I was sitting with my family at a restaurant. The dinner plates were cleared, and as I sat there, I had a revelation: This was the first time in six years that we didn’t scramble out of a restaurant as fast as the check came. This was the first time in six years we lingered and didn’t feel anxious about the mess, the noise, the chaos that my children normally create. We reached a milestone! My 6,5 and 3-year-old were all coloring and chatting with us about their lives. Chatting! I thought the day would never come that we would have a relaxed dinner out with the kids.
Then, I looked over at the poor schmucks in the booth next to us with a screaming toddler and a baby crying in a car seat. I wanted to reach over and put my hand on the mama’s shoulder and say: “Don’t give up. Your future’s so bright—and (semi) tantrum-free, you’ll have to wear shades!” There are some great accomplishments to come in your future. Here are a few tiny improvements that I noticed over the last few months.
1.) My scrubs are clean when I arrive to work. No peanut butter fingerprints, milk leakage or wet tears can be found anywhere. It’s so nice to not change outfits in my car after I leave the house (because you never notice the grubby marks until you are already running late, right?)
2.) Sleep is awesome! I am a new person now that all of my children sleep through the night.
3.) I can have a conversation with a grownup, uninterrupted. The constant barrage of needs and wants of your children lessen as they become more independent. I remember when I had a fifteen-minute phone conversation with my sister and was shocked that none of my children cried or sustained a bruise while I was occupied.
4.) The floor underneath my dining room table does not look like a war zone after every meal. I hated getting on the floor to pick off dried macaroni with my fingernail. Now, a good mopping once a week is sufficient.
5.) No more bags! Diaper bag, pump, purse and lunch all precariously balanced on one arm, and the other trying to hang on to a wiggly baby. It’s such a circus act! I now carry only my purse, and my back thanks me daily!
6.) New adventures! Sometimes, the idea of packing up all the gear that is needed for babies and toddlers would be our limiting factor in going somewhere cool. Now, we can take them anywhere their little legs can carry them. Going on a hike or a bike ride is so much more fun now that they can carry their own weight.
7.) Movies! I always avoided going to the theater because of obvious reasons: tantrums, dirty diapers, sleep schedules. Now, it’s such a treat to go to the movies with my girls. Even when my 5-year-old stood up in the middle of the theater and shouted, “Why did he make a lie!” during Frozen (That was actually my favorite part!)
8.) I once tried to calculate all of the hours I spent nursing. Then, I started to cry. It has its sweet moments, but it’s so stinking time consuming. I was happy to be through that phase.
9.) Speaking of nursing, I don’t have to rush home after a shift anymore because of painful engorgement. Even if I was able to squeeze in pumping, it was never enough. And if I was going to avoid another embarrassing leakage moment, there was no other option than to drive home and beeline it up to the nursery. I can now leave work without any fears of milk leakage.
10.) No … more … diapers. Enough said!
I definitely am a nostalgic person; I do miss so many aspects of having babies and toddlers around. And then, when I find myself around another couple who’s going through that phase, I wonder how we ever got through it! Raising children is not a task for the weak-hearted. It takes guts. It takes endurance.
Every phase has its difficulties and triumphs, but there’s something about being sleep deprived and having your hormones out of whack that makes the baby years especially demanding. Keep your head up; appreciate the small moments and look forward to the time when you can enjoy dinner at a restaurant without a diaper change to punctuate dessert. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
Rachael Jarman, PA-C, works in the ER of a busy Minneapolis hospital and as a pre-PA admissions coach, and occasionally, as a guest lecturer for PA programs in Minnesota. She is a graduate of Philadelphia University’s PA program.