Ten Ways That I Have More Fun Now That I’m A Parent

August 15, 2011

I was never one of those little girls who played with dolls and dreamed of becoming a mommy. When I played with dolls, it was to concoct new adventures for Barbie, International Super Spy, or to host global summits on world peace with George, my stuffed monkey, the Bionic Woman, a clutch of plush kittens and puppies and Raggedy Ann and Andy (Barbie was never invited, of course, because she was actively working to subvert the stability of the international political system through her mercenary intrigues.) Playing ‘mommy’ never occurred to me, because I never planned on becoming a mommy. Why become a mommy when there were so many much more fun things to do? Travel! Spy! Rule a small country!

My soft aversion to motherhood continued through my twenties and into my early thirties, for more or less the same reasons. I had more interesting things to do than become a mother. I had more fun things to do. Children would just slow me down. Children would be a drag. But then I spent a week with my nephew, Zachary – we flew him across the country to have a holiday with us, as a special treat – and we had such a fantastic time, such an unqualified blast, that I was forced to change my perspective. Kids, Zachary taught me, could be great fun. I decided, then, that I could see myself – that I could see us, my husband and me – with children.

So we had kids. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve found motherhood very challenging at times, so the punchline that you might expect to come after ‘so we had kids‘ is probably ‘… and everything changed‘ or ‘… and I learned that motherhood is not just fun and games‘ or ‘… and I realized how much I missed my f***ing Barbies.‘ Or some such. But here’s the thing: as difficult as parenting can be at time – at most times, even – it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. So much so, that I’d argue that I am a much more fun person – and that I have much more fun – since becoming a parent than I ever did before.

For example…

1.) I have a far greater appreciation for a glass of wine (or a martini, or margarita, or whatever tipple is on offer.) Before you have children, you can go out for drinks whenever you like. You can stay in for drinks. You can stay up late drinking drinks and then sleep in the next day, if it’s a weekend. But once you become a parent, your entertainment schedule is dictated by the needs of your small people, and it usually gets reduced to evenings in watching Thomas the Tank Engine. Which sounds like drudgery, but you know what? It increases your appreciation for those occasions when you do go out, and – this is no small thing – it introduces you to the unique pleasure that is sipping Cabernet and snarking on Dora. After the kids have gone to bed, of course. Because, yes, you do still have Nickelodeon on at that point. Which leads me to…

2) You watch kids’ shows, and you like it. I’m totally not joking. Sure, some kids’ shows are unwatchable (Barney, Caillou), but some of them are kind of fun, or at least fascinating, in a late modern cultural studies kind of way (there could be whole graduate seminars on the critique of late capitalism that is immanent in any given episode of the Teletubbies.) And if you keep your DVD shelf, or your iTunes library, stocked with old episodes of Sesame Street or the Muppets or Fraggle Rock, you will have hours of awesome viewing.

3) You go to animated movies and enjoy them unironically. Come on. Like you’d have seen Toy Story 3 in the theater and giggled and clapped and wept unabashedly if you didn’t have kids.

4) You dance. I know that you do. I have two small children and I have done more dancing – in the living room, in the backyard, in the kitchen, in the bathtub (yes), in pretty much every possible domestic location, to pretty much every kind of music imaginable – in the last five and half years than I did in the first 34 years of my life.

5) You sing. Just substitute the word ‘singing’ for the word ‘dancing’ in the paragraph above, and you get the picture.

6) You make friends. When you’re pregnant, you make eye contact with other pregnant women and, if you’re brave, you make conversation (“don’t you hate swollen feet! I so hate swollen feet!”) just because, oh, god, there is someone who knows what you’re going through! YOU MUST TALK TO HER! Once the baby comes, you become even braver. You join moms groups. You initiate playdates. You make small talk with the other parents on the subway or on the airplane or in the waiting room. You are out there. And sure, maybe not all of these people are your social soul mates, but then, neither were all those random people that you went clubbing with in the 90′s, either. And at least now, you’re sober.

7) … mostly sober, anyway.  See #1, above. The bonus here is, that because, as a parent, you’re never over-indulging (at least when the kids are in your care; what you do on that couples-only Mexican vacation while the kids are with the grandparents is your own business), you’re not getting hangovers. Because, really, you can’t have hangovers when you have kids, because they will wake you at 6am and make you watch Barney and you can’t survive that on a hangover. So you don’t over-indulge, and you don’t get hangovers, and you do appreciate the brilliance of a single, perfect glass of Cabernet, and it is enough, and it is awesome.

8.) You seek and find opportunities for play. You keep a keener eye out for parks and playgrounds, obviously, but you also notice which trees are good for climbing, whether a given hedge makes for a good hiding spot, whether egg cartons or empty toilet paper rolls or empty water bottles or scraps of paper would make for good crafts, whether a particular configuration of furniture would make for a good blanket fort, whether pancakes can be made into fun shapes, whether a given puddle is good for splashing (trick statement! ALL puddles are good for splashing!) You view the world through the eyes of a creature who seeks constantly to play. You view the world through the eyes of your child.

Helmets recommended.

9) And if you’re uninhibited enough, you indulge in those opportunities for play. And come on: if anything can loosen one’s inhibitions, it’s the presence of children. Especially the presence of one’s own children. Show me a grown-up who became more inhibited after having children, and I will show you a parent who is doing it wrong.

10) And when you’re done indulging your loose inhibitions, you have an excellent excuse for having that lovely glass of wine. “That was exhausting!” you declare to your spouse / neighbors / random people at the playground, as you clamber out of the sandbox / off the slide / away from the craft corner / off the roller coaster / out of that Snow White costume. “I’ve earned this glass of Chardonnay!” You don’t need to tell them that you’ve been having the time of your life. If they’re parents, they probably already know.

I haven’t even touched on the joys of cavorting in sprinklers, playing at water parks, visiting Disneyland and enjoying it unironically, roasting marshmallows over campfires, playing Barbies, going trick or treating at Halloween, leaving out cookies and milk for Santa at Christmas, hiding Easter eggs at Easter, throwing birthday parties with lots and lots of balloons and really sugary cake. Sure, you could do all these things before you have kids, but you probably won’t, because you’re too busy being a grown-up, and also, lone grown ups playing at water parks and riding the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and trick or treating are regarded with suspicion. It’s kids that give you reason and the excuse and the inspiration to do ridiculous and ridiculously fun things.

The party doesn’t stop when you have children, people. It just gets better. Sure, you’ll be exhausted, but isn’t that the effect of any great party? And like I said: NO HANGOVERS.

This post is sponsored by UP ALL NIGHT… Life is all about balance. So what happens when you throw a new baby into it? Find out; series premiere Wednesday September 14 on NBC.

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    maui August 16, 2011 at 9:21 am

    It’s true that I’m eager to have kids, eventually, so I CAN go to Disney and water parks and make cookies for Santa without suspicion. But, I don’t yet, and I totally saw Toy Story 3 (unironically) in the theater, and giggled, and clapped, and wept unabashedly. In fact, Saturday night, my dear fiance and I stayed in, ordered pizza and drank wine, and snuggled on the couch while watching Wall-E, and he took it as a sign that it’s time. We are so excited for kids, but we’re gonna settle for children that get returned after a day or two (nieces!), and our pup, for a while, because not having kids– kind of awesome, too. :)

    Erika Marie August 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I love kids!! They give me an excuse to be my goofy self without having to worry about people thinking I’m crazy. The kids still think I’m crazy but they love it!

    Also, one cool thing about becoming a mom: You also become a ninja. I have been on one side of a room and then across the room before anyone can blink an eye while simultaneously grabbing the baby & catching a falling lamp. I even once caught my daughter diving head first off the couch by her ankle… an inch from the floor. My reflex skills are through the roof!

    Redneck Mommy August 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Your kids make me feel like I’m ten again. (As do my kids. But there is something magical about playing with smalls unrelated to you.)

    red pen mama August 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I could have totally written this (although probably not quite so well). I had never planned on getting married or having kids — I wasn’t actually opposed to such things, I just never thought it would happen, and it didn’t bother me. But then both things did happen (with a major bump before the getting to RAISE kids part), and it has been fun, yes, and never, ever dull, especially now that we added that third live kid. Aggravating, stressful, challenging, tear-inducing also. But fun. Joyful. Love-ful. And the most wonderful thing I ever done. Thanks for the reminder!

    liz August 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I loved Oobi. How sad I was when MM out grew it and moved on to Cartoon Network.

    Makyo August 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Yes to all of this! Having grown up into the very worst kind of navel-gazing, self conscious, anti-social adult – no eye contact, no random conversations with strangers, never answering the phone, because EW I MIGHT HAVE TO TALK TO PEOPLE AND IT WOULD BE EMBARASSING – having a kidlet in the house has changed all of that. She’ll talk to anyone, so now I will too. She stops on the sidewalk to “dance” when she hears music, so I do the same. I have fallen in love with Nick Jr. programming (most of it) and fallen in love again with Sesame Street. I sing in the car, in our living room, out in public, loudly and without shame. My dad always said that the best part of having kids was being able to re-live childhood through their eyes.

    No Drama Momma August 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I could have written this myself, although not as well! I second the children’s tv shows, at least Sesame Street. I nearly die laughing over Grover. He’s right up there with Steve Carrell in my mind.

    Christina D. August 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Absolutely. Unabashedly. Entirely. Totally.

    I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Ever. And the kidlet is only 14 months old. Let the good times ROLL!

    The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful August 17, 2011 at 1:49 am

    #11 — you lower your FUN expectations. Went to the park and no one melted down for an hour. AN ENTIRE HOUR (and you may have met your friend Glenna with her toddler and her thermos full of your #1). My husband and I will come back from outings with our daughters and we’ll say, with quite a bit of smug satisfaction, “hey, that was ALMOST fun.” And we mean it unironically. xo

    Damara August 17, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I LOVE this post! So many people act like I’ve given something up in my life by having kids and don’t realize hwo much I’ve gained. Yes, being a parent can be hard work and exhausting and frustrating, but it is also a hell of a lot of fun. My kids make me laugh way more than any comedian ever has.

    Tamara August 17, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Yes! I love this all!

    A couple of weeks ago I tidied my daughter’s room and when she walked in, she gasped and said, “My room is so clean! Now I can dance in it!” I love the joy that kids bring to everything! Now I’m using the “danceability” standard for cleaning the house, and it’s a lot more fun.

    Thanks for a great read! :)

    Tarasview August 17, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Catherine- I just laughed and bawled through this entire post :) . I imagined myself being a perpetual student earning numerous degrees and perhaps teaching a class or two and travelling around the world in my spare time.

    I did NOT picture myself having 3 kids and I definitely did not picture myself dealing with Autism or doctor’s assessments or psychiatrists or medication or post partum depression or sleep deprivation… and the list could go on and on. I had no idea what being a parent would be like.

    But you are so right- I have a crazy high appreciation for things like Blissdom Canada where I will get to spend 3 days with other really fun grown-ups… I never would have appreciated that as much before I had kids!


    Marci August 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I love this post. It’s all true. Thank heavens too, or we would all go out of our minds!

    Courtney August 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    LOVE this post. I am a very new mom (6 month old daughter) but I am really truly enjoying it and looking forward to all the excitement to come (especially if we are blessed with a second) – I enjoyed the childlessness of our twenties and early thirties but really, this is so much richer (for me – I am aware it would be another woman’s nightmare!) Thanks for this – and I LOVE that this is sponsored by Up All Night. Fun!

    Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments August 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    This is so me. Like others above – I definitely could have written this.

    Thank you for helping me remember all the amazing things that being a “mommy” brings.

    imperfectmomma August 18, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Holy crap…so true. I – being a former NYer – used to hold the idea “never look people in the eye” (cause you know that invites people to talk to you) but now with kids, I am a smiling fool. I look at people and everything…too bad my husband hasnt gotten on the band wagon. He thinks I’m crazy for talking to strangers….hes from NY too.

    Tacy August 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Catherine! I’ve been reading your blog for about 6 months now- first time commenting. I love your posts. I love THIS post. You write my thoughts so well- plus you’re much more grammatically correct and articulate than I. I’m a little jealous- but I mean that in a flattering way.
    Thanks for writing this and thanks for always providing my mommy mush mind with some good thoughts to chew on.

    TheFeministBreeder August 24, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I knew I was doing it wrong. I don’t enjoy kid-play at all. Like None. At. All. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I seriously tolerate it only long enough to distract my kids and get them playing without me. God I wish I loved it, though. But I sure do agree with the part about appreciating that glass of wine!

    Rani August 27, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Hi, it’s my first time coming to your blog and i enjoyed this post very much it gives me the optimism that i need as i am currently expecting a baby. It has been six weeks along and sometimes i feel the anxiety of what i would be like as a new mom when my baby is born. so yeah, i am looking forward for fun experiences as the other commenters have been through :D . oh and i have been a pre school teacher for the past three months and i get what you mean about having total fun in kids world. i feel the same way too, shamelessly dancing and singing have been my working daily activities and let me tell you it is way way less stressful than when i worked at a business office(had done it for three years before finally applying for the teacher job). i also feel blessed that i learn so much on how to discipline a child in my new job.

    Mandy August 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Although my two teens can be a pain in the butt, you’re right. I have had more fun!
    In line with fun – I found out about this new account from ING Direct where yours teens can win prizes:
    MONEY from ING Direct is running a hot sweepstakes. Prizes include (10) $1,000, (10) MacBook Air, and (20) iPod Touches, and FAME!! Sign up, and submit a photo for a chance to be on a billboard in Times Square, NYC http://www.facebook.com/ThatsMoney

    Kat September 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

    This is my first time coming here also, great writing. I really enjoyed this post.

    Mandy – I checked out that sweepstakes on Facebook. I wanna win (I want my kids to win)!!

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