First, the Daily Mail. I know everyone likes to complain about it, but seriously, some of the most intriguing stuff that Emily sends around to the editors comes from there. Like this study* that found that all us mothers are stuck in a rut, and we never try anything new because we’re too busy breastfeeding our kids or cleaning up vomit or whatever.
And I’m going to be honest: sometimes, it can feel that way. I’m not sure when I started noticing that I was invested in my routine as a mom to the exclusion of everything else, but I suspect it was somewhere around Oliver’s four-year mark. No longer saddled with a toddler or caring for a newborn, I felt as if my mothering was less somehow less appreciated or less necessary.
I almost typed that I’d outlived my usefulness as a mother, but I am not a piece of obsolete office equipment -- I am not a fax machine in the age of e-mail, right? I’m a human being. And it’s not as if kids don’t need you as they get older -- they just need you in different ways.
These shifts in parenting roles happen after the first six weeks or so, and then near age one, then again in later toddlerhood. And again and again. Parenting a newborn and parenting a seven-year-old are two very different things, I can tell you. I’m sure parenting a 10-year-old will feel very different from parenting a seven-year-old. Once I really become comfortable with one thing, everything changes.
Nevertheless, around four years old is when Oliver stopped actively trying to maim himself with everyday household objects, and around that time there was a shift in my parenting style. It left me feeling like a big part of my job as a mom had come to an end. What’s more, I felt as if I could breathe again. My kid could hold a fork, and he wasn’t in diapers. Not having a baby to spoon-feed or diapers to change made me feel as if a burden had been lifted.
And when that happened, I realized that I had been so deep in my mom-rut that great big pieces of pop culture -- movies, music, TV shows, internet-y things -- had come and gone without me even really noticing. I could recite entire portions of a half dozen episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba, but I could not name one movie that had been released in the previous year. I felt a little culturally irrelevant.
The world had continued on without me while I was in my mom bubble for four years, no thanks to the fact that babysitters cost a small fortune where I live. With no family (read: free babysitting) living anywhere near us, my excursions out of the house without Oliver in tow were few and far between.
Oliver was in daycare and then preschool while we were at work, and on the evenings and weekends the only activities we engaged in were family activities, like going to Disneyland or the children’s museum. And hey, I love Disneyland and I love museums. But mom needs a break from the kid sometimes, you know? Grown up time doesn’t seem like such a big deal until you have almost none of it.
To be fair, I can’t really say I had no grown-up time -- I often left Oliver at home with Seth so that I could grocery shop in peace or spend an extra 20 minutes at Target browsing for stuff I didn’t really need to buy. If I had it to do over again, I would use those precious hours to see a new release at the movie theater, or go hang out with a friend.
HINDSIGHT and all that. Of course, now that I’m a part-time parent and Oliver is starting to want to spend more time with his friends than me anyway, I have the time to do lots of important grown-up stuff, like tweet about how frustrated I am with the writing on “The Walking Dead.”
To the moms out there: how old are your kids, and how much time do you get to do fun stuff outside of your daily routine? Do you ever feel irrelevant, like I did? (If so, don’t worry -- that doesn’t last forever.) Or are you an awesome supermom who cleans up poop AND knows what’s playing at the movie theater? I want to hear your stories!
*by Groupon, so you know it's legit science.
Somer is on Twitter, bitching about important stuff like TV shows: @somersherwood