I needed Naptime Is the New Happy Hour by Stephanie Wilder-Taylor ten years ago when my first daughter was born. Her book about all the “ways toddlers turn your life upside down” offers not only the kind of advice I’ve acquired the hard way but also the laughs I have in hindsight.
For example, Wilder-Taylor writes, “Being a mom is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Don’t you hate it when people try to pass these kind of bullshit platitudes off as inspirational? Because yes, it is a job. And yes, you will often enjoy it. But mostly, you’ll love your child more than you could have imagined in your wildest mothering fantasies – but not necessarily the actual work involved.”
Naptime Is the New Happy Hour begins by exploring “your new and improved but strangely less exciting life.” As I read her chapter on “Suburban Boredom,” I was right there with her, back at the tedious Pampered Chef parties of my past. Eventually, Wilder-Taylor becomes acclimated to her surroundings, by doing things like signing up to face-paint at a block party, and while all our hazing days differ (mine involved some tumultuous PTO meetings before deciding to volunteer at the local library instead), rest-assured, even if you don’t play Bunco, like Wilder-Taylor, in time you will at least know how to say it.
Staying at home with your kids is hard. Wilder-Taylor recommends parents think of their toddlers as out-of-town guests. “I try to think of my child as a pint-size foreign exchange student: She barely speaks the language and everything in this country is pretty much new to her,” writes Wilder-Taylor. Sure, it’s great it hit a museum every now and then, but as Wilder-Taylor reminds readers, with little ones even a trip to the store is an experience. Just choose your destination wisely.
While the bookstore sounds like a wonderful way to promote literacy, Wilder-Taylor explains it’s essentially a “giant maze with all the shelves as secret passages.” Wilder-Taylor tells the story of how she turned her back on her sixteen months old for just a split second and had to spend the next five minutes frantically racing through the store after asking the manager to block the exits. Been there, done that, too.
Naptime Is the New Happy Hour suggests you stay away from indoor playgrounds. This is wonderful advice I still adhere to. I spare myself the doctor bills that surely follow a visit to one, especially during flu season, and opt for investing in cold weather gear that makes outdoor playgrounds fun year-round. My six year old says the slide is never more fun than when it’s covered in snow. Granted, Wilder-Taylor recognizes that spending time at the park might mean overhearing a “highly irritating conversation” but if the end game is your kids having fun, then at least you’re not getting the headache Wilder-Taylor claims (and I second) those indoor playgrounds produce.
But perhaps my favorite chapter in Part One is “Mind Your Manners” because as Wilder-Taylor points out, “It seems common courtesy sometimes gets thrown out the window when we have children.” Of course, there’s the obvious – taking your kids out to eat. Wilder-Taylor argues, “That’s where becoming a better tipper comes in. Twenty percent is no longer generous; it’s minimum.” She claims just because you tolerate your toddler experimenting with the sugar packets that doesn’t mean the wait staff does.
However, I think the most common faux pas Wilder-Taylor addresses is “interrupting a telephone call with a child-free friend eighteen times to scream to your toddler.” As she points out, “Sometimes we just can’t help but have our attention split, especially when we’re looking after small children, but that’s when you just have to say, ‘This is really a bad time. Let me call you back the second I put these little monsters to bed.’”
While Wilder-Taylor continues her discussion of manners to include everything from bragging to bank accounts to commenting on another mom’s parenting, it’s her belief that the local Supermom is actually a Superliar that will bring the biggest smile to your face. Whether it’s the truth about TV watching or regular vegetables consumed, Wilder-Taylor assures readers, “Real moms know that when it comes to being a parent, there is no perfect scorecard. No matter how many hours you spend sitting on the floor coloring, reading stories, kissing boo-boos, and singing songs, there will be times you fall short. And most of us just try to accept that as best we can.”
Read my other blog Befriending Forty.