In order to prepare for a new phase in my life after having a baby, I chose to conduct fieldwork focusing on a species which we might call, “a mystery hiding in plain sight,” or, the toddler mom (mater toddlerus.)
While many of us may observe a member of this species roaming our local parks, groceries stores, and neighborhoods with her toddlers in tow, the social patterns of the toddler mom are not fully understood, often swinging from serenity to chaos in a matter of moments. The physical and psychological dangers inherent in the close tracking of the toddler mom has discouraged sufficient study by scholars unwilling to risk exposure to thrashing toddler limbs, mind-numbingly repetitive puppet shows, and coming in contact with all sorts of bodily fluids.
To conduct my study, I followed a regimen of observing toddler moms and their charges at library storytimes, open play gyms, and local parks. My findings were supplemented by one-on-one interviews with the family members, friends, and associates of toddler moms. On no occasion could I locate a toddler mom who could give me both her full attention and coherent answers to my questions. If she was with her toddler, the mom had to constantly break off conversation to intervene in toddler squabbles or avert life-threatening injuries; if she was alone, the toddler mom maintained razor-focus on grocery shopping, power walking or just enjoying one darn cup of coffee by herself and was unwilling to be diverted from these activities.
While my findings may thus be somewhat incomplete, I believe that my study could lay the foundation for further breakthroughs in understanding this puzzling and intriguing species. Thus follow my observations and conclusions on the lifestyle and habits of the toddler mom:
Sleeping Habits: Sporadic.
The toddler mom shows an impressive ability to complete many complicated tasks and keep her toddler fed, clothed and generally alive despite a lack of regular sleep. The effects of this exhaustion may show, however, when the toddler mom attempts to have a “date night” with her partner or good friend which inevitably turns into a “fall asleep on the couch with Netflix on.”
Eating habits: Swings between starvation and bingeing, completely dependant on the unreliable eating schedule of her own toddler.
The toddler mom’s diet, no matter how healthy it was before her child became a toddler, now includes any combination of mac & cheese, Oreos, and ketchup packs that she can locate in the 10 minutes while her toddler is somewhat occupied drinking her juice.
Communication: The language skills of the toddler mom seem to have regressed and perhaps reflects a form of short-term amnesia, as the toddler mom will ask her toddler over and over what her name is, how big she is, and what color the strawberries are.
At the same time, the toddler mom draws on an ever smaller number of topics to discuss with her partner and friends; rather than discussing the news or independent movies as she might have done before raising a child, the toddler mom remains fixated on discussing the toddler’s daily activities, even long after the toddler may have gone to sleep for the night. Despite this apparent contraction of the toddler mom’s communication abilities, she also sings out loud much more frequently than is considered normal for adult females; perhaps she is seeking an alternative way to express the thoughts that she no longer has the words or energy to discuss in a mature, adult fashion?
Physical health: While amazingly efficient in many respects, the toddler mom is also noticeably prone to a number of injuries.
Most common include back pain, arm pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, and pretty much any other bodily soreness associated with hauling a 25-35 lb child around who should be able to walk on her own but screams when put down. The toddler mom also sustains odd bruises with no obvious pattern to her shins, arms, and face that she has no memory of incurring. From observation, I surmise that these injuries often come from the toddler herself but may also occur when the toddler mom runs into the coffee table for the 40th time while rushing to throw Bunny into her bag to take along to the doctor’s appointment that they are already 10 minutes late for.
Social habits: The toddler mom is alert to any opportunity to squeeze or kiss her toddler.
This is often in the face of stiff resistance by the toddler, which the mom ignores. The toddler mom, in fact, seems to operate under the assumption that her toddler has a certain affection requirement, much like a caloric requirement; without 100 kisses/tickles/hugs a day, her toddler will surely waste away into nothing, and she is vigilant in making sure this requirement is met.
The toddler mom also seeks out other toddler moms who form “packs” that roam open areas with their children.
The pattern for group formation of these packs is unpredictable and may reflect deliberate planning through Facebook invitations, or simply revolve around whose children spend the most time on the swings at the same time. While these groups are somewhat dangerous to observe up close due to the high level of noise and boisterous activity, they seem to provide the toddler moms with valuable support and communication with other toddler moms, even if only for a few minutes at a time between toddler interruptions.
Emotional health: The toddler mom is prone to peculiar vulnerabilities, such as the inability to see any child so much as looked at sideways in a TV show or movie without sobbing or flying into a rage.
The same goes for mistreatment of cats or dogs; for example, it is inadvisable for a toddler mom to be shown a Sarah McLaughlin animal rescue commercial as she will drown in tears.
Conclusion: The life of a toddler mom is constantly changing and often perilous; she and her toddler may be difficult to track as their schedule of playdates, doctor’s appointments, and music/storytimes seems to shift on a weekly or even daily basis.
I still cannot explain many aspects of a toddler mom’s lifestyle, such as her predilection for brightly colored leggings (perhaps useful for the toddler to identify his mother when they are roaming in packs?) or the seemingly magic ability of her bag(s) to produce whatever particular item might be needed at a given time (how could she possibly have known that she would need 3 extra outfits for her toddler on a given day?). I hope that the scientific community can use my study as a stepping stone for further study of this mysterious group.