I'm Embarrassed By What A Lazy Mom I've Become

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The thing about having kids is that it is way more work to take care of a child than it is to not take care of a child. It isn’t that people without kids can’t and don’t work hard — they totally can and often do. It’s just that when you have a human child, you have to do all those taking care of yourself things, and then on top of that you also have to take care of this tiny little person who depends on you for more or less everything in the universe. So naturally, we, the exhausted masses of parents, sometimes find ways to cut corners. We take our breaks when we can get them, capitalize on moments to not feel guilty about lazy parenting, and we take advantage of pretty much any opportunity to sit down and chill for a bit. Or, at least, I do.

It’s come to my attention that other parents are not always quite as lazy as I am, and I’m starting to get a little self conscious about that fact. My kid is turning 2 years old this year, and taking care of a toddler is freaking hard. It also turns out, I’ve spend most of the last two years finding ways to be as lazy as I can, and now there’s no two ways around it: I’ve become a total lazy mom, and it’s embarrassing.

I don’t have this whole parenting thing nearly as rough as some people do. I have only one child, for one thing, so I’m not trying to figure out how to keep multiple kids entertained and alive at once. I also have an incredible wife, who is an active and engaged co-parent, and we more or less divide parenting and housework duties equally. It’s pretty cool, and I feel like, logically, there is no reason I should be drowning under the weight of it all, and therefore I should not need all these lazy work-arounds to make it through the day. Yet I’ve developed some seriously lazy habits, all of which I am seriously embarrassed about when other parents step into my home.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
If I’m being honest, the days when we watch the most TV, it’s just because I’m lazy. It’s because I’m sick of making the tiger puppet talk for hours on end, and I do not want to have another dance party because I like sitting down. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone is 152 minutes long, during which I can more or less sit on my butt on the couch. Do I tell myself that I’m putting it on so I can sneak out of the living room and actually get some dishes done? Yes. Is that a bold-faced lie? Yes? Am I really embarrassed about that fact? You betcha!

I watch TV with my toddler, especially on those days when my spouse is at work and it’s just me and the little one. This is what I think of as “introductory-level” laziness. The fact is that, in my experience, most parents of toddlers are watching some TV with their kids, and many of them are trying to downplay exactly how much. In fact, I know of exactly one family that doesn’t do this, and while I admire them, I also understand that I’m just not them. And hey, there’s a decent chance TV isn't rotting all of our children’s brains into mush. We’re the kind of hippie-progressive type parents who are super uptight about what our kid watches (in a way that probably looks nonsensical from the outside) and don’t actually own a physical TV… but we can get down with some Netflix on the laptop.

There’s lots and lots of reason to engage in a little screen time now and again (and Puffin Rock is very educational! I know a lot about pygmy shrews now, for example). But if I’m being honest, the days when we watch the most TV, it’s just because I’m lazy. It’s because I’m sick of making the tiger puppet talk for hours on end, and I do not want to have another dance party because I like sitting down. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone is 152 minutes long, during which I can more or less sit on my butt on the couch. Do I tell myself that I’m putting it on so I can sneak out of the living room and actually get some dishes done? Yes. Is that a bold-faced lie? Yes? Am I really embarrassed about that fact? You betcha!

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

And let’s talk about dishes, OK? Specifically, we’re going to talk about the kind that are made of paper and you throw them away after eating. I hate them and am pretty sure that every time I buy them it makes me a terrible person and all the other hippies will judge me and never speak to me again, but guess what? Sometimes I do it anyways. Sometimes the lure of having less dishes to contend with is like a tempting siren song. I stand in the paper products aisle at Target and think, Do we really need these paper plates? Don’t Americans already produce an astonishing amount of waste? Wouldn’t it be better to save a couple of bucks? and then I then I picture my sink at home.

Look, cooking meals and feeding a toddler creates a whole lot of mess, and I’m down with curbing that pretty much wherever I can. Then, I buy the damn plates. And then I wonder if I’ll be able to hide all signs of paper plates in the garbage before any of our friends come over.

Letting babies feed themselves is really freaking messy, and at the time we were living in an apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting, so we had to do something. The thing is, where we moved, we have hardwood floors now. But I don’t have the energy to clean them one million times a day. So that's where the garbage bag comes in.
GIPHY

Speaking of the many joys of mealtimes, now we’re getting to the good stuff. I’m embarrassed about the paper plates and the Harry Potter marathons, for sure, but I’m not nearly as embarrassed about those moments of laziness as I am about this: On any given day, at any given time, if you come into my home, you are likely to see a black garbage bag laid out on my dining room floor, covered in a fascinating mix of cheerios and raisins, under the high chair. The “garbage-bag trick” is something we picked up from a group of baby-led weaning advocates on Facebook. Letting babies feed themselves is really freaking messy, and at the time we were living in an apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting, so we had to do something. The thing is, where we moved, we have hardwood floors now. But I don’t have the energy to clean them one million times a day. So that's where the garbage bag comes in. In my defense, if it was a simple sweep, that would be one thing, but you know there’s always got to be something weirdly sticky and smeary involved.

I don’t know if it actually makes me a terrible person, or if the shame in my own head is just so loud that I cannot hear reason anymore. When I say, “I’m sorry about the mess” what I mean is, “I’m sorry I’m a terrible lazy mother who has left this weird mess on her floor for hours and hours, I truly do not know what exactly is wrong with me, don’t hate me!”

But of course, those garbage bags are made of plastic, and using them makes me feel lazy and wasteful in the extreme. I try to assuage my guilt by using one garbage bag for several meals and snacks, which means that the situation gets pretty gross and weird before I do anything about it at all. Inevitably, if a neighbor drops by unexpectedly, it’s always when I haven’t cleaned my son's high chair yet and the garbage bag setup is covered in hummus, cookies, milk, cucumber bits, and some kind of other unidentifiable matter. I don’t know if it actually makes me a terrible person, or if the shame in my own head is just so loud that I cannot hear reason anymore. When I say, “I’m sorry about the mess” what I mean is, “I’m sorry I’m a terrible lazy mother who has left this weird mess on her floor for hours and hours, I truly do not know what exactly is wrong with me, don’t hate me!”

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

But there is no aspect of my lazy parenting that I am more overwhelmingly embarrassed about than the diaper-change station. I am so embarrassed about it, that before I describe it to you, I am going to justify it first.

I change all diapers throughout the day right there on the damn floor, and my kid is so used to this that he recently had a meltdown about someone trying to move his pillow. In addition to that, I usually keep a plastic bag for diaper trash, and a wet bag for diaper laundry, right there in the living room. That is how much I just am not going to go to another room if I don’t absolutely have to. Added bonus: We don’t have to stop watching TV.

Look, after my son was born, I was in very bad shape. I found myself recovering from a c-section and a gallbladder surgery and an infection all at the same time, which turns out to be pretty freaking hard and exhausting. In addition to that, I had pretty bad postpartum depression, and also just having a newborn is hard as hell for everyone in the universe. So yes, we had a very nice changing table, and no, I never walked into the (totally unused) nursery to use the damn thing. I got in the habit of keeping a stack of diapers next to our usual hangout station, which was our king-sized bed, and I’d just change him right there on the bed. I told myself it was just because I was in recovery… but now he’s going on 2 and I still have never once used the changing table for its intended purpose.

Nowadays, we don’t hang out in bed all day (the child would not allow it). But rather than adapt to that by accepting that we'll sometimes have to leave the room to change a diaper, I’ve simply moved the diaper change station. We mostly play in our living room (which is where 99 percent of his toys live, because it’s just easier that way, OK?) and in that living room, there is a bookshelf. On that bookshelf there is an assortment of diapers (both cloth diapers and disposables, if you need to know) and wipes. And on the floor, on our living room rug, there is perpetually a cloth diaper, and a throw pillow for his precious head, laid out. I change all diapers throughout the day right there on the damn floor, and my kid is so used to this that he recently had a meltdown about someone trying to move his pillow. In addition to that, I usually keep a plastic bag for diaper trash, and a wet bag for diaper laundry, right there in the living room. That is how much I just am not going to go to another room if I don’t absolutely have to. Added bonus: We don’t have to stop watching TV.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

When I visit friends with babies and toddlers, I immediately notice the difference. They do not change their babies while watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on the living room floor, which allows them to have living rooms, which almost never have poop in them. I can see the potential benefit of changing diapers in a room separate from where their family is, in a place right next to where the little potty is set up, so they can make the connection when they’re ready to switch. Taking your child into another room to change a diaper seems like a small thing, and a generally good, hygienic, and socially appropriate thing to do, but I also think, Ugh, I’m glad I don’t have to wrangle him up the stairs every single time he pees, which, for my child, is approximately 4,000 times per day.

I didn’t set out to be a lazy mom, and I’m actually not an overwhelmingly lazy person. I used to walk several miles every single day to work, and I make many a meal from scratch even when it’s a lot of work to do so. Once upon a time, when I was single and childless, my washing machine broke and instead of fixing it I was like, “I’ve been meaning to try washing all my clothes by hand like a pioneer woman anyways!” But being a mom is really freaking tiring, so I end up prioritizing laziness wherever I can. I’m not proud of it, and I cringe when other people come into my home and see some of the things that are normal here. But the truth is, if I don’t prioritize downtime for myself, it’s just never going to happen for me. If we want to keep going, sometimes we have to cut corners somewhere. Maybe the problem was never the laziness, maybe the bigger problem is the shame.