My life reflects some of the others here, even though I’m a working mom. I thought I’d take a different tack than the ‘what do we do all day’ description. We’ll see if it fills in any gaps. It is aimed at the subtle difference between ‘life’ and ‘lifestyle’ - My life is full of various joys and disasters, messes and repairs, crises and calm. My lifestyle, however, is more to do with the choices I’ve made, and the reasons for making them, and the skills that have developed as a result. The experiences that stem from that are the rewards, and the costs. I think that’s the concept, anyway.
I get up earlier than I’d like, because I need to leave work at a certain hour to get home in time to pick up the boys. I wake up next to my husband daily, and my older son regularly (though not daily). I also (daily) wake up next to an angelic-looking 18-month old, who this morning woke to nurse then climbed across me to settle in his father’s arms for more sleep. I spend my mornings interrupted by the insistant needs of others too small to handle things themselves. I spend my days aware of the subtle change and shift as they learn one more skill, and one more skill, until I suddenly notice that our 5-year-old, Gabe, is not asking our help to unstick his legos anymore.
I don’t go to many after-work functions for much the same reasons - if I don’t do the pickup, someone else has to. I do go to some events, and epeepunk covers the pickup. My choices affect not just my husband, but also my kids (if one is particularly needy at that time, it changes my reasonable choices). My lifestyle doesn’t include a lot of after-work-get-togethers with coworkers, no matter how much I like them.
I go to more museums than when we were without kids. I travel regularly but not frequently, usually with kids, usually to family functions, and often those are to interesting places (San Simeon, for example). I go to the park, swing on swings, and run more often. Okay, so sometimes the running is because Brendan has taken off down the sidewalk, but I’m getting my exercise! I go places I would never have bothered with before kids, and find myself discovering things I like that I might not have found otherwise.
I dance less often, but more often have someone laughing out loud and dancing with me. When I make eye contact with epeepunk on the ‘dance floor’ (often the kitchen, but also fairly often a ‘real’ dance floor), the connection has multiple layers, not just ‘you and me’ but ‘you and me and them and us’.
I spend more time talking to strangers than before kids. Some of them are grownups, even! My kids open conversations all the time, by making a connection that I would not have felt a need to make. Strangers become someone with whom to share a the joy of baby laughter, or discovery of toes. Some strangers are not also parents, and yet there is a connection through my child, magic! Other strangers become people with whom I have a bond, pre-made by biological and/or social fact. You have kids, I have kids, we have a reason to say hello, and perhaps say more than that.
I offer more compassion to others because I have kids, and withhold judgement more - the depth of backstory can be substantial, and I know it. I know the mortification of having a normally well-behaved child throw a screaming fit in a store, and can offer eye contact and a half-shrug that says, I’ve been there, and you don’t need to over-react to the situation to keep me from thinking your child’s behavior is entirely your fault. I know the relief of having someone else give that ‘oh, yeah, been there done that!’ look when my own child is the one on the floor in a flood of tears.
I am far more organized than I have ever been in my life. It is still not ‘enough’, but boy, my old life would fit with acres to spare inside the skills I have now.
I am far more conscious of my money than I was before kids, too. I get much more for much less than I did just a few years ago, because I care to, and because I learned to pay attention as our budget had to react to the insertion of children into a limited financial space. We also spend enough on daycare and preschool to go to Hawaii every two or three months if we were child-free. I get, in return, a toddler who has discovered the joys of multicolored parachutes and other wonders we don’t have at home, and a child who has a best friend from England, a cluster of other friends from all over the world, and knows about things I would never have thought to teach, like physics (in preschool!).
I notice little things more often, in more detail, and with more joy. Before kids, I didn’t pay much attention to the bugs in the yard, other than to swat them or wave them away. Now, I notice a queen ant climbing a grass stem before her mating flight, and pause to watch. Now, I point out the brilliant green of a small bee-like bug whose name I don’t know, and allow the colors to seep into my mind to the degree that I can recall the tiny brilliant sparkle from a year ago. Before, I noticed rain, but didn’t pause to listen to the sound it makes on leaves, roof, and the whirring shuussshh as car tires roll through the puddles left behind. I notice more, capture details, and focus on usual things with newly sharp senses, because someone else might find it fascinating. I hold a warm little hand inside an oversized mitten and point out the way water moves under ice, making the color shift in ripples and waves. I’ve discovered so many things in my world that are fascinating, beautiful, and interesting.
I play games I used to love, and had left behind, like squirting people with hoses on hot days. Grownups without kids seem to enjoy grownup games, like playing in swimming pools… I enjoy those things, too. But I also get to chase my boys with the hose, all of us muddy to the eyebrows (especially the youngest, who hasn’t yet learned to wipe his muddy hands on his pants before wiping water from his eyes). Because of the social exemption given people with kids, pedestrians pass with broad grins, despite the utter lack of dignity and propriety on the part of a 30+ year old woman. Dignity be damned, I’m a mom.
Date night is more planned than spontaneous. Babysitting is needed. But that doesn’t mean what happens is boring same-old-same-old, or must be determined weeks in advance. We often don’t know what we’ll do for our date until we walk out my mom’s door (kids happily rampaging in her house), and decide what we want to do, right then.
I save my vacation and sick time because someone is always getting sick, and it isn’t always me. A broken bone, a case of croup, a fluke of biology, a random viral contact, or an error of judgement and we’re off to the doctor’s office or the ER, followed often by days of splitting care with epeepunk, burning all my paid time off. When I look ahead to how much leave time I might have for a vacation at the end of the summer, and say ‘if I don’t take any time off between now and then, we’ll have enough’, I get a laugh. Three months with no time off for something kid-related? BWA-ha-ha-ha! I kill me, I so funny.
I am truly glad my little brother is enjoying his childfree lifestyle to the utmost. He’s just come back from scuba diving around Hawaii, with his wife. They had a wonderful time, saw things I think would be inspiring, satisfying, and lovely to see. His world is grand, immense, expansive in the outward flow - he can move from place to place and take it all in, feeding his heart and soul with the beauty of the world.
I, on the other hand, am enjoying a smaller circle, more constrained for now (while they are little), but with more intimate detail, filled in layer over layer over layer with only subtle variations from one day to the next, until the current point is far enough away from the beginning to see the pattern, continuous but changing all the time. The richness is similar in degree to that found by my brother, but different in scale and scope.
My heart and soul absorb the beauty around me, too. My beauties include seeing the echo of a father’s eyebrow in the growing shape of a son’s, faces paired together in sleep… The warm strength of a child’s hand in mine, and the feel of him leaning a little into my grip, engaging the contact fully as we walk together to the car after preschool… Watching the passionate intensity of a child disassembling a cereal bar, bit by bit, examining and placing each morsel on a bench with the care of a clockmaker taking apart a clock… The visceral joy of the sound of a child’s down-to-the-toes laugh, knowing something you did caused it… The results of careful building with lego shown off with pride and a glowing sense of accomplishment that is nearly in the visible spectrum… Those are the things I absorb daily, that enrich my life, and make my lifestyle something I value.
A different world than my child-free friends and siblings. But I wouldn’t go back and do it differently, as nice as Hawaii sounds sometimes, as nice as spening my money just on me sounds, as nice as a full night’s sleep being the norm sounds. I like this lifestyle.