Things I Did For Myself When My Kid Was A Toddler

I feel like I didn't realize I'd transitioned from "mom of an infant" to "mom of a toddler" until long after it had happened. I guess that's inevitable when you've got your nose to the parenting grindstone. Suddenly you look up and realize, "Oh, we don't have to carry 900 pounds of baby equipment everywhere we go. Also, my kid can walk places and their sleep schedule doesn't fit the Geneva Convention's criteria for torture anymore." However, once I realized things had changed, there were things I did for myself when my kid was a toddler that I couldn't have done before (at least not as effectively).

The theme that sort of permeates my overall parenting toddlers philosophy (and, therefore, all the items on this list) is twofold:

1) Take care of yourself

2) Embrace the toddlerness of toddlers and find the joy in it

Applying the old rules, especially the pre-kid rules, for life with a toddler is going to leave everyone involved disappointed in some way. While becoming a parent doesn't have to change you, I find you really can't fight the fact that your life is going to change. It's not just the big obvious things that evolve, either: it's the big not obvious things. You interact with time and space in a fundamentally different manner. Things take longer and every object is seen not for its aesthetic beauty or usefulness, but it's, "Is that going to hurt my child/Is my child going to hurt that?" potential.

However, when you just sort of lean in to the limitations, craziness, and fun (and remember, of course, to treat yo'self), things actually start to make more sense. Here are some of the specific things I gave in to, insisted upon, and started once my children were toddlers that made everything more manageable. Of course, never completely manageable, because LOL #toddlerlife.

Resigned Myself To The Idea That I Don't Get To Have Nice Things For A While

Courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Why yes, this is the first thing guests see upon entering my home. If you look really closely you can see the countless stains on the carpet. If you were to pan right, you would see the remains of my once white couch. (WTF was I thinking with that one?)

Yes, I will clean my small living room about 47 times a day just to maintain a semblance of order and sanity, but I nevertheless try not to stress the fact that, a) it's never going to be totally spotless and organized, and b) it's going to get messy again in approximately five minutes. That's just life with a toddler (and, to a lesser extent, a school-aged child, though my kindergartener will more readily and effectively tidy up after himself).

I found it far easier to maintain a neat and orderly home when my first was an infant. I'd been holding the dream of a home that looked like the spread from an interior decoration magazine in a tightly clenched fist. But once I had a toddler, I opened my hand, whispered "You're free now," and blew it gently into the wind. I can only hope that one day it returns to me.

Adopted A Laissez-Faire Attitude About My Children's Picky Palates

When my littles were really little, they were those kids who ate everything. My daughter delighted in kale and anything spicy. My son would eat stews with aplomb.

Then they hit about 18 months and my smug, "Well, you just have to expose them to different foods" attitude was chagrined as they realized they could voice an opinion about what they wanted to eat. Fortunately the foods they liked were still largely nutritionally sound. Unfortunately their repertoire shrunk considerably. For real, my son has eaten peanut butter and jelly every day for about four years now. My daughter is a little bit better, but gone are the days that I could plop down whatever we were eating and expect her to nom it without a peep of protest.

Maintained A Social Life

Courtesy of Jamie Kenney

This is something that has been important to me ever since I became a mother, and I remained committed to it as my infants grew into toddlers (and "big kids"). I'm an extrovert. If I don't interact with people in some sort of social setting I get extremely cranky and, in dire moments, pretty depressed.

So it's not only important to me, personally, but I truly believe that getting out makes me a better mother and wife. I don't need a lot to fill this void, honestly: most nights I'm content to read or binge watch something with my partner. However, every now and then mama needs to be in the warm glow of her friends. (ideally with a damn drink in her hand).

Closed The Bathroom Door

I was paranoid when my kids were babies, because OMG WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS WHILE THE DOOR IS CLOSED AND THEY NEED ME! Or what if I need to get to them?! That door is going to cost me precious seconds if it's closed.

Eventually, however, you realize you need privacy. I think this came to me the day my little one, who was in the midst of being potty trained herself, sat in front of me smiling and whispered, "Good job pooping, mommy."

OK. We're done here. Door closed.

Went On Vacation Without My Kids

Courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Once I was no longer pregnant or my babies' main food source, I was actually able to get away for the first time in a while. I'm not in a position to do a ton of traveling, but whenever I could I leapt at the opportunity.

I love my children. I adore being with them. I even like going on vacations with them. However, the vacations I am able to do with my family is not, from a rest and relaxation standpoint, really a vacation, you know? I still have to do mom stuff and plan my day around things my kids will want to do. That's a wonderful experience in and of itself, but when my husband and I could get out of town for the weekend, or when my best friends invited me to join them on their vacation, I was all, "Yes please! Love you kids! See you in a few days looking about five years younger."

Bought New Clothes

I knew after the birth of my first child that I wanted to have another, so I didn't go nuts revamping my wardrobe (since I knew I was just going to go and get knocked up again in a couple years). But once I had my daughter, even though my husband and I had always thought we'd wanted three children, I knew everyone was there and our family was complete. In other words, we were "two and through."

So once that year-long postpartum haze sort of lifted, I went out to get a few new pieces for the first time in a few years. (Still kind of working on this one, by the way, but it's coming along slowly but surely.)

Took Up Running

Courtesy of Jamie Kenney

(And, yes, the mandatory "I'm about to work out" selfies that go with it.)

After I weaned my daughter when she was 21 months, my hormones apparently went insane and I sank into a really awful depression. Fortunately, I have a partner who is (unfortunately) well-acquainted with what that's like, which gave me the knowledge and tools to be able to talk about it. Still, talking in and of itself wasn't enough. For some reason I couldn't describe, I was suddenly struck with the irrepressible urge to just run.

Anyone who knows me will understand how absolutely crazy that sounds, because Jamie does not like to move. Like, at my quickest and most nimble I mince. Maybe traipse. Once I started running, though, I felt amazing. One run could keep my mood up for about 48 hours. So I made it a habit. After a while my body got used to not feeding a human anymore and my hormones kind of leveled out, but I kept it up anyway. It was just a great way to take some time to myself and get out of the house. (And, yes, see adorable dogs on the trail near my house.)

Slept In When Possible

This was a basically impossible feat when my kids were breastfeeding, and I breastfed for a long-ass time, relative to most. However, once they didn't need a drink of milk first thing in the morning, my partner and I switched off who woke up with them every day and it's glorious. As he puts it: "It's like a mini-Christmas every other day." Weekends are particularly magnificent.

Got A Tattoo (Or Two)

Because when you're pregnant or nursing, most artists ask you to wait. But once that wasn't an issue, mama got some damn ink. It felt like I'd waited forever.

Because, you guys, I'm not like a regular mom. I'm a cool mom.

Lied About "Mommy Chocolate"

Sometimes a woman just needs everyone to lay off her damn chocolate stash, right? When my kids would see a fancy chocolate bar (or frozen treat, or whatever) they would ask to have some and my answer was always the same,

"Sorry. That's Mommy Chocolate. It's very spicy. Mommy's like it, but it doesn't taste very good to kids."

And. They. Bought. That. Why? Because they're toddlers and toddler's, bless their hearts, are extremely gullible creatures.

Instituted Lunch Dates

Courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Once kids hit their toddler years, all of a sudden they're able to engage with you in new and exciting ways. So once they were old enough to actually sit at a table, I began taking my kids on special lunch dates from time to time. (Usually bagels or frozen yogurt or, in my daughter's case, sushi. The girl is like a damn grizzly. She loves raw salmon.)

Yes, it was for them, too, but it was also for me to just sit back, enjoy their company, and make some nice memories of something they only ever did with their mama.

Actually Embraced My Body

I will readily and with humility point out that I am absolutely still a work in progress when it comes to accepting my own body. But I feel like I'd slowly been working to reach a better place for years and then, once my youngest was a toddler, all the progress I'd made over the years really internalizing the idea that there's no way a body is supposed to look finally reached a new level where I was like, "F*ck your bullsh*t beauty standards. Imma be me." I mean, I bought and wore a bikini, which was huge for me.

Skipped Chores To Play

Courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Again, yes, it's for them, but it's for me, too. Because it's fun.

Plus, there's this ominous, lingering expiration date on them wanting to play with me, so I'm going to go for it whenever I can.