You know your life has taken a strange turn when vacuuming becomes a celebratory event. What I mean is when you get terribly excited that you have finally nailed down the extra time to clean the carpet of its mass collection of cookie crumbs, cracker fragments, and other tiny unmentionables that crunch under foot then you have most likely found yourself living in a period of your adult life that is now solely devoted to keeping your small children alive, entertained, and maybe some extra stuff like teaching life lessons when time and circumstance allows.
If you find yourself anticipating the arrival home from work of your co-parent and partner in this mad race to bedtime like you used to look forward to Christmas or your birthday as a kid then you most definitely exist in a parental world where raising children occupies approximately 95% of all your energies, thoughts, and goals for the day.
When the other parent finally arrives to spell you and you race to the other room to do absolutely nothing like it’s the most exciting plan you have formulated in years then you might just be living in Toddler Town or Kidsville, or even worse The City of Newborn.
This arrival to the planet of child, where although kids don’t rule per se, but definitely dominate the allotment of time and resources, is a much anticipated stage of life. Many a young couple dream of walking hand-in-hand, mom cradle-carrying an infant, and dad with a young tot on his shoulders as they frolic through a field of daisies. They can almost hear the soothing soundtrack that accompanies this picturesque vision of parenting splendor.
Years later they find themselves cutting a sideways glance at their spouse as they lay exhausted on the sofa after dinner, baths, and bedtime. They try not to speak aloud of the day’s adventurous trek taken haphazardly through that field of flowers they saw and just had to try and picnic in. They’ll try to forget the day’s outing that started two hours late after finally getting everyone fed, dressed, and pottied. They’ll wince at memories of children whining to go home 15 steps into the walk, and how they finally settled for a picnic spot where the three year old chose so as to prevent any more emotional outbursts. The picnic sandwiches would have been soaked by an overturned container of juice that no one knows who opened and left the top loose prior to leaving. If a soundtrack was present it was probably Disney’s Frozen. Again. They sadly know every “nail on chalkboard” word.
The existence within the thick of parenthood is a little different from any preconceived notions. Things that once were important will no longer exist.
Time alone. I’m sorry, what?
Things that didn’t matter at all will suddenly be very important. Growth charts and percentiles. First everything. First smile, laugh, word, steps, peepee in the toilet. Yes, if you find yourself clapping over someone else’s ability to poop in the commode you have entered that place. If you share it excitedly with other people then you most definitely are there.
When you do get there or as you find yourself there right this minute you will soon or perhaps have already discovered that it is almost like being reborn, meaning the old self, the way you used to be is no more. It has to make room for the new. If it does not agree to this parental metamorphosis then you will likely suffer a mental breakdown. Either that, or you will find yourself in misery on a daily basis.
If you enjoy a clean house then you will be in for disappointment. Your house will never be completely clean when children reside there. It can be picked-up. It can be straightened-up. It can be to the point that no one will die in an avalanche. But that’s about as good as it will get. No more than that. If you do manage to rid the home of children long enough to thoroughly clean the premises I must tell you, it will be for naught. When they return your unrealistic facade of cleanliness will crumble. I am sorry.
If you used to enjoy large projects that took more than a day’s worth of your time to complete than I must break it to you that this can be no more. Not while they are small at least. You will not be able to take your eyes off of them for a minute. Seriously. You might want to get frustrated when you forget this fact and try to do something, anything productive. You will want to pull your hair out and scream when you look up and see wet, dirty, naked bohemians in place of your sweet children who are normally content to sit in one place and play with a toy. They are content until you start something. Then they become adventurous. Or hungry. Or sleepy. Or whatever.
It’s okay to get frustrated and desire for a moment the life of freedom to shop, garden, read, or even poop in solitude that you once held. It’s ok. Scream a little on the inside (or outside). Then go collect the toddler out of the tree and admit defeat of your personal project.
Now this part is very important. It is almost the most difficult to accept for many. There might be a term you used to describe your passions, pursuits, or fruits of your labor in the past. That word was “perfect.” That word is a four letter word in parenting. In fact, you must pretend that it no longer exists. If it helps you, imagine that “perfect” is an old college friend who passed away. You will not see them again on this side of existence. Accept that fact and move on.
Any imagined perfectionism associated with parenting prior to entering the fold is ill-advised to strive for as a reality. It’s unobtainable and efforts to succeed in this false state are fruitless. And terribly disappointing.
No task will be as imagined. Not as easy or as moldable to your ideal. Whether it’s teaching ABCs, potty training, or decorating the most adorable little girl’s room Pinterest has ever seen it will never turn out as planned. Why? We plan it in our heads a little too close to perfect. Perfect is dead, remember?
It’s okay. Grieve for your old pal, then move on. You’ll be a lot happier when you do. Because as you settle back and let the current of chaos take you for a ride something very strange will happen. You’ll take a look around at your beautiful, crazy life and realize that it’s about as close to perfect as you could have ever hoped for or imagined. Every perfectly imperfect moment will be counted as joy in the grand scheme of life with kids. They say one day we’ll miss it, and I’m quite certain this is true.