When you have children, your life changes in many, many different ways. Some of those changes are ones you can predict fairly easily (Lack of sleep being the main one, obviously…), but others are changes that kind of sneak up on you and take you by surprise.
I miss lazy Sunday mornings, breakfast in bed, and being able to go out for dinner without having to get the early bird special and rush home for bathtime, for instance: and all of these are things I knew would happen, and thought I was prepared for. I also miss some other, more random aspects of life BC (Before Children), though. Things like…
God, I miss silence, Possibly even more than I miss sleep, actually. See, I’m an introvert: which means I’m happy to chat, but I also need a bit of quiet time (OK, a LOT of quiet time… ) or I start to feel like I’m going a bit crazy, really.
Max, meanwhile, is a talker. He’s a really good talker for his age, actually – or so we’re told, anyway – and I’m pretty sure the reason for that is that he never shuts up. Like, EVER. Seriously, this kid even talks in his sleep: sometimes when we put him down for a nap he’ll just lie there, chatting away to himself about how he’s going to “hold” the wind turbine he can see from his window, or the fact that sheep exist, or whatever, It’s cute, sure, but it’s also kind of hard to deal with when you hit that mid-afternoon slump, and you feel like you can’t even think straight any more because of all of the talking.
I miss being able to think straight. I miss sitting in the passenger seat of the car, just looking out of the window and letting my mind drift, rather than having to constantly be all, “OH LOOK, A MOO COW! IS THAT A TRAIN? WOW, A RED CAR!” (My current Most Hated thing about travelling by car? ‘The Bus Stop Game’, in which we must all excitedly point out every single bus stop we pass. I had NO IDEA how many bus stops there were until now. I could happily have lived without my new, encyclopedic knowledge of where they all are…) I miss being able to just go about my business, without having to narrate all of my actions, in the third person. “Mummy’s just putting this mug in the dishwasher, now! Mummy’s switching the dishwasher on! Mummy’s just quietly losing her mind from the pressure to keep on talking all day long!” And so on and so forth.
Just to make matters worse, meanwhile, Terry is also a talker. I’m outnumbered, people: they have me surrounded. I might never get a moment of silence ever again. Hold me…
Eating dessert in restaurants
Or starters, Or drinking wine. Or coffee. Or doing anything other than just bolting down our meals as quickly as we possibly can, then paying up while apologising for being Those People who brought a toddler into a restaurant, what WERE they thinking?
Honestly, I don’t even know what we were thinking, on any of the occasions when we’ve tried to take Max into a restaurant. Sometimes it’s unavoidable – like on our recent trip to Bulgaria, for instance, when it was either that or starve – but there have been other times when we’ve gone to restaurants on the mistaken assumption that it’ll be fun, and no, it is not. Not even a little bit, really: because not only is there no starter or dessert course any more, because we’re doing our best to get the hell out of Dodge, as quickly as possibly, there’s also no possibility of adult conversation either, as Max requires our undivided attention, 100% of the time. One day we will eat dessert again: just… probably not any time soon. On the subject of adult conversation, though, I also miss…
Having conversations that don’t get constantly interrupted
Look, I might enjoy a bit of silence, but I don’t require it ALL the time, and sometimes – just sometimes – it would be nice to have a conversation that wasn’t interrupted every few seconds by someone wanting a snack, or wondering where the green ball is, you know? (It’s under the couch, btw. It’s ALWAYS under the couch…) I get interrupted so often now that I’ve pretty much forgotten how to finish my sentences, and just let them kind of … Wait: what was I talking about?
And in which you don’t have to think carefully before you speak
One of the consequences of Max being A Good Talker is that we now have to think really, really carefully about what we say to/in front of him. We learned this the hard way when we told him we “had to go to the bathroom” in order to persuade him to leave the hotel beach one day on holiday, and then had to walk the entire length of the resort with him shouting “WE’RE GOING TO THE BATHROOM! MUMMY AND DADDY HAVE DONE A POOP!” at everyone we met. He followed this up by loudly observing that, “THAT MAN’S GOT BIG NIPPLES,” when someone walked past in swimming trunks: which, OK, wasn’t something he’d actually heard from us, but, I dunno, maybe we could have handled his questions about what those pink things on daddy’s chest were differently? Or not?
My normal speaking voice
I used to speak like a normal person, but now I speak like this! All perky and excited about nothing! With an exclamation point at the end of every sentence! And my voice all kind of high and squeaky! I am genuinely worried that my voice will just stay like this, even when Max is older, and we don’t need to talk like children’s TV presenters all the time! Mummy wouldn’t like that, would she?! Nooooo! That would make mummy saaaaad!
Leaving the house without feeling like a pack mule
I have a whole collection of tiny little cross-body bags that are just big enough to hold my sunglasses, wallet and phone. I don’t use those bags much any more: because every time I leave the house I have to more or less take the contents of said house with me. Nappies. Wipes. Drinks. Snacks. Toys. Changes of clothes. The kitchen sink. You name it, it’s probably either in my changing bag, or stuffed into the storage section at the bottom of the pushchair: and yet somehow, every single time I go out, I STILL manage to forget something. HOW?
Sitting on the couch
We do still sit on the couch, but only when Max is in bed, and then it feels a bit weird and decadent, really, like when you’re a kid, and your dad lets you sit in the front seat of the car as a treat. When Max is awake, though, I’m normally crawling around on the floor or lying on the rug, playing his current favourite game, “Mummy Fall Down”. (Complicated rules, but the gist of it is that I “fall down” and then he jumps on me. Fun game. Not.) I have become very familiar with what my house looks like from floor level over the past few months, and, just to look on the bright side, if it wasn’t for “Mummy Fall Down”, I’d possibly never have realised that the drink Max sent flying 5 months ago was still still stuck to the underside of the coffee table. Silver linings, people, silver linings…
I started reading a new book on the flight back from Florida, in May. I finally finished it on our last night in Bulgaria, a mere four months later: and that was only because I forced myself to stay up late just to finish the freaking thing*. For context, pre-parenthood, I would regularly get through at least one book a week. I used to see people doing those ’52 books in a year’ challenges, and think, “Pshaw! That’s not a challenge: that’s just life!” Now, though, I suspect I’ll be lucky if I get to read 52 books in the rest of my life. I’ll be the elderly lady at parties 30 years from now going around saying to people, “Hey, did you hear there’s a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale? I can’t wait to read it!”
(It wasn’t even a particularly good book, to be honest, it’s just that, well, there was a mysterious old house, and of course, it had a secret, and even although I was pretty sure I’d guessed what the secret was – and, indeed, I HAD – I just had to be sure. I started another book right after that, but I guess I’ll have to wait until we book another holiday to find out what kind of secret the mysterious old house in that one is harbouring…)
Going out in the evenings
I’m not talking about going to clubs, or bars, or whatever else it is that people generally do outside their houses in the evenings, because, let’s face it, I didn’t really do those things BEFORE I had Max, so it’s not like I’m going to miss them. It would be nice, though, to be able to go somewhere and not have to be home by 6:30pm to start the bedtime routine. I mean, a few weeks ago we were leaving my parents’ house after a visit, and Terry commented on the fact that it was still light outside. “It’s 4pm, Terry,” I pointed out. “What did you expect?” The thing is, though, when you’ve been up since the butt-crack of dawn, you kind of expect the day to be over by 4 o’clock, don’t you? But it’s not: and that realisation can be a cruel one, some days…
Eating without sharing
Yeah, I know, it’s mean and horrible of me, but, much like the great Joey Tribbiani from Friends, Amber does not share. Or, at least, not willingly, anyway: these days, of course, I have to share pretty much everything with Max, because it doesn’t matter what I’m eating, he will want it. Even if he’s eating exactly the same thing at the time, he will literally put down his food in order to get to mine. So, these days, Amber shares. And speaks about herself in the 3rd person, apparently?
Weekends and holidays
They still exist, obviously – they just no longer have any meaning for you now that you have kids, and are getting up at 6am, regardless of whether it’s a Sunday or a Monday, a bank holiday or a random Thursday in February. You will go through the same routine, in the same way, no matter where you are or what else you have to do. Other people will talk gleefully about their plans for the weekend, and you’ll just laugh hollowly, knowing that YOUR plans for the weekend involve exactly the same things as your plans for the rest of the week/month/year/your life. On the plus side, at least you won’t ever wake up with a hangover the morning after a bank holiday, because you’ll have gone to bed at 9pm, so you can get up at the usual ungodly hour of the morning. You have parenthood to thank for that: and, of course, for all of the other weird and occasionally wonderful ways in which your life changes when you have kids.