I’m in the thick of parenthood right now with a 2 1/2 year old daughter and 3-month old son. Most of my friends and co-workers also have young kids, and at times I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of negativity about how hard it is to raise kids today. Don’t get me wrong, the days are long, tiring and MESSY! At times I miss my old life, when I could sleep until 10 am on the weekends, belly up to the bar with my husband and enjoy a random happy hour, and have the time and money to book spur of the moment trips.
But I’m telling you being a parent does have it’s perks. The unconditional love from your kiddos is a given, but I’m talking about some of the other simple pleasures that become totally acceptable again once you’ve earned the title of mommy or daddy.
Without further ado, here’s my top 5:
5. Eating Inside at McDonald’s: Okay, so I’m not endorsing McDonald’s as a nutritious option to add to your meal rotation, but let’s be honest… sometimes it’s the only thing the kiddos will eat (and it’s in nearly every city). Plus, I have to say chicken nuggets just sometimes hit the spot! But until recently, when my daughter asked if we could go on a date to “Donalds” (two year old speak), I hadn’t eaten inside a McDonald’s. How could I turn her down, right? What I discovered was surprising. I found not only the coffee to be quite good, but the environment to be delightful, too. Lots of retired men and women enjoying great conversation and eager to compliment my daughter and myself. Lots of families spending time connecting. Clean tables. Happy workers. If you haven’t enjoyed a meal inside a McDonald’s in awhile, I say go for it. It will remind you of being a kid again and a couple nuggets each year won’t kill you!
4. Kid Movies: I was so excited to see Finding Dory! I don’t care what the reviewers said – it was darn cute. But if I didn’t have kids I wouldn’t have made the time to see it, especially in the theater. Disney, Pixar and other studios have shifted to making animated movies that are both for kids and parents. And I feel that as a mom, it’s part of my job to keep up on these titles. Not a bad gig, right?! My daughter and I went to the movie together with two of her cousins. It was such a lovely afternoon and so much fun watching her experience her first movie in the theater. It helped me escape reality for a bit and left me feeling happy and hopeful. I think we can all agree that everyone needs a Disney break sometimes.
3. Parks: Did you love swinging as a kid? I know I did. It’s such a simple and peaceful way to enjoy the outdoors. This summer, I’ve been to more parks than ever before because my daughter also loves to swing! We make it a mission on family vacations to do one “picnic” meal at a local park. It’s fun, the kids can spill all over, yell as loud as they want and it’s cheap entertainment! Even if you’re not traveling, I encourage you to do some park hopping around the metro and get on the swing yourself. It will make you feel free as a bird, and it’s actually a great stress-reliever. Make sure to check out our Twin Cities Parks Guide for lots of awesome places to visit with your kiddos.
2. Donuts: Sprinkles. Jelly-filled. Long Johns. Cake. I love them all. Donuts are making a comeback with new bakeries popping up across the metro. But before having kids, I think it had been nearly a decade since I enjoyed donuts for breakfast. I just didn’t make the time to find great bakeries, and I felt I couldn’t justify the calories. But now, this treat has become a fun activity to share with the kids. We used to live in Crystal, and there was a cute local shop called “Donuts” in Lamplighter Square that we could walk to. Often, I would get up before my husband and daughter awoke and pick up their favorite donuts. My daughter’s face (and my hubby’s as well) would light up when I returned with this special treat. That alone is worth the extra calories. Two other bakeries that I think have amazing donuts: Hans Bakery (Anoka & Blaine locations) and Angel Food Bakery (Downtown Minneapolis).
1. Pancake Breakfasts: I have fond memories as a child of my dad making Mickey Mouse pancakes on the weekends on a big griddle. Pancakes are just one of those comfort foods that reminds you of home. Now that we have kiddos of our own, nearly every Saturday my husband gets up and fires up the griddle. We crank up the oldies on Pandora, throw a bunch of bacon in the oven, sip coffee and just hang as a family while he cooks. Before we became parents, we rarely got up on the weekends to have breakfast, and if we did, we’d usually go out to a fancy brunch and spend too much money. Now, we’re up early and take the time to relax at home and enjoy each other over pancakes and bacon. It’s become my favorite time of the whole week.
So, here’s my challenge to all parents (and myself). Try to change your focus to the good about parenting when life gets hard. Embrace the simple things about everyday life because those are the best opportunities to make memories. In a lot of ways, being a parent allows us to relive our childhood, which I think is one of the biggest perks of all.