When I pictured having a big family as a new mother, I didn’t realize just what it would be like with four boys under 7 in my house. I knew it would be loud, fun, chaotic, teary, and tiring, but I also knew it would be fulfilling. It is all of those and more… much more. Throughout any given day there are multiple downright bizarre moments that just have me shaking my head at the life I’ve built, but none are more hysterical than the lost and found items along the way.
After putting the baby to bed one evening, I exhaustedly shut his door, leaned against a wall, and closed my eyes, as if to have a 10-second vertical nap. I put my hands in my pockets and — voila! — out came a half-eaten cheeseburger. Except I couldn’t remember whose cheeseburger it was, or how it got there, or even how long it had been there. It sure wasn’t mine. I traced it back mentally to late that morning when I scrambled through the McDonald’s drive-thru, realizing my kids hadn’t eaten and wouldn’t be able to until after an afternoon summer camp. One of them must have snuck it in there while I chatted with the camp director at drop-off. So, I did what any exhausted, logical parent would do, and took a big chomp of it. Classy stuff.
Before kids, I might have imagined this whole incident would cause me great rage, or at least great consternation. But now, four kids deep, it only makes me laugh. Indeed, as Dan Peters, psychologist, author, and parenting expert who hosts Parent Footprint Podcast, says: “Research has found that laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, so laughter not only can result in feeling less stressed, but also plays a role in supporting health and preventing disease.” I guess that means I’m about to be the most immune person I know, because just a week later, I found a full Idaho potato in a crib — nobody knew how except the baby, who can’t walk or talk.
But as most parents know, laughter isn’t always possible, and sure isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s a lot more complicated than finding bizarre objects out of place, or said objects can set you over the edge when you’re already stressed (like the time a rotting apple in my minivan and I ended up in a sobbing heap upside down in the 100-degree heat looking for it at carpool, late for a Zoom meeting). That’s because, as Peters explains, there are serious barriers to just laughing everything off, such as stress, sleep deprivation and generally just feeling overwhelmed.
So I’m taking his advice, which is to learn to slow down and find humor in all the bananas situations we might find ourselves in as new parents. He might be right, but if I slow down, I fall asleep, and if I fall asleep I might wake up with a Sharpie mural on my face, or a chewed Double Bubble in my hair. But I wouldn’t trade it for the most serene nap alone in the world. Most days. The chaos is the stuff we only imagined before having kids, and laughing together over their bizarre happenings is what our real-life day-to-day marriage dreams are made of.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice. She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, and Insider.
Alex has a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Journalism, both from Miami University. She has also taught high school for 10 years, specializing in media education.