I’ll never forget being 8 ½ months pregnant with my first child and a friend imploring me to go see a lot of movies and to go out to dinner as much as possible. “Once the baby arrives it won’t be so easy any more,” she said. Of course, not knowing how my life was about to change in a thousand ways, I barely listened to her advice and moved on, excitedly awaiting my baby’s arrival. I truly had no idea what was awaiting me on the “other side” of childbirth.
We all know that having a child is a blessing and that children bring so much joy to our lives and our families, but many parents don’t talk about the sense of loss that they also experience.
Let’s get honest. Let’s say it out loud. There’s no shame in admitting it. We can love our kids and still feel sad and even resentful that we miss our old simpler lives, our old friends, and our old freedom.
Saying goodbye (for a time) to a purely spontaneous life
Before kids, life is flexible and all about “us”. We can happily gaze into each others’ eyes and remember on a daily basis why we married each other. Sex is spontaneous and romantic. We engage in our hobbies and passions. Life is seemingly carefree.
Once the first child arrives, it’s all about nap schedules, feeding schedules and making sure you have all of the necessary paraphernalia on hand wherever you go. A few years down the road, with 2 to 4 kids in tow, now there are soccer practices, karate lessons and a multitude of birthday parties. Going to a movie or away for a weekend is a simple thought without kids. With kids, it’s a huge production and a source of enormous anxiety.
Accepting the facts
Life with kids isn’t easy, but then again no one ever said it was going to be, right? Every day we deal with things we enjoy and things we don’t. Every job has aspects we like and aspects we don’t. Even our greatest joys have parts that are…well…less joyful. It takes a real “grown-up” to come to a place of acceptance of these facts. In order to have a happy family, it means we have to actually become real grown-ups. It feels weird at first, I know. I thought it was my parents who were the grown-ups, not me, for a long time.
The fun that used to happen effortlessly now has to be scheduled, planned for and a babysitter needs to be hired. Marriage that happened easily before takes hard work, deliberate effort and even some therapy sessions now and then. Sex needs to be calendared days or weeks in advance, and it also means doing it when you think you’re too tired. Trust me, you’ll get into the mood once things start rolling and you’ll be so glad you did!
Adapting to the changes
Family and in-law relationships also shift quite a bit once the kids come along. Low-maintenance relationships sometimes become high-maintenance as the expectations change once the grandchildren come along. Everyone has a different picture in their heads of what that grandparent/grandchild relationship will look like and few families actually communicate about this in advance. There are these and many more stressors that come with having a family and that can really take a toll.
And most importantly, don’t forget these 7 facts:
- 1. It’s about taking it one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time.
- 2. Taking good care of ourselves as individuals, as couples and as families…in that order!
- 3. We need to be resourceful and ask for help when we need it.
- 4. We need to keep our values in the forefront of our minds and make sure that what is most important takes highest priority.
- 5. Schedule in time for you and for your partner!
- 6. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE!!!!
- 7. Remember, you had the kids, they didn’t have you! Make them fit into YOUR life.
Sometimes we have to get through the less fun parts of life first to get to the fun parts. We have to make the tough decisions in order to be happy with the ultimate outcomes. Life is a sum total of moments and we have to work hard to ensure that the number of happy moments outweigh the number of challenging moments. I guess that’s what being a “grown-up” is all about!
Originally published on YourTango.