Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Dirty Kid at Walmart

We're all guilty of it - feelin' a little higher and mightier than the rest.  But as they say, pride cometh before the fall.  I can illustrate this sentiment with a fun story: I used to mock girls who were meticulous about shaving their toes.  How vain!  I thought.  How silly!  My notions of superiority came crashing down around me one spring day as I sat with a crush at a minor league baseball game.  As the sun glistened high above he looked at my exposed feet in their flip-flops and said, "Just how many hairs do you think you have on your big toe?"  Needless to say, we didn't date, and I began shaving my big toes.

Moms!  Let's cut ourselves some slack, and while we're at it - slack for each other.  Let's stop feeling guilty for being human and for living realistically.  We all know motherhood brings us to new, wonderful humbling experiences that always seem to involve baby poo and the lack of materials to clean up the baby poo.


1. I'll never have the dirty kid at Walmart.  Here's what actually happens: kids get messy, and sometimes you have to go out in public anyway.  Sometimes the kid gets messy on the way to Walmart.  I also said that my kid would always be well-dressed... hair combed, both socks and shoes intact.  I don't know what I was smoking.  To those of you whose children always look like Baby Gap models, I think that may just be your superpower.

2. I'll breast-feed exclusively.  This is hard: I really wish I would have been able to and it took me a long time not to feel guilty about supplementing with formula.  Some mothers have incredible problems producing enough milk - that was me.  Some moms go back to work and are unable to secure enough food - that was me.  The time came when I realized I really only had time to eat lunch OR get milk for the next day.  And today I thank God that I have the option of giving my son a healthy alternative.  Mad props to you mamas who are still breast-feeding, maybe things will go better for us the next time around.

3. Marriage doesn't have to change when baby comes.  Don't get me wrong - the entrance of Knox wasn't marked by increased fighting or strain in the Andrews household.  But suddenly the dishes we dreaded doing doubled - bottles and nipples take forever to sanitize!  The trash to be taken out suddenly included smelly diapers.  "Us" time dwindled from the norm to downright stolen moments.  Don't feel guilty taking time to yourselves - a happy marriage means happy parents, and happy parents means happy baby.  Grab a trusty babysitter, go on a date.  Skip town for a night and leave baby with your more-than-willing in-laws. 

4. My body doesn't have to change when baby comes. I've been relatively lucky because I didn't gain a ton of weight during my pregnancy and I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight a few weeks after giving birth.  But that's not to say my body didn't change - my stomach is different than it was before.  My body is different than before.  Some articles of clothing don't fit the way they used to, regardless of my weight.  In my reading, some doctors say that your body should only be 'fully' back to normal 9-12 months after giving birth.  That's a long time!  Don't feel depressed if you don't look like you did before being pregnant, or, for that matter, even like you did at 19.  (Although not looking like I did at 19 is another thing I thank God for.)  Read a somewhat helpful/somewhat snobbish article about pregnancy and fitness here.

5. I'll just ____________ while my baby naps.  People who say "Just sleep when the baby sleeps" need to be ... enthusiastically rebuffed.  Here's what actually happens: kid finally falls asleep, your brain thinks of the million things you need to do.  You finally decide to nap and by the time your mind shuts down, the baby lets out an "I'm-awake-and-not-upset-yet-but-will-be-soon" cry.  Please don't feel that you need to have a perfectly clean house.  In fact, get used to the fact that it is normal for toys and baby blankets and other infant paraphernalia to be strewn across your living room.  And when it's not those things anymore, it'll be baseball gloves, homework, shoes, ballet slippers, and backpacks.  And then when they finally graduate, if you still have the energy, you can clean your house.

6. I'll adhere to a strict feeding/sleeping schedule.  For some people this works: don't feel guilty about it.  For some people, it doesn't.  Don't feel guilty about it.  As long as you're doing what's best for your unique child in your particular family situation, who's to say you're doing it wrong?  I am the wife of a coach, which means lots of travel time for husband, and lots of night games.  Interrupting Knox's non-existent schedule has given him the ability to fall asleep in noisy situations, something for which I am exceedingly grateful.  Sometimes I get strange looks when I confess he doesn't have a 'set bedtime'... but I've learned to shrug it off.

7. People don't say idiotic things about your decision to work/stay at home.  Nope, they do.  A lot of the time people don't mean to be offensive.  And maybe it just feels offensive because we've been operating on dwindling hours of sleep.  But comments about "children being the ones who suffer" when moms go back to work generally don't go over well with moms who go back to work.  And comments about how much money a husband must earn probably make an at-home mom feel uncomfortable.  As the child of a stay-at-home mom I can assuredly tell you I was just as sociable as any other kid by the time I got to school, if not moreso.  I wasn't a brat and I knew how to share.  As the mother of a child who goes to a sitter while I go to work I can tell you that Knox delights in the company of his peers - he is already trying his darndest to catch up with them as they tear through the house.  I can see it in his eyes when he plays with his toys: I really think he wishes there was a toddler there to play with instead of a car that lights up and beeps.  Please moms, don't feel guilty about your parenting situation.  Healthy, happy, smart, and well-adjusted kids come from both settings.

8. I'm not going to let my kid watch t.v.  Alright, that might be a bit extreme.  It'd probably be more accurate to say, My kid isn't going to watch much t.v.  But there are quite a few good programs for kids to watch, and with the teensy attention span of an infant, I don't have to worry about constantly finding a new activity.  Done pulling all my scarves out of that box?  Good, the t.v.'s still on, let it distract you.  Oops, already done with that?  I think there's a new piece of dead leaf on the floor  you haven't tried to eat yet.  Hmm, now you're crying because I took the leaf away, but I think Dora singing might distract you while I can throw this chewed up leaf away... 

9. I can still do most of the things I want to do once baby comes.  This is true and untrue.  I still exercise, see my friends, shop, read, cook, work, spend time with my husband and do lots of things that make me happy.  But I can't do everything.  I read a really great article recently similar to this post in which a mom was advising new moms "You can't do everything, and don't let other people make you feel guilty for missing things when in the best interests of your baby."  There will be weddings you miss because it's just too late for baby to be out or too far for your young family to travel.  There will be times when you can't go places because of your baby's health or temperament.  There will be times you need to spend with your family instead of at work or with your friends.  The lady in the article said "You'll get over the guilt of missing the wedding, but the guilt of not doing what was best for your child will stick with you."  And that is true.  Learn to say "No".  It may irritate your friends and family members, it may make you feel like a stick in the mud, but you'll sleep easier knowing that you did what was best for your baby.