A friend of mine recently texted me a photo from her family vacation. It was of her elementary school-aged children swimming independently in the hotel pool. I could see her husband’s legs in the bottom of the shot, sitting in the lounge chair next to hers.
She wrote, “Look! Our first time relaxing on vacation in years! It is possible again! You will be here soon!”
At first, I felt excited. The thought of a poolside lounge chair podcast marathon nearly knocked me off my feet. Holy shit! I have been making kids for eight years, always having a baby or toddler in tow needing constant attention and supervision. How magical to envision a future version of motherhood, slightly more sidelined, where I might enjoy a little freedom.
But as I looked a little closer at my phone, I felt my stomach drop. There were no tiny toes, no little grabby hands, no swim diapers or puddle jumpers. For so long, I have been wading through the trenches with tiny kids, feeling exhausted and often frustrated. Suddenly, there may be an end in sight, but instead of feeling excited, I feel really sad.
I will miss the swaddled burrito babies and the tubby-time antics. The drunken toddler waddles and over-the-shoulder snoozes. The aggressive hugs, the slobbery kisses, and the tiny hands reaching up for me in relentless pursuit of my attention.
When I think about how much I will miss it all, I almost lose my breath. I need to get excited about what is to come, rather than focusing on what is over. To jumpstart my new approach, I have created a non-exhaustive list of things to look forward to in my next parenting phase.
Using The Bathroom Alone
For too many years, I have wiped my ass and changed my tampon while simultaneously fishing a broken cabinet knob out of my baby’s mouth. After eight years, the thought of using the toilet with two free hands almost sounds like a Caribbean vacation. To sit quietly, without curious toddler interrogation, requiring me to explain why my neglected pubic hair looks like mulch, currently seems like a sliver of life luxury.
Week-long trips to visit family, day trips to the beach, and afternoon trips to the park have long required U-Haul trucks filled to the brim with all of Google’s suggested “must-haves.” The endless mental list of what-ifs prompt an accumulation of shit suited to avoid every meltdown and prepare for any possibility.
In recent years, a typical packing list for an afternoon cookout might include two Pack-N-Plays, eight Barbies, four extra sets of clothes, hair gel, diapers, a high chair, and a fire extinguisher. All hail the moment I can throw a bag of Doritos and a couple of waters in my bag and head out the door! Hands will be free, planning will be effortless, and transitions will be manageable.
Sleeping Through The Night
Although I do kind of love their groggy, middle-of-night faces as they creep into my bed and snuggle onto my pillow, consistent and uninterrupted sleep is currently a thing of the past. Oh, to be able to spread out on my mattress without fear of accidentally waking the little angel burrowing her knees into the small of my back!
To be able to take my 2 AM walk back from the bathroom without silently tip-toeing like I am avoiding the grenades of a complex minefield!
To take my first morning breath without my wide-eyed wonder holding her nose and reminding me that I need to brush my teeth! Now, I could get used to that.
Amusement parks, cross-country plane rides, and late-night concerts are complicated and stressful with little ones in tow. I have been riddled with guilt for years, thinking about the opportunities my older kids have missed due to their younger siblings.
The waterpark staff isn’t going to know what hit them when the whole family arrives sans swim diapers and water wings, all six of us at the top of the biggest slide, ready to race one another to the bottom. We will be able to enjoy full-participation family fun, and you better believe it is going to be awesome.
More Time As A Couple
My husband and I could carve out plenty of alone time after we had our first baby. Finding a sitter (family or otherwise) is easy and affordable with one or even two kids.
Now couple my anxiety with my four high-energy offspring and our list of possible sitters is down to one. How amazing it will be to eventually task our eldest with the responsibility of keeping the (kind of) sufficient younger kids alive while we enjoy a classy spinach and artichoke dip to ourselves. Finding the time to reconnect will strengthen our marriage and allow us to replenish our energy in a way we have not been able to do for years.
So, I guess there are some wonderful things still on the horizon, despite all that will be lost. And although what’s to come might be wildly different, it may still be great. Moving forward I will try to spend more time fostering excitement, rather than wallowing in grief. And who knows, maybe the joy I find in my future will surprise me.
Samm Burnham Davidson is an ex-lawyer mom of four who swears a lot. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts and can be found on Instagram @sammbdavidson.