At the age of twenty-eight, I officially entered the workforce. Until then, my title was “Professional Student”, with six years of my twenties devoted to completing graduate school and residency. When I got married and had a kid, I switched to part-time status and climbed into my scrubs three days a week (which, to be fair, is virtually full-time for a dentist). This sixty-percent schedule was a compromise between my husband, who informed me that I had chosen a career that paid too well to be abandoned, and me, who figured my “going into labor” demands had been satisfied this year by a C-section, thanks. Cut to two years later: I lose my job right around the time we find out our son needs spinal surgery and a lengthy home rehab period (you’re welcome to read about the serious side of that story here). SUCK IT, HUSBAND! I WIN!
Oh, but what’s that? Staying at home with a two-year old recovering from major surgery isn’t a vacation, you say? Well maybe not for YOU, but luckily, being an expert at all things, I have the chops for this assignment. And, as always, I’m willing to share my wisdom with you readers.
1. Immerse yourself in the world of toddler TV. When I informed my child that, since the grown-ups pay the cable bill, the most he could hope for was a seventy-thirty TV share in my favor, he stared blankly at me and proceeded to give zero fs. Soon, I found myself lost in animation on a daily basis just to keep him happy (and lessen the guilt over exposing him to Kathie Lee and Hoda’s mid-morning wine snack). As I half-watched these shows over my mid-morning wine snack, I noticed many of the voices sounded familiar. So while my son stared blankly at the TV (he stares blankly a lot, right? Should I look into that? Maybe Dr. Phil will talk about it today at 4), I consulted my iPhone to find out which big trees had fallen hard enough to land in the sound booth at Disney Studios. Turns out that Handy Manny is played by none other than That 70’s Show’s Wilmer Valderrama! (No wonder he sounds so apathetic about those fix-up jobs. Tough gig, amigo.) And don’t even get me started on the treasure trove that is the cast of Pound Puppies: Mr. Will Truman himself, Eric McCormack?! All of which is to say, that if you find yourself overexposed to family-friendly (read: LAME) daytime TV, it doesn’t hurt to have some background material so that, while your toddler stares blankly at these shows, you can imagine Ed O’Neill playing the role of a tool-town mayor while rolling his eyes and slinging a glass of scotch. Context is everything.
2. Maintain a healthy diet. Sure, a lot of press is given to antioxidants and vegetables and crap like that, but why complicate matters? I prefer to adhere to a simplified, lather-rinse-repeat method that emphasizes hydration: AM coffee, PM wine, water in between. That jolt of caffeine provides just enough blood flow to perfuse my cold, cold heart. The water provides fuel for the frequent bathroom breaks that allow me to check Facebook without my kid stealing my phone. And the winewell, it’s cheaper than a therapist, amirite? Now, obviously woman cannot live on fluids alone, which is what scraps from your kid’s plate are for. Kids keep it simple too, it turns out. Rather than worrying about superfoods, they stick to the tried-and-true recipes handed down from our ancestors: macaroni and cheese, fried chicken tenders, Goldfish. Basically, my kid will eat anything carb-based or in the white color family (RACIST!). And if I make just a little extra at each meal (or swoop in there quickly enough for him not to turn his blank stare from the TV), I can manage to stay full all day!
3. Keep an eye on logistics. This is another area that gets unnecessarily complicated by a lot of parents. So take it from me: you can calm down with all your Mommy and Me and music classes and Gymboree and stick to two simple rules: keep your gas tank filled and your smartphone charged. Siri (my favorite babysitter) can provide your child with hours of entertainment when you need to catch up on those extra-long episodes of Downton Abbey. And when all else fails, especially during these cold winter months, a drive around the area/state can be a great replacement for face-to-face interaction with your little one. Hell, I’ve been showing my son “Christmas lights” for months now every day around 2 pm and we’re practically to February!
4. Stay away from Pinterest. Look, I’ve never been the “crafty” type, and I don’t need to go online to remind myself that there are 40 Healthy Snack Ideas I’m not serving my child, or Top Ten Ways to Repurpose an Old Toilet Paper Roll that will provide the kid with an appreciation for recycling and art! I grew up making mudpies in the backyard and having conversations with my imaginary friend Kareena, and I turned out just fine, I tell ya, just fine! WHAT TWITCH?! So while the Pinterest set adorns their fridge with their kids’ latest art project, you can find my son learning the art of folding a fitted sheet or mixing the perfect martini. Pin THAT.
5. When all else fails, remember your own mother, who (after years of your prep work in the form of subtle hints) finally retired from her career and is therefore obligated to drive to town at a moment’s notice so you can have some ME time. It’s important for children to bond with their grandparents, after all, andI just feel like it’s my time to be a little selfish, you know?
So chins up, ladies. While it’s an adjustment to start measuring your accomplishments more in terms of diapers changed than dollars earned, there are benefits. For example, I didn’t brush my teeth today until noon, and with my current hygiene schedule I’m pretty sure my Costco-sized box of deodorant will last me until 2046. Oh, and there’s the matter of my kid: when I choose not to get too offended by it, I actually feel appreciative of the fact that somehow, he is a better person at two than I may ever be. And (caffeine jolt please) there’s this one look he gives mewhen I think he’s staring blankly at the TV and I glance over and he gives me a side-eye glance coupled with a giggle and a tiny hand on my arm? Yeah, we may be okay after all.