To all of my friends that had children before me, I owe you a heartfelt apology. I was wrong. So wrong. About everything.
I can remember when my friends started having kids, mainly because we basically never saw them again. As a childless couple, my husband and I just didn’t understand why life had to be so different for them now that they had started a family. I was guilty of saying things like, “I don’t understand why they have to…” or “just because they have kids doesn’t mean they can’t…“. Worse yet, I was one of those people who said “I’d never let my kids’ schedule dictate my own” or the ultimate of ignorant statements, “I’m never going to be like THAT if we have kids“. I was so wrong. And the universe, with it’s notable sense of humour, was about to show me exactly how wrong by blessing us with twins.
I knew the arrival of children meant that our friends wouldn’t be as available to us but I didn’t understand just how much their lives were affected until we had our own brood. Here are some of the things I can be quoted as saying that I would now like to retract.
“Can’t they just get a babysitter for one night?”
Sure, lots of people get babysitters. My parents did it all the time. But you know what? Our parents only had to pay their babysitters like, $2/hr. You know what a babysitter costs now? Try $10/hr. Have multiple kids? Make it $15/hr. Feel more comfortable with an adult sitter who has slightly more experience handling rambunctious twin toddlers? $20+/hr. Let’s do the math. If my husband and I were to get a sitter and go out we would spend approximately $50 on dinner, $50 on a movie and snacks (if we share) and $80+ for child-minding. That means one night out costs us, at minimum, $180. We have four mouths to feed and one income so we don’t exactly have an extra wad of cash lying around.
What about family you ask? Sure, my folks live nearby. But they’re retired and vacation where it’s warm for a portion of the year. They also go to bed early so to ask them to sit at our place until midnight is, truthfully, a lot to ask. More importantly, I firmly believe that parents should not be used as a child care service. We have made it very clear to our parents that we want them to always feel like grandparents, not babysitters. That doesn’t mean they will never look after our children for us, but it does mean that it will be on their terms, not ours. So if staying out late and driving home in the dark makes my parents uncomfortable, then it’s not OK for us to expect that from them. Period. The twins are our responsibility, not my parents. My dad will not hesitate to remind me if I momentarily forget. He’s right though. Dad should get to be a grandpa on his terms and his schedule. He’s retired and has his own life. He raised his kid already. And from what I understand, I was quite a handful.
I have managed to arrange child care so my husband and I can go out once a month. A friend and I swap Saturdays. I put my kids to bed, Brad stays here with them and I toddle over to her house and watch Netflix while her son sleeps. Then she does the same for Brad and I. But those monthly dates are important to us. I don’t typically want to sacrifice them to attend a function for a friend. That may sound selfish but quite honestly, my family comes first and that includes much needed date nights with my spouse doing the things that we want to do. We don’t get a lot of quality time together. And I have to live with him for the rest of my life so we need to make sure we still like each other at the end. Otherwise “til death do us part” won’t come soon enough.
“Can’t they just bring their kids here and they can sleep on the floor?”
In my mind, kids were portable. They sleep where you tell them to sleep, right? Wrong. Turns out, a child’s schedule is of utmost importance both to them and their parents. Raising twins makes having a predictable, constant schedule even more essential to our family’s sanity. Some nights we struggle to get our kids to bed even when we follow our bedtime routine to a tee. If we tried to get them to sleep on a pile of coats in a stranger’s house, their little heads would implode. And the following days would be filled with tantrums, tears and general unrest. Both from me and my kids. My husband, being the only sane one left, would probably get a hotel room in an effort to hang on to his last trace of humanity.
So no, my children cannot come to your place and fall asleep on the coats in your spare room. Not because I don’t want them to but because they won’t. Plain and simple. They will think we’ve locked them in a small but nicely decorated prison and are never returning for them. They will scream and cry and scream-cry until we pick them up and take them home to their own beds. And then they will scream-cry for the rest of the night and into tomorrow as a reminder for us to never try that shit again.
The immeasurable value of a sleeping baby.
“Why do we always have to go over there?”
Because “over there” is child-proofed and your home is not. You may think it is but, unless you have tiny humans of similar age and curiosity, it’s not. I learned this lesson the hard way. We took our two tiny monsters to our neighbour’s Christmas party last December. They have two girls, age 2 and 3 so I figured…close enough; the house should be child-proofed enough for our kids to hang out while we have a quick drink. Wrong again. My husband and I spent 45 minutes each chasing a child around, stopping them from pulling all the books off the shelves, falling down the stairs and playing catch with a crystal vase. We couldn’t even get through the introductions let alone enjoy a glass of wine. We quickly took them home, put them to bed and returned sans kids. It was far more enjoyable for everyone.
Yes, technically I can bring my kids to your place but I know from experience that it won’t be fun for any of us. I will spend our entire coffee date chasing them around while they find every electrical outlet and sharp knife you own. You will get frustrated because I won’t be able to listen to your story in it’s entirety without the interruption of messy hands covered in your expensive face cream. I will get frustrated because my coffee is cold but the little bum sitting on my lap feels awfully warm and smooshy. The kids will be frustrated because, of the thirteen toys I brought, I didn’t bring the one they want right now so in protest they will fling cat poop from your litter box. I know it’s not always ideal, but it’s way more enjoyable if you can come to me. The kids can play with whichever toy they want, I can drink a coffee in peace and you can tell me all about your weekend without fearing the silence in the other room.
My dear friends with children older than mine, I’m confident that there are hundreds of other things for which I need to apologize. But please take comfort in knowing that I will experience everything you did in all its messy glory…times two.
Don’t turn your back for a minute.