Tuesday, February 12, 2013

long reflections on why life is hard (or, i gave you fair warning to not read this post)

Confession: sometimes, as a parent, I sit around complaining to others about how hard it is to do ... anything ... with children.

I know you do not (or would not, as your hypothetical parent-self) do the same thing. So I'll describe how the conversation usually goes.

Me: "The other day I went to the grocery store without my kids. It was the most amazing experience ever. I smiled at everyone I saw. I wanted to sing as I zipped through each aisle."

Other person: "Wow."

Me: "Really. Everything about life is harder with kids. I feel like I could do anything now, as long as I didn't have kids with me. Pull 80-hour work weeks? At least I have the weekends off. Prepare and serve a banquet for the President? With no kids hanging on my pant legs (almost lost my PJ bottoms this morning at breakfast), Climb Everest - with no Baby Bjorn strapped to my chest? Count me in!"

Other person: "Hm."

When hard-pressed to define what, exactly, is so challenging about having children as well as maintaining any sort of alter-ego to parent, I usually drift into vague generalizations like "kids need so much" and "it's a 24-hour job" and "they decide so much of the schedule". And then that leaves me feeling ungrateful and selfish, since really kids are pretty darn awesome and I wouldn't trade this time for anything.

But sometimes you have concrete experience that remind you exactly why it is hard (if rewarding) to have children.

*cue story*

Last Saturday we took a family trip to our church's temple (about 50 minutes away). The local congregation organized a babysitting group near the temple so the adults could participate in the services while the kids played with toys, fought for seniority, and ate animal crackers.

From a big-picture view, things went pretty well. We made it on time (had to be there by 9am) and didn't forget anyone. We enjoyed the temple and the kids did well during babysitting. We had lunch as a family afterwards and then took a longer drive home to look at potential neighborhoods to buy a home, while the kids napped in the car. We stopped at a park before heading home and enjoyed the gorgeous California sunshine.

Hard Part #1: Waking up at 7am when the kids both start crying and immediately having to jump full-steam-ahead into logistics of getting 4 people awake, fed, dressed, diapered (or bathroomed), and out the door by 8:15. Not to mention back the enormous bag of accompanying diapers, wipes, water bottles, snacks, and pacifiers.

Hard Part #2: Finding a place to eat for lunch when everyone is starving and certain members of the family are loudly protesting every extra second spent in a car seat. Greasy pizza place on the corner of a main intersection, here we come!

Hard Part #3: Finishing lunch to discover that Xena has had the most disgusting blow out ever, all over her clothes and all over the diner's high chair. Gross-ness level 9/10. Clean up happens in a dingy bathroom with no changing table and me dressed up in a nice skirt.

Hard Part #4: Enjoying kids napping in the car, but hearing them immediately wake up as soon as we pull of the freeway to start looking around neighborhoods. Attempting to have serious conversations about what would make for a good area to buy while kids are crying for getting out, drinks of water, blowing noses, and listening to different songs from the backseat.

Hard Part #5: Stopping at a park to avoid total meltdown, to remember that Xena (due to #3) has no clothes on. Dress her in her jacket, my white knee highs and Genghis's jacket wrapped like a lava-lava.

Hard Part #6: Second trip back to the car during park time, this time to change Genghis's diaper. Third car diaper change of the trip. Well, second, because the blow out change was in that dingy bathroom.

Hard Part #7: Getting home and realizing we still had 3 hours until bedtime and anything close to catching our breathes.

Any that, my friends, is why doing anything as a parent is hard.


Whitehead Family Fun said...

Love it! Honestly my easiest days are when we just stay in the house. My kids are happy (usually) but I feel like I want to pull my hair out from lack of stimulation. My hardest part of being a part is that you can't just walk away and go for a nice run or have some hot cocoa while reading a favorite book. There are NO breaks! I do promise though that once they are a little bit older they are so much more enjoyable. I quite like Joshua and Abby (6 and 5) it is the younger two that are now hard :)

karina said...

I remember when I was longing to have children and couldn't - I swore that no matter how hard things would be when I finally was a parent I wouldn't complain because it would be worth it.

That's mostly true - it is worth it. But it's also really hard. And I do cheer when I get to go somewhere alone. Or better yet, when I get to stay home and everyone else leaves!

Janel said...

Oh Erin, I love this! Well written my friend, well written. It's so true everything is harder with kids, good thing they make it all worth it.

I hope you guys are loving Cali, and house hunting sounds so exciting!!

Jen said...

I laughed as I read this. Also, fair warning, as they get older it doesn't get easier. I type this as I sit in a parking lot waiting for lacrosse practice to end. It's 10:30 pm.

Chelsea said...

So, so true.

Sherry said...

I hear you!

I did Ike's 2-year checkup at the same time as Felix's 2-month checkup. It was a total disaster. But when I wrote it all out in an IM to Eric explaining how horrible the morning was, it didn't actually seem that bad. But while you're in it and actually having to clean up a blowout or listen to screaming kids while you're trying to have some semblance of an intelligent conversation, it truly is hard.

Margaret said...

You know, I realized not so long ago that having a kid is easy - as long as your goal in life really is to just sit in the house and play with trains / cars all day. However, if you have ANYTHING you are trying to actually do with your day, they will find a way to make life difficult for you.

Megan said...

I totally relate to cheering in the aisles of the grocery store when you are not juggling a wiggly toddler who is trying to fall out of the cart the entire shopping trip. Or like yesterday Andrew told me that he needed to go to the bathroom at Target and I told him to wait and he peed all over the floor.

Dawn said...

Your kids are adorable. But I'm glad all I have is a dog. :)

Megan said...

Very much agree that parenting can be hard, but I'm shocked to hear that you feel like you don't get much done. I see awesome posts from you all the time (I feel like I NEVER have the time to plug in camera, sort through photos, upload, and blog), and in those posts, you manage to describe amazing activities you put together for your kids, or books you are reading, or etc etc etc. Try not to feel too overwhelmed, it can make me feel overwhelmed! ;)