Parenthood – Is it Really Going to Change my Life That Much?
I recall conversations between my husband and I prior to conceiving our first child pertaining to how our life will be with children. We judged others parents, with comments like “when we have kids, we won’t stop camping, we won’t stay home or drop out of old friendships like so and so has… ” “When we have children we will keep doing all the activities we enjoy now, plus baby/child.” Now 7 years later, I work with many young couples who are on the brink of parenthood, who say similiar things. I smile to myself and think how naive and innocent. I remember being there, believing I had control over how our baby would be, how our life would look, but is feels like ages ago.
If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you are probably hearing lots of warnings from others about how having a baby is going to change your life. Well, yes, it is going to change your life. But isn’t that what you have in mind? Usually when people are considering parenthood, they are ready for a life change. Change is good and forces growth. Parenthood causes a person to grow in so many ways, it is truly amazing. We go from living for ourselves to living for another totally dependent being. This new human being is totally dependent on our care, our love, our presence. Life becomes richer and more meaningful as we adjust to putting this little person’s needs ahead of our own. There is much joy in watching your child grow and develop and become his or her own person. The challenging part is that you surrender control over how the change looks. You may be blessed with an easy going healthy baby, or you may bring a sensitive, colicky, higher maintanance baby into the world. You may end up with a child who sleeps like a dream, has no allergies, and transitions easily between activities, or you may find that your child has asthma, is on the autistic spectrum, and can not tolerate transitions at all. The characteristics and needs of your child will help define how your changed life looks.
Most new parents experience a tremendous amount of joy and fullfillment, but at the same time they struggle to adjust to the sacrifices, emotional and physiological. The sacrifices and changes in your life range from less sleep, how you eat, how you spend your days, the ever diminishing amount of free time, changes to your career, your relationship with your partner, your sex life, relationships with friends who do not have children, what is important in your life and your plans and goals for the future, and reach as far as changing your identity in the world and your sense of yourself. Now you are a mother in addition to all the other roles you may have been juggling already.
Don’t panic! There is lots of support out there for women adjusting to parenthood. There are parenting groups, support groups, play groups. There are more books than you can possibly read. In fact, it is counter productive to read too many books and feel overwhelmed by all of the information and advice, much of it conflicting. It’s helpful to read some, but take the advice with a grain of salt and trust your intuition and find your own rhythm with your child and your partner. Listen to advice and anecdotes, but stay flexible. As you prepare for parenthood, talk to your partner a lot about what kind of parents you plan to be. Let’s hope you have already established some common values on parenting approaches before you are pregnant or trying to conceive. Think beyond infancy and babyhood. Just as a marriage is not just the wedding, becoming a parent is not just planning your pregnancy and delivery.
If you are contemplating parenthood, or currently pregnant but struggling with anxiety or uncertainty about change, about letting go of control, please call me for a free consult!