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 }

    Joy March 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    You dream big!! My current wish is for three uninterrupted hours alone, in my house. I do get some me-time away, a little bit, now, but TIME ALONE IN MY HOUSE FOR LONGER THAN AN HOUR… This is my dream. ;)

    But I miss the gory Sci-Fi shows that I love to watch. My 7 year old son just asks way too many questions, and has for four years, and then has nightmares…

    And sleeping until I wake up, and the baths, and guilty pleasure food… Yes, yes and yes!!

    We do frequently travel with our three hooligans, and it’s great. Hotel rooms are awesome. Someone else always cooks, changes the linens, and vacuums the crumbs off the floor, daily.

    And if I think of #7, I may start weeping on my keyboard. Child 2 of 3 has TERRIBLE timing… Absolutely terrible. *sigh* *sniffle*

    Amy March 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    As the mother of two-out-of-three kids with food allergies, I miss not only eating what I want when I want, but also not having to do a mental inventory of all the ingredients in each mouthful of food to judge whether or not my nursling will have a reaction. (sigh)

    Marivic March 18, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    With 5 daughters, I can only add: Wearing actual outfits. Cute, sassy, sexy, complicated “Dry Clean Only” – type ensembles. Nowadays if one of my older daughters isn’t stealing my clothes the toddler is schmutzing them up. Yanno?

    Magic27 March 18, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Just in case you was a-wondering, the song is Marianne Faithful’s “Ballad of Lucy Jordan” and happy little ditty it ain’t…
    For me, I’d add being able to talk to adults about something not involving bedtime routines, eating habits, school… etc. and going to the cinema and not watching an animated film (even if I loved Madagascar 2 and Bolt)…
    Hang in there – it DOES get better (my daughters are now 7 and nearly 5)!

    MOm March 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Don’t worry. The kids grow up and you get to do all those things again. And, take it from me, you appreciate them all the mooooooorrrrrre.
    Hummm, maybe this is why I’m in the running for a Bad Grandmother award.

    Norm March 18, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    This post is perfect. If I had one of those perfect post aggregators, I would aggregate this one. I totally LOL’d.

    Momily March 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    My list would be the same except i would add “go out more” in any capacity, from fine dining to just going to a movie or the pub or just wasting a whole day window shopping and drinking lattes. i miss that. I miss being able to go out and fritter time away however i want, whenever i want, with no real purpose.

    Awesome Mom March 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I think you have a pretty good solid list here. I am not a drinker so I would not be getting buzzed at lunch or having the hangover but the rest is awesome. Another thing I really miss is being able to have a reading jag where I spend all day in bed reading only emerging to eat the occasional meal. I used to do that during summer break when I was in high school. Can’t do that at all now.

    Jennifer March 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Okay, so, my husband are trying right this very month for our first. And you’re scaring me! :-) Intellectually, I know all of this. However, I really value my sleep and alone time, and books…oh, books. I just keep telling myself that I will value my time with my little one more. Ah hell, I’m realistic. I know it won’t be MORE necessarily, but maybe they’ll equal out :-)

    Tina March 18, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I am not one much for travel, even though I have done my fair share. But now that we have a son, we do take a week to ourselves. It usually revolves around finding a new house to move to, but still. My sister takes him and we are free to lounge around and play video/computer games until we pass out. It’s sweet. :)

    Brittany March 18, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I agree with these. Alone time is the best. But funny thing is, even when I get alone time it some how still revolves around my kids. Going shopping ALONE, what do I need to get for the kids, do they need diapers, are we out of formula…? The joys of being a mother.

    If I were you HBM, I’d take your little one and bring her in on the spicy raisin cheese. It could be your very own little secret from the boys in the house. Plus just think of how much easier it will be if she enjoys it with you. Maybe not EVERYTIME, but sometimes. She’ll LOVE it.

    I’d add to the list: Enjoy less dishes. Now that we have 2 kids it’s unbelievable how MANY MANY dishes they create. Before kids, I hardly did the dishes once a week. Now they need to be done everyday.

    Alone time and sleep = PRICELESS

    Amber March 18, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Amen, amen, amen! If only I’d appreciated the ability to set my own wake-up time, or choose when I showered. I really took it all for granted. Who cares about Paris? I could have slept in more often!

    Anonymous March 18, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Get in the car and drive without arranging child care or buckling someone into a car seat. Ditto with arriving and departing a store. Multi-ditto when running errands and making a bazillion stops. I’m all about safety, but the buckling and unbuckling and rebuckling has brought to mind many creative uses of drive-through services previously unknown.

    mythoughtsonthat March 18, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    While I absolutely agree with this list, will I be ousted if I admit none of these things bothered me when my kid was little? And I was on my own with him! Maybe because I didn’t have him until I was 40 and felt I’d already had plenty of time to do all these things (although I never really laid around and watched T.V. even before being a mom) But I really do feel for moms who DO miss these things. Peace.

    Ami March 18, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    The thing I miss most is using the bathroom by MYSELF for longer than 34 seconds or without some crying child pounding on the door. However, the runner up wish would be to not only have sex whenever we wanted but being able to have it WHERE we wanted. Nothing kills the mood faster than having to ask “Hey, did you lock the bedroom door?”

    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com March 18, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    I have no idea what I’ll want added to this list in a few months, but I love the story about the cookie dough.

    Except for the part where it made me want to go home and eat cookie dough. Lots and lots of cookie dough.

    Kaye March 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    ha! Boy did this post bring back memories. I became a single parent when my son was 8 months old and the hardest part for me was getting up at 6:30am on the weekends (I am not a morning person…nope, not at all). I was thrilled when he was old enough to fix his own cereal in the morning.

    Now he’s 19 and in the Air Force. I have all the time in the world to do those things and all I want is to have to get up at 6:30 on Saturday morning and snuggle up to that baby goodness. sigh….

    Michelle March 18, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    “Spicy cheese raisins” I love it. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to answer ” mmfh nuffing” when asked by me 3 year old what I was eating as it wouldn’t matter what I told her because the child is a bottomless pit and would eatt anything and eveything if I let her.

    Another Suburban Mom March 18, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Can I morph your choice into spending a week at a fancy hotel with unlimited room service in a nice suite so I would not have to do a damn thing and have fresh towels and sheets every day.

    When housekeeping came I would wander to the pool to relax there.

    I am sure if you go somewhere fancy enough, they can get you cookie dough.

    LilliGirl March 18, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    OMG! Amen!

    The only I'd add would be a nanny or a spouse even to get the little ones off to schoolin the mornings becuase that whole coffee & paper thing while enjoying quiet is soooo far back I can barely remember it.

    The Mad White Woman March 18, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Totally true and so sad that it is true LOL!

    kittenpie March 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    GOD.YES. Miss all those things. but then, also love the small warm body of my Bun and the girl my Pumpkinpie is becoming, so I guess it’s a wash in the end. But it would be nice if the wash came with more sleep, for sure.

    cathy March 18, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    LOVE THIS! It’s all so true, but worth it, right?

    Karly March 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I would pretend I was male and sit in the bathroom for an hour each time I had to poo. Once you have kids you only get a short amount of time in the bathroom and you always, always, always have an audience.

    And I love your number 9. My daughter hates mustard and whenever I’m eating something I don’t want to share, I tell her it has mustard in it. Works like a charm!

    Issas Crazy World March 18, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    These are awesome. I’d like to add having sex in places other that my locked bedroom. Also, I’d love to enjoy staying up super late and then sleeping in the next day until noon.

    Oh but I do sneak ice cream. I put it in blackberry yogurt containers, because my girls despise blackberry yogurt.

    Mary G March 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Laughing. The grandkid caught me eating cookie dough this weekend and gave me a lecture about Raw Eggs… the same one I gave her mother thirty years ago, almost to the word.

    chermonblie March 18, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    You’re not the only one! I’d take a nap… alone… over Paris any day!

    Carmen March 18, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    It’s all so true. I also miss listening to my musical picks when driving in the car. Instead, I have to hear Elmo’s Hot Hot Hot and Dance over and over and over. Moreover, the darn songs get stuck in my head and I keep hearing them all day.

    Viv March 18, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Forget the cruise, I am so thrilled with the idea of laying in bed and getting to be lazy. One smallish detail though, if/when the number of children in my home has been significantly reduced or they are all away (this treat happens almost never, as in twice in the past 12 years) I find that I feel like I must use that time to tackle all the housekeeping things that have been bothering me, so I’d like to kick that unvacation off with a laundry service and a cleaning lady.

    Loralee Choate March 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    This is a perfectly good list for me: Pregnant with the next youngest being NINE.

    I?

    Am sleeping as much as humanly possible.

    Also on my list: Go on dates with your spouse. Run errands only carrying a wallet. Do as many spontaneous things as possible.

    (The memory of the early years and being a tied down, sleep-deprived pack mule are emerging from my foggy memory)

    ZenMom March 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    This list is brilliant. :D

    Pgoodness March 18, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    So true.

    I am currently on the couch, wrapped in blankets, watching tv. Yeah, it’s 11 at night, but hey, you gotta take these moments of quiet alone time when you get them, right?

    Annie, The Evil Queen March 18, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    We just moved across the country. During our two week adventure, I got sick. One night, after we arrived here, but still stuck i a hotel, my husband and son got stuck at our friends house due to an ice storm. I had the hotel room all to myself. And I was too sick to really enjoy it. But I also think the whole night to myself is the only thing that kept me from slipping off the deep end. Parenthood is on-call 24/7 and even more so during a move. I would love a week or so, by myself, to read and sleep and commune with nature. I miss the quiet.

    Jill March 18, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    If you’re so inclined, you should try to have some freaky-deaky no-strings group sex when you are still single and childless. Because once you are married and got kids in tow 24/7, no way in hell are you going to ever be in a bar at the end of the night with two equally gorgeous guys hitting on you, and you can’t wink at your girlfriend and take all of them home to play. Ain’t happening EVER AGAIN. So take the chance while you can!

    KristiBug March 19, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I passed this on to 6 of my friends. Priceless.

    I really liked how snippy I was to people who TOLD ME THIS when I was walking around preggo. “Ha!” I said. I really wish I had listened. Heehee!

    Fiona March 19, 2009 at 1:12 am

    your about three kids too late with this list! ha!

    Cec, Glass & Light, Israel March 19, 2009 at 2:43 am

    I just discovered this blog. I don’t even know you, but I love you already. Being a mother is so wonderful yet so horrible some days. I have 4 sons who grew up to be wonderful men. I love then dearly – there is less than 6 years between the youngest and the oldest. When they were small, my mother sent my younger (unmarried) brothers to visit to try to nudge them into having children. They both went home saying that my kids were great but that they now understood they might NEVER want their own. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

    Robin March 19, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Long lazy weekend brunches, with things like eggs benedict and pitchers of bloody mary’s, or better yet mimosas.

    PS The song is Marianne Faithfull’s The Ballad of Lucy Jordan. Great song.

    Mrs. Vladdevlor March 19, 2009 at 4:26 am

    I agree with Geeklady, there’s never enough time for games!!! :) So basically all that’s left is watch my husband play (only on weekends) when the baby is up while trying to entertain her as well.. not a very good quality time I should say…
    Sleep was also on my list until the baby started letting me sleep in till VERY late almost every morning. I can only be grateful for this as I know if/when we have another one it won’t be that easy!!! :) )

    K March 19, 2009 at 6:07 am

    So true, so true! Especially about naps.

    Amo March 19, 2009 at 6:26 am

    I just want my Saturdays back.

    That’s all.

    Laying in bed, having sex when ever we felt like it and arguing over who had to go make the coffee (which always was determined by who got the most out of the above…ahem).

    As for the cookie dough, my kids are convinced that mommies can’t get salmonella poisoning. ;)

    Amanda March 19, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I don’t have kids yet, but I will take your advice as it seems wonderful :)

    I think even as we grow older and have not started families yet we wish we could go back to that college age when you could pretty much do whatever.

    I just hope I have at least 5 more years of being lazy :)

    Incognito March 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I wish I’d read this 30 years ago; thank you.

    http://www.therag1.blogspot.com

    Anonymous March 19, 2009 at 8:42 am

    As much as I love being a mother and can’t resist hugging/kissing/squeezing their chubby little bodies, I miss being able not sit, untouched.

    Jozet at Halushki March 19, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I was at a Tweetup last night with younger folk who didn’t have kids. They were talking about being sick and sleeping for 18 hours. 18 hours!

    I haven’t officially been sick for 10 years.

    Also to add:

    Enjoy a full meal without someone throwing a fit, kicking their sister under the table, a chorus of complaints about Brussels sprouts, someone crawling on your lap.

    Listen to your music in the car without complaints or a constant stream of commentary/questions regarding your musical tastes.

    Vacation on your own schedule without pushing a cranky toddler through a nap or trying to find a spot for him to sleep, which he won’t, because it doesn’t look exactly like his bedroom/crib at home.

    Kelly March 19, 2009 at 9:12 am

    RE: cookie dough – we make our own, roll them into logs (parchment paper yay!) and freeze them. Then every so often take out a log, slice it into “cookies” that are bite sized, toss them into a small ziplock bag in the freezer door and when I’ve a need I open the door, pop one into my mouth, and nobody’s the wiser!
    “What you eating, Mommy?”
    “mmemmemmm;MMhphh!” (translate: “sorry dear, can’t talk with food in my mouth”)

    Mimi March 19, 2009 at 10:06 am

    spicy cheese raisins? omfg, that’s the best thing i’ve ever heard. nice try, hbm!

    i like all those things you’ve listed, but maybe because i’m coming up for tenure in a year? what i want is to be abso-fucking-lutely free to work my very favorite hours: 8am-noon and 3pm-7pm. guess which hours are just absolutely not possible for me to work? 8am-10, and 5pm-7.

    i want my whim-work time back! you know, for like, a week. just for a break …

    Anonymous March 19, 2009 at 10:07 am

    11. Write blog posts on topics other than “whoa is me”.

    k_sra March 19, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I’m six months pregnant with our first and cackling maniacally -or perhaps desparingly-under my breath at my desk at this glorious rite of passage I can neither avoid or delay. Goodbye two drink limit, hello spicy cheese raisins!

    Thank goodness my husband is taking me on a babymoon to the bahamas. One last GASP of freedom!

    Kelly March 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I did these things, but it doesn’t feel like I did them enough! I think – a sunny Saturday afternoon getting drunk at fun bars. I miss that. A. Lot.

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