What did we do this weekend?
Oh, you know. On Friday after work we met friends for a couple pints of mixology and a basket of amuse bouches, then we all went out for dinner and dancing at the city’s hottest new gastroclub, where we laughed and pointed finger guns at each other until the sun came up. And then a magical limousine drove us across the clouds to our homes, where we fell asleep on beds made from the plumage of glorious birds.
Except, no. We came home from our day jobs, dropped our bags, dropped to our knees before our kings, peeled off their crusty regalia, plopped them in the tub, bathed them, dried them, moisturized their buttholes, diapered and dressed them, sang them songs, fed them bottles, kissed them goodnight, picked up their toys, laundered their clothes, did the dishes, made dinner, did the dishes again, sat down with glasses of wine, paid for a movie, and were asleep before the opening credits.
Ah, la dolce vita.
Let me assure you, I used to spend many a Friday night on the dance floor, ripping open the snaps on the shirts of my closest friends, swilling cocktails and speaking with passion about pizza. Then the scions showed up and killed the party. Now the majority of snaps I rip open are in the crotches of onesies. I mean, I do it, but it’s just not the same.
Forget the sleepless nights, the endless parade of bums needing to be sanitized. For me, one of the hardest parts of parenthood is FOMO.
We had our sons in mid June, right as summer was kicking into full swing. Often, as I lay on the chaise beneath my cloak of tiny men, I would wrestle an arm free to look at stuff on my phone. All the photos on Instagram and Facebook were of our friends on beaches, at cookouts, looking relaxed and tan and free. Compared to me, perching on the toilet while wearing a baby in a Bjorn, everyone else had made all the right life choices.
The summer of 2013 will live in infamy as the summer that never was. We were in full lockdown mode, enslaved to babies who would not get on the same dang sleep schedule and cut us a break. Our posts on Facebook and Instagram were S.O.S. signals. “Don’t forget about us,” they said. “We’re not dead yet.” Each “like” we received from the other side was a little shot of serotonin, a tiny, encouraging nudge that kept us trudging forth through our endless fugue state.
For the first six months, our excursions were few and far between. I felt too guilty leaving a single sitter to deal with three crying babies at once, so we had to wait until they started sleeping longer at night. When we finally got a stretch of free time, Matt and I would fly out of the house, throw drinks at our faces, rush back home, tiptoe into the nursery and stick bottles in the mouths of our sleeping children, hoping it would reset their feeding clock and net us a couple consecutive hours of shut-eye.
It was a lot of work for a little bit of freedom, but we were desperate. Me, more so than Matt. I was crawling the walls, dying slowly of cabin fever. Each time I saw photos of get-togethers we weren’t a part of, I felt like Mel Gibson in “Braveheart,” howling for freedom while someone did unkind things to my guts. We had bent over backwards to create a family for ourselves, and now that we had it, all I could do was obsess about how much fun everyone else was having.
I knew that in order to have any shot at a happy life, I was going to have to find a way to balance quality family time with quality social time. I was a mom now, but I wasn’t willing to shed all the skin of my former self. My family and friends had been the source of my happiness for decades—why would I suddenly not need those relationships just as much?
Admitting that being a mother isn’t 100% fulfilling can feel like heresy. But, there it was. I loved my babies. I fussed and fretted over them and stared at them, amazed and googly-eyed while they crammed dog toys in their mouths. But, once night fell and they were asleep, all I wanted was to go out and be someone other than the person who had triplets.
So, that’s what I started doing. Matt and I began taking turns having a night out with friends during the week. On the weekend, we splurged for a sitter and went out together. I could relax over appetizers, have some drinks, maybe even rip some shirts open. And though nobody wants to be woken at 5AM after a night of boozing by three irate men in soggy pants, the pain was worth the pleasure of feeling like my old self for a couple of hours.
Our life exploded in 2013, in an amazing display of fireworks and excrement. 2014 is a rebuilding year. We are slowing reclaiming pieces of our former selves, getting used to the new bits and creating the life we want to live. It’s hard work, but it’s paying off.
That’s not to say I don’t suffer from FOMO from time to time. But now it’s not just fear of missing out on what my friends are doing. It’s also fear of missing out on what my sons are doing, which is a lot these days. This month alone we’ve heard them say “dada” (they’re super into avant-garde art from the early 20th century), we’ve watched, awe-struck, as they army crawl across the floor, feed themselves Cheerios and clap their hands. Every day they are mastering physics and activating new learning centers in their brain. And every day something moves, deep inside of me–something that is tremendously joyful and immensely heartbreaking–when I see them venture out beyond their baby-ness and become real people.
I guess my point with all this is to say that I know how important it is to be present for those fleeting, magical moments as a new parent. But there is also a pre-parenting part of me that sometimes kicks and twists just as hard as my children do as they propel themselves across the floor. And I think that it’s normal and OK to indulge that side from time to time.
Obviously, I’m not going to make it out to hang with my friends as much as I used to. Most of my dancing will continue to take place in front of my sons, who are confused and concerned by it. But when I do get out of the house, it will be as my old self. Which means one thing.
Guard your snaps.