We make a lot of decisions early in our lives that we have to live with once we become parents. Some are huge – like your choice of spouse – and others seem small. When life’s circumstances change, those little things suddenly become big annoyances.
Now that I’m a mom times two, I’ve been noticing choices I wish I’d made differently in my pre-kid days. Both in the years leading up to kids and in my final pre-kid days, as I was registering for my shower and buying baby loot. (Sorry, didn’t mean to tease you with that photo up there of me leaping off a little cliff in Costa Rica… didja think I was going to list all my embarrassing screw-ups, and things I hope my kids never find out about? Pfft… I’m not crazy enough to put that stuff on the interwebz!)
Home Not-so-Sweet Home
The next few are all about our choice of house and the things that we bought to go inside it. Your first house is usually a learning experience: what you can’t live without, and what you would never do again. For some of these items, we simply couldn’t afford the ideal option back then. But some of them were just bad choices.
The dining room table.
Long before I met my husband, I fell in love with counter-height dining tables. When we moved into our house, I bought my very own. It was peachy until we had a toddler who needed to start eating at the table like a big girl.
It’s one thing to perch on a regular dining chair (just 17” off the ground). It’s quite another to climb up and sit your toddler on a counter-height chair (usually 26”). She’s fallen a couple of times, and pulled the chair over while trying to climb up. No big injuries, but still crappy. Further, finding a booster seat that allowed me to push the chairs all the way in was a pain in the arse, too.
What I wish I’d gotten: a normal-height dining table.
This is probably a rookie mistake of many homebuyers. When you go from a one-car detached garage (or no garage!) to finally having one, it seems like a two-car would be perfectly sufficient. Before you’re a homeowner, you don’t fully understand how much stuff you’ll need to care for that home, and how much space you’ll need. Lawnmower. Snowblower. Trash can. Recycle bins. Fertilizer spreader. Flower pots. Toolbox. Shop broom. Shop-vac. Rain barrel. Dog and cat food bags. Suddenly your two-car garage barely has room for the two cars it was made for.
Now, add all the kid stuff: bike trailer, stroller (and later, a double stroller), Power Wheels, tricycles (because you bought one and received another as a hand-me-down), the deep freezer (for storing all that breastmilk!), a Radio Flyer, and much more. On the bright side, I’ve gotten very good at rigging up ways to store things by hanging them from the ceiling.
What I should have done: splurged the extra $8k-$10k for a three-car garage.
Kitchen storage and cabinet space.
It looked like a perfectly sufficient amount of cabinets. That pantry looked huge compared to the teeny one in my condo. We outgrew it in no time, and I had to add more shelves to the pantry door. We were fairly good on cabinets before Peanut came along. There was a place for everything, but no space to spare. Enter bottles, nipples, pumping supplies, breastmilk bags, medicine dosing syringes, sippy cups, plastic plates, walkabouts, reusable pouches… I could go on for a while.
We also had to move things up to the upper cabinets that used to be in drawers down low (though we have locks on the drawers, I still don’t see a reason to leave knives down at toddler eye level). We had to buy plastic drawers which now sit on the counter. We added a set of little drawers to the pantry to store more stuff. The soffit above the counters is now littered with items, and it looks incredibly ghetto, but we’re out of options.
What I should have gotten: a bigger kitchen, more drawers, and a walk-in pantry.
The laundry room.
I was so excited at having an actual ROOM for my laundry that I didn’t care it was small. I decided to stack the washer/dryer to conserve space, but it still wasn’t enough. While we can fit quite a bit on the shelving in the laundry room, one thing that won’t fit in there is, well, LAUNDRY. Specifically drying laundry. There’s nowhere to hang clothes, which means that our drying rack sits right outside the laundry room. That puts it squarely in the kitchen, and in an already-small home, there’s even less room. I hate it.
The next group of shoulda-woulda-coulda are surrounding baby loot. When I buy baby loot nowadays, I spend days (or weeks, depending on how much I’m investing in said loot item) poring over reviews. Sometimes that leads to analysis paralysis, but more often than not, I make a more informed choice.
I should have done that with my initial purchases. Because it’s so hard to know. Asking pre-baby me to choose baby loot is like asking me for advice on which features you should get on your new John Deere combine. I couldn’t be any more ignorant. Yet I’m expected to assess these tools and choose the best one? Yeah right.
The infant car seat
I figured I wouldn’t be using “The Pumpkin Seat” for long, so why spend much money on it? You’ll carry your kid around in this seat for about 8 months, minimum… sometimes more. It’s a pain in the ass. So get one that’s light, easy to carry (pay attention to the handle!), and has twist-resistant straps that buckle easily. Make sure the handle folds down and back up easily, too.
The shitty one I bought is heavy, has an awkwardly shaped handle, and straps that constantly twist. I’m fairly certain the buckle was designed by an engineer with a vendetta against all parents. To fold the handle up or down, you have to squeeze two buttons simultaneously using superhuman strength. The handle brushes so close to the top of the seat when I fold it down that my Cozy Cover comes off Every. Single. Time. When I read the reviews now, they’re filled with people cursing the same things as me. Screw you, Baby Trend. Your products are garbage.
What I should have done: read the flippin’ reviews.
This goes hand in hand with the infant car seat, because I bought them together as a travel system. The front wheel wobbled no matter how many times my dad tightened it. The shitty piece of cardboard that made up the seat back cracked in half early on, and poor Peanut had no head support after that. The folding mechanism is a joke. It takes about 162 tries to get the two red triggers to snap open and allow it to fold up. When Squeak is done with the stroller, I’m taking that goddamned thing out to an empty field and going Office Space on that motherfucker. Though I may not be able to hold off on the beating that long. I really, really hate it.
What I should have done: checked the reviews. Like the infant seat, the reviews would have told me it was junk.
The baby monitor
I was trying to be thrifty when I chose a simple little audio-only monitor pre-baby #1. But after baby #2 was born, in a display of total financial irresponsibility, I splurged on an Infant Optics video monitor (one that doesn’t hook to wifi, because I was way too freaked out to do that). Turns out that video is pretty handy when your toddler moves from crib to toddler bed. It became much more critical to know if kiddo was awake, climbing the bookcases, or having a tea party at 3 a.m. with her teddy bears. We’re still using it for Peanut, because Squeak hasn’t really given us a reason to peek in on him yet. When he reaches Toddler Bed stage, I can already tell he’ll give us hell. I’ll be glad I can spy on him from afar.
What I should have done: bought a video monitor up front.
The crib mobile
I didn’t see any value in a crib mobile when I was registering for baby stuff. Plus, my sister said I could borrow hers. It was a simple little mobile that you wind up by hand. It plays for about 3 minutes before it winds down. Only after Peanut was born did I discover that babies love mobiles. They stare at them happily as they fall asleep, and happy staring equals not crying. Boo-yah. After using the borrowed mobile with Peanut, I bought the Cadillac of Baby Mobiles at a garage sale.
It projects rotating stars and moons onto the ceiling, has four classical composer options, three volume settings, and oh yeah – A REMOTE CONTROL, so you can turn it on without entering the room. It plays for 15 minutes and has a soft light that allows baby to better see the dancing bears in a dark room. In short, it’s friggin’ awesome, and it’s been a lifesaver with Squeak.
My engagement/wedding ring
I, and not my husband, chose the setting for my engagement ring. Before you accuse us of lacking all romanticism, it was the result of a deal my husband made with me. I could choose the setting … if I agreed to an engagement ring with no diamond in it. I’m not a girl who gets hung up on diamonds. Plus, nobody can tell the difference between a cubic zirconia and a diamond anyway.* I chose a vintage-style setting I loved.
It has beautiful filigree shoulders and a raised center stone. These days, I probably wear it once a week. Those beautiful shoulders and the raised stone I once loved are a problem. The ring scratches my babies and gets caught on stuff a lot. It’s near impossible to wear with gloves. And all that detail and filigree sucks when you’re trying to clean poop and spit-up off your ring.
What I wish I’d gotten: a flatter style without a raised center stone.
Something we actually got right
We did one thing right, albeit unintentionally. We bought a house in a neighborhood full of young families. Not because we wanted young families as neighbors, but because I liked the fact that our subdivision wasn’t flat as a pancake like all the others in town. Because of this accidentally awesome choice, our kiddos are going to have a wealth of playmates to choose from.
What about you? What do-overs do you wish for?
*I’ve been wearing my CZ for 6-1/2 years and not a single person has ever been able to tell. I once had my ring cleaned at the jewelry store where I bought it, and they checked it under the microscope afterward. The poor girl came back with her eyes wide. “I don’t know how this happened, but there’s a scratch on your diamond,” she said incredulously. I had to stifle a laugh.