The supersized life of a parent

Everything seems to get bigger with kids


Nadine Novotny Cound


It really shouldn't have been that difficult. All I needed was a purse that would fit all the typical pocketbook contents, a diaper and a small container of wipes.

I was feeling smug that I had finally ditched the diaper bag and could now get by with just a handbag, stylish of course, with only one diaper discreetly tucked inside.

I had always viewed diaper bags as manacles of newly minted moms. So as I shopped for my new accessory branding me a survivor of toddlerhood, I swooned over tiny Kate Spade bags and the even tinier Coach wrist wallets but knew in the pit of my purse those days were as far behind me as my sagging rear end.

No, not for me. I had officially graduated to the sisterhood of shotheks.

A "shothek" is what my grandmother called the shopping-bag-type carry-all, which she carried everywhere. Today, we'd chicly call it a tote but her sensible black leather bag was never intended to be chic, merely utilitarian. The contents of her shothek included a Star magazine, a plastic rain bonnet, other various grandmotherly items and treats for her grandchildren.

She schlepped her shothek along with her bubba purse (bubba is grandma-speak for an old lady). Had my fashion-conscious grandmother ever carried a cute little purse just big enough for her red lipstick and pack of cigarettes? Even worse, was I on the path to bubba-dom?

I used to sport the tiniest purse possible, barely big enough to accommodate my license, a few makeup essentials and some money, positioned all just so before forcing the zipper closed. Now I'm searching for something larger than a lipstick case but smaller than a minivan. There is no denying that everything in my life has been proportionally expanding in relation to my growing responsibilities.

And though still unable to make the leap to a minivan, the size of my car has also grown. In my single and B.C. days (before children) I used to zip around in the most compact of cars I could afford-a Volkswagen Rabbit and Toyota Corolla. Now my husband and I both drive sensible and safe sedans (even the word sedan sounds so ... sedentary).

Driving our newborn son home from the hospital along with my suitcase, flowers and gifts from well-wishers and our daughter in her car seat, my husband commented that he now understood why people buy minivans. Unable to transport one extra person under the age of 10 in either of our cars, we are now in the market for an SUV.

Since having children, it's not just our cars or my purse that have grown larger. My makeup bag has ballooned because as a 'tweener, I now own both wrinkle cream and pimple medication. I grew my hair longer so I could easily corral it into a ponytail when playing with the kids. I never consider wearing a pair of pants without at least one decent pocket to stash tissues or found treasures when I wish to ditch my minivan of a purse. And now those pants are a size larger because even my hips have gotten correspondingly larger, the better to prop a child on.

And while our house hasn't expanded with our family, we have planted bookcases on every empty sliver of wall space to contain our growing books, video and CD collections to entertain children of every age, gender, interest or whim. Our family library will soon rival the Harold Washington Library.

Not everything in our lives has been on the supersized diet of parenthood. A few things have grown smaller. My patience has sometimes grown thinner (why couldn't it be my thighs?), and our bed has shrunk with two little ones snuggling between us-sideways.

I did eventually find the perfect purse. It wasn't as small or chic as the ones featured in fashion magazines but it was stylish and the diaper fit perfectly.

Throughout my exhausting search I realized that I didn't mind lugging around a few extra pounds if they were the accoutrements of a loving and happy family.

Where else would my son keep the cement chunks he discovered in the grocery store parking lot until we got home? No Kate Spade bag is as important as safekeeping his treasures.

Nadine Novotny Cound is a writer living in Wheaton with her husband Tom and children Hailley and Liam. While she still sports a chic midsized purse, she has supersized her vehicle to an SUV-just as gas prices soared to record highs.


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