilled, twice, after she a) brought a roll of toilet paper into the tub, because b) her ‘poo-poo was coming.’

You will miss long, hot, leisurely baths and showers, I promise you. Enjoy them now.

4. Have a drink or two at lunch. You know how, sometimes, you go out for lunch on a Saturday and someone says, why don’t we order a bottle of wine/get margaritas/have a beer? and you spend the afternoon eating and talking and drinking and working up a delicious buzz? And it’s, like, totally fine, because you know that you can go home and have a nap and a bath before thinking about what your evening looks like? Yeah, you can’t do that when you have small children, because a) you’re probably not having lunch anywhere that sells a decent bottle of wine, and b) naps? baths? Ha. See above.

5. Cultivate and appreciate a hangover. Hangovers suck, right? Wrong. Hangovers only suck if you can’t take a day off to recover from them. Hangovers, properly tended to, are similar to being sick, only with a little added frisson of shame to make things interesting. When you don’t have small children, you can spend your hangover day in bed, watching television and eating potato chips and warding off that buzz of guilt with Oreos and chocolate milk. When you do have small children, you can’t do this, for reasons that I’ve already stated. But you’re probably not drinking all that much, either, so it’s kind of a moot point.

6. Stay up late/sleep in. See above re: hangovers/being sick. You just really don’t get to spend a lot of time in bed when you have small children.

7. Have sex whenever you want. Ditto.

8. Spend a rainy day watching an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There’s a theme emerging here, I know: things that you do while curled up in blankets on the sofa or in bed while eating junk food. I can’t recommend these activities highly enough. I miss them desperately. If you asked me, would you like to take the family on a Caribbean vacation, or would you like to spend a week, by yourself, just laying around watching DVDs and reading books and eating cookie dough? I would really have to think about that.

Because, seriously: Paris, Barcelona, Tulum, whatever. Whenever I do get around to going back to those places, I’ll probably want to take the kids anyway, because I want to see it all through their eyes and I want them to see what I’ve seen, blah blah blah. But a day off, where I do nothing but lounge and nap and snack and just generally indulge in some lazy-assed laziness? That place, I want to go to there. ALONE.

9. Eat chocolate chip cookie dough (or guilty pleasure food of choice) without any regard for who might be watching. I love cookie dough. I think that cookie dough is better than cookies. But I would strongly prefer that my three-year old eat, say, apple slices and cheese, rather than cookie dough, and so I conceal my cookie dough habit from her as best I can, with varying degrees of success. Just yesterday I was trying to nibble a hunk of chocolate chip cookie dough, torn from the end of a Pillsbury cookie dough package, when I was confronted by my daughter, who demanded to know what I was eating. It’s cheese, I told her. Spicy cheese. The kind you don’t like.

Those look like chocolate, she said, pointing at the chocolate chips.

They’re raisins, I said. Spicy cheese raisins. Then I shoved the rest of it in my mouth and swallowed before she could get a closer look. It kind of ruined my enjoyment of the experience, quite frankly.

10. Take more naps. Seriously. I adore my children, and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but really: most days, I would pay serious cash money for a nap.

Or a long hot bath. Or some uninterrupted cookie dough indulgence. Or a day off. I wish that I’d known that back in the days when I could have them all for free.

But now you know. You’re welcome.

(Parents: what would you add to this list? Would you take Paris or the Caribbean over Lounge Week? Am I the only lazy-assed layabout out here in momosphere-land? Or would you one-up me and demand two weeks? You know, enough time to watch all back-seasons of Lost and maybe also Battlestar Galactica?)

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    { 143 comments }

    Bella March 19, 2009 at 11:25 am

    SOrry if someone’s said this already, but I had to comment on the song you mention at the beginning. Is it Marianne Faithfull’s Ballad of Lucy Jordan?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KV-PTK0UZ4

    “At the age of 37…” I LOVE that song…

    RHW March 19, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Lounge week, lounge week!

    I have to catch up on Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who and Torchwood and Dexter and reread Sandman and tackle my huge book pile and watch all my Jane Austen DVDs again…

    This list is so true.

    It also reminds me how I resent the hell out of my husband at times for being able to indulge in numbers 1-4… the bastard ;P

    Georgia March 19, 2009 at 11:49 am

    You just made me feel a whole lot better about my hangover…my glorious, child-free, midweek hangover. Thanks.

    Assertagirl March 19, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Totally self-centred of me, I know, but I really and truly feel like this post was directed at ME. ha

    red pen mama March 19, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    While all of these are true, and I would second any of them in a heartbeat, one of the things I miss most is music. I don’t buy the music I want to, I don’t go see the bands I love. These days I have neither the opportunity (what with living in the ‘burbs and having to hire a babysitter) nor the the money (see: diapers) to consume music the way I used to. I can’t even keep Rolling Stone magazine around. It causes too much longing.

    ciao,
    rpm

    Chrystal March 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    This was a great post for me, because I am 8 weeks pregnant and so thankful for my freedom to take naps after work and on weekends while I am in the 1st trimester fatigue stupor. It has crossed my mind more than once that this would just not be possible with a small child at home. I will be sure to enjoy every minute!!

    LAVANDULA March 19, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    OMG!!1 hahahahaha catherine this is the funniest post you have ever written….and ITS ALL TRUE!!!.SONG YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT the ballad of lucy jordan BY marianne faithful.and between you and me i would take the week of lazy indulgence over vacation and i would want my hubby with me to indulge in lots of number 7!!!!! I DON’T DRINK VERY OFTEN SO INSTEAD OF ENJOYING HANGOVER WILL STUFF MYSELF SILLY ON VERY EXPENSIVE CHOCOLATE DARK OF COURSE…..

    Her Bad Mother March 19, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Assertagirl: I won’t lie, you weren’t very far from my mind ;)

    a Chris March 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I know Paris didn’t rate too highly in the comments anyway (how can it when pitted against the prospect of sleep), but just in case anyone was starting to form a yearning: I’ve been across Paris in a cab and although it was definitely an experience(!), it was not a place you could get the most out of a sports car. In fact, I wouldn’t want to drive any car not already well dented and scratched in Paris…especially around the Arc de Triomphe!

    lorrielink March 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    oh yah, just being able to leave the house with whatever you have on and maybe a wallet or just grab your bag. not running all around the house at the last minuet searching for the sippy cup and the car he HAS to have for the drive or the older one asking if he can wear his ripped up sweats and then finally getting out of the house and getting half way there and realizing you still forgot your phone.
    or how about being on time for ANYTHING.

    Momily March 19, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    This is directed to Anonymous at 10:07 am

    Really? This is a humorous, tongue-in-cheek post aimed at busy and harried moms who love their kids, but are able to laugh at themselves and their lives. You need to be hating and snarky about this kind of a post??

    Also, FYI, “whoa is me” would mean “slow down is me,” as in “whoa” the direction one gives a horse. I believe you were after “woe is me,” anon? Although, “whoa is me” is perhaps a better suited sentiment to the demanding and fast-paced lives of moms.

    Debby March 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    When I was the mom of littles, what I missed most was the joy of thinking creative thoughts. I just did not get a chance to think a thought from beginning to end. It just never seemed that I could think in a straight line with all the interruptions. That is one of my biggest joys now. My children are all grown up. I love what they have become. I also love thinking and daydreaming again.

    auntie March 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Spicy cheese raisins.

    Ha!!

    Future Mama March 19, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Wow!! This is a PERFECT post for me… I’m making a baby bucket list now before I become pregnant, I think these are great things I’m going to enjoy SO much more over the next little while.

    BOSSY March 19, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    This is a great list and keep the faith — you can reinstate many of these activities when your kids are in school all day, for instance drinking and napping. Or at least Bossy does these things. What?

    LLnL March 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    This one of the best blog lists ever! LOL< HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHH!

    Anonymous March 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Perfect!

    Another one to add to the list… enjoy long flights to the absolute fullest. Have a glass of wine (maybe 4), buy lots of trashy magazines, read the chick-lit novel you’ve been mocking for the last 6 months, watch romcom movies and laugh out loud. Enjoy it because seriously, flying with babes has to be high up there on the list of life’s most anxiety-inducing activities.

    liz March 19, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I’m dittoing the sitting on the pot in peace request.

    Bad Mummy March 19, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Brunch. I really really miss brunch. The kind where you spread the newspaper out on the table and bother your brunch companion by reading out articles in the section that he didn’t get to fast enough.

    BUT, I have to say that as a single mum, I still get to do a lot of things on the list, simply because The Mook is with her dad 50% of the time. Sad, but true…I have more solo time as a single mum than I did as part of a couple.

    Cleo March 19, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Of course, there is an alternative. I plan to do all these things and more before having children, because, get this – I’m not having any! Quite frankly the more blogs I read of parents, the less inclined I am to ever change my mind about that.

    Thanks for keeping me childfree!

    Iheartfashion March 19, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I ate a powdered donut over the trash can last night so my kids wouldn’t see.
    Also, I miss going out to dinner and lingering, without anyone saying they’re done and demanding to leave immediately.

    cookingschoolconfidential.com March 19, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    What a great list. But I’m trying not to have any regrets. Because, here I am, in my mid life years, and I’m a culinary school student.

    No regrets at all!

    Cheers.

    crazylovescompany March 19, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    I needed this list 13 weeks ago. Naps, sex, naps, long showers… ugh. I brought my baby into the bathroom on his bouncy chair while I took a 2 minute shower. Not relaxing.

    Kate March 19, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Oh definitely an all weekend marathon of Lost. I mean who has time to sit in front of the TV all weekend anymore. Really. A must-do for all pre-parents. *sigh*

    Heather Happymaker March 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Excellent post! I used to read articles by Moms saying, “Now remember to take 15 minutes each day for yourself”, and snort – Huh? 15 minutes? I couldn’t even wrap my brain around it. I had my first child at 36 in 12/06 and I have only had ONE night of adult fun since!

    I want to go to Applebees (don’t laugh, it’s all we have here) and drink Chardonnay all Sunday like we used to! I LOVE my kids and wouldn’t go back for the world, but a mini-vacay would be Heaven.

    'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why! March 19, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Spicy cheese raisins…Mwahaha!!

    Blue March 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Delurking to say: things I’ll miss when/if kid #2 comes along:

    -Taking the baby for a drive so she’ll sleep, parking, and quietly reading in the car while she naps.
    -Not having to protect baby from rampaging and possibly jealous toddler.
    -Not having to incessantly remove older kid’s choking-hazard toys from baby area
    -Not having to coordinate nap schedules
    -Being able to shop–I shudder to think about grocery shopping with 2
    -Being able to give baby undivided attention

    I’m sure I’ll be able to think of more when the time comes…

    Midwest Mommy March 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Amen! Everything on this list is absolutely true.

    Jennifer March 19, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    What I would add to having sex… having hot monkey sex, whenever and WHERE EVER in your house you want without worrying about being caught.

    Also, spend quality time with your husband/significant other doing what you want a a couple without worrying about getting home to the kids/sitter etc.

    Anonymous March 19, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    This post was written for me. Thank you for giving me 10 things to be grateful about in my childless (yeah, well, loveless at the moment, perceived in dark moments as meaningless) life.

    Karen Sugarpants March 20, 2009 at 10:19 am

    - running errands alone
    - getting a haircut, facial, eyebrow wax

    although, don’t be jealous but i’m within a year or two of leaving my oldest to watch my youngest so i can do these things. alone.

    and that is a beautiful thing.

    Kristin DeLoach, Graco March 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Whatever you define as pampering – do it! Go shopping, get a manicure or pedicure (or both!), read celebrity gossip magazines. Pampering quickly drops to last on the priority list once you have little ones to care for!

    Anonymous March 21, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you for giving me an excuse to indulge in all my wonderful single life habits! I sometimes wonder if I’m too lazy and slovenly but now I know I’m just taking full advantage of the pre-baby period. Let’s hope that all of last night’s condoms did their job…

    the new girl March 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    This is brilliant.

    I had SO LONG being childless and I remember a vague uneasiness with laziness and napping and tv watching and lounging.

    And now I think–WHY??? Why did I not ENJOY it.

    Hammie March 22, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    sheesh,
    appendix A -

    1. Getting sick and only having to look after myself would be enough.

    2. Having a Bath/Shower alone? I would settle for going to the bathroom alone and finishing in one go without having to stop and yell at people and tell other people where things are and wipe DVDs that are scratched and won’t play and – you get the idea.

    3. Naps?
    How about just falling asleep at the end of the day at whatever time I want to. Without having to do ANYTHING for anybody else before I can.

    xx

    M March 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Yesterday was one of those hangover days when you hope and pray that grammy calls and wants to take the kids somewhere.

    I would seriously pay cash money for a shower alone, with just me, and no kiddos pointing out how things on my body are droopy, and stretchy, and point and laugh.

    Oh, I luv my babies, but I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t like that the youngest is almost at a fairly self sufficient age.

    April March 24, 2009 at 8:24 am

    i’m pretty sure this list is perfect. except i probably wouldn’t watch buffy. but something equally mind numbing.

    Kath March 24, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks for reminding me why I chose to be child-free :)

    Anonymous March 25, 2009 at 7:53 am

    My deepest fantasy was one sleeping pill and a hotel room by myself. Still sounds pretty good.

    mammetu March 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I so agree with you.

    The other day I was counting the minutes until 8pm, when my 9 month old and 3 year old were in bed so I could enjoy a Cadbury Creme Egg unmolested. Because that’s something a 3 year old shouldn’t see – or eat!

    Tubo Family March 26, 2009 at 3:08 am

    So, so true! I do notice I rarely fantasize about foreign travel these days but do often fantasize about time spent alone, taking baths, reading books, going on solo contemplative walks. I keep telling people I wish there was a sleep bank that gave credit lines because I would pay almost anything for 10 straight hours of sleep.

    Mrs C March 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I miss Sex. Still do it now, but I’m either too tired after the kids are asleep and if they are still awake, there is still the worry that the door is going to bang open. Sigh.

    ChefSara March 31, 2009 at 8:13 am

    OMG, I can’t tell you how much I need a nap!!

    I’d take the vacation, mainly because (in theory) there would be room service to facilitate the lazy lounging ;-)

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