Life with one child is infinitely different than life with multiple children. That’s not to say that having one is easy (believe me, it’s NOT) but logistically it’s just different.
Before I had my first child, I swore up and down that I wouldn’t sacrifice everything I loved; I wouldn’t give up all my friends and hobbies to obsessively dote on my child. I promised myself (and anyone else who cared to listen to my rants) that I wouldn’t lose myself in parenthood; I would do my hair and wear makeup and go out to cool restaurants in the city and see my friends and talk about things other than my kid. I would make my child adapt to my lifestyle as much as possible instead of the other way around.
And for the most part, it worked out that way. Having one child definitely changes one’s lifestyle a bit, but it’s still possible to find time for yourself if you make it a priority. I was still able to take on creative work that I enjoyed and go out to real, non-drive-thru restaurants and browse through thrift shops — all with my daughter in tow.
Then I got pregnant again when my daughter was 2. Suddenly, I was exhausted. We were in a season of tantrums and I had to adapt a bit to suit this new stage of life. I still made time for the things I enjoyed, but the outings were more infrequent. My 2-year-old was less adaptable when it came to missing naps, and I was too exhausted with pregnancy to deal with her kicking and screaming in public. Still, I tried to keep up with friends and play dates and getting out of the house. I didn’t want to miss out on anything fun, and whenever humanly possible I would say “yes” to things — where it was happy hour, book clubs, writing jobs, extra household tasks, or outings with friends.
I continued to do this until I realized that there just might be a better way. I now have a 4-year-old, an almost-2-year-old, and I am 29 weeks pregnant with my third child. To say that I am exhausted would be a massive understatement. Despite my desire to say “yes” all the time (not to mention my fear of missing out on fun things) I’ve had to learn to say “no” more often — for the sake of my sanity.
I’ve realized that on the days when our schedule is packed out and we are rushing from place to place, I am a million times more likely to feel overwhelmed and get frustrated at my children.
The thing is, I’m just slower than I used to be, and my kids are almost always slower than I anticipate. We were constantly running late, and my children were often overtired or grumpy from pushing back nap or meal times in pursuit of checking things off of the to-do list. It was just too much. So I started simply doing less — and I’ve been realizing that there is beauty and freedom in it.
As I’ve been replacing dinners out with a little bit more TV time for my kids, I’ve seen that the world will not end if I don’t do everything perfectly. I’ve also seen that when I free up our schedule and let go of some of the expectations I have put on myself, I become a much more relaxed parent. I’m less frustrated at my kids, because we aren’t being put in as many situations where I am unable to manage them.
Last week, we declined to go to the beach with friends. And although my FOMO was at an all-time high, I knew it was the right decision because I would’ve felt overwhelmed without the help of my husband. We stayed home and went to the park instead. It may not have been the most exciting event ever, but we enjoyed the sunshine and I kept my sanity, which in the end is really all that matters, isn’t it?
Learning what my parenting limits are — and acknowledging that I am just one person who can’t always do it all — has been a real game-changer. It doesn’t mean that I’m waving the white flag of my life in the name of parenthood, I am simply being realistic and admitting that sometimes I need a little more help and some extra rest.
And that’s more than OK.More On