Humor by Diane Farr

My favorite Christmas gift as a soon-to-be-mom was a Hooter Hider -- a piece of fabric with a strap attached to hang it over your neck. This clever garment leaves both hands free so a mother can adjust a baby, drink water and maintain her privacy while simultaneously breastfeeding. Yes, this expensive excuse for a blanket was stylish, but mostly it seemed like a mantra for the kind-o-momma I wanted to be: one who had all the most-updated, hip, compact and "right" gear, making me the best-equipped and chic mommy at the playground.

Then I actually had a baby and the sound of his cries would cause me to throw myself down exactly where I heard him and try to stop that heart-crushing noise as fast as possible with my food. And hiding anything was not even a thought.

But in time those screams became less frequent (or I just got used to them), so I ventured out. I grabbed my baby and car seat (35 pounds on my right arm) and my diaper bag filled with everything I collected during gestation (35 pounds on my left arm) and nearly fell over.

My first mommy-attache contained everything every book and person I consulted said I should carry for a newborn. Assuming I would just get used to hanging more than half my body weight from my limbs, I drove off to my first excursion fully loaded. I think I chose to do lunch with a male friend because I was so proud that I could -- with my Hooter Hider in hand. Little did I know how uncomfortable I would feel when my baby wouldn't stop screaming in a restaurant because he was afraid inside the breast-tent and I couldn't even position him correctly beneath it. So much for burqa-ing my child.

I became marginally better at parenting for few months when suddenly I found myself pregnant again. My husband and I were almost over the shock of having two children within 16 months when, at our 8-week ultrasound appointment, we discovered we would be having twins.

I cried for a long time that day and right up until I delivered my identical daughters. Then I stopped because there wasn't any more time for tears. Now that I had three children in diapers at the same time, all I could fit in my diaper bag were the bare essentials -- and to my chagrin, I was never in need of anything else. I would love to tell you that the best thing that ever happened to me as a mother was an unexpected pregnancy that yielded me my own personal daycare of three kids under age 2 for eight long months (and then all under age 3 and now all under 4) because that would be so poetic. However, my parenting path is . . . intense.

This past Black Friday, I was trolling the mall with all the rest of the parents hoping to find a deal and I realized I am a seasoned veteran now. While feeling the panic of soon-to-be moms at some "helpful" Momma-Gear-Boutique and the dogmatic quest of new grandparents at a Babies "R" Us, I wanted to give them all a collective Valium. I also felt like whispering that holiday shopping is only going to get worse when your kids watch TV and request things that you despise, so, learning not to get too attached to having the seemingly important gear and gadgets now, is the best thing you can do for yourself as a parent.

Simply put, it is the time you spend with small children, not what you carry in your bag, that makes a more equipped mother, father, granny and pop-pop.

Now I think about that Hooter Hider and have no idea what happened to it. I can only assume it is deeply buried in the rubble of pretty stuff I was so excited to collect before I became a mother that didn't help me one bit once I was one.

Diane Farr is known for her roles in "Californication," "Numb3rs" and "Rescue Me," and as the author of The Girl Code: The Secret Language of Single Women.

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