I have hobbies, you know. I am not one of those gals that has kids and forgets who she is or what she used to like. But this is a story, all about how my life got flipped (turned upside down) when I started hating my favorite things when my kids were around.
I still loved my kids.
I loved being around them, even.
But I dreaded herding them at restaurants, and reading aloud to them, and cooking next to them (Jesus take the wheel, they’re going to want to crack the eggs again).
I felt ashamed. And confused. Because there were definitely still things I liked to do with them. I have always been glad to be a mother. My 3 children are treasures to me, but 7 years into parenting this realization rocked me: the things I have always loved could feel like torture to me with kids along.
There were some practical things I did to get back to a place where I could enjoy some of these hobbies I used to love. I waited, because restaurants are better when kids are older. I curated permanent additions to our family book collection, because one of my greatest nightmares is having to read aloud a terrible/trite/offensive story that my 3 year old picked out at the library. I use audio books on nights when I am exceptionally whipped, and read chapter books in the mornings instead of at night, so that I will have the energy for it to be more fun. I gave myself freedom to admit my guilt to a friend, who extended grace and affirmed she cycled in and out of similar feelings.
But this story is not a to-do list of how to fix this problem if it plagues you. Your practical steps might be different than mine, and maybe reading aloud before bed is the best and sweetest moment of your day. Power to you.
Instead this is a confessional. Motherhood, and parenting, particularly when your goal is to shepherd your children beyond just “I kept them alive” — it’s really freaking hard. It hurts, and it stretches, and it can ravage you can’t it? It can discourage you and make you angry and make you cry and it can embitter you.
And that’s where I was.
I was letting some bitterness take root because my expectations of what I wanted certain moments to be were not met. If we gardened and it was boring and everyone complained, I didn’t care. Because gardening wasn’t what brought me joy pre-kids. Gardening is not what I dreamt of doing with my children when they were babes. When setting out to garden together (and I know this because since my plants expire on a regular basis, I am setting out to garden frequently), I anticipate that the following hours with my kids would not surpass my expectations of the fun I would have if gardening alone (read: no fun at all.)
But when we read, and they complain, and interrupt, and hate on the book that I loved at their age … that makes me feel that they are ruining a moment I really care about. I want our reading to feel just so. I want there to be meaning and ambiance and warm fuzzies. If these little humans of mine deviate from my plan at all, they can dash my hopes. So my lack of enjoyment can be directly proportional to how important the moment feels. Therefore I tend to get more frustrated during family holidays, on the beach over vacation, while we are at Disneyland, looking at Christmas lights, going to see a play, etc….because this is supposed to be amazing, people! We are making memories here!!!
While I take practical steps to enjoy the moments, my main process is that I give myself the freedom to confess that I don’t love every moment. I get rid of the guilt I have over getting disappointed. I try to live in the reality of what 3 kids means — “hypothetically” this means when we go get Tex-Mex during patio weather, my margarita will taste lovely but I will leave the restaurant covered in guac, without fail. So I pray for increased tolerance in the moments I know are ripe to disappoint, and I remember how grateful I am that my life isn’t only about me any more.
Then I carve out time to read a book on a patio with a glass of wine, and I leave my kids at home. And I relish the fact that the things I love still bring me joy every time…as long as I’m alone :).