Healthy Mind, Healthy Mommy

Life Before Kids

August 11, 2020
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Last Saturday night, I had the pleasure of driving to pick up pizza for my family. To be clear, the pleasure part was that I was driving to my destination and back ALL ALONE. No toddler. No baby. No husband (no offense, babe).

My mind filled up with all of the things I could do with this new-found freedom. I could go get a latte at Starbucks, swing by Old Navy to get a few sports bras, or go to the top of Lookout Mountain and just stand there in silence. I did none of those things, but honestly, just the joy of thinking about doing them got me excited. I did, however, listen to Jagged Little Pill and catch up with my best friend on the phone for a brief but sweet 15 minutes. It was the little slice of me that I needed to refuel. When I got home, I felt exhilarated. Rested. Refreshed. Dare I say, excited to see my kids again.

I got all of that from just a 20-minute round-trip errand. Which made me realize:

I need to get out more.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things that used to make me “me.” You know, the before-kids me.

Saturday nights were for Karaoke and other shenanigans. I would plan my song ahead of time, drink just the right amount of vodka tonic to get me motivated, and then, step on stage to experience a high that only singing in front of a roomful of strangers could give me. I was good. I was very good. Not at singing, but boy could I put on a show. At one point, I got the whole bar to do chorus line kicks with me to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” I remember stepping off the stage and thinking, “Nailed it.” If Karaoke wasn't an option, there was always dancing. Dancing at bars. Dancing in our apartment. Dancing in the streets. I remember thinking, there will never be a point where I stop going out to dance. Ha!

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Friday nights and close-enough-to-Friday nights (Thursday night, Wednesday night) were for going out to eat. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I lived in downtown Chicago in the West Loop — home to Google, trendy boutique hotels, and some of the most popular chef-driven restaurants in the country. Mexican-Mediterranean-Italian-Japanese food fusion served with spicy Mezcals or 10-ingredient cocktails that took 10-minutes for a well-trained mixologist to concoct. Wood-fired pizzas on rooftops. Sushi rolls with exotic sounding sauces like spicy ponzu or uni butter. The night was ours and nobody else’s. We could talk for hours without bouncing tiny humans on our knees in hopes of “getting through” dinner. I lived for these nights. And took pictures of almost everything I ate, later writing about it here on HealthyStacey.com or posting it on my largely popular Instagram account (kidding). One time, my Insta post even earned us a free meal at one of the best restaurants in the city because…social media influence. (A term that no longer belongs in my vocabulary).

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Saturday mornings were for the Farmers Market. This was when “Healthy Stacey” was in her element. I would walk to the park, reusable Trader Joe’s bags in hand, ready to fill them up with grass-fed beef, organ meat, chicken feet for my bone broth, and pasture-raised eggs. Of course, there was the locally-grown organic produce — kohlrabi, butter lettuce, misshapen sweet potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and at least eight different varieties of apples. And then there was the mushroom guy. Ah, meaty shitakes, nutty shimejis, and buttery lion’s mane. I would walk the four blocks home carrying this ridiculously heavy load, motivated only by the moment when I would dump my loot out on my kitchen counter to take beautiful pictures of it all. I would then spend hours cooking up a fancy meal with it that night, only to take more pictures of the final product before I ate it. Damn I had a lot of time on my hands.

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Weekday nights — if I was truly alone — were reserved for my most embarrassing guilty pleasure — 90s TV. I owned entire box sets of Boy Meets World, Friends, and Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Full House was easy to catch on TV, as was Home Improvement so the box sets were not necessary. My movies of choice were Father of the Bride, Clueless, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Troop Beverly Hills (what a thrill J). If I was feeling really crafty, I might even try to catch some old Mary Kate and Ashley shows on YouTube (Two of a Kind, So Little Time anyone?), or revisit SNICK or TGIF promos. My little 90s oasis made me feel like I was a kid again. Whenever I was stressed, it was almost like I was hitting the rewind button to go back to a simpler time.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to go back for a day. Wait, no — a week. Yes, a week in my old life with the new knowledge that this freedom would be fleeting. That it would only last a few short years. How much louder would I sing? How much more would I dance? How much sweeter would my ginger and herb-infused cocktail taste? And how much later would I stay up to watch just one more episode of Sabrina?

I guess I’ll get my chance again one day, when my kids are grown. But I guarantee you, I’ll be karaoke-ing to some song that I sang with my kids, I’ll stop mid-drink to think about that time my two-year-old ran across the room to “cheers!” me, and I’ll pause that show to scroll through pictures of my babies when they were still babies. I’ll never really go back. Because I can’t. Only forward.

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