It’s Saturday night at 9pm, which means my husband and I can finally turn the TV to something other than Daniel Tiger or Frozen. I’m attempting to have a real conversation with him for the first time today while also trying to plan the hypothetical honeymoon we still haven’t taken two years later, but our son is sick, so he’s been up twice already, asking for a drink, snuggles, and a nose wipe. We were supposed to go out with friends, but the poor guy came down with a beast of a virus and had a temp of 103. Plans and sitter cancelled. Date night now involves the couch, yoga pants, and some ice cream.
This is the average Saturday night for a person with a child and it’s actually how I happily spend most of my weekends.
I was meant to be a mom. I don’t ever have to doubt that. My son brings a joy and comfort to my life that nothing else ever could. Watching him grow into this amazing person he is becoming reminds me daily that he is, indeed, my greatest accomplishment. And yet, with so many of my friends recently expecting or planning to start a family in the near future, I’ve been reminiscing about the past, to the days when I was pregnant, or even before, when it was just my husband and I. I started wondering what I would say to my pre-mom self if I could. Or what I would say to anyone in those years before their lives change forever (for the better, of course). These are all the things I wish someone had told me then.
8 things you should know before you have kids:
- You have so much free time. Assuming you work your average 40 hours a week, you have so much free time (yes, there are always exceptions). You just don’t realize it yet. The other day I asked my husband what we did every day after work before we had kids. I couldn’t remember. I think we mostly watched tv on the couch, which is a damn shame. Go do something. Try a new restaurant. Meet a friend for a drink. Plan a trip. A colleague recently told me that she doesn’t have time to workout anymore because she doesn’t get home from work until after 5 and I chuckled to myself a bit. That means you still have, what, 5 hours to eat dinner and do anything you want until you need to be asleep? Oh, you’re too tired? That brings me to my second point..
- You are not tired. You don’t know what tired is. Tired is not getting 3 straight hours of sleep or 6 broken hours total for 10 hellish months. Those all-nighters you pulled in college have NOTHING on a colicky newborn. Staying up by choice to study or drink 5 long islands is totally different from staying up all night for a person whose life depends on and revolves around you. The upside to this is that 7 hours of sleep as a parent feels about the same as 10 hours of sleep to a non-parent, which means you get so much more accomplished during the day… Totally kidding. That never happens. Because you have that person who depends on you constantly, remember?
- You do not yet have a person whose life depends on and revolves around you. Enjoy it. Being at the beck and call of a young child 24 hours a day will wear you down like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It’s not really something you can explain to someone, you just have to live to really understand it. Being a parent is likely the most all-consuming thing you’ll ever do. Even when you’re away from your kids it seems they’re on your mind 99% of the time. Thinking about the lack of responsibility I once had is completely mind-boggling and is definitely something people take for granted.
- When talking to someone who has kids, never use the phrase “just get a sitter.” Sitters do not appear out of thin air at the snap of your fingers. If you want to hang out with me without my kid, I probably need a couple days notice. And if you want to hang out with me and my husband without our kid, then we need a week’s notice. Also, I pay my sitter $10/hr, so in order to go to dinner and a movie with my husband I pay, on average, an extra $50. Let that sink in and see my next point…
- Enjoy your money now. When you have kids, the majority of your money goes to them. Yes, there are some who will argue that kids don’t have to be expensive, and I can agree to an extent. But while kids themselves may not be pricey, childcare sure is. When I graduated from college I was kind of bummed to get a job making $10 per hour. I felt underpaid for someone who had a 4-year degree, and maybe I was. Well fast forward two years to when I had completed graduate school and had a baby. I took a job making more money than I made previously, but after the expenses of childcare I was netting about $8 per hour. Not to mention I wasn’t salaried, so if I missed work I didn’t get paid, yet I still had to pay for childcare because that’s the way most child care facilities operate. Our second child is due in January and I’m already cringing at the idea of paying for two in daycare.
- Pets are not babies. Don’t ever even hint at the idea that taking care of your puppy/cat/goldfish/lemur is “basically the same as taking care of a child.” Just trust me on this one and know that some day you’ll thank me.
- Travel. You know what’s hard? Getting on a plane with your child. Also hard? Getting on a plane without your child. Hardest of all? Going to a foreign country with or without your child. If your monetary funds allow it, TRAVEL. Traveling with kids is doable and can be really fun, but it’s also a completely different experience from traveling before kids. I promise you won’t regret it.
- The love a parent feels for their child is insanely powerful. This is another one of those “you have to experience it to really understand it” kind of things. I felt it the first time I held my son in my arms and every day since. I shower him with hugs and kisses and tickles and cuddles until he can’t take it anymore and I already dread the day when he is too cool to hang with Mom and Dad. There is nothing a parent wouldn’t do for their child to keep them safe and feeling loved. So if we seem batcrap crazy over our kids at times, it’s because we are. It’s chemical–there’s not much we can (or would want to) do about it. Just smile, pretend like we’re sane, and know that one day you’ll be crazy too.