Around this time last year, I was in the final stretch of my pregnancy, about to have my first child at 36.
I’d had a wonderful, fulfilling life up until then. I was one of those people for whom the child decision was not easy. I could have happily gone either way, though I felt, deep down, just 1% or so more certain that I’d rather be a mom than not.
Now that I’ve been a mom for almost a year, I know all of the things I wondered about prior to giving birth. If you’re where I was, this is what to consider before deciding to have kids:
Your Life Purpose Changes
Before having a child, the main character in my life was me. I had close friends, my family, and my partner. I had a career I enjoyed. I even had 60 house plants. My cup was full.
For all of my 20s and half of my 30s, this felt fulfilling enough. But eventually, I started to picture my life in another 10 years, and I felt I’d regret not taking on a new role as mom.
Now that my son is here, he is absolutely the main character of my life. He’s my entire world. It’s a beautiful thing and I was ready for it, but I can also completely understand how those who didn’t get to fully live out the selfish freedom of their 20s or for whom pregnancy was not planned might be gobsmacked by this change. Everything I do is for my son. Every penny I earn will now go somewhere when I pass.
There’s a driving force to my life that wasn’t there before. It’s like another level in the video game of life that honestly, I completely understand bypassing, because it’s a hard level.
It Truly Takes a Village
The saying, ‘it takes a village’ IS TRUE. Before I got pregnant, I knew that I didn’t want to be the main caregiver for my future child. I had always planned to hire a nanny.
What I didn’t anticipate was that the hiring shortage would extend to my nanny search as well. I didn’t imagine it would be so difficult to find reliable people, and how often they would cancel on me last minute. We had a nanny lined up for months who decided the week before her start date that she could no longer do it.
I love hanging out with my kid, but I still have a job, and want ‘me’ time as well. The older he gets, the more independent and therefore the easier it gets, but in the beginning there was no time for me, for sleep, for a clean house, for exercise, etc.
It’s important to have a village. Is your family nearby? Do you have a strong network who can show up when you most need them to?
Unanticipated Challenges Will Arise
You can have the best laid plans in the world, but I learned the hard way that another saying rings true: Expectations are just premeditated resentments.
The breastfeeding issues and postpartum depression that I dealt with were both completely unexpected, as was the difficulty of finding help. I had a painful time parting with the ideal of a beautiful fourth trimester where I was still the empowered golden goddess I felt like before I gave birth.
A good friend of mine told me the best way to approach parenthood is to have no expectations, and I couldn’t agree with her more.
A baby and eventually child have their own thoughts and desires, and as they grow, so will their independence. Will that be fun or frustrating? I think the best parents know how to walk that line with patience and grace but at the end of the day, we’re also flawed humans. It’s easy to wonder if you’re ever doing it right, so be kind to yourself.
Your Career Might Take a Hit
My career changed meaningfully from having a child. Algorithm changes as well as a change to my brand, which had been solo female travel for years, made it tough to suddenly be a mom putting out family content. In time I think that there will be more opportunity as a family travel creator, but for now, it’s a rough transition and this will be a lean year for me.
The interesting thing is, my male blogger counterparts don’t have the same issues when they have kids. Brands don’t stop working with them because they’re “a mom now” and probably unavailable. They often keep traveling just as they were, and their partners are at home with the kids. It’s an unfair reality that still greatly favors a man’s career over a woman’s, and it’s present in every industry.
A whopping 43% of women leave the work force when they have kids. For many of them, childcare costs are so high, it doesn’t make sense to work just to pay for care. For others, the balancing act is too stressful or is less fulfilling than staying at home.
It’s a Forever Decision
Few things in life are ‘forever decisions,’ but parenthood is. You can return a dog to the shelter if it doesn’t work out. You can rehome a plant without feeling too bad, but you can’t take back having a child. It would be far better to regret not having kids than to regret having kids.
But nurturing new life and giving birth is the most empowered I’ve ever felt. It’s a completely different and rewarding experience traveling with our baby, too. People lit up when they saw him in Japan traveling internationally at six months old, he was much adored in Portugal as well. It’s fun seeing him make leaps and strides and figure out his toys. The first time I saw him smile, laugh, and develop a strong bond to me have all been so rewarding.
There are constant new challenges and changes and the overriding theme of it all is surrender. How can I help this boy be the best version of himself? How can I help him grow through me, rather than for me or in a way that I want or would choose? How can I be a guide?
Although the baby years are challenging, I know that they are short, and eventually I will miss watching my son discover the world. I’ll miss the way that he jumps up and down with excitement when I walk into the room, the open mouthed, spitty way he tries to kiss my cheek, and the way that he giggles at the most random things. He’s the biggest fan I’ve ever had in life, and he’s taught me more about myself than anything else in life ever did.
At the end of my life, what would I regret? It wouldn’t be the hours of work I’ve lost, it would be the times I wasn’t in the moment for this brief but beautiful season of my life.
Everything in life up until this point that has been worth it has also had challenges. There’s no path that’s only sunshine and rainbows. The truth of parenthood is that there will be moments of both heaven and hell, because that’s life. Nothing is all black or white.
Parenthood is an adventure, and for many of us, the greatest challenge in life. It’s also beautiful and full of love.