I am 24 years old and going through the adoption process as a single parent.
I have now had my 6-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew living with me for almost nine months. During that short amount of time, to quote Will Smith, “My life got flipped-turned upside down.”
I got them when I was at the ripe old age of 23, going through my last year of graduate school in the middle of a fall quarter.
I thought I was prepared. I had been expecting them for months, but I did not know how hard it would truly be. I had been “Auntie” all of this time. I was used to having them for short periods of time, spoiling them and then returning them.
There are several things I have learned over the last nine months being a mom that I didn’t know before.
1. Kids need groceries
I no longer order out or breeze through the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. I grocery shop, and grocery shopping with kids is hell.
It is actual hell going through the aisles of the grocery store as my kids decide whether to ride on the cart or try to wander ahead to convince me of something they need me to buy.
I hated grocery shopping before, but now I absolutely dread going. Which leads me to…
2. Kids are hungry all the time
They require snacks, three square meals, more snacks and chocolate milk.
I do not recall if I did this as a kid, but my kids ask for food at least three times within the span of two hours. The whines of “I’m hungry” are constantly on loop throughout the day.
After a while, I started to learn they ask more out of boredom, than actual hunger.
3. Kids need stimulation
My Netflix binges decreased when I realized how important it was to limit screen time for them. Do not get me wrong; I still indulge in Netflix, but it usually happens hours after I should have gone to bed.
Once I got my kids, I realized how reliant I am upon technology to fill up the moments when I am bored. I started to think about when I was a kid and how I was encouraged to go outside and play, or come up with a creative game.
My kids now beg to go outside to the park or ride their bikes around the loop instead of watching TV.
They still try to entice me with good behavior to let them play on the tablets someone bought them for Christmas, but in the last six months, those have only been touched twice.
I want my kids to be creative and adventurous, not couch potatoes who do not know how to socialize outside of a text message.
4. Kids need help getting ready
The rush to get all three of us to where we need to be in the morning, on time, felt nearly impossible. I honestly felt like Superwoman for pulling this sh*t off.
We all three were at different schools. My nephew had to be to school at 8:30; I had to walk him in and sign him in. My niece could be dropped off no earlier than 8:45 on the playground, and I had to make it to class by 9:00.
The hardest part of all of that was finding a parking spot in the morning when I got to school, and forgoing a much-needed coffee run, but I was never late to class.
5. Kids need help with homework
Any homework assigned during preschool or kindergarten is really for the parent to do.
Up until about a month ago, when I graduated, I also had my own homework, which I often procrastinated. But now, at the end of the day, I had three backpacks to check.
I quickly realized all the homework they brought home was more for me to do than it was for them. It was all about reading to them, practicing math or coloring a picture with them.
I had to learn to prioritize, and quickly.
6. Kids have out-of-control bladders
I swear those things are the size of peas, but only during truly inconvenient moments. The panicked, “I have to go to the bathroom!” squeal often comes at poorly-timed moments.
These moments are often right after we get buckled in the car, have our food delivered at a restaurant, are running late and about to walk out the door or when there isn't anywhere to go to the bathroom within sight.
Conveniently, my nephew has to go whenever I announce it is time for something: time to brush your teeth, time to go to bed, time to eat dinner.
Even when I provide a gentle reminder, they do not ever really have to go until it it is the worst possible time.
7. Kids need you
You have to follow through with and pursue goals outside of parenting to truly be a good parent.
This is probably what I struggle with the most. I have so many goals I am trying to accomplish since it is so early in my career, yet I don’t ever want to let my kids down.
While the kids were in school and I was in class or at an internship, I had to make many decisions about going into my internship that day or attending a classroom party or field trip.
I always wanted to be there and never let my kids down, but at one point, I realized I would be letting all of us down if I did not pursue something for myself.
At my internship, I had clients relying on me as well, and I struggled with not being as active as many of the other moms I met at their schools.
But, at the end of the day, I knew I had do things that would benefit us as a family. By doing something I loved, I was able to teach my kids about hard work and commitment.
I recognize I am providing them with a positive role model, which allows me to be the kind of parent I need and want to be.