We all know that moment: All is quiet. All is calm. The baby stopped throwing food at the dog, settled down in bed, and drifted off to sleep. By some miracle, the seven-year-old didn't need 25 glasses of water or try to watch TV from the hallway. Sweet relief.
As a parent, these moments come after the kids are in bed and the sun is well past set. We relish them. We drink them in. We would roll around in them shouting, "Freedom! Freedom!" if we could. Most days are spent running around in the midst of constant noise and errands. From the grocery store to the bank, to the post office, to the school to drop off that forgotten permission slip, it seems never-ending. We live for that moment when the kids are asleep so we can breathe. It's in these moments when we can remember that life is still good.
Trust me, I wouldn't trade parenthood for anything in the world! But, some days it hits me that the 20-year-old firecracker of a woman I once knew has changed into a 30-year-old mom. So, when the kids are asleep, it's definitely "me time." Moms and Dads unwind differently, but the intention is always the same: We want to reclaim a part of ourselves.
20 Moms - Online Shop For Hours
Throughout the day, I keep a running checklist of things that would make my life a thousand times easier. Once the kids are asleep, I jump onto my Amazon Prime and start running through that checklist. Their two-day shipping magic has revolutionized my concept of motherhood.
Crib Bumpers so that the baby stops hitting her head on the crib bars? Absolutely, we wouldn't want the baby to get hurt. New shoes because the seven-year-old already grew out of the last pair? I'm sure these will fit, no need to try them on. Obviously, we need that light up, singing, multi-colored, multi-sensory toy. It's for her child development. Oh yeah, and the fingerprinting kit will give them something to do when their aunt comes over this weekend.
Plus, there are the cleaning supplies that I really don't want to go to the store to pick up. Mop heads, hand soap, and carpet cleaner are all purchased for the greater good. Finishing my mental checklist of "necessities" always makes it a little easier to click on a new blouse or bracelet that's just too good of a deal to pass up!
Online shopping is both the savior and destroyer of moms everywhere!
19 Dads - Fix The Many Broken Things Around The House
On the days when Dad isn't relaxing while playing a video game, he can definitely be found trying to save some money by "doing it himself." Whether it's the toy the toddler threw into the toilet or the hole the dogs dug that messed up the gutter, dad will be found trying to keep the house in working order by - systematically - doing it all. Whether your man is handy or not, most will try to figure some way of fixing what seems like a relatively easy task. Despite the ease of youtube tutorials or other simple ways to learn things, odds are he will at least try to do without help at first.
After the kids are asleep, I've found my husband on the roof fixing the overhead light. I've also found him building a fireplace, rotating the tires, and leveling the patio. He takes pride in the life we have created and, with the kids asleep, he can finally get to all those little projects that he wants to finish to make our house as ship-shape as possible. It's things like this that really remind us of the importance of a partnership between parents. They keep us grateful as well.
18 Mom - Shower Time (Glass Of Red In Hand)
It's the first thing I do! I can't wait for the moment my little ones are in bed and I can turn on my Pandora and either jam out to some 90's pop or relax with a little Regina Spektor. Okay, maybe those wouldn't be your picks, but whatever your music selection, the sweet steamy relief of a long-awaited shower is enough to make you want to stay there for the next two hours.
Let's be honest - during the day we give up our sanity, and often our cleanliness, to ensure our lovely children are taken care of. Before I was a parent, I would shower in the morning, put on my nice pin-striped suit (or Target red, depending on my life stage) and roll out looking like I could take on the day. Nowadays, a shower is the last thing I think about. Instead of a time of confidence and competence, it becomes a time of rest and relaxation. That sense of rejuvenation has been relegated to the end of the day.
Bonus? Take a glass of wine into the shower with you! Especially if your wine has been refrigerated because the combination of a warm shower and cool wine is enough to qualify as nirvana.
17 Dads - Play Video Games (And Beat The Big Boss)
Whether it's the newest Fortnite, the old-school World of Warcraft, a round of CS-GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, for the uninitiated), or simply Solitaire, Dad will jump on that computer faster than you can say, "Honey, did you clean the kitchen?" I can't pretend like I was ever a gamer; the closest I ever came was when I became obsessed with Crash Bandicoot on my Playstation during middle school.
For some reason, video games hold an escape for most men (at least my man) to help them reclaim that part of themselves they left behind in their bachelor days. I've asked my husband numerous times how he can find gaming relaxing, especially when he's cursing out a warlock for having some kind of combination that is only available in the super Gold edition or something. He says that it's a way for him to hang out with other guys online and feel like he's accomplishing something. That sense of community is something that can get easily lost in parenthood.
I guess I can understand. As a Dad, it might be hard to see victory in the baby pooping two days in a row after a stomach bug; taking down the big boss must seem like a much bigger feat in comparison!
16 Moms - Try To Get That JLo Bod
On occasion, I have been known to hop on my dusty exercise bicycle and watch a round of Family Feud while biking a trail that says I am doing a "Fat Burn." I don't ever see the results, but my FitBit says that something is happening, so I need to believe that it's true.
There was a time when I would hop on my exercise bike every night after the kids fell asleep and I was very, very proud that I would exercise and put my health first. Sometimes, I would "treat myself" to ice cream while pedaling away on my stationary bike. Ah, yes, those days did happen once upon a time.
But as with all things, as time goes by, priorities and energy levels change. As my kids have grown older, the exercise bike was abandoned, just for one night, then just for two, and then just for a week. I still have hope that one day, when the kids are asleep, I will bike up that fat-burn mountain and reach my exercise goal for the day. The bicycle is waiting, hopeful, as I continue to treat myself eat ice cream while eying it from my comfy couch.
15 Moms - Shed The Bra!
Before I had kids, it was the first thing I would do when I walked through the door after work, that and get into more comfortable pants. Unfortunately, I can't see child protective services being okay with me stripping down in front of my children and letting my lovely lady lumps hang loose. As I putter around the house, I know must refrain from shedding the confining undergarment while there are minors who I do not want to scar for life still awake in the house. I've even heard that some women unhook their bras while going to the bathroom, just to get that five minutes of freedom.
BUT - in the hushed wonder of the world after the kids are asleep, I can go wild! I pull off the societal burden of underwire and put on my fluffiest pajama pants before crashing in front of the TV to binge-watch Netflix. If I'm feeling particularly sassy, I throw on my robe and freestyle after my wonderful "me time" shower. True glory still exists in this world. And that glory is held in the no-bra world that exists after the kids go to bed. That time is crucial to every mom's sanity.
14 Dads - Take Off His Pants (Or Shirt)
Men need freedom too! Guys like be shirtless and they love being in shorts. Honestly, they just like being free and who can blame them for that. We have to wear bras with wires and tight jeans or pants all day, they usually have more of a relaxed fit to their clothes, but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy the freedom of being free of clothes.
As soon as our kids are in bed, the boxers come out and the shirt comes off. When I asked my man why he takes his shirt off once the kids are in bed, he replied in true Dad fashion: "I take it off because it's hot." So, of course, I asked him why he takes his pants off too if he already has his shirt off. His response? Well, after a brief pause, he replied, "Because it's still hot."
There you have it, folks. Although my man doesn't necessarily speak for all men, there has got to be some truth to that. While I have been known to kick off my clothes to be comfortable and subtly stick it to the patriarchy, the love of my life simply needs to cool down. To each his own!
13 Moms - Accidentally Pass Out
I don't know about you all, but the minute my kids are in bed, so am I. At least, that's the goal and it happens maybe once a month. Sometimes, it happens by accident. You feel yourself closing your eyes, just for a minute, and find yourself waking up the next morning. Sleep is so good and every second of sleep is coveted by moms, but what if you had plans to clean the house or spend time with hubby? We end up feeling so bad.
For example, last week there must have been something in the water because every hour, the kids were up, shrieking in delight and jumping into bed with us demanding cuddles. In the afternoon, it's so dang adorable. At 2 am, it makes me want to turn into a shrieking banshee myself.
So, what's a mom to do? Put the baby down at 4 pm, tell dad he's watching the seven-year-old, and SLEEP. In the past, I have seriously slept for a solid 12 hours with the door locked so that I could reclaim my sanity. That beautiful night was so glorious that it should keep me going for the next month or so.
12 Dads - Become A Social Media Warrior
Personally, I wouldn't find it relaxing, but I know more than one dad who hops on their phone before bed just to exclaim that Suzy doesn't know what she's talking about. Whether it's in the form of sharing politically charged memes or directly getting into an all-out, 100-comment dissertation on his view of gun control, dad gets a kick out of it.
My case-in-point: the last six Facebook "disagreements" on my Facebook feed in the middle of the night were all with dads who needed to let off some steam. I get it. When you are constantly at the beck and call of your family, it's easier to assert yourself with people you only kind-of-know and will probably never talk to in "real life." It can be relaxing to feel like you can say whatever you want without having to deal with face to face disagreements. It's nice to assert your opinions online after a day of kids and significant others placing demands on your life.
Plus with all of the politically charged discourse happening around us, it can be intellectually stimulating to talk about these things with other adults, rather than a baby or an emotionally and physically exhausted mom.
11 Mom - Clean The House Again (While Trying to Nag But Not Nag)
I hate to admit it, but after the kids go to bed I will usually find myself cleaning floors, folding laundry, and wiping countertops. If I could have things my way, I would eat off of paper plates, burn the trash, and only buy new underwear. Sadly, this doesn't seem like a realistic option for most parents. There is a societal expectation that we will use real dishes and actually clean up the food left behind after dinner. Sigh.
This is how I find myself scrubbing the bathtub at 9 o'clock at night because there's no other time to do it and the ring is starting to look like some kind of swamp-thing. There's work during the day, kids to take care of after work, and then housework after kids go to bed. This circle of life is all too real.
Every now and then I'll get into a mood where the house is clean and I demand that it stay that way. Any offending sock left behind by an unsuspecting child or spouse will face the nag-mare. It's entirely unrealistic to expect perfection and I often find myself needing to check my definition of "clean," for myself if for no one else.
10 Dads - Take Care Of The Dogs
We live on a farm, so the goat part applies to the three-week-old goat currently living outside in our barn. After the kids are asleep, my husband takes care of the chores that would take about 10 times longer if the kids "helped." He feeds the goats, takes the dogs for a walk, changes the water trough - you name it.
When we used to live in the city, the chores weren't as specific to farm life but they were still there. My husband would do the dishes and make a plan for the errands he had to run the next day. Anything that was mundane and he could knock out without having his pants constantly tugged at or the constant call of, "Daddy! Daddy!" was reserved for after the kids went to bed.
Specifically, the dogs take up the most time because they often have pent-up energy from the day. After a lot of yelling for them to settle down while he plays a video game or two, he relents and takes them outside to play. The pets have big days too when they deal with the kids. Once the kids are asleep, it's time to take care of our furry children!
9 Moms - Eat A Real Meal (Might Have Another Glass Of Wine)
Before I switched to formula, eating a full-meal in-between nursing sessions was almost impossible. Even when I did have a sandwich or a plate of finger foods, crumbs would land on the baby's head, between my breasts, really everywhere.
In those early days of motherhood, eating was closer to foraging than anything else. I was known to survive off of granola bars for days at a time. Friends and family were very kind and brought a few meals for the new parents, but after about a month of motherhood, reality set in. I would have to feed myself.
After baby went to sleep, I would make myself a meal. At first, it was a box of macaroni and cheese, and the accomplishment of turning on the stovetop made me feel like Wonder Woman. Eventually, I broke down and subscribed to one of those "meal in a box" programs similar to Blue Apron. I didn't have enough time to eat, let alone plan meals and go grocery shopping for anything other than milk, cereal, and chocolate.
Signing up for the weekly meal subscription was actually was one of the best decisions I ever made. Now, my husband and I have three square dinners a week after the baby is put to sleep. Making our little family a delicious, nutritious dinner is a little treat I indulge in as we navigate the haze of parenthood.
8 Moms - Read Everything And Anything
Some moms might pick up their newest philosophical text by Malcolm Gladwell or Stephen King. These days, I am no longer one of those moms. By read for fun, I mean read these wonderful articles on Moms.com of course!
I like to browse through articles my friends post on Facebook, but I also subscribe to a few different mom blogs and pages which make me feel not so alone. During the day, I don't have enough time to scroll through aimlessly to learn about the 20 hottest baby names of 2018. Every now and then I think, "I should see what my mom board has to say about this and that," and then it's put almost entirely from my mind as I play with my kids.
But, at night, when the kids are asleep, the internet-junkie in me surfaces. Being able to talk to other moms about real-life issues, like how to keep your toddler from playing with dog poop and how not to raise a sociopath, is amazing. Reading mom-related articles is my nightly ritual, on the regular.
Of course, make sure the blue light filter is on! You wouldn't want to risk any of those precious sleeping hours.
7 Moms - Cuddle With The Four Legged Children
I have three adorable, terrorizing, completely cuddle-able dogs in my home. Ever since I became a mom, the dogs no longer are considered the "replacement children" and are treated like, well, dogs.
At night though, I find myself calling over all three of my dogs and wearing them like a giant blanket of love. Sure, nothing could ever replace my children and the sweet snuggles they will spontaneously give me, but after they are in bed I like to be a part of a giant dog pile.
Truthfully, I will sometimes snuggle with the dogs in our bed as soon as the kids are asleep and play Candy Crush or some other game on my phone. They are content to lie there and I am content to not need to give anything other than my body heat to make them happy puppers. Our dogs were are babies before we had babies and there is something to be said for their special brand of unconditional love. Though we get busy dealing with the little humans, our dogs will always have a special place in our hearts. Especially after we have made them endure dealing with toddlers playing and tugging at them.
6 Dads - Eat The Food The Kids Aren't Allowed To Have
You know you've been guilty of sneaking off to eat the kids' old Halloween candy after they are snugly tucked in bed. Of course, parents need to set a "good example" for their children and can't eat Doritos out of the bag with one hand and M&Ms with the other. So what does Dad indulge in once the kids are asleep?
He eats ice cream. With chocolate sauce. And sprinkles.
That's according to mom Sarah on a message board in Pittsburgh. I can't say I've seen my husband do this personally, but maybe it's because we don't have sprinkles or chocolate syrup in the house! When it comes to reclaiming ourselves as parents, I can see how dad would want to go back to being able to eat ice cream for dinner. I've been known to indulge in Oreo's on a regular basis in the secret shadows of night.
While my husband doesn't necessarily eat ice cream with syrup or sprinkles, I have seen him demolish a package of Pizza Rolls on occasion. Some mornings, I wake up to find his computer desk littered with soda pop cans and sweet tea bottles. I guess hubby needs to fuel up in order to beat that big boss!
5 Moms - Finish Up That (Online) PhD
Okay, it might not be a PhD. It could be an online blog or a master's thesis or the Google Master calendar so that you don't schedule one kid's hockey practice over another kid's choir recital. Sure, moms try to get on the computer and "work" while their kids "play quietly," but nine times out of ten, those kids are going to jump into your lap and demand to help with whatever it is you're doing, regardless of their computer or reading skills. It is wonderful that they want to be so helpful. However, just because they want to help doesn't mean that they can. Most of the time, as much as we love our kids, they are more of a hinderance to work than a helper.
Trust me, I've tried typing this article with my daughter bouncing in my lap suggesting pictures to use. I have lovingly included her, to make a new memory with her, but you better believe that the moment her butt is in bed, I am pounding out these words with the fury of a woman on a mission. I'm a mom first. Once the lights are out, I'm a writer, editor, tutor, and any other online work I can get my hands on!
4 Dads - Catch Up On Work Emails (And Blah, Blah, Blah)
Yeah, it's lame and adult-like, but when the kids are in bed it's prime-time to catch up on those emails that you put off so you could get home and play with the kids. To those dads who put the kids before work - this is for you!
Many of my dad co-workers proudly share videos of their kids learning how to do karate or jazz. They talk about the exhaustion of having to take the kids to soccer practice and the constant bother of having to take care of the yard work. Those men who clock out just a little early from work? They're dads. They deserve mad props for putting their family first, too. In this changing world, it's nice to see dads taking a more active role in their kids' lives.
At the end of the night though, they often will sit their laptop on their lap while lounging in bed and try and catch up on the work they "left at the office." Emails, office reports, online classes for that master's degree - it doesn't matter. They use the quiet in the house to go back to their workplace responsibilities once superhero dad can be put to rest for the night.
3 Moms - Spend Way Too Much Time Stalking People On Social Media
How many hours of my life have been dedicated to reaching the "end" of Candy Crush? I have no idea. If it's not Candy Crush, then surely it's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter that eat up untold hours of my every evening.
Moms like to have a little time to zone out, the same way that dads do. While hubby might be on his computer or Xbox, you can bet mom is scrolling through photos of what her second-cousin's boyfriend was doing while he was on vacation in Europe. When people who you don't remember meeting show up on your feed, you know you want to check them out to see why you accepted their friend request in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, social media is a great way to stay in touch with family who live on the other side of the country or even the other side of the city. The thing, though, is that social media is always changing. You better believe every night moms around the world find themselves checking in on the "daily news" after the kids are asleep. It's the solo way of getting a little bit of gossip and keep up to date with those you love.
2 Dad - Drink The Good Stuff
It depends on your man's preference, but most men will unwind with a beer after the kids are all settled. Our family owns a winery in Indiana, so our home is nearly always filled with home-made wine bottles. My husband can take a sip and automatically know if the acidity means that there was a drought the year the grapes were grown. It's some kind of superpower, I'm convinced.
For some of the more relaxed men among us, a glass of Bourbon or Scotch is enough to calm the nerves after a long day of running around. In the country, where we recently moved, beer or whiskey tends to be the go-to beverage to get a little loose. Regardless, it is a little reminder that we are more than simply the caretakers of our kids. This adults-only indulgence can sometimes remind us that we already know our colors. It is normal that hearing the toddler's toy repeating them over and over again can be brain numbing. Sometimes, your man just needs a change of pace that can only come after the kids have gone to bed. Some of the good stuff can make that change of pace happen a bit quicker.
However your man unwinds, I'm sure it's a long-awaited moment to pour that glass as the kids snore away none the wiser.
1 Moms & Dads - Try To Get Some Lovin' (While Watching TV)
The first thing most parents do after the kids go to sleep is turn on the TV and relax together while cuddled on the couch. Having alone time together doesn't happen all that often and it's usually spent talking about the kids anyway. I'd like to suggest that the next time you turn on the TV and cuddle, consider ... you know.
There's a blessed window of time after the kids go to bed and before they wake up needing something in the middle of the night. It's the golden hours where getting naked in your own home can be done without fear of the little ones coming in saying, "Mommy, what are you doing?"
Sure, the best bet would be to go into the bedroom with the lock on the door and only race out if you think you hear something that must be the kids breaking the china cabinet; but, every now and then, cuddling on the couch can turn into something more. Remembering that you are more than just parents is important, especially once the kids have gone to bed. It's a sweet moment where you and the hubby can remember your younger, more adventurous selves in the sac.