One recent Saturday, my husband, Tony, went out with our kids, Mathilda and A.J. As I walked through the living room, I glanced over at our CD player, and a powerful thought hit me: When was the last time I listened to any music other than Raffi and the Backstreet Boys? In the B.K. (Before Kids) era, music was a passion for Tony and me. So I picked out an old CD and lost myself in Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio," reveling in a burst of pure, unadulterated giddiness.
I wouldn't trade the everyday joys of parenthood for all the rock 'n' roll riffs in the world. Still, I have to admit that my passion for music and other kinds of enjoyment has been in short supply lately. So this year, I'm giving myself a present: I'm going to buy (and listen to) at least one CD a month. Here, some other ways to boost your fun factor -- and mood.
- Join a monthly gift club. Fruit, coffee, microbrewed beer, flowers, or cookies... The point is, you receive a present in the mail every month. You'll get to admire tulips in a shade of apricot you've never seen or sink your teeth into a juicy mango -- sensory surprises for brains that are usually stuck in frazzled-mommy gear.
- Have a slumber party. Held off- premises with a couple of good friends, it's one of life's simple, girlish pleasures. Michele Borba, a mother of three in Palm Springs, CA, recently escaped for a no-phone weekend at a beach cabin with two girlfriends. "We drank a lot of wine," she says, "and joked about everything from who'd need a face-lift first to who had the cutest pajamas."
- Be home alone. Hire a babysitter to take the kids on a weekend outing for a couple of hours, suggests Lorraine Bodger, author of 2001 Ways to Pamper Yourself. Putter around solo, or grab your guy for some adults-only pleasures (yes, sex in the living room can be one).
- Go for the games. "Even simple diversions like crazy eights or go fish are a wonderful mental escape," says Donna Watson, Ph.D., author of 101 Simple Ways to Be Good to Yourself. "By teasing your mate as you play, you laugh like crazy -- which is such a stress reliever."
- Attend opening night. If you're like me, you look at ads for the theater, symphony, or ballet and say, "I'm going to get there this year" -- and then never act on it. Buy a subscription at the season's start, and you'll be swept away by performances (at a discount, too).
- Party on. Throw a bash to reconnect with your gang. Michael Babines, a father of two in Cranberry Township, PA, hosts an annual Lobster Night for friends. "Everyone pitches in to pay for the lobsters," he says. What tradition can you start? A midwinter barbecue? A chocolate-tasting party? An hors d'oeuvres and Hitchcock video night?
- Go to a comedy club. It's worth a trip even if it's open-mike night and Chris Rock and Drew Carey are noticeably absent. So what if the comedians are lame? You'll laugh at least once. Or, if you're like me -- thoroughly deprived of adult humor -- you'll howl at everything.
Charlotte Latvala lives with her family in Pennsylvania.