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Hoosier Mama | In Parenting the Days are Long and the Years are Short

WHEN YOU BECOME A PARENT, you fall in love unlike any other time in your life. You meet your sweet baby and suddenly your entire world can be held in your arms and wears tiny diapers. The newborn smell intoxicates you. You could easily spend hours watching your child softly sleep, counting little toes and sneaking kisses. You never imagined you could love someone as intensely as you do when you become a parent.

The feeling is mutual. Your child is your most devoted fan. Sometimes the only thing that soothes a newborn is simply the comfort of being held by his parent. Just the feeling of a parent’s heart beating nearby is enough to calm an otherwise fussy baby. As soon as a baby wakes, he looks for a parent. If a child is frightened by a nightmare, he wants his parent. You could be in your 30s stuck in bed with the flu and want your parent. As a parent, you’ll never be needed, wanted and loved so much in your life.

And it’s exhausting.

Just as you’ll never experience love like you do when you become a parent, you’ll never experience exhaustion like being a new parent. Shortly after I gave birth to my first baby, I quickly became acquainted with this new level of extreme exhaustion. Turns out babies typically don’t sleep more than two hours at a time and sleeping in two-hour increments gets pretty tiring for an adult. Add breastfeeding struggles, colic and normal newborn fussiness and you’ll be lucky to get two hours of solid sleep from your little bundle.

One of my best friends, a bachelorette in her 20s, asked me in this early period of motherhood what it was like. I told her to reminisce about a time when you had more to do than hours in the day. For example, in college, when you had to work, go to class, do this, do that and then you had a massive project due the following day. So you just made a late-night pot of coffee, pulled an all-nighter to get it done and tried your best to play the part of functioning human the next morning. Early motherhood feels like that, but it’s a never-ending cycle. You have the all-nighters without the next day to crash and recoup the hours of sleep you missed the day before. Yet, you keep going.

You stay awake even though you have never functioned on such a severe lack of sleep. You get out of bed to answer the cries in the middle of the night, even though rolling out of bed seems like too daunting of a task. Parents endure the recovery from childbirth, the pain of infertility and miscarriage, the medical struggles, life stresses, balancing their work life and home life and so many other obstacles all the time. The love a parent feels from their child gives them the tenacity to keep going and so they do.

Typically, it gets better. Even if your newborn is a horrific sleeper, they typically don’t continue to wake hourly for years and years. Even if your toddler only sleeps soundly nuzzled nearby, eventually they grow out of it. I don’t know any high-schooler who still sleeps swaddled next to Mom. There will more than likely be a time when you as a parent will once again sleep in your own bed and wake up well-rested.

Even after the extreme exhaustion new parents experience ceases, you probably will never experience a truly carefree time like you did before you had children. Life is just different now. You have someone who is so incredibly precious to you living in this tumultuous world. So, naturally, you worry and fret. Years after your baby kept you up at night crying as a newborn, you’ll find yourself calming your child down after waking from a scary nightmare. One day you’ll find yourself staying up late until you know your child drove home safely. You may still worry and check on your child even if your child is grown and has their own children. (Hi Mom.)

No matter the age or circumstances, parenthood is simply exhausting. The level of exhaustion ebbs and flows as your child grows but is always there in some capacity. My oldest is only four and I have fully embraced my life with dark circles under my eyes and a cup of coffee in my hand at almost any time.

The exhaustion is truly a small price to pay for this incredibly rewarding and full life. After I became a parent, I experienced love for the first time in a way I’ve never experienced before. I adore everything about my children. Every little perceived imperfection looks perfect to me. There’s just something about loving someone so unconditionally that softens you. Experiencing this type of love provides a fresh perspective on your life that illuminates what’s truly important. It’s like when Dorothy first enters Oz and everything becomes Technicolor.

Soon enough, you can’t imagine your life without kids. A life without your kids looks as bleak and dreary as the tumbleweeds rolling through Dorothy’s sleepy Kansas town before the big storm hit.

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HOOSIER MAMA | Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

By Farrah Alexander

Four years ago, I was a brand-new mom taking my brand-new son out of the house solo for the first time. I was still recovering from an intense labor and delivery and the newfound state of extreme exhaustion I never knew existed. My husband returned to his demanding routine of balancing grad school, an internship and his full-time job. My baby was adjusting to the world after an early arrival, recovering from jaundice and breastfeeding struggles.

We were tired. All of us, so very tired.

Even the tiny goal of a trip to the post office seemed daunting. What if he cries? How am I going to carry these packages and a baby? What if he’s too cold? What about the germs? Oh my God, the germs. But off we went.

As I struggled with the logistics of getting my newborn out of the car seat, into my carrier and out into the farrah3world, I spotted and locked eyes with another mother. Although she was clearly in another stage of motherhood, she also looked tired as she shuffled her small army of little ones into her minivan. I must have looked desperate and overwhelmed to this veteran mother who had years of experience compared to my mere weeks.

Now that my oldest just turned four, I know this mother could have told me anything. She could have scoffed at my exhaustion and warned me to just wait. Just wait until potty training. Just wait until school bullies. Just wait until sibling fights. She could have turned her experience into pessimism.

Instead, she looked at me without even pausing her shuffle of buckling kids in their seats – a routine she’s clearly done countless times – smiled, let out a half-hearted laugh and said with absolute certainty and conviction, “You’re going to have so much fun!”

farrah2Just as I now know all mothers face different challenges as their kids get older and all mothers face some level of physical or mental exhaustion, I also know she was right. It is so much fun.

Before I became a mother, I thought parents were surely lying when they claimed life was more fun with kids. I thought it was something they said to justify the monotonous realities of parenthood. Choose late nights up with a fussy infant over catching a late movie? Then spending weekend mornings up early watching Curious George rather than sleeping in and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee in your pajamas until noon? No, thanks. I honestly thought much of the fun ended when you began having kids.

The truth is it’s a different kind of fun. “Netflix and chill” is more than just a euphemism. Now, I spend the latter part of my evenings looking forward to putting the kids in bed, snuggling up on the couch with my husband until one of us falls asleep under the warm glow of the television. It is a truly rare occasion that farrahI’m still wearing makeup and actual pants past 8:30. Weekends are spent going to the zoo, attending kids’ birthday parties or something else I wouldn’t have any interest in if I wasn’t a parent. You don’t go to events like Disney on Ice because you want to see if Mickey Mouse has skating skills. You want to see your child’s face light up with the sense of wonder and excitement that only exists when you’re a child.

Suddenly all these silly, goofy things are fun because you have kids and the kids make it fun.

There’s so much fun to be had and there’s no one more eager to have fun than a kid. Although as a parent, you obviously carry all the responsibility and the less fun factors of being an adult, you also get to call all the shots.

So, you remember trick or treating at the house with the full-sized candy bars? You can be that house. You remember wanting to wear your Batman costume for no particular occasion, other than Tuesday? Well, happy Tuesday, kid. You’re the caped crusader overseeing our daily errands.

The days are long, but the years are short. This time in our lives is fleeting and one day will be but a memory. Everyone only gets one shot at childhood and we, as parents, largely shape just what kind of childhood that will be. So, let’s have some fun.