On Being a Parent: My Guide Book

It happens to each of us when they hand us those squirmy wrinkled little balls of blubber called newborns, we immediately become parents.  There is no class.  There is no manual.  There is only whatever YOU have done to prepare yourself for the nanosecond that your child is handed to you and becomes totally and completely all your problem.

I always wanted to be a mom.  I mean I love kids.  Always loved babysitting and never minded changing diapers.  Watching and playing with kids was always so much more fun than work.  My attitude was very much ‘how hard could it be?’.  Like seeing someone with a hysterical baby in the line at Target.  Something inside my pre-parenting brain always made me look at the offensive child’s parent out of the corner of my eye to see what kind of neglectful idiot would take such an obnoxious child out in public.  That’s right.  I judged.  But in that nanosecond I could no longer cast that sideways glance…cause it was bound to happen to me someday.  As much as I always wanted to be a part of the club there was no way of ever knowing just how difficult it was going to be.
So I went back into my archives to figure out just what (if anything) I had learned over the past 12 months, hoping to impart on you faithful readers some of my Mama wisdom.  P.S. If you click on the ‘titles’ they will take you back to past blog posts of mine.  
Month One – Sleep is for P@#$ies – That’s right.  Who needs to sleep?  Those first few days home are like the first few days of a love affair.  You’re so cuckoo crazy about this new little person that you can’t bear to be apart from them for a second, let alone close your eyes, for fear of missing some precious moment between the two of you.  And then, the oxytocin wears off and you’re just frakking exhausted.  At this point ‘They’ tell you to sleep when your baby sleeps.  To take it easy, leave the house disgusting and don’t worry about showering.  ‘They’ are stupid.  There’ll be plenty of time to sleep when you kids go off to college.  Do ‘They’ care that they don’t have any clean underwear?  Do ‘They’ think the dishes are going to wash themselves?  Maybe ‘They’ have a Rosie the Robot like the Jetsons to do all their work for them?  I think ‘They’ need to grow a pair…or maybe ‘They’ have kick ass MIL’s.
At least someone was sleeping
Month Two – Breastfed Babies Should be Fed BEFORE Going into Public.  This is a practical issue that Mamas with formula-fed babies don’t even remotely have to consider.  They whip a bottle out of their diaper bag and BAM! Instant calm.  However a Baby on the Boob needs to have a full stomach before you attempt any manner of errands big or small.  Their little baby stomachs are only the size of their fist.  They need to be fed constantly.  So you better have a pretty tight grocery list together too.  The days of lingering in the International Food aisle and browsing soup labels for the least amount of sodium are over.  This lesson was learned the hard way.  Literally whipping out the boob in the shoe department at Meijer.  It could have been worse though, at least there’s a bench in the shoe department.  And when I got home I STILL didn’t have everything we needed for the week.  Probably forget something essential like toilet paper. It does get better and eventually you can go out for longer and their little tummies can hold more, but really, always wear something that always you to easily access the Boob.  I’m still wearing nursing bras…
I will be pissed if I don’t eat soon…
Month Three – Cloth Diapers Rule.  No, really, they do.  You’re already doing laundry.  What’s one more load every other day or so?  And there are so many options in the cloth diapering world I’m still trying to figure out why in the world anyone uses disposables.  Oh, wait, right, cause of the billions of dollars in marketing that the diaper industry spends every year to get us to use these obscenely expensive little earth destroyers.  But I digress.  The cloth diaper world is pretty damn addictive.  They’re constantly adding new patterns and colors and technology.  And yes, it’s a piece of fabric that covers your child’s ass and collects their waste, but they can be sooooo damn cute.  And you know what, even with my slight obsession with fluffy butt covers, I have spent less total than I would have spent in 6 months last year.  And I’m done.  I don’t need any more diapers for Cedella and hopefully can use her first ones for Baby #2.  How cool is that?  Imagine what you could do with all that extra diaper money…  
GroBaby & Sofie what a crunchy combo
Month Four – Always Wear Stretchy Pants on the Train or else you face a big old disaster when you try to pull up your pants while holding your infant in a moving vehicle.  This one would have been really helpful to know before getting on the train with Cedella by myself.  But now you can apply this to your own travel adventures.  Other helpful travel tips?  Check out how to install you car seat in a cab on Youtube before you go.  Get a map of whatever public transport you’re going to be using and make sure you locate all the handicap entrances and exits, otherwise you’ll be carrying your child, diaper bag and giant stroller up and down several flights of stairs.  Don’t plan on visiting the zoo when it looks like it’s going to rain.  Protest marches can be a fantastic learning opportunity.  But really, the most important tip?  Don’t schedule too much, relax and have fun.       
Taking some time to just relax in Chicago
Month Five – The Bathroom is no longer Your Sanctuary.  It’s sad but true.  What used to be a lovely place to go and get some quality reading done or grab a quick game or two of Jeopardy on your iPhone, has now become the room you spend the least amount of time in.  There is no loitering allowed.  Hurry up and do your business cause if you’re in there too long someone WILL interrupt you.  And well, that just sucks.  There is no privacy here and poop is now a regular topic of discussion between you and your husband.  Whuck?!  That’s right.  Sexiness and mystery have left the building and have been replaced by flatulence and a constant need to say “TMI”.  

Month Six – Camping with a Baby can be Fun.  And if you plan it right, you know, like weekend full of thunderstorms, your child may sleep through the night for once.  We thought our tent was going to float away and/or be struck by lightning, and Cedella slept through the whole damn thing.  Could have been all the fresh air or having a busy day full of new experiences.   Maybe she just really digs storms.  As long as you come prepared to keep the baby occupied and safe and again, not do too much, then your camping trip can be pretty damn cool.  Really it’s never too early to get your kids into nature, right?
All the fresh lake air makes me sleepy…
Month Seven – Martha Stewart can Suck It Cause Nobody’s House is THAT Clean.   Really…this probably doesn’t need much more explanation than that.  Your baby is only your baby for such a brief time.  Are you going to remember how little dust were on your bookshelves or are you gonna remember the first time you took your baby to the beach?  What’s it gonna be?  I’d rather have a messy (not disgusting but messy) house and tons of great memories of spending time with my kids.  All that time cleaning you could be spending teaching your child to love the outdoors, develop their imagination or just be silly and dance to the Beastie Boys for a little while. 
Making memories at Lake Huron
Month Eight – Your Child is the Cutest Child in the Entire World and no one can ever take that away from you.  Also, you take much better pictures than the weirdos at Sears that charge you a pint of blood for each half decent shot.  A baby is going to be way more comfortable and smiley with you than with a stranger in a strange place.  So while I’ve seen some beautiful baby and family pics done by real photographers (that I’m sure cost more like a liter of blood per excellent shot) the best photos of your child are the ones you take when you’re just enjoying each other and not forcing something to occur that just isn’t gonna happen.  

Month Nine – Your Birthday and all Subsequent Holidays are No Longer About You and that’s ok.  Cause it’s your baby’s first everything and it’s your 32 time around this track.  Besides, who wants to have a party when you’re turning 30-something?  That’s not worth celebrating.  You know what is?  The first time your daughter has a donut.  Now that is milestone.  32…not so much.  And don’t worry that your family people don’t notice you or say hello when you come into the house.  She’s kind of a big deal.  Just think of it like being the mother of Lindsey Lohan Brittany Spears Miley Cyrus Selena Gomez (she’s still a virgin right?).  Cedella is a super star.  Glad I learned this already, to save myself years of embarrassing myself trying to steal her spotlight (a la Mrs. Lohan, Spears & Cyrus). 
Month Ten – Mamas Need Friends Too.  Life as a SAHM in a new city is lonely.  You need need need need NEED to have people (preferably women) to talk to.  You need someone to connect with, to commiserate with, to suffer and triumph with.  I can’t even remotely believe it took this many months in the trenches before finding someone to hang with.  Just because you’re a Mama doesn’t mean you have to stay locked up in the house and never have a social life again. I am so thankful and happy to have met Leslie and her beautiful baby Anna.  I can’t imagine how crazy, fat and bored I would be without them!       
Month Eleven – Christmas Morning is for Starting Traditions.  Those things we do each and every holiday, whether it is the food we eat, the activities we do or who we spend our time with, had to start somewhere.  Those traditions started with your grandparents, your parents or your besties choosing to make something their own.  We’ve taken from these things to make our own Christmas.  Cutting down our tree, decorating it while listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas album, making Breakfast pizza and opening gifts in our jammies.  These are our new/old traditions.  The ones that we hope to continue for many many years to come.  Adding more traditions as we add more children, as they grow older, as we move through this life.  These are the little things that make our family Our Family.  
Christmas Morning Pajama Family
Month Twelve – Parenting is a Constant Work in Progress.  If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned this.  You are always changing, you are always growing, you are always having to readjust and relearn.  The trick of being a parent?  Being fluid…going with the flow.  And more important than anything else, take the time to step back and breathe it all in cause if ‘They’ are right about one thing (and that’s all I’ll give ‘Them’) it’s that time does indeed fly.

You Know What I Really Miss?

My bathroom.  It’s not that I don’t visit the bathroom often.  It’s not like I haven’t taken a shower in a while. But what was once a sanctuary, a place to go and unwind and relax, is now simply a drive-thru.  And well, I want my peaceful little place back.

My mother has said for years that she hasn’t gone to the bathroom by herself for decades.  My siblings and I have always thought she was joking.  We used to get so irritated with her as she would holler at us from behind the bathroom door.  She still does this.  When asked why she can’t just wait to talk to us after she’s exited the john?  Because we would just interrupt her alone time anyways.  I never understood this until I became a mother.

You see, while we were growing up, my sister and brother and I (just 5 years apart between the three of us) could not possibly have waited until Mommy had flushed to get help with our homework or whether we could spend the night at a friends house or to have her get our toy back from our brother/sister.  All of these things were far more pressing than Mom having a private moment in the most private of all rooms of the house.  I remember it got to a point where she wouldn’t even close the door anymore.  She knew she would get barged in on so she left the door open and conducted her private business while negotiating with three little terrorists children.  Thankfully she began mostly closing the door when we became teenagers, but there was always a crack open just in case.

Which brings me to my current dilemma.  I can’t think of the last time I shut the door completely when I went into the bathroom.  Not to shower, not to pee, not to take a shit.  I caught myself the other day home alone with Cedella.  I had just put her down upstairs for a nap and gone into the bathroom.  I guess I hadn’t thought about the fact that Michael would be coming home for work, but when the front door opened and closed with the obligatory slam (my husband is a bit heavy-handed with doors)  I panicked and tried to lean over and close the bathroom door.  For a proper visual, let’s picture this:  my pants are around my ankles, there is an iPhone perched precariously on my ‘lap’ and the door is wide open, it’s handle probably four feet away.  I lean with all my might and am able to wiggle my way off the seat enough to grab the handle without getting any of my clothing wet and closing the door mere seconds before my lovely husband gets to the top of the stairs.  Whew!  That was close.

It was after that panicked moment that I realized what my Mom was going through.  I thought of the way I have begun showering with one ear open and without a bit of enjoyment, and of course with all the lovely steam escaping through the fully open door.  How I used to think of the toilet as my own little reading nook.  Many a novel had been finished, giving me that funny red ring around the cheeks, on the porcelain throne.  It seems normal that this is no longer a private act, that the only alone time I have in the bathroom comes in the middle of the night.  But why did I freak when Michael almost busted me with the door open the other day?  It was like for five minutes, the old Me came out.  Single, childless, self-absorbed Me.  The Me that would NEVER dream of leaving the door open while washing my hands let alone doing my duty (pun intended).  It’s not that I have some kind of complex, I just think bathroom stuff isn’t sexy and really doesn’t need to be shared with the person you’re sleeping with (even if they are your husband).

That seemed to have changed when I got pregnant and has been completely obliterated since we’ve had Cedella.  During my first trimester when I constantly felt like puking and could bust out a SBD (silent but deadly) without warning, the bathroom door was being used too much to be closed.  After that, the frequent pit stops of a shrinking bladder kept the door open.  Then we moved into our new house with a bathroom on each floor and both of us felt the luxury of not having to wait for a stall to open up.  Plus the door doesn’t really close all the way anyways (damn 1920’s house).  And inevitably as soon as I’m alone in the shower Michael can’t find his hat or Cedella needs to be nursed.  Or there’s any manner of question that needs to be answered immediately the second I pull my pants down.  Or there’s a little monkey in a bouncy seat directly across from me as I try to hurry up and slap some spackle on my face and perhaps run my fingers through my hair before she gets bored.

Either way and for whatever reason I feel that the era of lengthy visits to the commode has officially ceased and I am grieving the end.  So until my child(ren) leave the nest I will be dreaming of a huge marble tiled room with soft lighting and a soaker tub with candles and Lush bath bombs everywhere.  A vintage vanity with a big round mirror and a petite little stool for me to perch on as I paint my face.  A steam shower with a built-in bench where a woman can sit down to shave her legs.  Or more realistically a quiet room with a door that shuts, a big old roll of double ply and a juicy paperback.  A mama can dream, no? But until then, one girl rules the salle de bain…

My little bathing beauty

P.S. I consulting with my husband on this post he thought that ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’ and ‘dropping it like it’s hot’ weren’t very ladylike.  Yet ‘taking a shit’ and ‘doing my duty’ were perfectly acceptable.  WTF?!  It was a pretty hilarious conversation.