When I was a new mom in 2003, I had the luxury of being able to stay home full time with my son when he arrived. Before he came, I envisioned long afternoons of cuddling and bonding, making gourmet meals for my husband and catching up on all of the books on my night stand that had gone ignored while I worked full time. It was going to be fabulous….
….and then our son got here.
Those long afternoons of cuddling were actually marathon sessions of feedings, diaper changes, bounce walking and repeating. The books on my nightstand became dustier and covered with pacifiers, extra diapers and parenting books (that didn’t get read, either). And gourmet meals? Uhm, yeah. We relied on the kindness of neighbors in those first few weeks: the people who brought us food instead of baby gifts were (and still are) our favorite people. Nothing said, “We know what you are going through” like a home cooked meal (and if they came bearing a bottle of wine? I kissed them full on the mouth).
After herculean efforts by both myself and my husband, we established a routine and we stuck to it like glue. Everyone in the house functioned better if they knew what was going to happen next. Me? I focused on getting to the end zone: bedtime. The days became weeks and the weeks became months. Truly, each day was a lot like the one before it and I kind of suspected that the next day was going to be a lot of the same.
Monotony was the name of the game and this brings me to The Phrase I Used To Hate.
I used to hear The Phrase I Used To Hate an awful lot in the grocery store. It was often uttered by a smiling elderly lady or by another mom who clearly had gotten rid of her children as evidenced by the fact that they were not with her but her grocery cart would be filled with organic milk, Popsicles and juice boxes (that, and she’d have make up on…). They would see me wandering in the aisle, sleep deprived, sans makeup and pony tail clad and they tilt their head and coo, wait for it, “Awww, I miss those days….”.
Usually, The Phrase I Used To Hate was accompanied by some story about when their children were little and they would smile ruefully at me and walk away. I would stare after them and think to myself that there is no way that I would miss feeling so tired that I want to throw up. There’s no way I would miss considering adding breast milk to coffee because we are out of milk. I couldn’t possibly imagine “missing these days” because I still kind of missed my old “child free world”. When the Phrase I Used To Hate Was uttered, I always resisted the urge to say to these women, “Hey, lady, I have cuticles that are almost covering my fingernails and my toes haven’t had a pedicure in months. Why don’t you take this little bundle of joy and relive the glory days while this mama goes to see her manicurist?” I’m proud to say that I didn’t actually say these words out loud….but I came close once or twice.
As all parents will tell you, things get easier as the years go by. The kids got older, became actual little people and things became just plain fun (for the most part….potty training does NOT count). Life became a busy jumble of soccer games, track practice, school activities and scouts. The day that we realized that we had gone on a day trip to NYC without a stroller, baby bag or diapers, we felt like we had arrived. Those sleep deprived days had become a distant memory.
Recently, I was in the grocery store, buying organic milk, Popsicles and juice boxes while my kids were at school (ahem, yes, you can see where this is going….). As I wandered the aisle, I came upon a mom and a newborn in an infant carrier. Nestled in pink and with a face of an angel, I was taken aback at how serenely beautiful a sleeping baby is and without thinking, I said, “Aww, I miss those days…”. And I meant it. Oh dear. I used The Phrase I Used To Hate on an unsuspecting victim. If she’s reading, my sincere apologies: I didn’t see it coming either.
As I walked away from her (I can report that I stopped myself from telling her that my daughter had once been that small), I realized that while I didn’t miss the monotony of those early months, I missed the simplicity of my days. I missed the fact that our days revolved around Sesame Street, nap time and the next bottle. There was so much less expectation when you had a newborn: you couldn’t go anywhere easily and no one really expected you to. But, now that my kids are easily portable, we are on the run constantly and our days are a chaotic jumble and very few resemble each other. We’ve traded monotony for chaos.
A dear friend is having a baby very shortly and while I’m excited for her, I’m also a tiny bit sad because it reminds me of a time gone by in our house. I can’t wait to hold that tiny bundle, get a good whiff of new baby smell and reminisce. But, I promise, that, when I’m dropping off a lasagna that will feed them for a week, I will only say The Phrase I Used To Hate quietly to myself. That, and I will make sure she gets out to have a mani/pedi while I watch that sweet angel.