I want to apologize to everyone who had kids before me: I was the perfect parent before I had kids and judged all of you. Before having a baby, my husband and I thought, How hard can it be to fix dinner while tending to a newborn? They sleep all the time!” Um, so hard.
Fast-forward to when all our helpful family left, and we were on our own:
Oh my lord, how do I go to the bathroom?! I can’t even put her down for a second. Why won’t she stop crying?! We haven’t eaten in days! (Okay, that last part isn’t totally true, but being alone with a newborn was a big kick in the ass.)
We had no idea what it takes to make food while taking care of a tiny, demanding human (a bowl of cereal is a huge feat!). And even though my husband is an awesome cook, he also needed to do everything else since our newborn had set up shop on my boobs. He even had to help me on and off the toilet because my C-section kicked my butt, and all my strength was focused not dying every time my daughter tried to latch, re-latch, and gnaw on my boobs with her newborn razor gums.
And guess what else we realized? Newborns don’t have schedules. Newborns just started breathing air, so they don’t know the difference between night and day. And they don’t care. So I’m sorry for being a judgmental asshole before having kids.
Here are some other completely asinine judgments I passed like I was Mary-freaking-Poppins. I’m ashamed and completely humbled. I owe all parents everywhere free babysitting once a week for the rest of my life and a gift basket filled with wine, booze, coffee, and snacks to atone for my transgressions.
1. Why are parents always managing sleep schedules? Can’t they just let the schedule slide a little so we can hang out?
Um, no. That schedule is the only thing that maintains the tiny thread of sanity still left in the house. Let the schedule slide a little, and you might be okay. Let it slide a lot, and you’ll pay for what feels like years. My kids are finally good sleepers. Do you think I’m going to mess up this impossibly good thing by gallivanting here and there without regard to a sleep schedule? Hell to the no! I can feel myself getting anxious if we’re out, and it’s approaching nap time. If it’s approaching bedtime, I’m like, “No time to say goodbye! We’ve got to go! It’s T-minus to meltdown mode!” So I get it now. You live and die by the sleep schedule.
2. We can just meet at a restaurant that has a kids’ menu and chill for a bit.
Sure, okay, but there’s no chilling when you take a toddler to a restaurant. Also, can we meet at 11:15 a.m. for lunch because I need to make sure we don’t mess with nap time (and there has to be padding in the schedule in case we have slow service). Dinner? Can we meet at 5 p.m.? Because remember sleep is nearly as important as breathing. And that kids’ menu? Those will be the exact food items my tiny people will decide aren’t fit for human consumption that day. I will come armed with an escape plan, and I might look composed (mostly), but I’m not chilling.
3. Just find a sitter and come out with us.
As much as “going out” sounds lovely and it would be great to see you, I’d much rather sit on my couch after the kids are asleep, eat ice cream, and watch anything that’s entirely inappropriate for children. So I get it. I’d rather be on my couch, and for now, even when I’m out, I’m not really there.
4. They always use their kid as an excuse. They’re always so busy, but never seem to do anything.
I get it now. No matter how much fun the plans might be, your No. 1 priority is your kid. Sure, a break from the chaos is welcomed and needed, but if your kid needs you, you’re there. Even if they think they don’t need you, you’re there. And yes, we totally use our kids as an excuse for declining less-than-exciting plans. And that sleep schedule, man, it’s the ruling force in your universe. But also, sorry, we can’t…the kids.
5. I can’t believe they let their kids do that.
Eat junk food, scream and throw a tantrum, etc. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Maybe this is an isolated incident because you let the schedule slide and decided to go to a restaurant with a kids’ menu, and the shit just hit the fan. Maybe it’s just Tuesday. Sometimes things are less than great. There’s no judgment now. Tantrums are a part of growing up, and kids are irrational little balls of energy who are just as unpredictable as they are adorable.
So, please accept my apologies. Parenting is humbling. Parenting is a kick in the ass. We’ll never be perfect parents, and that’s totally okay. And we can still hang out, as long as it doesn’t interfere with nap time or bedtime or involve weird food (spoiler alert: all food is weird). Solidarity, my parenting comrades.