Monday, February 06, 2012

Something Lost, Something Gained

In a recent Weekend Reading post, I wrote a bit about the fact that motherhood for me has been a trade off between things I've gained and things I've lost. I've been thinking more lately about what, exactly, I've lost and what I've gained. Here are the lists I've come up with:

What I miss from my pre-kids life:
  • Sleep, or more specifically, the casual attitude I used to have towards sleep, when being tired meant that I would just go to bed earlier, sleep in later, or take a nap. Now, being tired often means that I'll just be tired.
  • Travel, or more specifically, the casual attitude I used to have towards travel, when if I wanted to go somewhere I just needed to convince Hubby he did, too (easy!) and save up the time off from work. Now, we think about whether or not the trip would work well with kids, and saving up time off from work is much, much harder since we spend so many days off with sick kids.
  • Going out to eat, or more specifically, the casual attitude I used to have towards going out to eat, when I could just decide that I wanted to eat at X restaurant, rally Hubby to the cause, and go. Now, we have to worry about wait times and kid-friendliness, and if we decide to go, the preparation involves assembling distractions for the kids, snacks in case the wait is unexpectedly long, diapers, wipes, etc., etc.
  • Reading, or more specifically, getting lost in a book and reading as much as I want to without regards to bedtimes, dinner preparation, or anything else.
  • Quiet. Enough said.
  • The ability to rest and feel sorry for myself when I get sick. These days, I still have kids to take care of, and unless I'm really, really, sick, I usually need to work, too (although I will try to work from home to keep the germs to myself whenever possible)- see the point above about how hard it is to save up time off work.

What I've gained since having kids:
  • The best hugs. Seriously, kids give hugs with all their being. It never fails to make me feel better to get a hug from one of my kids- even if I'm already feeling pretty good.
  • Baby and toddler laughs. These may be the only thing better than the hugs. Or maybe it is a tie. And you know what? Preschooler laughs are pretty good, too.
  • Enthusiastic bye-byes when I go to the shower in the morning. I don't remember how this started, but both kids yell and wave bye-bye when I finish breakfast and head to the shower.
  • Being happy to get caught by the train. Who can worry about the time lost when there is a toddler in the back seat yelling "Choo-choo!" and signing train?
  • A more Zen approach to life. Both of my kids have been trying to teach me to just take life as it comes since they were born. I'm a slow learner, and have a long way to go before I'd say I truly have the Zen thing down... but I'm A LOT better now than I was before Pumpkin was born.
  • Sharing books with my kids (yes, even the books that I've read so many times I know by heart- maybe especially those). Also, watching my daughter learn how to read. I have always loved to read. But my kids have reminded me of how magical it is.
  • A front row seat to watch human development in action. Development is fascinating, even if sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day struggles that I forget what's going on developmentally. I wrote my baby development cheat sheet in an attempt to do better at "following along" the second time around. It helped. A bit. But those milestones go by so fast!
  • Along those same lines, from a slightly different point of view... teaching my kids about the world, and getting to rediscover how wonderful it can be. Did you know that finding a snail slime trail is amazing good luck? Or that coming across a kitty cat resting under a car is something you should stop and appreciate?
  • Watching my husband be a father. He is a great father. Honestly, it has made me love him even more. (Awwww.)
  • Watching my kids be sisters to each other. They haven't really started fighting yet, so this is mostly just cute and wonderful.
  • More empathy. I can't really explain this one, but it is true.
  • A greater sense of my own emotional strength. I've pushed on past what I was sure was my breaking point many times, and here I am on the other side. 
  • More patience at work. I can't fully explain this one, either, but it is true. My best guess is that I've gained a little more perspective.
  • A greater appreciation for my parents. There is nothing like having kids to make you realize what you put your own parents through. Pumpkin didn't sleep through the night until she was two. Neither, apparently, did I.  Her picky eating? Yep, I did that, too. As I navigate the decisions that come with parenting, I realize that my parents were pretty amazing. They still are, actually. And they are wonderful grandparents, too.
  • A renewed appreciation for Halloween. Also, for Christmas.
  • Toddler pajamas. A toddler in pajamas is pretty much the cutest thing on the planet. I would never have known this if I hadn't had kids.
Clearly, this is an intensely personal list. Different mothers will have different items on their lists. Many people who don't have kids find their way to items on my post-kids list, such as having a more Zen approach to life. The point isn't to try to write a universal list about the pluses and minuses of parenthood, but rather to give a snapshot of what it has meant in my life. Feel free to play along in the comments!

22 comments:

  1. Lisa C.7:29 PM

    An awesome list, i have been "lurking" for a while but not commenting- I thoroughly enjoy your posts about family. We will be welcoming our first into the world in a few months & this list just has me even more excited for what is in store. I especially can't wait for the increased patience to spill over to work ;)

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  2. The milliner7:45 PM

    Great lists Cloud. I definitely miss sleep and the ability to feel sorry for myself when I'm sick from my pre-kid life. I miss everything else (going out to eat etc) too, but sleep and sickness have been two of the hardest things to handle.

    As for what I've gained?

    An instant mood lifter. It's amazing how much and how often DS can turn my mood around just by being his smiley self.

    More efficiency at work. Amazingly, having less time means I'm getting more done.

    Greater life-work balance. I had a tendency to work much longer hours pre-kid. Now, even if I could, I don't want to.

    And yes, kid hugs are awesome. DS has just recently started actually hugging me (vs holding on/wanting to be held, but not hugging per se). Amazing

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  3. We only have the one kid right now, and he's a big 5 year old and pretty easy-going... so really none of those things on the "lost" list are lost for us. And traveling is a lot more fun. Probably with a second things will be more difficult, at least for a few years.

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  4. Thought of two things we've lost...
    1. The ability to hop into "bed" whenever we feel like it.
    2. The ability to watch shows with inappropriate themes and language.

    And we've gained a neat little person. And a lot of legos.

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  5. Love this list! I definitely agree on missing the ability to just rest when sick. I also posted yesterday how sometimes I just want an afternoon to sit on the couch, eating junk, and being lazy.

    Hugs are THE BEST - they can change my mood so quickly.

    Maybe you could write a post about the downsides/benefits of going from 1 to 2 children? :D

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  6. Oh...here's my comment about going from 1 to 2 children...it teaches you, really, that all people are different and have different strengths and weaknesses. Seriously. I thought a second kid would be no biggie since I already knew how to take care of one, but then the second kid was a different person who needed slightly different parenting. It wasn't nearly as traumatic as going from 0 kids to 1 kid, but not the breeze I imagined it would be. I even had to buy swaddling blankets! Now, I am awaiting the tranisition from 2 to 3, and I assume #3 will be neither like #1 nor like #2, but maybe somewhere in-between?

    This lesson has helped me relate to other people (why can't you do math in your head?) as well as other parents (and how they parent their kids who are totally different from mine).

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  7. Wow, I have nothing to add. I think you nailed it when you say it really has to do with pre-kid casual attitudes on sleeping, eating and traveling.

    I'm working on the Zen thing but I have discovered that I'm more patient than I thought I would be, and yes, you really really appreciate your parents after having your own kids!

    oh, sometimes when I'm stressed at work, I replay a short video on my phone of my baby laughing.

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  8. Love this list. As my children are older I will add one more - great friends.

    My four kids are ages 13-21 and they are my best friends. Kids get even better as they grow up.

    Don't believe what anyone tells you about the terrible teens. Teens are terrific.

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  9. What I've lost...

    *Personal space at home (I mostly miss the room in my bed)
    *A totally casual attitude toward my own eating (in some ways this is good, but I feel much more of a need to make a well-balanced meal, and sometimes that is stressful)
    *Practice being alone, particularly in a contemplative way. This is an important loss, but not strictly about the kid. I may just need some planned idleness once in a while.

    What I've gained...
    *So much joy. I have a great regular excuse to be silly and play, which is very good for me. I realized anew how very much I love reading aloud, and I get to do it every day and feel very self-satisfied about it. And watching my kidlet 'read' to himself has gotta be one of the best things ever.
    *Patience, sometimes. I've got a lot more of a reserve now. A LOT more. But on any given day I'm likely to have a lot more need for it, so I'm not a lot calmer.

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  10. "both kids yell and wave bye-bye when I finish breakfast and head to the shower." You're so lucky they don't follow you right on into the shower like two kids I know! ;)

    I agree about the loss of spontaneity/casual attitudes towards eat, sleep, watching TV, etc. Pretty much everything has to be planned at least a little bit.

    My kids have given me an appreciation for the way life is always changing - as in I have a keener sense of my own mortality. In a good way.

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  11. Your list is pretty close to mine.

    Again, I have to state that toddlers in snowsuits are as cute as toddlers in PJs.

    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2007/02/think-snow-and-declining-birthrates.html

    One of the things I worry about is that, as young adults segregate into a world where children are rare, they will miss witnessing the intangibles of child-rearing.

    They will be adept at identifying and quantifying the negatives of parenting. Yet, they won't be able to ID the hard to quantify positive reinforcements of parenting.

    And a society and workplace where parenthood is the exception rather than the rule will make it harder for people who can't focus entirely on work. Which will send us down an unsustainable spiral.

    I have a (part-time) job and a (small) family. But I am running as fast as I can.

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  12. Oh, so many of these are on my personal list as well! Especially the kids in pjs. And reading in bed to kids in pjs. Best part of the day.

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  13. Thanks for adding your lists, everyone! It has been fun reading what other people miss and think they've gained.

    On the second kid question- I may not be the best person to ask, since I always knew I wanted either 0 or 2 kids. There was a time when Pumpkin was a baby, though, when I questioned that, so maybe I'll write about that, and about what adjusting to 2 was like. I agree with @SarcatiCarrie- it wasn't trivial, but it wasn't anywhere near as hard as the 0 to 1 adjustment.

    @Becca- I'm totally with you on the food thing. I can't eat the cookies I want because those little eyes are watching! And yet, somehow, I've still managed to gain weight.

    @Julie- I'm always glad to hear people say the teen years aren't the terror they are rumored to be!

    @hush- I mostly get to shower alone. Go potty alone? Not so much.

    @badmomgoodmom- I agree, kids in snowsuits are cute. We've never seen our kids in snowsuits, though so the toddlers in PJs may remain our personal cute peak.

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  14. Oh sleep - what I miss is my 'morning-person-ness'. I prefer to get up do 'stuff' first thing in morning - but this has always been predicated on getting enough sleep that being up at 6am was easy! Now, it is frequently *hard* to drag my sorry ass out of bed at any time.

    I also miss how easy it was when I only really worried about the organisation of myself (and sometimes my husband when we needed to catch flights) - especially now it is so much more important to *be* organised. I feel like I have to keep so much more in my brain - and it is HARD WORK keeping everyone (including myself) fed/healthy/in clean clothes/in the appropriate place at the right time etc etc. The stakes are much higher now I have to worry about toddler meltdowns due to insufficient sleep & food ... as well as my OWN tendency to meltdown without sufficient sleep & food!!

    But the rewards are pretty good.

    Toddlers in snowsuits only just pip toddlers in pj's in the cuteness stakes for me.

    I love picking Moo up from daycare - when she spots me, bounces up and down saying 'Mummy Mummy Mummy' and then when I pick her up she grinds her finger into me and says "MY Mummy".

    There is also something beautiful about giving a sick kid cuddles on the couch - when all they want is you (even if you can't make them feel better, really). I may however, just be looking for the silver lining in being vomited on in that thought.

    Re: greater efficiency at work - I think I might have that, but unfortunately, sometimes I think I've gained a little bit *too* much perspective. I find it hard to get as pushy with other people when I don't feel like the project is all that important in the grand scheme of things and nothing needs to be built for 15 years anyway etc etc

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  15. Here's my miss list:

    Solitude.
    Autonomy.

    I'm an introvert and I need a lot of downtime, so the unrelenting demands of parenting small children has been a challenge to say the least (and I'm on my own with them quite a bit, which doesn't help).

    But OH MY GOD, the awesome list: having little kids is like making everything in your house sparkle. What I mean is that ordinary events are transformed into something magical just by their very beings. Their sweet soft kissable baby cheeks, the way they learn to stack blocks, or eat from a spoon, or start saying words (my LO yelled out a garbled I WANT PIRATE BOOTY - he's 20 months - yesterday and it was like the most hilarious thing I heard all day), my elder kid's sophisticated thoughts and feelings, the wonder of it all. We wonder every day, who are they going to become? It's so exciting. I don't think you could ever adequately explain the joy and magic of it to a non-parent, how the tiniest seeming thing is suddenly amazing. And oh my God all the laughter.

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  16. What an awesome post! Yes, the sleep... My kids are pretty far apart in age, so we have been able to regain the ability to sleep after each of the older two, only to lose it again with the next kid!

    The inability to travel a lot is hurting my professional standing and fundraising ability somewhat, but I am willing to live with it.

    Sicknesses are a real pain; it's true, once they have been in daycare for 2 years they pretty much have antibodies for everything, but getting there is a lot of missed sleep and a lot of missed work...

    But... It's all totally worth it!

    We've had kids for so long now (12 years in March) that the life without kids is really like a totally different life that I barely remember. We have grown bolder with more kids -- we now go to restaurants and on vacation with 3 kids (one baby) all the time, whereas we were completely terrified of doing so till our oldest (only kid at the time) was well into preschool years.

    Just watching children grow up is absolutely amazing -- you start with these little blobs/poop machines, within 2 months they smile and are ecstatic to see you, at 6 months they roll over and sit and grab things, at a year they walk and talk a bit and can eat cake at the birthday party!
    The super-kissable fat baby cheeks (and tummies and buts!), them laughing with their entire body. Kids' hugs and kisses are an instant mood-lift.

    I cannot tell you how awesome it is to see the older two boys dote on the baby; it totally melts my heart. And seeing the baby show pure joy at the sight of his family... And already display a sense of humor -- giggling at people making funny faces and noises!

    And I know this is a cliche, but you never ever loved anyone as much as you love your kids. I remember being a young adult and feeling so much romantic love for a certain guy that I thought it was more than anyone has ever loved anyone else in the history of humanity. (I bet most people feel this way at some point in their lives.) But it is absolutely amazing how much greater my love for my kids is than anything else I have ever felt for anybody else.

    Kids are the best thing ever.

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  17. Yes to everything here :) Love these lists.

    Sleep and loss of "alone time" have been the hardest for me. Though the silver lining is that I'm somewhat more efficient because my daughter's schedule forces me to wake up a bit earlier and get to bed at a decent hour.

    But the alone time - sometimes that KILLS me. (Hence the Mama Weekend Away I took a few weeks ago.)

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  18. "But OH MY GOD, the awesome list: having little kids is like making everything in your house sparkle. What I mean is that ordinary events are transformed into something magical just by their very beings."

    Gained: The mundane into the sublime absolutely. And being forced to just slow down. And the greatest love I've ever known, yes.

    Lost: Not much these days. Once sleep gets added back in, the rest really can be worked out. For me anyway. I'm sure I couldn't say that with more than one. Right now I'd like 30 minutes a day that wasn't before six or after 8 to exercise. Not sure it even counts as a loss since it's a new desire lol

    Great post and comments!

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  19. Thanks for this post! I've only had a baby for six months, but so far I sleep, work, relax, party and drink less. However, I love more, I am more forgiving, I am more patient, I appreciate my body more (I grew a little person, and have doubled him in weight with my milk), I am more focused. This may sound corny, but I actually feel like having a baby made me a better version of myself.

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  20. Irisevelyn4:34 AM

    This is pretty much my list, too. The sleep deprivation is killing me here though, I have a 3 month old who never sleeps more than 2 hours in a row at the moment.
    The minus for going from 1 to 2 for me is getting even less sleep than with the first as he was an infant, since my two year old needs a lot of attention, too. Also the feeling that one of them is not getting enough attention. And the problem of both of them screaming at the same time.

    The plus is definitely having them interact with each other, the bigger one "helped" me bringing the baby to bed, by sitting next to his bed and singing a goodnight song, which was just so cute. he also found out that the baby is ticklish now and tickles him and both of them laugh.
    Also maybe they'll play with each other soon and I have some more time for myself again? One can always hope...
    I also always thought I'd have either 0 or 2 kids. Now I have two, similarly spaced to yours, maybe I should read your archives for some survival tips. :-)

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  21. A beautiful, well thought out listing of the reality of having children. I loved reading this! PS: I'm popping over from Gretchen Rubin's blog. Oh, and I'm adding you to my blogroll. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Thanks @DALYCE! Welcome to my blog.

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