What All The Other Parents Are Doing During The Day

The first few months staying home with my kid were hard because being alone all the time is rough.  And people would point out, “But you’re not alone!  You have that baby!” except that having a baby is not the same thing as having another adult person around with whom you can have an actual conversation.  You cannot talk to a baby about the new season of Orange is the New Black (no spoilers but really great) or any article on the BBC World News homepage (heads up: the doctor leading the fight against the Ebola virus has come down with the Ebola virus) or any fashion trend that you think is sort of weird. (Are bubble skirts not “the look you get if you accidentally tuck the end of your skirt into your underpants.”)

And on occasion I would venture out to a place where there were other parents (the playground, the local pool) and I would think, “Oh neat, there are grown-ups here!” which is crazy because if you went back and asked the 10-year-old version of myself if I would EVER enthusiastically say the phrase, “Oh neat, there are grown-ups here” she would laugh so hard she would spit her grape Capri Sun packet all over her stonewashed overall cutoffs.  But when I went to those places and they were empty, I would immediately think, “Where are all the other parents?  If all the grown-ups aren’t here then where are they?  What are they doing with their kids right now and is it a thing I’m supposed to be doing?

IN A CITY OF OVER 250,000 PEOPLE, WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON AT THIS PLAYGROUND?

where are the other parents
Nope.  Not in that chest.

 

And who better to answer the question of “Where are the other parents?” than “My Own Crippling Insecurity as a Parent!”  Here are some of the answers it came up with!

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1.  They Are Busily Preparing for their Child’s Educational Future

Haven’t you read all those articles saying that parents are looking at pre-schools while their children are still in utero?  That if she doesn’t get into some sort of innovative magnet school your child will grow up to be one of those people who collects cans out of the trash and recycles them for nickles.  Obviously all the other parents are at their respective apartments, desperately trying to buy real estate in neighborhoods with good public schools to ensure that their children have a shot at someday getting an internship at Conde Nast while your child makes $8 an hour selling horseshoe-shaped neck pillows to people at the airport.

2.  At Home Doing lots of Interesting Crafty Stuff

Remember how you found that tutorial on how to make snowglobes out of old baby food jars and you were like, “I’m totally going to do that!” and then instead spent four hours watching as your kid yells, “Cat!  Cat” while chasing a pigeon, and the first few times you’re like, “It’s not a cat, it’s a bird,” and then after about five minutes you’re like, “Whatever, it’s a cat.  It’s a flying cat.”  Maybe the other parents had a hot glue gun and totally went all the way with the snowglobes idea.  Or the cardboard fingerpuppets shaped like robots idea.  Or they’re learning how to make pretzels in the shapes of capital and lowercase letters and either way whatever they’re doing is more innovative than watching your kid chase this flying cat.

3.  At Home Cooking Actual Food so That Their Children Aren’t Eating Avocados with Soy Sauce and Melba Toast Every Day Because That is Not Really a Meal

Where are the other parents?  They’re at home in their kitchen because unlike you, who were raised by Cinnamon Toast Crunch-eating wolves, they have some semblance of culinary integrity.  Handing a child a bunch of cherry tomatoes followed by a bunch of crackers followed by a bunch of olives followed by a bunch of cheese cubes is less a “normal way to eat dinner” and more the gastronomical equivalent of channel surfing.

4.  Doing Important Developmental Stuff With Their Kids

Another child that is exactly your child’s age has spent the last three months learning the alphabet from flash cards and your child is (congratulations!) eating mashed potatoes that he found in his ear.  While your child spends 20 minutes trying to walk up a slide, other children are learning their colors and numbers and painting with watercolors and honestly I’m not sure if those things even count as “developmental milestones” because I delete all those babycenter e-mails in a frantic attempt to try and clean out my inbox because it’s the only thing in my life over which I feel like I have any control.

5.  They Went Back to Their Jobs

They are back at their jobs!  Remember that job you used to have– the one where you received paychecks and occasionally respect?  That thing was the best!  Some of the new parents have gone back to their old jobs because if they are going to work for a horrifically demanding boss, they’d rather it be someone over two-and-a-half feet tall who does not regularly poop his or her pants and/or eat nickels off the sidewalk.

6.  They Did Not Go Back To  Their Jobs But They Have Devised A Way Of Putting their Child in a Playpen-Type Apparatus and Getting Work Done At Home

Ha ha ha I am just kidding, no one has done this.*

7.  They Are All Hanging Out Together and You Are Not Invited

As someone who was excluded from a lot of stuff as a kid, this is the first place my mind goes.  Every time.  Where are the other parents?  They are all together somewhere having a super duper great time.  They are all BEST FRIENDS.  Sometimes they all pitch in and hire a babysitter to watch all of their respective kids so that they can go out together to get matching ankle tattoos of  themselves standing in a group laughing at each other’s jokes.   During the day they are all crowded together in a communal space that they rent out together because they like each other so much and if they knew you were sitting at the playground all alone at 8:15 on a Thursday they’d laugh the way the evil villain teenagers in every 80’s movie laugh when a nerd gets tricked into going to the prom.

Except…

Except that here is the thing– I think these things every single time I’m the only one at the playground, but have found that for the most part none of these things is true.   About half the days I go I show up to an empty playground, but on the days people are there and I ask, “What do you do with your kid all day?” the answer is almost always the same exact thing that I am doing with mine:

“I have no idea.”

And yes, sure,  I’m sure there are a couple people at home rabidly researching pre-schools or a few that are attempting elaborate Pinterest-style crafts or training their children with flashcards  but the vast majority look at me with the same sheepish look I give everyone and say, “We just sort of hang out.  We play.  He naps for a few hours and then maybe we read for a while.  I don’t know.  A lot of nothing.” Which is a relief.  Not that it makes what I’m doing with my child any better, but it’s nice to feel like it is more or less normal.  That there is no big huge thing that I am supposed to be doing that I am not doing and that is fine to have today as an aimless “play outside” day.  Not that there is anything that wrong with any of those other things I listed.  In fact, it’s supposed to rain later this week so a day of hanging out inside, making and learning from homemade flashcards may be in order and really, if we are being completely honest, I am even a little excited about it. theuglyvolvo pigeon cat

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   *I’m sure at least one person is dying to tell me that they have devised a way of being home with a child and somehow managing to get tons of work done while the child is awake but please don’t tell me because in a fit of rage I might accidentally murder you and then I will feel terrible.

58 Comments

  1. I do this too! Wondering who is doing this parenting thing better than me. Why do we beat up on ourselves? My kids have got me and their stuck with that. Just trying not to scar them one day at a time.

  2. Absolutely brilliant. Literally laughed out loud! My first year in a new town with a new baby and three toddlers I would walk up to women on the playground like it was the desert and they were holding the only water around. And then I’d ask for their phone numbers so we could text a playdate… needless to say, motherhood had not improved on my middle school awkwardness. Eventually when the kids “start school” (which feels like you get loads of free time for three days, then you realize you’re really actually pretty busy anyway) you’ll make parking lot friends. And those women stay friends. Because their kids will be in school with your kids, like, forever. Plus you could key their car.

  3. Love you. I completely relate to this post. Thanks so much! I have to remind myself, “I’m not the only one sitting around the house in yoga pants (which haven’t seen a DAY of yoga) with nasty hair, herding my offspring into some sort of routine-ish scheduled just wishing for bedtime to come already”. goodness, I need a hobby. But the kids always want to participate. It quickly stops being a hobby right after that.

  4. “I have no idea” … Gave me a fit of giggles! That is what I tell my husband …

  5. I assume every parent except for me knows that my kid’s preferred playground used to be a toxic waste site.

  6. Thank you for making me laugh and smile :)

  7. This was the perfect read for me today. I loaded up my 2 year old and 6 month old twins into the van to go to my neglected community garden plot and the adjacent playground. in the 5 minutes it takes to get there both twins had pooped (one up the back) and all 3 cried most of the way. Even out of the car, the babies couldn’t keep it together so we had to leave before my boy had a chance to play. Disaster. And do you know what?? No one was there on this beautiful day!

  8. Avatar

    Alison palkhivala

    OMG! Your kid eats tomatoes and olives and mashed potatoes?! I am so jealous. All my kids ever want is Kraft Dinner and McDonald’s. You take your toddler to the park where he RUNS AROUND? I am so jealous. I tried to get my attention hungry toddler addicted to TV so I could rest. Playgrounds meant endless swing-pushing and games of capture the attention hungry toddler. She didn’t nap either

  9. This is what I’m doing right now: Spending my daughter’s nap time eating something because breakfast is wholly concerned with tricking her into consuming a few calories thus no time for me to eat, brushing my teeth, changing out of my PJs, doing the dishes, replying to emails and then despairing because nap time is almost over and I’ve managed to get approximately zero paying work done. Oh, and read a blog or two—thanks for that and this laugh!

  10. I love this. Let’s be Internet mom-friends.

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      Gladly. I’ll be here on this bench for the next two hours.

  11. Great post. Very funny. I think I’ve read that book with the puppy. I think the turtle was the one in the chest.

  12. My 14-month-old and I are literally just hanging out inside today (it’s all rainy and gross) and watching old episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and while eating cubed fruits and veggies. Maybe every once in awhile we’ll scoop up a book and read and I’ll pull stray cat hair from the floor out of his mouth, but yeah, we just chill. Nothing special. You are most definitely not alone :)

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      That’s hilarious. A friend of mine has a podcast dedicated to RuPaul’s Drag Race () if your kid decides he’s really into the show :)

  13. Ha! Loved this post. Yes, I wonder the same thing sometimes but I have to admit, sometimes the best days are the ones spent “doing nothing” instead of running all over town doing errands and activities that they are supposed to like when they really just want to play naked at our house. Oh, is that just my kid?

    PS-I was thinking about you earlier today and wondering (although I hate to ask…) if your little boy is walking around yet and how that was going. :)

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      You have great timing– he started walking about 5 days ago and now walks as if he’s been doing it for months. Thanks for asking. I am (obviously) both relieved and thrilled.

  14. The comment “It’s not a cat, it’s a bird,” and then after about five minutes you’re like, “Whatever, it’s a cat. It’s a flying cat.” made me LAUGH so hard. I have a 19-month old and she loves to say that her ice cold (whatever) is Hot! Hot! Hot! After like a minute I give up correcting her :)

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      My son does that hot/cold thing too. I don’t know how many people walking by me have heard me say, “That’s not hot buddy. You don’t understand what ‘hot’ means.” I think he thinks it just means something is “a temperature.”

      • My son is 3 1/2 now and he still makes random stuff up, it’s a cat flying mom! The only difference is now is I don’t even try to correct him, I just say, ‘oh I didn’t know that.’
        Today he told me the stop light was sad. Ummm … the stop light is sad? Yup! he informs me. Oh, ok, I say. And then he’s onto something else.
        I figure one day this will all get sorted out, either that or I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.

  15. The only thing worse than missing out on the mommy groups is actually attending them – especially if you appreciate sarcasm and do not plan on shrink-wrapping your child against all potential harm. One glance at the pre-scrubbed cubed vegetable and rice cheese tray and felt and wood “manipulatives” and I’m bound to remark, “there’s not going to be any drinking at this thing, is there.” Your better off.

  16. I am a grandmother and everything you write hits home even tho my oldest grandson is 19 ….. you have a way describing the feelings of both anxiety and love of all parents, all ages…. have you ever thought of publishing on Huff Post ..I have a friend who does…I do love your blog..

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      I’ve had a few things on there. I haven’t had anything in a while but I’ll try again in the future and see if they’ll take something :)

  17. Avatar

    Stephanie B

    Oh, so familiar that sounds. I was like a golden retriever every time I saw other moms at the park. I cover up socially awkward with eager friendliness. Which, they probably saw as even more socially awkward. I walk away thinking, “I’m so easy to talk to! I’m that woman who you feel like you’ve known forever!” While they are probably adding my phone number to the blocked list on their phone. (And because that second thought would occur to me later, I would never try calling them again, anyway.)

    Things have gotten better as the kid has gotten older, but I still haven’t outgrown the golden retriever bit. Luckily, the moms I hang with pretend not to notice.

    • “I was like a golden retriever every time I saw other moms at the park. I cover up socially awkward with eager friendliness.”

      THANK YOU for putting into such great words how I feel that I come across to other moms. I’m so starved for adult talk, I strike up conversations with cashiers, waiters, bus drivers and other public-facing workers that have no choice but to talk to me. I’ve never felt so sociable in my life, although when I see people I actually know, I have no conversation whatsoever because I have nothing to talk about (apart from diapers, feedings, teething…) ;)

  18. Avatar

    HokieKate

    “a bunch of cherry tomatoes followed by a bunch of crackers followed by a bunch of olives followed by a bunch of cheese cubes”

    My two year old LOVES those kinds of dinners. There are veggies, and grains, and dairy, and whatever olives count as. I think that dinner is perfect.

  19. What you feed your child is what we feed ours too. Despite being 15 months old he only has four fully grown in teeth, so we hand him many courses of tiny pieces of whatever and of he doesn’t he that he has to suck down a baby food squeezer.

  20. This is hilarious! I was one of those parents who went back to work after my maternity leave was over.

  21. Well … my daughter is in her 30s now, and she survived my haphazard approach to parenting reasonably well. And frankly the most important thing I ever did was enjoy her. Not all the time, and probably sometimes at times when I should have – wasted moments come back to haunt me on bad days. But it was just the two of us, and a lot of the time we simply had a blast. We played games (ones that I enjoyed – which did not include “you be the baby and I’ll be the mommy”, or anything else that bored me witless). We went places. (If they were less than enthralling, I took a book and she got on with it.) We patted horses, added up number plates, sang songs, told each other stories, went to the park, and ate ice cream. It was really good. She didn’t grow up to be the president, or enormously rich, or famous, or even well-connected – but her life is good and productive, and I am so very grateful for all the years I had with her – even the tough teen ones. I hope you are able to find your unique way of enjoying your unique little person, and experience your own brand of the same pleasure in 20 or 30 years time…:)

  22. I relate to all of this… but #3 made me breath a sigh of relief. I’m glad I’m not the only one! Haha.

  23. I absolutely love your writing!! You crack me up!!

  24. Love this. I have stayed at home (sometimes I venture outside) with my daughter everyday for the past 13 months and I honestly couldn’t say what I have done any of those days. Basically just watch her play and interact with her until its nap time and then when nap times comes all of my grand plans of getting things accomplished while she is asleep are taken over with the realisation that I can actually hear what is on tv now and I can read the news without her trying to take the laptop out of my hands and I can eat lunch without having to share. We live in an area with lots of walking trails and parks and I never see other people at the parks, I never see any other kids outside playing. Maybe the parents see me coming and hide inside because I get overly excited to see other adults. I’m going to keep telling myself that whatever it is I am doing is working and its the right thing for her because she is a smart, well behaved, happy girl and I know there are lots of other moms doing “I have no idea” all day so it can’t be too bad for the kids. Besides, I have always hated flash cards :)

  25. You are hilarious! Thank you for the laughs.

    And I totally agree with you about bubble skirts – I just don’t get it!

  26. Avatar

    Sue Hall

    As a pre-K teacher, I am thrilled to hear about moms and kids having unstructured days. Children learn so much from play, even when their self-directed activities appear to be aimless. How wonderful that your child can play with other children at the playground (when there are other kids there).
    Thanks to the educational reformers, I am now teaching three-and four-year-olds what I taught first graders 13 years ago. It would be so much better for them to have more of an opportunity for self-guided play. They need to practice socialization, not be assessed on dozens of cognitive skills.

  27. Some days I feel like I am the only mom out here with a newborn. Most of my friends have either had kids years ago or have no interest in having children. So when I am able to come out into the real world that isn’t the grocery store or the midwives office. I will be on a desperate search for parents with children semi close to my child’s age and potentially share a slight interest in things I like so that I wont have to talk about baby poop or how well my child does or doesn’t sleep! Oh the endless joys of being a stay at home mom!

  28. Oh my, you totally get me. Your posts make me chuckle and confirm my entire outlook on parenting, sarcastic humor included. I aspire for my blog to be what yours is…in a completely creative and I’m-not-regurgitating-other-people’s-opinions kind of way. ;) Well done, mama!

  29. You reminded me of the day we were at the museum recently (I am usually the mother at the park but it was our annual day trip to the city. Seriously, your parks probably have more educational value than our museum…it’s the good weather that keeps people living here, they really don’t try very hard as they expect everyone to be at the park/beach in the sunshine – Queensland Australia if you are wondering).

    Anyway, back to the point. My 1yo kept going around pointing at all the stuffed dead furry creatures (mostly possums and wallabies) and going “woof-woof”…because anything with fur is a dog. Obviously.

    I couldn’t get over how many people were irritated that I wasn’t correcting her, and some even tried to do it themselves. SHE’S ONE.

    “Oh no darling, that’s a Speckled-red-tit-nocturnal-possum. Not a dog, but good try….Nope that one’s a Striped-blue-balled-wallaby. Not a dog, but well done having a guess”…and repeat 12,000 times…

  30. So hands up who’s asking themselves where they can get one of those ankle tattoos just in case the ankle tattoo crowd shows up at the playground and they’re the only one without an ankle tattoo?

  31. Avatar

    Ashley Burns

    Oh dear lord in heaven thank you SO MUCH for this. It’s all true, all of it. I still see other parents posting pictures of themselves at the beach or doing some educational thingamajigger, and I just want to sob because I consider myself lucky if everyone’s head is still attached.

    Also, this is a hilarious bit of writing, in addition to being true. Thanks for the entertainment and the validation!

  32. I was wondering who that single solitary mom on the other side of the playground was. Perhaps it was you?!

  33. Avatar

    Bluesabriel

    My 17 month old and I are currently laying on my bed watching King of the Hill while she practices filling her little dump truck with letter magnets over and over. So, yep. But she just came up and gave me a big hug, so I can’t be screwing up too badly, right?

    I consider cheese, crackers, and a Gerber Grabber to be a totally valid lunch, btw.

  34. I’m pleading – to the moms who have figured out how to cage the wild beasts and get paying work done during daylight hours…TELL ME!! I promise to not hate you to your face. Pack and play =screaming after 5 minutes. Computer gets attacked instantly upon sight. Will not nap for more than 15 minutes not on my lap. Help. I’m so tired from staying up Til 1am working!!!

  35. I went back to work. I was pretty much out of money after the requisite six weeks. Now I’m out of money differently. I would spend all my time on the computer if my 22 month old did not come grab the mouse and try to spin my chair around. He likes to drag me out of the house and around the block. (Neighbor dogs are so much more interesting than our dogs.) I occasionally go the play center in the mall or the park, but I spend the whole time chasing him around worrying that my underwear shows when I bend over to pick him up and that other parents are criticizing my lack of discipline.

  36. Avatar

    jETHRIEN

    I went back to work…but a lot of the non-work time is spent lying on the floor while my son crawls all over me. I don’t mean the “you should get down on their level” kind of lying on the floor. I mean the “we just moved into this place and I haven’t had time to buy actual grown up furniture and I’m too tired to stay vertical, so I’m going to collapse on your play mat and try to stay conscious while you try to shove a plastic Elmo up my nose, mmm-kay?”

    We also spent some quality time this morning trying to shove sticks into a broken part of the splash pad at Hamilton Park while all the people who are not parents of toddlers slept like normal people.

  37. LOVE this blog and all of the posts from other moms. So glad to hear that I’m not the only one who makes grand plans every day, only to have 90% of them rescheduled for tomorrow. When things will be different. Yeah.

  38. Did you pin your kickass flashcards? I’m sure the whimsical animals would be a hit with all the hipster parents. I know, I’d download into my “crafts for kids” board and print. I might even consider buying a set on Etsy.

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      thank you for the wonderful idea. I will get to work on it :)

  39. I decided when I brought home baby number 2 that I would feel good about myself if I just accomplished ONE thing each day. This could include picking up legos, making dinner, taking a shower, or getting dressed. Even if that was the only thing I got done that day, I could still pat myself on the back and feel good about getting stuff done and Living Simply all at the same time..

  40. “I’m sure at least one person is dying to tell me that they have devised a way of being home with a child and somehow managing to get tons of work done while the child is awake…”

    Heck, i have 4 month old twins and I can’t get anything done when they’re asleep.

  41. Oh, I love it! Staying at home with a baby in Denmark isn’t all that different from what you are describing. “A lot of nothing!” – brilliant. That’s the feeling I have each and every day when my husband comes home from work and asks me, what the little one and I have been doing all day. And eventhough I have an older child too, it’s still a lot of nothing. But both of them are growing and developing like other children, so there must be a little bit of something in it too. I just cannot pinpoint it… Maybe Mother Nature has given them a pre-packed package with all of the things that their tired mother couldn’t come up with. Like some kind of back-up? Who knows.

    Lovely blog. Keep posting!

  42. I did a whole lot of watching TV with my kids when they were little, because when I’d find a mom at the playground all she’d talk about is how great her kids were and how many kickboxing classes she taught last week which made me uncomfortable because all I wanted was to have someone to sit with and maybe share the wine I brought in the diaper bag.

  43. Loved this one. My parents bought my son a playpen oy ‘baby jail’ as we call it. He likes opening and shutting the door for ages. I haven’t tried leaving him in it because I’m a realist. I always suspect other baby parents are hanging out together but when on the rare occasion I do have coffee with baby Mums I find it quite tedious and wish I was back home watching him desperately pointing at the cat while she blanks him.

  44. […] now, I’ll be content with how we’re filling our days together. (I also read a post on this ridiculously hilarious blog recently that made me feel a lot better about this.) And I really do feel lucky that I get to hang […]

  45. Needed this tonight. Thank you.

  46. […] fik for alvor krogen i min interesse, da jeg læste dette indlæg. Åh, hvor jeg genkendte følesen! Hamrende befriende at læse det hele i et humoristisk […]

  47. […] Yes. YES. I stayed at home with Baby Bun (alone, mostly) and it drove me bonkers because I craved adult intera…. […]

  48. Oh my gosh I’m so glad I stumbled across this blog. I’ve got a 12-week old, and I feel like all the other moms must be doing something different to me! Who knew so much guilt was involved in becoming a mother! :P

    • Avatar

      theuglyvolvo

      I think it’s perfectly split down the middle between love and guilt

  49. ok, so I have a way to hang out with my kid at home and get some (not a lot) of work done. Pretty sure it won’t get me killed though. I simply don’t sleep. Sounds easy right? Not really. I have always had a bad case of insomnia. I get precious little sleep. Before kids, I took Ambien CR and snoozed carefree through the night. Once I had my first son though, well, can’t take those and nurse. Also can’t take them after nursing is done if you may have to wake up in the middle of the night. I have two now and the oldest one has night terrors still. I had them as a kid too so I suppose my Mom is laughing up her sleeve at me receiving my share of karma. I make yarn. So when they’re asleep, I sit up and spin until somewhere around 3-4 in the morning. I DO NOT SUGGEST THIS! Just sharing. During the day, my boys and I do a whole heck of a lot of “I don’t know.”

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