This is Dude - my 32 lb. energetic bundle of laughs, mischief, slobber and curiousity. Since he came into my life a little more than a year ago, he has taught me many, many things. Things that I thought I already knew, but really...I had no idea.
Lesson #1 - Free time is a rare and precious thing.
Every now and then, I go back and read old posts on this blog. I did so recently, and laughed at how often I complained about being too busy. Then I wanted to reach back in time and smack myself on the head. I had so much free time!! Other than the 45-ish hours a week spent at work, and the 50 or so hours spent sleeping, my time was completely my own to do with as I pleased. That's a little over 70 hours every week!
Now? Free time exists only in the hours that Dude is asleep or being looked after by someone else. Ask any parent of a pre-schooler, and they will confirm that if your child is awake and in your care, you will get little else accomplished beyond ensuring their relative health, safety, entertainment, maintenance, etc. So, taking into account work and sleep, the amount of post-Dude free time is reduced to around 30 hours/week. Assuming he sleeps normally (see below). And because society frowns on the practice of leaving sleeping children alone, I cannot go anywhere during those 30 hours unless another caregiver is in attendance.
Thankfully I have someone in my life who shares the responsibilities of parenthood and is willing/able to take on solo care-giving duty for a while. This gives me a little extra time to squeak in luxury activities like going to get groceries by myself, or going out to eat with friends. However, should I want to engage in such activities with this other person, we fork over big $$ for a babysitter.
Lesson #2 - Uninterrupted sleep is a subcategory of free time.
I.e. - it is a rare and precious thing, only possible when Dude is also asleep. Fortunately for us, Dude has always been an excellent sleeper. Bedtime comes, hugs and kisses are exchanged, Dude is put in his bed, and that's it. He sleeps. And unless he's sick, overtired, or in a strange place, he usually manages to stay asleep until it's time to wake up. I cannot express to you how thankful we are for this child.
That being said, he is still a child. So there are still nights that are less than restful for all involved. And I never know when those nights will happen. Unless I decide to stay up late (and by "late" I mean anytime after 10pm) to indulge in a free time activity, like reading a book. That will invariably be the night that Dude develops a cold and ends up coughing all night, or has a nightmare at 2 am, or wakes up for some unknown reason and cannot get back to sleep without significant effort on my part.
Lesson #3 - Privacy is optional.
Not only is my time no longer my own, my space has been greatly diminished as well. Being alone while using the bathroom? Thing of the past. Eating my own food, and only my own food? Not anymore. Sitting down without serving as an interactive jungle gym? Rarely. Toddlers just don't understand the concepts of privacy or personal space, so Dude has full access at almost all times. And you know what? It honestly doesn't bother me.
Lesson #4 - Cleanliness is highly overrated.
This one probably doesn't require a whole lot of explanation. When you only have 30 hours of free time every week, you swiftly come to realize what your priorities are. I was surprised to realize how far down the list house cleaning is for me. As long as things are clean enough that no one's going to get sick, I'm good. There are other things I'd rather do with my oh so precious time. :)
#5 - A mother's love is unconditional.
It's true. I love this kid more than I ever thought it was possible to love another human being. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and my family, but it's different from the way that I love Dude. And I'm not exactly sure how to describe it. There is absolutely nothing he could do, nothing, that would change the fact that he's my son and I love him. The main goal of my life now is to make sure he grows up to be the best version of himself that he can possibly be.
Which is why it honestly doesn't matter that I have no free time, have developed permanent bags under my eyes, can't pee without an audience, and live in a pig sty. If that's what it takes to make sure he's happy and healthy, then I'm glad to do it.