[advice] "Your Life Is Over Now"

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Post by kleenestar on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:10 am

I have never been particularly interested in kids, which is part of why it took me and my husband seventeen years to decide to have one. This changed for a variety of complex reasons that are irrelevant, unless you tell me they're not. The upshot is that I'm not an OMG BABY person but I am nonetheless currently pregnant and I keep having these awful conversations that freak me out. They go something like this.

Parent: "Oh, you're having a baby! That's so nice!"
Me: "Yes, I'm pretty excited."
Parent, confidentially: "You'd better do anything you enjoy now, though. You won't have any time for yourself after the baby arrives."
Me: "I know having an infant can be rough."
Parent, laughing: "Oh, no, it only gets worse after infancy. So go have a good time while you still have time!"

I walk away from these conversations going "OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE MY LIFE IS OVER."

I'm not stupid. I know that these conversations are largely about the parent in question - and it's no accident that it's always a mother. What they mean are things like "I used to be a war correspondent but my husband's career was more important so I dropped out and became a stay-at-home mom." (This is not an exaggeration.) Or "I used to go for two-week bike trips across Iceland for fun and I can't do that anymore." I know these women are not me. My idea of a good time is to read a book in front of the fire with a cat on my lap, or to go for a gentle walk around the neighborhood with my husband. Once my maternity leave ends, he's the one who'll be home part-time with the baby while I go back to work full-time. I've chosen a different life - but I still walk away from these conversations panicked and miserable.

I could use three kinds of advice in this thread:

1) How can I manage the panic and anxiety these conversations provoke?
2) How can I handle the conversations themselves better? Ideally I might have a few different scripts, from the totally non-confrontational to "Hey, don't assume your mistakes are universal."
3) Parents and/or people who spend a lot of time with kids, what can I do now to make sure that I'll have the room in my life for the things I love once this kid arrives?

One don't: please do not tell me that these women are correct and my life will be over once I have this baby. I really don't need to hear that more.

Thanks, all!
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:14 am

I'm not stupid. I know that these conversations are largely about the parent in question - and it's no accident that it's always a mother.

I don't have advice, but I just want to throw it out there that I've read/heard such statements from men as well as women.
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Post by kleenestar on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:20 am

Ah, interesting. When I get it from men it's a slightly different conversation that freaks me out much less, which is more about "it's hard work" and less about "expect to give up everything that matters to you." Hence why I'm not asking for advice about that version of the conversation. Razz
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Post by reboot on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:21 am

Not a parent, but have many friends who have bumped into these conversations and the same frustrations, so here are some of their findings:

1. People that say that made choices they regret. They do not have to be your choices, so their statements are more about them than you. This should help with the panic.
2. Responses can be, "I see my life as being different, not over. Why do you think yours is over?", "Over? A whole new part is starting!", "Really? I do not see an ending, just a beginning. What do you see ending?[answer] Oh, I never did [answer] anyway, so no difference there." "Yeah, I am going to have to get used to X, but people are adaptable, so it is not an end, just a work around."
3. I will leave 3 for the parents
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Post by ChrissyOrig on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:22 am

For 3) Based on women I've known who successfully managed careers and multiple kids, I would say: don't hesitate to hire help if/when you need it. Since you do not seem to be over-idealizing parenthood, you seem like you'll be able to advocate for your own needs when you need to.
For 1) Lots of people have a hard time managing life's challenges. You've handled many difficult challenges before this one, and have those experiences and your own inner fortitude (plus the support of your SO), so you're coming to this from a different place.
For 2) I would say that nonconfrontation is the way to go. IMO, you're smarter and better than a lot of people, so no need to rub it in their faces. My strategy would be to default rotate through: "Oh?" and "Really?" and "Interesting" with as much appreciation in your voice as you can manage.

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Post by Guest on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:25 am

Hmm. I agree, even as a kidless person, that your life isn't over, and in fact an important and exciting part of it is just beginning.

(Hilarious aside: BFF's 3-year-old informed me that you could tell that his house was very large, because it has a bathtub in it and the bathtub is extremely white. Sadly though, the toy starfish is missing, otherwise the house would be perfect, for animals too as well as people. Yes, that's a quote. 3yo logic is the absolute best, I was giggling over it for ages.)

HOWEVER: all, but all, of the friends I have who are parents said that they were not going to change, that they would still have hobbies and hang out with their friends and have interesting holidays and be the same person etc etc. They were all entirely wrong. That doesn't mean your life is over but I think it's only realistic to expect that your life and your priorities will profoundly change once TTLS is born. Doesn't have to be a bad thing (except to all the friends you dump grumble grumble no I'm not bitter....) but it will happen!

On the other hand, going for a walk round the block is a great way to get babies off to sleep. Smile

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Post by Guest on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:34 am

Well, as a mom myself (of 3 kids, one of whom is on the autistic spectrum), there are a few things I'll put out there:

First off, this entire narrative (which I not only heard, but fully bought into in the beginning) seems to me to be founded on a few odd principles:

1. You will be providing all the care for your kid (in fine old 1950s style)
2. You will be with your kid 24/7.
3. Kids have to do kid things: grown-ups want to do grown-up things, and never the twain shall meet.

I have heard stories about women who literally never leave their baby with anyone -- including the father, their beloved husband for months at a stretch after the baby is born.

Me? By the time my third kid came along, it was around 3 weeks post-partum when I dumped the three of them on my parents for lunch and shopping.

And let me tell you: I was a way better mom (and more sane human being) when I returned than before I left.

My ex and I went on kid-free vacations while we were still together. We dropped the kids off with my parents, where they stayed for 3 days. Then my parents drove them to my ex's parents', where they stayed for another 3 days. They had a blast. I had a blast.

Kids can learn -- and need to learn! -- to entertain themselves. My youngest is 4 right now, and I find plenty of time for things around the house: reading, crafting, baking, home decorating projects, blogging.

On the other side of things... when I was around 8, my parents took a wine-tasting tour of Napa Valley with me and my little brother in tow. Were we sometimes whiny? Absolutely. But they squeezed in some fun things for us, and we played games outside while they sipped fine Cabernets. They got their grown-up vacation, and they did it with us there.

If you want to drive yourself crazy crafting the "perfect childhood" for your kid, you can do it successfully -- by which I mean successfully drive yourself crazy. But perfection is a ridiculous goal, and it's not only allowed but required to have a life of your own and things that make you feel good and valuable and well-rounded in that life.

If nothing else, by having those things, you are giving your kid the best possible vision of how to be a happy and gratified adult, and raising good adults is the end goal of parenthood.

Best of luck!

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Post by Mel on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:44 am

Urgh, I have so been there.

1) I found simply reminding myself that they were exaggerating/speaking subjectively helped somewhat. Also having sought out advice from moms who were doing other things with their lives other than parenting (e.g., fellow writers) and so having those counter-examples of people whose lives weren't "over" to think of. And when you hear the conversation going in that direction, do your best to cut if off ASAP. E.g., in your example, I wouldn't get into any specifics that can invite further comment ("having an infant"), I'd just nod and say something like, "So I've heard," to the initial remark and then change the subject. Less anxiety if you're hearing less about it.

2) See above: Non-committal acknowledgement of statement and change of subject. If they continue pursuing it, maybe something like, "I'm just focusing on all the good things that will come with motherhood" or similar as a nudge away from the negative talk? With people who are invested in seeing the situation a certain way, I don't think it's productive to try to debate the issue/suggest you have alternate strategies/whatever. I didn't find people pushed much.

3) I do think it's important to recognize if there are things you enjoy that will be more difficult once you have kids, and to indulge before the kid arrives. e.g., The big thing for my husband and I was travel--we've gone overseas an average of once a year since a few years into our relationship, and we knew it would become much more expensive and involve less freedom until our kids were somewhat older. So we figured out a few places we most wanted to see, and got in those trips ahead of time, and now I'm okay with the fact that we're probably not leaving the continent for another ten years or so. Similarly, I love going on writing retreats and knew that'd be hard for at least the first couple years, so I did three while I was pregnant. I still miss that I haven't gotten to do one this year, but not as much as if I hadn't let myself take every opportunity last year.

I also believe it's good to be prepared to not be focusing on much other than the baby for at least the first few months. It is possible you'll have a very easy baby, but with most, you're going to want to be spending most of your "free" time catching up on sleep, showering, making sure you have at least some clean clothes, quickly grabbing something to eat, etc. It's hard, especially if you're not a huge baby person (I love my kid to bits but I am so looking forward to when he's able to move himself around and talk and so on), but recognizing that it's a sacrifice you're going to make for a whole lot of good and easier times afterward prepares you better than not thinking about it or hoping it won't be like that. Also, when you've "decided" you're not going to do much other than baby for that time, it can be easier to let go of the feeling that you should be doing something else.

Read the book BRINGING UP BEBE. I wish I had before my son was born (I read it when he was a couple months old). It talks a lot about the French style of parenting, not all of which I agree with, but they very much have the attitude that mothers shouldn't let their lives revolve around their kids (contrary to the N. American view which seems to be that you're a bad mom if you care about anything anywhere near as much Razz ). Knowing that the N. American attitude is a cultural thing and that there are lots of people elsewhere who wouldn't see me as selfish for still wanting time to myself for my own pursuits helped eliminate some of the guilt.

That's what I've got off the top of my head--and I actually need to get back to work before it's my turn to go on baby duty again here. Smile Will let you know if I think of anything else--and feel free to ask more questions! It's nice talking to fellow moms coming at this from a similar perspective.

(And congrats on the pregnancy, by the way, if I haven't said that in the past! How far along are you?)
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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:52 pm

kleenestar wrote:Ah, interesting. When I get it from men it's a slightly different conversation that freaks me out much less, which is more about "it's hard work" and less about "expect to give up everything that matters to you." Hence why I'm not asking for advice about that version of the conversation. Razz

I have no advice but just wanted to say Holy cow, you are not alone, I hear the exact same things and have the exact same feelings!! Thank you so much for starting this thread, as I am really eager to hear how other people have dealt with it.

I try to deal with my own anxiety around this issue by reminding myself that it's okay to not be a Perfect Parent, and that I don't need to raise a Rhodes Scholar in order to validate my decision to have children. I was raised by folks who loved me and supported me, but also made it clear I wasn't the center of the universe, even theirs (they both worked extremely stressful jobs-nurse, cop-that sometimes meant they couldn't come to my all important 8th grade mid-semester band concert.) I didn't turn out spectacular, but I did turn out as a functioning adult with no more than the usual emotional problems.

There was a letter in Dear Prudence today about a mother who wondered if she should switch her daycare provider because her 2 year old son wasn't getting enough "stimulation." The provider was warm, nurturing, and did the usual kid-care things (read books, sing songs) but also let the kids just have unstructured free time. I feel like this is the crux of the anxiety I feel (and perhaps you as well).... this pressure that we must be molding our children at all times, otherwise we have failed as parents. And if you're so busy hovering over your child like they're a minute-by-minute DIY project, of course you're going to have no time for fun or yourself.

I think.... it's okay to have an average kid, and be an average parent. I think my anxiety comes from a perfectionist, competitive streak, but at the end of the day, if I love the kid, and take care of their basic necessities (food, clothes, safety, shelter, some nurturing), they'll turn out fine, even if they don't get into Harvard or become a world-famous musician.
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Post by Enail on Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:58 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
I think.... it's okay to have an average kid, and be an average parent. I think my anxiety comes from a perfectionist, competitive streak, but at the end of the day, if I love the kid, and take care of their basic necessities (food, clothes, safety, shelter, some nurturing), they'll turn out fine, even if they don't get into Harvard or become a world-famous musician.  

I read this as "even if they don't get into Hogwarts."
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Post by Guest on Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:00 pm

Enail wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:
I think.... it's okay to have an average kid, and be an average parent. I think my anxiety comes from a perfectionist, competitive streak, but at the end of the day, if I love the kid, and take care of their basic necessities (food, clothes, safety, shelter, some nurturing), they'll turn out fine, even if they don't get into Harvard or become a world-famous musician.  

I read this as "even if they don't get into Hogwarts."

Squibs are children too, and their parents still love them! Your life will be different, but not any less rewarding with your squib son or daughter!

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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:07 pm

Enail wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:
I think.... it's okay to have an average kid, and be an average parent. I think my anxiety comes from a perfectionist, competitive streak, but at the end of the day, if I love the kid, and take care of their basic necessities (food, clothes, safety, shelter, some nurturing), they'll turn out fine, even if they don't get into Harvard or become a world-famous musician.  

I read this as "even if they don't get into Hogwarts."

SIDE TANGENT: Squibs in the HP world fascinated and saddened me, and I always wished JK Rowling, with her characteristic social justice streak, had written a side-novel on a Squib functioning in the wizard world and how to tackle that particular -ism.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:20 pm

I have no parent-centered advice, but wonder if perhaps one technique for managing the anxiety would be to think of the colleagues who told you similar things about having free time when you started your new job, and of people who may have told you similar things before you started grad school*. It sounds like in both cases, those statements proved to be false, or at least you were able to take your vacation and seem to have emerged from grad school a balanced life that includes work but also a marriage, friendships, and hobbies. I think it would be safe to assume that what you're hearing from parents is false in the same way, and is probably being said for similar reasons.

*Did you get the, "Oh, you'll spend the next three years living in the library!" talk? Law school is generally considered less demanding than a PhD program, and I got tons of that before I started.
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:06 pm

As far as (1) goes, I find mentally detaching from the situation and examining it from an almost academic standpoint significantly weakens the power of the words. One, it allows you to see how the person's words are just communication rather than fact, and two, it allows you to see yourself in context and realize that you don't have to take those words seriously.

You clearly don't buy into these statements at a rational level, but when we hear others say something our brain generally seems to process it as if it is true, so you have to take a step back to short circuit that impulse.


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Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:10 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
There was a letter in Dear Prudence today...

I think.... it's okay to have an average kid, and be an average parent. I think my anxiety comes from a perfectionist, competitive streak, but at the end of the day, if I love the kid, and take care of their basic necessities (food, clothes, safety, shelter, some nurturing), they'll turn out fine, even if they don't get into Harvard or become a world-famous musician.  

Honestly I think an overstructured life can hurt a child's development just as much as an understructured life. They don't develop self-reliance, creativity, taking initiative when they're always told what the goal is and have adult supervision.
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Post by Wondering on Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:37 pm

So, I don't know how much useful advice I can give since I've only been a parent for two months and am still on maternity leave, but I'll give it a shot.

Like you, I am not an OMG BABY person and never had a particular interest in kids. But, I get a sense from what you said that, like me, you very deliberately decided to have this child. You don't know everything that's going to happen, but it might help to trust your judgement in this like you have in other life-changing choices, such as your recent job-related move. I think people put a mystique on parenthood over other life events that isn't always necessary.

Also, it might help to refocus your anxiety if you can't get rid of it. My panic and anxiety during my pregnancy were all about the health of my baby.

I have never worried that my life is over. I know that it will never be the same, but I look at my parents and know that they still did the things they were interested in, and sometimes, we kids just had to come along. Like Marty, I was not the center of my parents' world, though I always felt loved and supported. Vacations were what my parents wanted to do, for example, not what the kids wanted.

As far as still doing the things you want to, I agree with Mel that for the first few months you will only be focused on the baby. My life right now is my baby. Normal baby stuff like frequent feedings. I know that as she grows, she will need less constant care and attention. She will have a bed time, after which my husband and I can watch TV or read. When I've recovered more from the pregnancy, we will go back to taking walks in the evening which used to be for walking the dog but now will be for all of us.

I also have to say that I'm looking forward to her being old enough to do some of the "kid" activities that I still enjoy as an adult: going to the zoo or aquarium, taking her to the science center. And since road-tripping is my preferred method of vacationing, she will be able to do that with us after a few years.

I do agree with Mel about doing extra things now if you can that you may not be able to do during the first few months or year. We went on a long-weekend road trip when I was 7 months along. We made sure to see some movies in the theater we were originally planning to just watch after they come out on DVD. The one thing we couldn't do that I really wanted to was have a fancy dinner on our anniversary due to all my many eating restrictions (more than the normal pregnancy stuff). Still, in the grand scheme, that was just part of the package that I deliberately made a choice about in getting pregnant.

First off, this entire narrative (which I not only heard, but fully bought into in the beginning) seems to me to be founded on a few odd principles:

1. You will be providing all the care for your kid (in fine old 1950s style)
2. You will be with your kid 24/7.
3. Kids have to do kid things: grown-ups want to do grown-up things, and never the twain shall meet.

I agree with this. Since your husband is staying home, much of the narrative doesn't even apply to you. My husband was home just the first 8 weeks on paternity leave, and even that much time for him set me outside the narrative a lot of my friends were assuming I fit into. But even if your husband weren't staying home, the way you've described your marriage is truly equal, and you make efforts to keep it that way. The narrative will fit you even less than it fits me since I'll be taking care of my baby once my maternity leave ends. And I already feel alienated by the narrative.

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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:05 pm

Kleenstar, correct me if I'm wrong but I believe you were the one who suggested "Opting Out," correct? I wonder if there's a socioeconomic angle to the kinds of questions you get, and the particular kind of anxiety-narrative people are trying to throw on you.

I can't speak for Wondering, but I know when a baby arrives in my family or the families of friends who are "less professional" (aka, they are the sorts of folks who refer to their job as a job, not as their career), there IS still that narrative of "Babies are hard, you won't sleep for days" but I've found there's also kind of a refreshing assumption that you'll probably plop the kid down in front of the TV for an hour or two, or shove em off on the grandparents for a weekend. The socioeconomic exhaustion I associate with the class I identity with (lower-to-middle class) also means the perfection narrative isn't the norm.

I remember in Opting Out, the mothers often talked about how "no one else", from nannies to daycare providers to even fathers, could give the kids what they could. It seemed to me as if, the higher the level of professionalism, the more parents (but especially women) were encouraged to completely abandon their own identity in favor of perfectly parenting their child.

I'm not sure if it helps, but maybe framing the chatter you're getting as a socioeconomic narrative that you don't strictly fit into to begin with (in the book, the fathers passively pushed their wives back into the home, and it sounds like your partner is equal and very supportive), you can logic away some of the anxiety?
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Post by kleenestar on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:26 pm

Oh, gosh, y'all are wise. That means I'll probably be replying in bits and pieces!

First, about managing the conversations:

Unfortunately, reminding myself that "it's more about them than me" does not in fact help. I end up getting very anxious about the idea that perhaps I'm wrong, that they have expertise that I don't and therefore I'm just not understanding the ways in which they are accurately describing my future. Then I end up arguing with my jerkbrain about who is right, and we all know how well that goes.

Afterwards, one of the ways I reduce anxiety is to talk to people who can give me a counternarrative - but that doesn't really reduce my misery in the moment. I also only have so many people I can do that with, and unfortunately the conversation gets less effective the more often I have it with the same person.

That said, there have been several very interesting tactics people have suggested that I'm going to try.

Turning it around and asking about them seems like a really great idea. It's likely to reveal the explicit and specific ways in which their life experience is in fact not a good model for mine, and I'm always least anxious when I'm learning something about others. We'll see how it goes, but I'm going to try this.

Marty, I also think your idea about socioeconomic narratives is totally spot-on. I don't think logic is quite the right response, but I can use your insight to see the story they're telling as a story that's culturally specific. (Bringing Up Bebe gives me a similar opportunity, but that has its own problems (which is probably going to be another post). Letting me see it as a story about class is particularly helpful because in many ways I did not grow up in the class I am apparently a part of. I grew up with a weird hybrid of what Americans might recognize as upper-middle-class and lower-middle-class norms, along with a whole bunch of stuff that was unique to my cultural and religious upbringing. So maybe making that class story visible as a class story will let me draw on my own heritage for strength, as a way of saying "This story is not my story; I get to find out what my story is." The challenge there is going to be that I don't want to adopt my parents' story either, but I think this is a fruitful idea for experimentation.

More to come. Smile
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Post by Hirundo Bos on Sun Oct 05, 2014 7:32 am

I'm not a parent, nowhere close to becoming one, but I might have something to say about 1)... I've noticed some other occasions where you also have reacted with anxiety to the message "once X happens, the life you have today will be over", where X has been things like your career, or moving to another town. So my first question would be how well the impact of those X-es has matched your anxieties?

Also, you've also told us a bit about how the life you have today is something you've meticulously built over the years, using your intelligence, your power of analysis, your grasp of science, getting help from the people close to you... that you have lifted yourself up from a bad place into a fairly decent one. So my second question is how, if at all, the anxieties around losing the life you have today connect to this? (This is a very personal one, and understandable if you prefer not answer.)

Last, I think your question 3) sounds like a good step towards 1) – concrete acts as a measure against anxiety. I know from personal experience that one of your mental superpowers is to help others identify and make a plan for such acts. So maybe we here can do some of the same for you? My third question would be what those things you love are, that you want to keep on doing... and of all those things, which ones would be most important to you?
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Post by sky on Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:35 pm

1) Would it help you to choose a couple of the common panic-causing phrases and hear them differently? For example, "You'd better do anything you enjoy now, though. You won't have any time for yourself after the baby arrives." When I see this sentence, the meaning I hear is "You'll have to kick your planning skills up a notch when the baby arrives, because then all of your plans will need to include a plan for the baby as well as yourself." That might not be quite as scary, because planning is something you can already do, and it doesn't preclude you from doing anything you like ever again.

2) I have had similar uncomfortable conversations about changes in my life, and I've found that when people start telling me how awful my future is going to be, it works pretty well to laugh and say something a bit ambiguous like "well, I guess I'll find out soon then." What I mean is I'm comfortable with how I think the future is going to go and I'm happy to wait and see how things unfold, but what they hear is that I will see how right they are about how my life is going to suck, so then they're happy to drop it and let me change the subject.

3) My advice for what you can do now is to keep working on building and strengthening your network of friends. Also make a list of the things you enjoy that you really don't want to cut out of your life, and then think about what the requirements are for you to be able to do each thing, and if there are ways you can change them so that they can accommodate having a child. You said you enjoy reading a book with the cat on your lap for example, so that might sometimes turn into reading a book with your child on your lap instead.

You also mentioned on a different thread that friends who would offer to come over and watch your child while you were home sounded amazing. Several members of my family do this for each other, or they offer to take the children elsewhere for a while, and the parents love having a short break from child responsibilities. If you have friends who enjoy watching children, let them know that is a gift that you would enjoy sometimes, and that can also be a way that you could plan to do things you love that are difficult to fit in when you also have a child to look after. It is totally ok to have a sitter sometimes just because there's something fun that you and/or your husband want to go do alone.
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[advice] "Your Life Is Over Now" Empty Re: [advice] "Your Life Is Over Now"

Post by kath on Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:09 pm

I would also second the suggestion that you think through what are the important things that you are scared might "end" when you hear that, and then making a plan for how you will still include them. Obviously you don't have all the information about what parenting will actually be like for you and how you'll feel about where you want to spend your time, but when you have the plan made you can adapt it, and you will have it as a reminder of those things that you do want to fit in - even if how you accomplish that doesn't look anything like your plan.

Also, you are going to need to change your life because you have the kid ... but you also have control over how, exactly, you change your life. A wide variety of people have kids all the time and all of them deal with it in different ways. For some, it motivates them to take on more stuff, it seems. So I think if you say "my kid is important to me, and this other thing is also important to me" you can make both work. For example, biking across Iceland with an infant might be totally doable! Get one of those carts for the kid, have a trailer to carry the gear in, go way slower than you would alone ... but you'd still be biking across Iceland.

Also, my mom is a family doctor, and my dad is a mathematician (he programs oil well simulations, I never know how to explain this) and they've both had these jobs my entire life, which are both pretty demanding. My mother had me when she was almost 39, and I have a younger brother who was born when she was 45. She went back to work within a few weeks of me being, and put me in the daycare centre in the building she was working in so she could pop in to breastfeed me. My mom and dad liked to folkdance (a few different styles) so they either got a babysitter or took us along. She was also in a women's folksinging circle, and let me sing along when it was at our house. We still got time with our parents and got to know / connect with them really well, even though my brother and I were among the first people at before-care in the morning and last people at after-care in the evening. And I got to play with my buddies in after-school and daycare.
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[advice] "Your Life Is Over Now" Empty Re: [advice] "Your Life Is Over Now"

Post by kleenestar on Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:20 pm

Hey all, I just wanted to say that I'm processing a lot of this stuff and will have more to say at some point. I'm not ignoring this thread but it's kind of Big Stuff, you know?

(I'm particularly pondering Hirundo Bos's scarily accurate insights, but y'all are collectively very wise.)
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Post by trooper6 on Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:56 pm

I don't have advice as a parent, but I have advice as a kid. Well, I'm not a kid anymore. But I remember my childhood vividly.

My parents were the best parents. One of the things I loved about them? They continued to have adult lives...and they took us along with them! I remember sitting around at my parents bohemian parties full of beatniks in 1970s San Francisco. They were drinking wine and beer, smoking pot, listening to jazz and talking art and politics. Sometimes there were other kids to play with, sometimes I amused myself. Often times I just listened in on their conversations. And sometimes my 5 year old self decided I should add to the discussion of the Mideast Oil Crisis with my thoughts on the matter. I'm sure my thoughts were full of 5 year old silliness. But they listened to me and gave me respect. Now I have a PhD.

I was really happy to have parents who let me hang out with them as grown-ups. That maintained grownup friends and continued to have a life. It gave me a level of maturity and self confidence, plus modeled healthy adult relationships for me.

I have rarely met people who have followed the model of my parents and their bohemian friends. Though I was once in a band with a woman who did. She would sometimes bring her kids to rehearsal. There were no other kids there. Just a bunch of grown-ups in a rock band. But it was cool to have them there, and they got to see that their mom, in addition to being a mom was also a kickass singer. That was good.

So...I'll only say that being left to my own devices at times, seeing my parents as adults with their own lives that didn't revolve around me, being let into those lives as a sort of equal (I mean I was a kid, but I felt respected and taken seriously), was really healthy for me...and heathy for my parents. They stayed together happy until my mother died...and then my father.

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Post by kleenestar on Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:42 pm

Since Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is due this week (eek!), I wanted to thank you again for all your thoughtful insights. I sort of ran out of steam to write all the things I wanted to write here, but you helped me get out of the mind-rut I was in. I'm still pretty nervous about having a baby, but I'm reminding myself that I've done a good job in the past of creating a satisfying life out of potentially difficult situations. That means I can do it again.

If you're curious, here are some of the specific things I've done as a result of this conversation:

- I agreed to do a limited consulting contract while I'm on maternity leave, so that I can afford to hire help. Two days a month (with my husband on child-care) will cover weekly housecleaning and two nights of childcare per week.

- For every "OMG PARENTING WILL EAT YOUR LIFE" conversation, I deliberately sought out someone who had a different experience and listened to their stories, too. Remembering that there is a diversity of human experience helped me see that I could choose where I ended up.

- My husband and I booked a weekend away for early summer. We've already paid - now we are committed to going without the kid!

- We have also agreed that after two months, we will alternate taking weekly evenings out to pursue something we really care about. He's going to go play Magic every other week; on the other weeks, I'll be doing voice lessons, then having dinner with a friend. Again, we've pre-booked our first appointments so that we aren't tempted to let it slide.

- We have agreed that we will not draw conclusions about what we think about having a kid for the first year. All the research says that parental happiness stabilizes around then, so it would be silly for us to leap to conclusions earlier!

- We made a bunch of pragmatic changes to our home to make baby care easier. For example, we moved our laundry to the second floor so that it's super easy to throw in a load.

- I read some very helpful parenting books, including Bringing Up Bebe (as suggested!), that take a "family-centric" approach to parenting rather than a child-centric one.

- I'm reminding myself that the "your life is over" narrative doesn't fit women like me, who have both an equal partner and extremely generous maternity leave. He's got two months, then works part-time; I've got eight months, during which I'll be doing some light consulting work. It's pretty remarkable how that changes the equation.

- I'm reminding myself that the "your life is over" narrative happens to hit all my personal buttons, and that it is in fact exactly what I've felt at basically every major life change about which I had even the smallest feeling of ambivalence. It's never been true before, so I ought to require overwhelming evidence to believe it now.

- My life isn't going to revolve around my kids, and that's awesome for both them and me.

- I made a spreadsheet with three lists: local people who are willing to come over and hold the baby, people I can call when I'm feeling panicky, and people whose parenting styles I respect. Everyone on the spreadsheet knows they may very well get called on for help, especially in the first year.

As you can see I've just brain-dumped a whole mess of pragmatic, emotional, cognitive, and social strategies. I wanted you all to see how much you helped me, and in turn, I hope it helps those of you who are struggling with your own issues to see what, precisely, I do to turn my anxiety-brain around.

Twinkle forth, little star!!!
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Post by reboot on Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:56 pm

If you were not still pretty nervous, THEN I would worry Smile Best wishes and safe delivery!
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