Saturday, May 09, 2009

Worlds Apart - Happy Mother's Day!

I noticed a friend's status on Facebook that referenced returning from her recent trip with her husband and how she was relaxed, massaged, tanned, exercised, exfoliated, and manicured. Obviously upon reading that my first feeling was that of jealousy, I mean who wouldn't want to feel that good and to have had some time away from work and regular life. But then my next thought was, OMG, I have never felt more opposite of all that. I am NOT relaxed, I could use a massage, some exfoliation and a manicure like no one's business. Don't even get me started on how pale I'm looking and exercise, ha! I am sooooooo not exercised these days unless you count the 3 kid shuffle I do every morning.

You may have already guessed that this FB friend doesn't have kids. Well, duh. Anyone who has young kids (or has had them) will tell you that when you have kids, you will rarely, if ever, feel those things one at a time, let alone ALL at the same time. Seeing her status (and FTR, I am happy for her and her husband, they are very nice people and this is just their thing so I'm not judging her at all!) just made me realize what completely different worlds parents and non-parents live in. You tell someone before kids that it will change their lives and they always respond something like, "Yeah, I know....blah blah blah." But you know what, they really don't unless they've actually taken care of a young child for an extended period of time.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my grad assistant about her weekend she spent with her boyfriend's brother and his wife and toddler child. My GA is just amazing and it was so great to hear her say how after spending some truly quality hours with the mom and child that she never realized how many things a mother has to balance with a young child. She said that while she's babysat for a long time and works with children on a regular basis, she never realized how much work "around the clock" care is. She even told me she realized after that weekend she knows she's not quite ready yet.

I remember thinking when Caroline was on her way that I understood life would change. I remember thinking that we really wouldn't have to change that much in that we were never really big travellers or big spenders so those wouldn't be habits we had to part with. We also weren't exactly into the bar scene and were perfectly happy to stay home on the weekends, I guess in that respect those weren't the most drastic changes to our lives. However, I think that a lot of couples associate the loss of those types of things as what the "change" is people refer to happening after you have a child. But that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Yeah, you hardly ever get to go out anymore and you're more excited about spending a week at the beach with your extended family then you ever were about going on some exotic trip to a tropical island but that's not where the real change has occurred. The real change that has occurred is what has changed inside you. Your complete perspective on things have changed. Things that used to be important are completely forgotten and all of a sudden you've spent 30 minutes online finding the best price (and free shipping) on diapers and you're HAPPY about it. What has happened to you??

I think I notice this extreme difference in the 2 worlds when I look at some of the FB profiles of the students I worked with my first few years out of grad school. They are only 3-5 years younger than me, so not really much younger in the grand scheme of things, but the difference is vast. The amount of time they have to commit to exercise is unreal and I'm totally envious. And then I get angry because all you ever hear is how important it is to take care of yourself and I want to yell back at the health gurus that healthy living books and magazines were NOT written for parents of multiple young children.

But then I calm down and remind myself that this is a finite period of time and that my children will not always be this young (or this cute) and I need to enjoy every second. My wardrobe might be in terrible shape because I NEVER have time to shop, my nails are just filed down to keep them from scratching Piper when I'm changing her, and my idea of a spa treatment is to let Caroline brush my hair, but I really do love my kids.

So on this Mother's Day, I want to say that while I wish I was feeling as rested and toned as a non-mother, I'll take the less than fashionable and not as well groomed look of a mom since it comes with 3 pretty cool sidekicks. And I want to make a wish that any non-mother out there who eventually wants children in her life, has that chance to become one of "us" because in the end it's the love you'll remember and not the exhausted, aggravated, overworked days. It's a different world, but at least we get to eat Macaroni and Cheese once a week.


Bracken said...

Very thoughtful post.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to a wonderful mother. May you enjoy all the wonderful things your children bring to you and the thought of potential relaxation in the future. HA HA!

Jammie J. said...

Happy Mother's Day to you, Erika. I love reading your words, you have such an honest way of making your point. :)

From a kid-free house (not by choice), I don't know how you manage to do all that you do. I was told once by a wise friend when I was facing a huge job change that somehow you just manage to do it, probably because you just have less time to worry about doing it.