Ah, children. Having them changes a person. If children aren't in the picture yet, don't let this article stop you! Change is coming, but it's not all bad. Some alternations are tough, some beautiful. Not surprisingly, the difficult ones feel more extreme because you haven't gotten there yet and the future often seems more overwhelming than it actually is. We're never ready for what lies ahead until we're in the middle of it. We become ready as it becomes necessary.
If you'd told me back in the day, that I would have 5 children and would let my 9 year old and 7 year old ride their bikes to a friend's house that I cannot see, crossing a major intersection to do it, I'd have thought you were crazy. Well now I think I'm crazy. I just did that...today. And you know what? I'm fine with it. I've changed over the years and so have they. Life doesn't happen in a vacuum, so I say, "Go out and live it," and let go of some of those parenting ideals you might have while you're at it. Yes, you have them, we all do.
Over time you'll realize what those ideals are made of, especially if you have more than one kid or when life doesn't look as expected. And if you're like me, or any of the rest of the people on this planet, you'll admit that you're different now than you used to be, and that's what this list is about. Having a baby changes your life in good and difficult aspects. But remember this as you read: Difficult does not equal bad.
Life is a pendulum of unpredictability, and all in all, it is a beautiful process. Be sure to check out #3 because it will rid you of the excuses when it comes to "finding time" to be intimate with your man after the baby. So let's dive right into what will change forever after you have that baby!
15 The Body
Are you kidding me? You changed while you were pregnant! Of course you'll look different afterwards. Sure, you can get back into your swimsuit, and eventually your jeans. You can be the same size as you were before with some effort, but you'll never look exactly the same after having a baby. And you know what? You shouldn't!!
You just had a baby!
Your body just gave life to another human being. It's not supposed to be exactly the same and it'd be kinda creepy if you looked the same, honestly. Ever see the movie The Island where they're all clones and some of the women are used to have the "real people's" babies because those women wanted children, just not to actually deal with being pregnant. I get it. Some women have surrogates because of problems with their bodies becoming pregnant and that's different.
But to wish away the lines, or new curves your body naturally has after birthing a new soul into the world, that's just a bit vain. So put on your big girl panties cause it's time to be a mom!
14 Sleep Patterns
You may develop the ability to sleep anywhere, but you'll always lack sleep after having a baby. I used to hear people ask, "Is she sleeping through the night yet?" And I kept hoping for that day. When was that supposed to happen?
For the sleep trainers, they say it can happen fairly early. For the co-sleepers, they say it happens earlier because they are next to their baby and sleep feed. The more kids I have the more I laugh at this question. Why is this a marker for being a successful parent?! If that's what it takes then, I'm still waiting.
Your body will always need sleep. Now how much, and when - that's all up to your unique body. If you regularly get less than 6 hours per night, it'll show up somehow over time. But 6-8 weeks of sleepless nights isn't enough to make you sick. Here's the good news: Our bodies are amazing at adapting to lack of sleep for a short time period and once the baby sleeps longer you can totally handle the occasional awakening.
Even when your baby sleeps through the night you'll be getting up for other reasons...diaper changes, nightmares, etc. Lack of sleep, it doesn't really change, but the reasons do.
13 Noise Levels
Noise comes with the territory. Right now dinnertime is a mass of separate half-conversations and nonsense behavior ensues. But yet, among all of this I am able to type something coherent for this article! It's amazing how our minds can adapt to our surroundings when faced when them on a regular basis.
Quiet moments are possible, but your tolerance will grow for the noise. When the opportunities for silence come, I treasure them, but when the decibels rise, I find ways to cope!
There are times when I wear earplugs and we've even instituted "Mums the Word Mondays" just so we can practice silence. But as a general rule, the noise doesn't go away...in fact, it may get louder! Take comfort in the fact that your children's noise isn't always bad. There are times they are playing pleasantly or chasing one another and those noises will bring a smile to your face.
But then there's the noise, you know the kind...the one where they scream and you wonder what the heck is going on in the other room! Realize this: That noise means they are still alive! It's when there's a long silence that you have to really wonder...
12 Friends Come And Go
I still have single friends and even some single friends with children, but the majority of my friends are families with kids. How did this happen? Usually, like attracts like. It's not that I'm opposed to the other relationships. In fact, some of my closer friends aren't in my exact same life stage and they are no less valuable.
However, it's taken quite the chance since having a baby. Before the baby, most of my friends did not have children, and now they do. Is it contagious?! Nope. It's just natural to seek out friendships that you can empathize with in terms of experience.
Life isn't a static painting. Change happens whether we want it to or not, so it's healthy to embrace it and allow our friendships to come and go. Facebook can give an artificial extension to our friendships, but reality means that our friendships change with our lives. Having a baby is one of those stages where you must surround yourself with those that will build you up, encourage you, comfort you and challenge you regardless of whether they have children.
11 Instincts Change
Maternal instinct. Some people have it before they birth babies (many little girls pretend to be mommies), but there's no going back afterwards! Every baby you see for the rest of your life will draw your attention and care. And that's a good thing.
How many elderly women have come up to you during pregnancy or after the birth to comment on how fast the time goes or smiled at your long after their biological clock has ceased to tick. Strangers want to hold your kiddos, and most of them (if not all), are former or current mothers. Coincidence?!
Women decide at all stages when their family is full. Some have one child, some two, some 18. Whatever. But, no matter how many children you have, you'll always enjoy other people's babies. Somehow after having labor after labor, it's still a wonderful thing to see new mothers and their babies! And it always will be.
I love movies as much as the next person, but somehow I can't enjoy them the same way anymore. Call me a prude or a stick in the mud or whatever. Pop culture just seems different through a parent's eyes, and to be honest, it should!
It's good to keep the innocence of children. If you find yourself watching a late night movie and your kid comes out to pee and you hit pause as quickly as possible, that's what I'm talking about! But I'm not up on my high horse here...my last baby watched Lord of the Rings but my 7 year old hasn't. Figure that one out!
All in all you'll find that you have a different, perhaps more conservative, threshhold when it comes to exposing your kiddos to the media, whether it be movies, video games, music, phone stuff. It's enough to drive you crazy, but keep your cool. You've got plenty of time because this tendency may last forever, but it builds slowly.
9 Trading In For The Mini...Van
If you only have one kid, you may never face this fact. But as soon as two rolls around, you'll never fit the same way into a sedan. You'll never have a topless jeep or fancy sportscar again, until you're too old to care about stuff like that. Seriously though, cars are important to some people.
My husband really likes certain cars and despises others. I, on the other hand can drive a grandma car and not care. But the feelings of loss are real for some when it comes to purchasing their first minivan. You may spot a tear on your spouse's cheek when he signs the dotted line, but do your best to empathize, it's tough for him.
Safety, comfort, storage...there are many reasons why minivans are the choice vehicle for growing families, but just because you drive a minivan doesn't mean you give up your pre-child wild days. Feel free to do some wheelies in the parking lot after soccer practice!
8 Closets Staying Clean
I hate to burst your bubble, but your kids closet will never look like that. Never. Well, maybe before they are born. But seriously, you have better things to do than to keep his closet to perfection. How about feeding him, diapering him, and taking him outside to see the world? Yeah, those are a bit more important than the closet.
It'll never live up to those days when you were prepping the baby room and making everything 'just so.' So I give you permission to give up on that miniature dream and replace it with something that is truly meaningful. How about setting your sights on developing his character so he'll become a kind adult one day?
Why am I being so negative about the closet? I know, some of you are fantastic organizers and I bet you really could keep a closet that clean. But trust me on this one...when there are so many opportunities out there to share with your new family member, why spend the time buried in the closet? You can keep it tidy, but tidy doesn't mean perfect.
Who has a picky eater? Most everyone on the planet has dealt with this one...except me. Count your blessings ladies because there's something worse than a picky eater. All of mine don't know when to stop eating. I seriously have to stop them every...time. The pediatrician told me, "Oh he'll just stop when he's full." Yeah I won't tell you what happened when I saw that out to it's conclusion.
So when it comes to food, whether your kid is picky or has gluttonous tendencies, know this...food will never be the same at your table. You'll cook in ways you never dreams trying to sneak in that spinach or kale. You'll bribe your darlings with a dessert centerpiece. You'll find yourself correcting behavior you never knew existed. All because of food.
Food makes my kids crazy. Forget that whole sugar thing! Any kind of food. If I want my kids attention, I just go into the kitchen and start banging a pot around. "What are you doing Mom?" I don't even have to call their names. So look forward to seeing how food changes in your family once you have kids, but don't think for one second that it's ever going to be the quiet, clean, orderly meal it once was.
For a two-income family work will change forever because your kids won't stay healthy all the time. Sometimes you must take a sick day, and sometimes your kid needs you more than your boss thinks they should. What will you do? For a one-income family, you bet work will change after the baby. Suddenly you are the "bread-winner" and there's more people eating that bread.
I remember my Mom having to take off work more than expected and it cost her the job in the end. And she had to face a hard truth...what's more important? Well money is important, I mean having kids means you have to make money. But the question is...how much and at what cost to your family?
What lifestyle do you need to live? It's tough to discern needs from wants. In the end my Mom became a teacher to keep the same schedule as me and surrounded herself with those who valued a child's need for their parents. Whatever you do for work, your child may benefit if you create more space for your family by what jobs you take, and what lifestyle you choose to live.
Okay this one hits home with me cause I'm an only child and that selfish thing just wants to stick to me like glue no matter how old I get. I'm always trying to shake it off but it circles back around like a boomerang. Evenings...that's my time. I don't like that my kids are getting old enough to stay up late and bug me, I mean play games with me.
So I'm allowing the natural ways to creep in slowly, but it's tough to let this area change. I can't count how many times my 7 year old asks me to play Settler's of Catan in a week. He's been indulged, but I can't keep up with how many games that kid wants to play!
But now that I'm opening my evenings to my children, there's an untapped relationship builder just waiting to happen. Past 8pm, there's this magic window of fun that we can have and I no longer feel they've stolen "my time," but we've created a space where it's "our time." It's our time to laugh, to play games to talk about serious topics. I love it, but it always happens later in the day when I think it's time to hit the reset button and so now our evenings will never be the same, and that's okay with me.
Yep, I said it. Money changes after kids...forever. People cost money but not as much as some people might have you believe. I think of having kids in terms of getting married. Putting on a wedding can be expensive! Or, it can be affordable. Having kids can be expensive! Or, it can be affordable.
Either way though, it will change how you think about it. Today I bought my son a Lego set and I cannot believe how much those darn things cost!! Seriously, why?! But we got it as a reward for a reading achievement he got for school. It's exciting and all, but man...the money!
Some of you are savers, some are spenders. Both types will find that their perception of money will change after having a child. How much is enough? What kinds of future are you saving for? One general rule that most financial advisers give is to make certain you control where the dollars go instead of letting them control you.
3 Intimacy Between Spouses
Do you think that because you have a baby, you can't ever have the same intimate relationship as you had before? Well that's true, but not in the way you think. Before, you didn't have time constraints. Now, you have time constraints, but if you wait around for when it's an obvious set aside time, you may never do it again! But, with a little creativity or a little less helicopter parenting, you can still make quality time for one another.
Because I like you, I'll give out three I've heard over the years. First, movies are great distractions if they don't see them too often to become bored. If you can't stand the idea of having that many movies being watched, just get some educational videos from the library. Second, get the kids their food, turn on some music and sneak away for 10 minutes. Third, be direct. Let them know it's important to spend time together alone and say something like, "Mommy and Daddy need to spend some alone time together for a bit." And give them activities to participate in. Some of these ideas can't be used until the kids are over age 3, but where there's a will, there's a way. Who says a date must happen out of the house? Bottom line: Nothing has to change unless you decide it does.
2 Discipline And The Rules
Well we know this will never be the same. I remember when kids used to be kinda cute when they displayed their shenanigans. Now, not so cute. There responsibility has come and I'm the parent. It will never be the same again. And other people's kids...same thing.
Don't get me wrong, I have that sympathetic face to give other moms in Walmart or Target when a kid acts disruptive or rebellious. That's a tough moment and I can relate to how it feels. But do I laugh anymore? Nope. Discipline is serious business and if you want to have a kid that grows up to be a pleasant adult, it may be best to take their character training seriously. Just sayin.
So as you think about how having a baby changes your philosophy on discipline, it would be wise to consider all the varying methods and observe parents who employ them. It's a mistake to make assumptions about one type and dismiss it without fully exploring the possibilities. In the midst of changing mindsets, remember, you don't have to figure it all out when they are 6 months. Take your time and develop your own ways as a family. Until then, adopt the ways of a family you respect and tweak it as you go. And here's a bit of free adivce: Take inventory of families who have grown children. There's a reason for the cliche, "There's proof in the pudding."
And now the most obvious but difficult to nail down change. Of course your time will change, but time will change your child. Loving children is like loving a moving target, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. They absorb and become altered as the influences around them shape their minds and hearts.
You can be their most influential person or you can hand them off to others. It's a big decision and you get to decide who spends the most time with your precious ones. As they interact with the world around them, you can be their guide as they change. You can be a companion and hopefully, a sage.
Choices will be rampant and they will make the wrong ones from time to time; so will you. As the months and years pass by, your appreciation of reality will become more poignant. Remember those old ladies saying, "Cuddle them while you can, it doesn't last long." They're right, but time is elusive when you're a young mom. Staying present is important, but it can be beneficial to look for opportunities to gain perspective. It'll be worth every second.