I will never, ever try to sell you on the idea that life becomes less stressful once you have children. If you're super-duper lucky, it remains as stressful as it was before, but there's really very little hope that it will become less crazy. Kids are amazing and magical, but something they cannot do is solve pre-existing problems, like money, relationships, a feeling of incompletion, or stress. Nine times out of ten, and in all honesty, they will only make those problems worse. Still, in little ways that make a difference, being a mom can de-stress your life.
I'll admit that a lot of the ways kids de-stress your life is relative. It's not so much that they're going to fix other stresses, but they seem to have built-in mechanisms to help you deal with some of the crap they will inevitably put you through; like airbags in a car, I guess. It's like children evolved into tiny humans that just know they're going to grate your last nerve frequently and relentlessly, so they've developed a series of adaptations to ensure that ye old cave-parents of yore didn't eat them (or something). So really and truly, it's not about you all; it's a kid survival tool. They need us to find them adorable and soothing.
So, with that considerable disclaimer in the back of your mind as we move forward, what are the things babies and children do to lull us into a false sense of serenity just long enough to get up to some insane new hijinks? Here are just a few:
Hormones Are Magic
Motherhood literally changes your brain. That's not me overstating the idea that motherhood changes you; that's just science. Among those changes are hormones that flood you with a heaping helping of "feel good" hormones, like oxytocin. While these hormones don't cure or prevent all anxiety, damned if they can't help you out a bit.
You guys, for real? It's like cuddling up with those little stress balls you keep at your desk to squeeze when you have to call a particularly horrific client. They're so soft, and they smell so good (usually), and they make these adorable little noises, and they're warm and they're delightfully squishy. While infants are probably best known for their stress-relieving "squeezability," don't short-change toddlers or even pre-schoolers. My 2 and 4-year-olds still have, I'm thinking, years of soothing cuddles in them.
The Zen Of Coloring (And Other Kid Activities)
Adult coloring books are all the rage, but children have been smart to the soothing virtues of coloring for years now. When you have a kid, you have more opportunities to partake of kid activities, and some of those are just really damn relaxing. It's awesome.
Bonus: you don't even have to have a moment of lingering self-consciousness or self-deprecation, because you can be like, "Well, it's not that I wanted to color. My kid did." You totally, you guys. You totally did.
Great Pride Comes From Little Accomplishments
One: you don't have time to do everything you would like to do or are used to doing when you become a parent. Furthermore, you're often looking through the world through baby vision, and babies spend months and months doing absolutely nothing. So, when they do even the simplest thing, we're like "Ahh! They just rolled over! That's amazing!" So, sometimes, little things can bring our stress levels down because even tiny little things can make us feel like winners.
A Parent Can Accomplish In An Hour What Would Take Many Others A Day
When we do have five minutes to rub together we go for it, since we don't know when an opportunity like this will come again and we want to make the most of it.
Lowered Bar = Simpler Pleasures
I'm a woman who loves her some relaxing spa services. Do you know the last time I went to a spa? July of 2011. Do you know the last time I felt like I went to the spa? Yesterday, when I took a shower, after not showering for 2 days (maybe 3, actually). Dudes, I don't know, it's hard to keep track. However, when you're running around like a crazy woman most of the time, little things can uplift your spirits and make you feel new again.
Physical Activity Can Make You Happy
Running around after kids can be chaotic, but all that activity is good for you, just like your gym teacher always said when she tried to motivate your ass to play soccer with the rest of the class. Who needs a gym when you've just spent your Saturday afternoon playing tag with a 5-year-old and lifting up your 3-year-old twins like kettlebells? Yeah, no one.
The Busier You Are The Less Time You Have To Stress About How Busy You Are
There is a limit (so take care of yourselves out there, ladies) but, in general, having a long to-do list can be a good thing, since it doesn't give you time to freak out about what is or isn't getting don.
Kids Are Hilarious
My children seriously do something hilarious every single day that I then need to text at least five people about. They say laughter is the best medicine, which is absolutely not true when you're talking about, like, guinea worm or tuberculosis, but for stress? Well, laughter is some of the best stuff on the market and kids are lousy with it. Honestly, even their laughing can be funny. It's infectious, much like tuberculosis, which, again, laughter won't cure. Please see a doctor.
Kids Are Fun
Fun is pretty much their primary concern. That and a steady stream of treats, which are also fun, so I'm just sort of restating my point. A lot of the fun stuff kids do are supposed to be "beneath" adults (for whatever reason), but I'm sorry: if jumping on a giant trampoline and watching cartoons is wrong then I don't want to be right. I mean, how the hell can you even be a little stressed on a trampoline, people?! They're magic!
You Realize, Quickly, That Doing Everything Is Impossible So You Stop Trying
There's something liberating about admitting that not everything is going to be done (probably until your kids are significantly older). It's a real weight off your shoulders to admit, in the face of this adorable little human that requires so much time and energy (and yes, can cause you a lot of stress) to say, "Nope. It's not going to happen," and then sitting back and letting some oh-so-important task fall by the wayside. The best part? You find out in short order that, like, half of the things that you had seen as oh-so-crucial really weren't.
Wine Is Your Co-Pilot
Does this make me a stay-at-home mom cliche? I don't care, because wine is helping me through this whole parenting thing by metaphorically giving me a gentle shoulder massage and saying, "Hey, pretty mama. You've got this. I'm here for you, girl."
Thank you, wine. I love you. I've always loved you, but it took having children to show me just how much.
The Possibility Of Naptime
"Sleep when the baby sleeps" is not always practical advice, but sometimes life just works out that way and sometimes (read: always) it's awesome.