Friendship and Paper Plates

Being a new parent can be a very isolating experience. Right after the baby is born friends and family come by to poke and coo and to bring a noisy toy that will likely become the bane of your existence. But not long after the visits start to drop off. Friends that don’t have kids would rather go out on Friday night than sit and talk to you about how many times your baby pooped that day. And who can blame them? Friends that do have kids have their own families to worry about. Even family goes home eventually and gets back to their lives. After awhile it is just you and that baby at 3:00 in the morning. (Before my husband serves me with divorce papers I have to qualify that he got up at night too with the baby, but at 3 AM nobody is good company.)

Before I had kids I was a fairly social person. I loved having friends over for dinner or drinks or for a BBQ. So it was something that I really missed after I had the twins because it wasn’t so easy to do anymore. Dinner parties are a little tricky when they interfere with bedtime and quite honestly once the kids were asleep entertaining was the last thing on my mind. 

The other problem was that I was a bit of a perfectionist when it came to having people over. The house had to be clean, the table set, the food ready, everything in order and… perfect. Once I had kids, the pursuit of perfection was unattainable. Forget about trying to clean the house while three kids play dress up, fire station and school bus all at the same time. Forget about trying to cook something that doesn’t come out of a box without greasy kid fingers poking at it. Forget about putting out the wine glasses from our wedding or god forbid, a table-cloth! Although it doesn’t really matter because there are only three wine glasses left anyway.

Trying to live up to pre-kid standards was exhausting to think about let alone to try and achieve. This is how I entered the isolation tank. The one that I would enter upon returning from work on Friday night and exit on Monday morning when I left for work. It looked a lot like my house.

But after a while a funny thing started to happen. I started to realize that I really liked being around other people. People who are not my kids or my spouse. And my kids liked to be around other people, that are not me or my spouse. So I realized I had to change my standards because all the cleaning and prep and preciseness just wasn’t fun or realistic anymore. I just wanted company, conversation and food that didn’t start with mac and end with cheese. 

Now I might be giving myself away but I have a new-found respect for potlucks, paper plates and storage closets. A potluck means good friends and good food that I didn’t have to make and answering the door looking semi-fresh because I am not red-faced and sweaty from a cleaning/cooking frenzy. Paper plates means little to no clean up and almost anything can be stuffed into a storage closet for a couple of hours. These little “modifications” give me the time and opportunity to be with friends, to enjoy them and to enjoy myself.

Bad Mommy

We have all had those days. Bad Mommy days. Those days when I wonder why I wasn’t required to get a license before I was allowed to have children. I have had many of those days. Juggling kids, marriage, work and life it is just inevitable that at the end of the day I ponder the irreparable damage I have done to my children and think “Well, I guess that is what therapy is for.”

Oh let me see! Let me recount some of my finest moments as a Bad Mommy. There was the day when I was late and in a hurry. I threw my keys on the passenger seat of the mini van. I got all the kids belted into their car seats. I slid the door to the van closed. Then I realized that my son had been playing with the door locks. After I screamed and kicked the garage wall I then tried to convince my 2 1/2-year-old to unbuckle his car seat and open the door. Then I thought… it might not be the best idea to teach my 2 1/2-year-old how to get out of his car seat. But hey, they were only in there for 45 minutes.

Not long after I locked all three of my children in the van I was once again leaving the house in a hurry with them in the car. I proceeded to back into the pole in the garage denting the door and leaving a long red paint streak. I had to ignore my inquisitive childrens’ question “What was that mommy?” for fear that the only thing that would escape my mouth would be a long blood curdling scream.

The day that my daughter cried and fussed all day and I was at my wit’s end. I found myself bending over and pointing at her cute little sparkly kitty shirt and telling her “Oh look, you have a kitty on your shirt! Do you want to cry about that too?” I believe her response was “Yes.”

One day I got a call at noon from daycare telling me that I forgot to put bottles in the baby’s bag. I quickly made a plan to run to the store, buy a bottle and take it to her. I rushed out to the car and realized that I had left the headlights on and my battery was dead.

Then there are the days when the kids tell you just what kind of parent you have been.

My son recently asked me to get a sherry glass out of the cabinet so he could “have wine like mommy.”

A couple of days ago my daughter, who looked sweet and sleepy in her fleece pj’s was attempting to open the door to let the dog out. She turned to me and said “I can’t get the frickin’ door open.” I asked her where she heard that. She didn’t have a response so I am pretty sure it wasn’t from me.

Last weekend my son was skipping down the aisle of a plant nursery happily singing “Ga dimmit! Ga dimmit!” I told him “I don’t want you to say that. That is not a nice thing to say.” At that point he proceeded to give me the hand and indignantly yell “Let my say ga dimmit mommy!” I have to admit that I do know where he heard that but I am going to point the finger in a different direction.

My 16 month old is missing both of her front teeth and I have no idea how or when they broke off. All I know is that I am going to have a lot of explaining to do when she looks back on her school pictures and wants to know what happened and why I allowed anyone to take her picture.

Yes, there are days when I wonder just what kind of damage I am doing to my children and so many times when I think I have been a Bad Mommy. But man! I love my kids and they know it! And hopefully, that will be enough to keep the therapy bills down.