Parenthood is a total game-changer when it comes to personal priorities, relationships with your spouse and family, communication, intimacy, hygiene, song-selection, and complete exhaustion. The pre-baby “itch” typically consists of euphoric daydreams of that new baby smell, silly giggles, perfect spoonfuls of baby food effortlessly popping in/out of tiny puckers, hot-mom bod sliding in and out of those skinny jeans, and trolling the streets with an innovative stroller system and matching shades like a boss.
You can’t possibly contemplate why everyone is asking you to “wait and enjoy life before kids… because everything changes.”
Thankfully, one intuitive mama named Fran sent me a special message to my “Ask Ruthi” advice column and put it out there. She asked the golden question that many want to know:
What really changes after having kids? What am I supposed to appreciate, besides the obvious, before preparing for parenthood?
As an experienced mom with four kids, please allow me to be your candid tour-guide into the future and break it down to you with my top 10 unfiltered truths about life before kids.
1. Enjoy Peace on Your Porcelain Throne
“Hey sis, I think mom is in the bathroom. Let’s go!”
You may not appreciate it yet, but you are queen of the crapper right now… alone. Go ahead—sit, squat, pee, or poop in complete serenity! You have it better than you know right now. Once kids come into play, your throne becomes a magnet for little ones. You are no longer queen of that throne, more like a loyal servant. The doors become their personal drum… and that’s only if you are able to close the door. Locking the door for any reason whatsoever sends an ultrasonic mental alarm instructing them to bang on it nonstop in complete hysteria as to why you are locking them out. If you choose to leave the door open for a quick piss, you’re likely on standby to break up the next sibling issue or simply signalling for an audience. Just don’t become the “camel bladder mom” who forgoes a bathroom break altogether until the end of the day when you give up and Cailou comes on.
2. Enjoy Your Birthday Suit
Some parents believe that nudity around their kids of all ages is acceptable, and more power to them. You may or may not agree, but in any case, enjoy your body and your random will to be naked… at any time! Kids are curious and parenthood will offer you more questions than you bargained. Your personal sense of modesty may likely change when you have constant spectating eyes, pokey fingers, and a flurry of questions at all times. Let’s face it, your body will totally morph after pregnancy, labor, and about a few too many tubs of Nutella because “you just need a break.” If you breastfeed, your once perky boobies may resemble more of a deflated Hacky Sack after a few rounds of kids. Enjoy your enviable perky boobies. Squeeze them, bounce them, and hold them up high in your best cleavage-boasting bra. Enjoy your freedom of random nudity. Frolic in your freedom, my friend. Heck, both of you walk around naked any time for any reason and shout profanities because you can!
3. Enjoy Your Veggies
Broccoli or Baby?
This may sound like a strange topic, but please hear me out. When you are pregnant, your belly may grow to shocking proportions and resemble an overripe watermelon of sorts. When everything eventually makes it’s way back to pre-baby weight and you are done celebrating with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, you may experience your first real bloat that will give you PTSD over your 9 months of stretched-out skin that finally retracted. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions, beans, spinach, mushrooms, etc. will unfortunately be followed by a new veggie baby bump. You may even instinctively begin cradling it, rocking side-to-side, and watching that gas-baby stretch to drastic proportions, my friend. Veggies will no longer be the same. By nighttime, you and your hubby may even bid on what month your bloatacious broccoli baby appears to be measuring. The most humiliating part happens to the best of us when an unsuspecting mom says those 5 words that change your friendship forever. “Congratulations, when are you due?” Please think of a good comeback line now for that one, because the shock will leave you speechless and daydreaming of kicking her in the face, long after the incident.
4. Enjoy Loud Loving
Shout, scream, howl, sing opera, and/or slam that headboard to your heart’s content while bumping—whatever your jam. Just go for it at any time, and enjoy it loudly. Once kids come in the picture, things become quiet as a mouse to avoid little feet tip-toeing towards images they will never be able to erase. Your once wild frolic will be more of a pantomime romp if you both stay awake long enough to enjoy. The only loud loving you’ll be doing will happen during scheduled nooners if your kids are all in school.
5. Enjoy Mealtime Conversation
Barking out orders for kids to stay at the table, pleading for bored kids to eat their food, entertaining each bite, begging kids to “try” their veggies, and cleaning up spilled drinks will take up most of your focus during a meal with kids. Older kids will have “big ears” and lots of questions over every secret conversation or whisper you try to succeed. As your hubby rolls his eyes and you frantically try and keep the peace while instilling good table manners, adult conversation will be better suited for nighttime.
6. Enjoy Your Day Off
Once you have kids, there’s no turning back. Welcome to the world sans sick days, bye bye loud parties or drunken stupors, no more hangovers, and no more reckless behavior. Parenting means all eyes, all ears, and all questionable behavior closely monitored and analyzed by little humans learning from their superhero role models. Don’t screw up, because one day they will be pushing your wheel chair and paying for your nursing home.
7. Enjoy Couples’ Vacay
Vacation won’t be the same once you assume the role of parent. Your lounging, late-morning, and over-indulging romantic getaway will soon be replaced by water slides, floaties, tantrums, early mornings, goldfish snacks, and photo ops with strangers wearing large cartoon costumes. Everything will be about the kids at all times. Grab your glass of wine now while you soak it all in.
8. Enjoy Nasty Talk
Potty mouth, sailor mouth, foul language, cursing, swearing—whatever you call it, shout it out in plain sight… and then do it over and over again until it’s out of your system. No you did not say shoot, ship, oh nuggets, or shut the front door! Let it out like a mama peeling out of those skinny jeans at the end of the day! Free those swear words like a mama taking off that tired bra because you just had enough. Let it all hang out, sista’! Let loose and don’t hold back because once you have munchkins in your vicinity, all ears will be parroting back your bad habits.
9. Enjoy Your Music
You may be taking it for granted and have no idea whatsoever. Right now you gracefully sit in the car without wrestling a single small human into any car seat, and you just turn the radio on. You scroll through those stations and listen to anything YOU want and turn it up louder than little ears should be exposed. Before you know it, your tiny humans will own you. They will own your brain even long after they are in school, as the “Wheels on the Bus,” “Laurie Berkner” or “Cailou” tunes torture your tired brain as you do grocery shopping or sit through another status meeting at work. However, this phase will likely pass by the second or third kid—I assure you—as their nursery rhymes will be replaced by the best rap or pop music in your stage of mental rebellion and you develop reflexes like a cat in quickly muting the inappropriate parts.
10. Enjoy Your Sleep
This advice seems overrated and tired, since it’s typically the very first recommendation you receive without much explanation. Here’s the truth, my friend—once you have kids, it’s for life and karma will pinch you nasty if you screw up. The “sleep now” advice seems like crap to you, I’m sure—but what you don’t realize is that whether you are super-pregnant and managing sleep like a whale on dry land; sleeping in 15-second increments as a newborn screams for more cuddling and milk; sleeping with your toddler’s elbow, knee, and toes somehow crammed up your nose through the night; or returning into different bedrooms for the eighth cup of water; sleep will be obsolete, even on the days that you sleep with one eye opened because you’re worried why your kid actually slept through the night. Once you’re preggo, you’ll sleep in about a decade later, unless you have more than one…no worries.
Please do not be discouraged by this list, as having kids is a beautiful, life-changing, all-encompassing journey and gift that can ever happen to a person. I would never have it any other way. This incredible phenomenon known as parenthood is a rollercoaster ride that comes with its own bag of ying-yang and a bucket of karma that will carry us through time, age, and experience, only to ultimately offer us the sharpest wisdom from the best and worst of our personal experience.
Just remember to enjoy every step of your journey—and learn to laugh, forgive, love openly, and be the most compassionate and selfless part of yourself you can express. After all, you and your life partner will soon be the guardians of tiny, precious humans.
I love my lil’ monsters, but I’m clearly having “one of those weeks.” Can you please help me?
1) How do I find an even-flow at dinner, let the kids share their day, but also allow parents/adults to talk also. Also, how do I teach my kids to sit and eat their dinner? I feel like throughout most meals, the kids make everything a game, act overly silly—they become so distracted that they don’t finish eating or spill their food—not to mention the excessive reminders to use an inside voice, not talk with their mouth full, etc.
2) How do I get my kids to listen the first time and not completely loose my mind when they don’t listen. I’m just so tired of repeating myself.
3) How do I get my kids to not dilly-dally (or touch/play with whatever crosses their path) when transitioning between tasks and places?
Thanks for your openness and honesty! I’m sorry that you’ve been experiencing a tough week, although you can rest-assured that you’re not the only one. You have actually—quite accurately—captured the typical toddler struggles between parents and children.
The good news, however, is that with the right mix of modeling, consistency, reassurance, and reward (and it’s not what you think!), it’s ALL teachable over time.
I’ve been there, believe me. I’ll paint the picture, as I know it so well:
- The endless struggle between kids who just want to “have fun” and annoyed parents who want peace and sanity at the table
- Toddlers who act out at the table because they’re just “bored” of sitting without entertainment
- Mom trying to desperately repeat table manners to distracted ears
- Mom’s desperate plea to her kids, “just eat!”
- Mom struggling through conversation with her husband, while managing the chaotic little table patrons
The. Struggle. Is. Real. Mealtime can be so stressful, no doubt—and going out to eat isn’t always so pleasant either.
How does it get better? Does it even get better? Yes, yes it can.
Engaging the Senses
Let’s face it—kids are curious and full of energy. Toddlers may often have a hard time just sitting for long periods of time to eat food that is not considered “fun” or “exciting” to them. Their natural inclination is to play, laugh, move around their seat, engage their senses, and find a game, goofy behavior, or toy to focus on instead. Constant nagging, repeating, and threatening consequences may seem like the only way… but it often falls to ears that have tuned you out long before your begging session. You want your child to learn, and you don’t want to resort to zombie-mode with an electronic device or tv blaring in the background either.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned with four kids of my own is to stimulate their mind with the entertainment that they crave and is acceptable.
“I have an important question for you! I’ll only ask when you’re sitting flat and center on your chair, and have taken a bite. Who will go first?”
- Offer each child your full attention by asking his/her opinions and thoughts about any topic relevant in their world. Demonstrate active interest and importance, and then offer your individual thoughts as well. Simply model conversation techniques. Not only does this practice offer a boost of self-validation and confidence for the child, but also models proper conversation practice.
“Who wants to play a game?”
- Tap into each child’s mind with a verbal activity that suits the meal. Start a simple game of “I Spy” as they actively eat their meal throughout the game. Other games could include basic math skills using their fingers. Phonics games, such as “I’m thinking of an animal that starts with the letter _” are also wonderful mental exercises that are practical, educational, and fun. Older siblings particularly enjoy speed-maths as a group, or individual questions based on skill level. The basic premise is to demonstrate the underlying facets of conversation, turn-taking, active mealtime, mental stimulation to calm the body, confidence-building, and modeling appropriate verbal play between siblings.
“Wow, I love how well you’re eating!”
- The best reward is to praise the positive, no matter how trivial. Demonstrate proper manners and explain their importance if a child continues the same bad habit. Instead of repeating so much… just don’t. Let the children know that they lose dessert or an activity after three strikes at the table. The best part is that the strike doesn’t have to include an angry face, repeating, or shouting. A calm shake of the head, special look, or soft discouragement of the action and a silent counting finger in the air let’s the child know that you’re completely serious (and stay consistent). Praise builds confidence and losing a privilege deters the action from happening again, even if it takes a few times to learn the hard way.
- For other incentives, such as earning “stamps,” tap into an innovative stamp system on my “Game-Changer Chart for Frustrated Parents” blog.
“Ouch! Stop stepping on me with your words!”
- Turn-taking in conversation is actually a skill—learning to speak in a space. When a child’s thought is imminent and he/she is worried about forgetting and is excited to share, not a moment passes before a child will blurt out a comment in the midst of conversation and repeat it loudly until heard and acknowledged. This skill is a tricky one but still teachable. Hold up your hand like a stop sign toward the child who is speaking out of turn with a quick mention that you were in the middle of another conversation first but would love to hear his/her though after you’re finished, helps to convey your point. Remember, you are the crossing guard of table conversation.
- I also enjoy imagery to better explain my feelings with children. I often explain that when we wait in line, we offer space between each person. We don’t step on each other or push each other out of the way. We need to take turns. This works particularly well in conversation also. I ask the kids not to “step on each other with their words” and have respect for each turn. When multiple children begin speaking at the same time, I may cover my ears and explain that I can’t understand anyone when two are speaking at the same time. Turn-taking and speaking in a space (interjecting with an add-on thought during a space of conversation) are essential social tools that are necessary throughout life and can easily be instilled from a young age.
“Eeew, I don’t want to see your chewed up food.”
- Kids become excited to speak when they have an important thought—even mid-chew. Explain the importance of finishing the food in his/her mouth before speaking, dangers of choking while speaking, and offering the tools to manage this scenario are key. Demonstrate how to cover our own mouth with one hand and place one finger in front to indicate a pause for swallowing. This effectively “saves their spot in line” of conversation. If a child continues to speak with a full mouth, I generally remind the child that I don’t want to see his/her chewed up food nor can I understand the garbled speech. “Please finish your mouth so I can understand.” Model the behavior again and don’t offer any more attention until the child obliges.
Fight Distraction Through Action
The Broken Record Syndrome is exhausting, mind-numbing, and often angering… why won’t they just listen?! It’s simple… they’re not robots! Children are curious and easily distracted little sponges soaking up e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. around them all the time. Stop being a drill sergeant or ol’ yeller and make a change to your unflattering and flailing approach.
- Morning Time Music: Play music through your computer, iPhone, or radio with some positive and fun tunes. Change up the morning vibe and sing/dance and wake up those kiddos with a silly smile. First one dressed gets to be DJ and pick the next song! Other morning time games and strategies to wake up and go can be found on my “5 Tips to Ending Morning Meltdowns” blog.
- Game of Speed: Kids love challenges, so ask the kids to pick the number of seconds within a range that they can safely complete a task. When an activity is a game, everyone wins. Remember to always praise good listening, effort, and follow-though. Continue this until their quick attention and action become inherent, but don’t lose sight of your appreciation and acknowledgent.
- Repeat Until Its Done: Kids know they can forget because they’re easily distracted. Help them by stating your expectations in short statements. Repeat or sing these phrases, and then ask them to do the same until it’s done. For instance, in the morning, you may say, “Teeth. Socks. Shoes.” Repeating until it’s done offers a practical way to remember and complete a task on a mission.
Remember, when you’re annoyed, tired of repeating, or just exhausted… try to envision the world through your child’s eyes. Instead of quickly responding to the superficial action, try to understand the why and the instinctive need and then think of a way to help a child learn and grow.
P.S. Do you have a question that you’d like to share with us? Contact Ruthi with new questions, comments, and tips to this answer by filling out the form on the Contact Us page.
I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind and getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing, however, it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips?
Great question! Perhaps the best advice I typically offer my clients on this exact issue is to just start writing. People easily feel “stuck” in figuring out how/where to begin that they make themselves feel overwhelmed and stifled. Just start, it’s that simple. Whether you are writing notes, fragmented ideas, an outline, topics, or phrases, you won’t open the flood gate of thoughts until the words start stumbling out.
Remember, you can always go back and edit, revise, and format… but you need to start somewhere. Don’t worry about making it sound “perfect,” just start. Oftentimes, I even begin with notes or an outline and then fill in the gaps. Try it out and please feel free to let me know how that worked for you.
P.S. Do you have a question that you’d like to share with us? Contact Ruthi with new questions, comments, and tips to this answer by filling out the form on the Contact Us page.
What do you use on your skin? What’s your trick, because it doesn’t seem like you age! I’m tired of breakouts in my 40’s and just want to have clean, fresh skin that’s under control.
Gail (Orlando, Florida)
I have always experienced issues with the skin on my face and back as a teen and even in my 20’s. The after-effects of picking a pimple typically leads to an unsightly dark spot that takes an eternity to clear.
I used to be that college kid who walked around her apartment at night covered in the latest bright green, minty mud mask in a desperate attempt to control my pesky pores.
I am a stubborn and practical person, and I was determined to figure out how to manage this annoying issue that was putting a huge damper on my self-esteem… and I’m happy to say that I have finally found it! My personal solutions are so simple and inexpensive, and effectively reverse some sun and skin damage issues.
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
I kept reading articles about the benefits of organic coconut oil not only as a source of nutrition, but also for the skin. This oil serves as an excellent moisturizer and deep cleanser that help to revitalize the skin, clean out clogged pores, reduce wrinkles, and decrease premature aging.
The idea of applying coconut oil on my face seemed strange at first, not only because I was cooking with it, but also because I was worried that the oil would leave my face greasy and further clog my pores (which it does not at all). I had to try it to believe it—so I did—and I have been hooked ever since!
Several times per week, after washing/drying my face at bedtime with a simple facial cleanser, I apply a small amount of the oil all over my face, hands, and feet that tend to be dry in the cooler months. I then use a towel to lightly dab the extra oil on the surface. That’s it!
In the morning, I wash my face normally and am amazed at how well the coconut oil works to heal and repair breakouts. When I began to use the product regularly, I was in disbelief at how deep wrinkles on my forehead and around my eyes disappeared.
The oil’s regenerative properties really hold true. Darks spots from previous acne disappeared, and my skin has remained radiant and smooth. I even use this on my children’s eczema spots, scrapes, and cuts due to its strong antioxidant properties.
The other crucial tactic to maintaining smooth skin is to banish your fingers from your face! During a bored, stressed, or self-critical moment, it’s too easy to fall back to bad habits in picking those little “bumps” in hopes of making them disappear.
What you actually end up doing is creating a subcutaneous infection, spreading the “gunk,” and creating a mini-wound on your face that now has to start a healing process. Why bother?
Stay away from your face and stop picking, even if you need to cut your nails or put post-its on the mirror. Once you leave your face alone and keep it clean, the problem areas will be a thing of the past. The less you touch your skin, the cleaner your skin will remain with fewer opportunities to spread bacteria onto your pores.
Hydrate & Feel Great
While selecting a great cleanser is crucial for the health of your skin, so is your hydration! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day not only cleanses and detoxifies your system, but also serves to hydrate and refresh your skin.
You should feel vibrant from the inside out, so treat your body and your skin well by drinking pure water throughout the day. Believe me, you will notice the effects on your skin. Start by drinking eight to 10 eight-ounce servings, throughout the day (not all at once). From radiant, glowing skin, less acne spots, greater moisture, and improved elasticity, your skin will thank you for it—and you’ll feel better too.
Rest & Relief
I never thought that I would find the day where I could confidently stop wearing make-up and “hide” under a thick layer of foundation. This really turned my skin around, and I have never been more proud of the journey.
Maintaining healthy and smooth skin is so simple and inexpensive, but it starts with You. Good luck, and feel free to post pictures of your flawless skin here!
P.S. Do you have a question that you’d like to share with us? Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, and tips to this answer.
Can you please tell me your potty training tips? I am going to start in a few months on my little girl. My former nanny trained my first daughter at 21 months, and I had nothing to do with it.
Kristy (Miami, Florida)
This is a topic that comes up often with parents of young children. The key to even starting the potty training process is to make it FUN! Positive reinforcement is crucial to getting the result you want. This entire experience can be overwhelming and bit scary for little ones, so make sure to stay calm and as patient as possible. Remember, potty training techniques may vary based on personality, gender, and sibling order, but here’s a general breakdown of some tips that worked for my three girls.
1. First Purchase: Buy a potty seat and keep it out for exploration, playing, and role modelling, even as early as 18 months. Your child needs to feel comfortable sitting in it, so start early.
2. Communication is Key: Begin talking about wearing “big girl panties” and making in the toilet instead of a diaper.
3. Panty Shopping: Shop for her first panties and get your daughter excited about the cartoons or colors that she picks. Discuss how she will begin using the panties and soon she will not need a diaper.
4. Routine and Practice: During routine pee times, such as after waking up and before bath, ask her to try sitting on the potty seat and sing a song together to keep it fun. Eventually, something may trickle out, which should ensue a big “potty celebration dance.” The more fun and positive, the more she will want to please you.
Day #1: Once I decided to train, I stayed home for a few days (weekend) and had her in a shirt and panties (no diapers, no pull-ups). We stayed in the living room near the potty seat (roll up your throw rug, as accidents will happen), and I made sure she was drinking a lot of fluids. We spent the day playing games, reading books, and sitting on the potty every 20 – 30 minutes or more to figure out her body’s cycle. On the first day, be prepared for many accidents. The goal on day #1 is to enable your child to gain the sensation and ability to release and control the flow. Once I would see her behavior become a bit jumpy and her look of concern when a few drops would release, I would quickly place her on the seat to let her finish on the potty. Even if only one drop makes it to the potty seat, point it out and do your potty dance.
Day #2: Keep her in panties and a shirt, or with pants, depending on how successful you’ve been so far. Continue the same protocol, but you may notice better urinary control and succeeding in making it to the potty nearly half of the time, with gentle reminding. The time between peeing will also extend to an estimated 1-hour apart.
Poop Clause: Please keep in mind that stool will likely be a challenge because the concept of pushing and watching a mass from your body come out is strange and likely upsetting. Sometimes you just have to see the classic pre-push “squat” and that’s your signal to place her on the toilet before it comes out. After a few of those unnerving practice poops, she will realize that it’s not scary at all. Remember the potty dancing to keep it as fun and stress-free as possible.
Day #3: Start with panties and pants. Now that urinary control is well on its way, even if the stool element is still tricky, introduce the big toilet with a kid-friendly insert. I had purchased a handy insert that could fold into 4 to easily fit in a zip lock bag and right into your purse or baby bag for public outings. This transition will prove to be easy and familiar when shifting from the home insert to the same insert in a public toilet.
Public Outings: When the weekend is over and you need to go out, don’t go backwards in progress. Bring a few changes of clothes, your portable insert, and your potty seat in the car. Lining the seat with a small plastic bag makes for simple, on-the-go clean-up. Make sure your little one pees before leaving the house or before leaving the car. With time, she will have the ability to hold it longer and verbalize her need to use the toilet.
Nighttime: Once I started with panties, I did continue using a nighttime diaper until I started to notice that it was mostly dry in the morning. Once the diapers were typically dry, I stopped diapers completely and transitioned to panties, day/night, accidents and all. Always make sure to attempt a visit to the toilet before bedtime to empty her bladder. During this phase, I found that allowing accidents to happen at night (even if a burden to mom and dad) enabled the child to gain the sensation of releasing, wetness, and discomfort at nighttime. Accidents in our house usually happened around 4 am, so I would try to wake her up before this time to release on the toilet. Once she begins gaining awareness of controlling her bladder during sleep and refusing to urinate in the middle of the night, you will start to notice less accidents and more dry nights as well.
Please feel free to tailor these tips to your level of comfort and instinct, as all parents and kids are different. I hope that this helps get you started on this exciting diaper-free journey.
Do you have a question that you’d like to share with us? Contact Ruthi with new questions, comments, and tips to this answer by filling out the form on the Contact Us page.