I always knew that I would have kids one day. There was never a question about it. Coming from a large, extended family, I was used to being surrounded by kids and learned early on to change diapers, wipes faces and test the temperature of baby food on my bottom lip before offering the spoon to whichever child I may have been feeding at the time.
By the time I was 10, I was a mother’s helper for a neighbor and by the next year, I was in high demand as a babysitter. I loved being around babies and planned to have at least three of my own one day.
Then one day came and I gave birth to my first child. It was a challenging birth (which means I vomited between every contraction and hemorrhaged after it was over.) Though I could not wait to hold that baby in my arms, I remember thinking, mid-labor, “Never mind. I don’t think this is such a good idea. Why don’t we stop and let it cook a little longer.”
That didn’t really work out for me and I spent the next couple of weeks wondering about the medical possibility of putting him back in. Just for like a year or so.
That also didn’t work out for me. So during the first year I had a lot of time to think about my decision to spawn and declared, once or twice, that I would never do it again. This baby thing was clearly a lot easier when I got to go home at night. And when it didn’t have to come out of my body. Then be fed by my body. Basically, he reattached to me after birth, just on the outside.
After we made it through that first year, I was a lot more optimistic. I had gotten the hang of the whole motherhood thing and even learned to embrace the mania created by sleep deprivation. Just kidding. I was a raving lunatic. But, a happier and more mom-like lunatic.
When enough time had passed for me to forget the joys of childbirth, we figured we would give it another shot. I mean, I was already nuts. What did we have to lose? Plus, my friends were finally starting to have kids. It was the cool thing to do. And that’s how I make all my life-altering decisions. Plus, I’d finally have other moms to hang out with. I think my first born has always been a little old man because he was the only one I had to talk to all day. For years. I would chat with him about the latest NPR stories while he fed himself (and the dogs) frozen blueberries. I like to think that his laughter was due to my wit, but most likely, it was because of the dog tongue that was cleaning his cold, purple fingers.
My second was a totally different child, in almost every way. She was such an easy baby that until she reached her first birthday and turned on us, I seriously contemplated going for a third. Instead, I acknowledged that I already have three, if you count my husband (which we all do) and one more would send me to the psychiatric ward. For real. I am nothing if not self-aware.
I know that a lot of my crazy comes from the way I choose to parent. I never left my kids, for more then a couple of hours, until I had been a mother for over seven years. I started to feel like a caged animal. But on the flip side, I couldn’t imagine leaving before then and would not have enjoyed the time away, as I would have been thinking/worrying about them anyway. Like I said, my choice.
But now, I have big kids. They go to school, have sleepovers, walk to town with friends and are just as happy to send me packing as I am to go. They transformed from needy, filthy, adorable little beasts into funny, bright and independent bigger beasts.
All of a sudden, I remembered that I have this other adult who lives in the house with me, whom I enjoy a great deal. We have similar views and ideas and laugh a lot when we’re together. We’re pretty great friends and as it turns out, we have lots of things in common, aside from just our offspring. And if we can get five minutes to actually spend alone together, I start to remember that I wasn’t always packing lunches, washing dishes and doing laundry. I used to be fun. I used to get dressed up and go outside the house. At night. Damnit, I used to stay awake for Saturday Night Live.
Parenthood irrevocably changes life. And it should. I’m all for it. But at a certain point, I realized it was ok to be a person too, not just a mom. It was ok to put on a necklace that I’d stored away for years because I knew baby fists would quickly pull it from my neck. It was safe to pull out the high heels, and not just for my toddler to play dress up with. Hell, I could wear a white shirt, a new one, one without strategically placed pins to cover blueberry stains.
Date night became an important part of our lives. Never mind that date night is sometimes a trip to Costco. We get to go without children, so that makes it a date. If it’s a fancy date, we go to the library. It makes us feel all smart and sophisticated.
But for real, it doesn’t have to be a candlelit dinner for two at some romantic getaway. I don’t think we even did that before kids. It seems kind of corny and not really us. I mean, I mock my husband publicly, every week. We’re not so romantic. A beer on the patio around the fire pit works just as well.
At the end of the day, it’s about a little time to be just me. I’ll never stop being a mom. I love and am fulfilled by that role. But for a few minutes here and there, it’s nice to let those worries, responsibilities, and definitions slip away and laugh with my husband over some stupid college shenanigans that we partook in that we would kill our kids if they ever attempted. Because parenting is about never letting our kids do the same dumbass things we did.
For half of my life, I’ve been the yin to someone else’s yang; husband and wife, mother and child, mother and father. It’s easy to forget that I’m also my own person. I don’t always have to be the responsible one, making meals, considering the moral implications of everything I say, pre-screening appropriate movies and helping with homework.
Sometimes, they can make themselves a plate of nachos, clean up the mess it created (I don’t need to know how much shredded cheese the dogs actually ate), brush teeth and get themselves to bed. This way, Brian and I can take a nap so we can stay awake for Saturday Night Live.
Seriously though, if I took a nap, I’d just sleep until morning. The alternative is some type of stimulant to keep me awake. Coffee is usually the best for this, but the effects can be hard to judge. And if I forget to drink it before 4 p.m., not only will I be awake for SNL, but I’ll probably end up trolling Animal Planet at 2 a.m., binge-watching reruns of My Cat From Hell.
The alternative is a homemade energy drink. Wellness Mama has a quick and versatile recipe that allows you to choose ingredients based on your own taste preferences.
Natural Sports Drink Recipe
1 quart of liquid (options: green tea, herbal teas, coconut water, plain water, etc)
⅛-1/4 tsp Himalayan Sea Salt (regular table salt will work, but it doesn’t have all the trace minerals)
¼ to ½ tsp crushed Calcium magnesium tablets or powder (optional)
¼ cup or more of juice (optional. Can use grape, apple, lemon, lime, pineapple, etc)
1-2 TBSP sweetener (optional)- can use honey, stevia, etc. I suggest brewing stevia leaf into the base liquid for the most natural option.
Brew tea if using or slightly warm base liquid
Add sea salt and calcium magnesium (if using)
Add juice and mix or shake well
Cool and store in fridge until ready to use
If you’ve ever shown up at your child’s dance class in your slippers and then realized not only don’t you care, but you’re impressed that you remembered to put on a bra, I’ve got you. Feel free to vent. Email is always open, [email protected]
Laurie Nigro, a mother of two, is passionate about her family, her community, and natural living. Laurie resides in downtown Riverhead and is co-founder of the River and Roots Community Garden on West Main Street.