Someone I know feels passionately that your kids should fit in around your life; they should be expected to slot in like the missing piece of jigsaw puzzle while you carry on doing everything you did before you brought them into the world.
I know other people who feel that kids should only add to your lives, not take things away.
I beg to differ on both counts. You choose to bring children into the world. They didn’t ask to be born. Babies need attention and a lot of it. How can you possibly give them the attention they deserve if you still expect to do everything your old life involved? And as for them not taking anything from your life, of course they add a huge amount but they also take a lot away – sleep, energy, patience, money…
Having kids is a big decision. Bigger than deciding which job to accept, where to move or whether to get a dog. Expecting them to ‘fit in’ with you, I think, is crazy. If you just want to carry on as if you don’t have kids, then why bother having them?
Of course, there are things you can continue to do when your children arrive, but you’ll usually need to make adjustments to be able to do them. And it’s likely that whatever it was won’t hold the same allure for you as it once did in your child free days. Travel, for instance. I loved backpacking and travelling in a campervan. I still love to travel, but now I chose places that have facilities for kids like cots, highchairs, playgrounds, kids club etc. My view is if they’re happy, I’m happy. If they’re entertained, then I can relax. I don’t believe if I’m happy then they should be, or if I’m entertained then they can put up with it.
I do think it’s important to keep some of the old ‘you’ though. If before kids you went swimming every week, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to keep it up. If you enjoyed painting, then you’ll still be able to find the time for your art. But if you had an obsessive hobby that took up every minute of the day before you had kids, can you really expect to keep it up at the same level after having kids? I’m not so sure.
For me, having kids opened up a whole new way of life. Yes, I sometimes mourn my old life of lie ins, frivolous shopping trips and exciting travel destinations. But what I’ve gained is infinitely better (although some Sunday mornings at 5am I might not agree). It’s not possible to have lie ins anymore, I have no money left for lavish shopping trips and even if I did there’s no way I’d take all three of my kids along as it would be hell. And as for travel… why would I want to drag my kids on three flights to get to a remote, beachfront shack in French Polynesia where there is nothing but stunning scenery and a sparkling ocean for diving, because there is no way they’d sit still on the beach and who would look after them while I was exploring the coral? I would , however, take them on three flights to a family friendly resort where there was stuff for us all to do together. Even better, if there was a kids club that let us all enjoy a bit of time apart to do our own things independently as well as having some family fun.
One day, all of my pre-baby activities will be available to me again. When they’ve grown up. Rather than being upset that I can’t do them for another 15 years, I’m spending my time enjoying what I’ve got right now.
And if anyone tries to tell me that I need to stop trying to organise my life around my kids I’ll tell them that that is exactly what I will do, because my kids are the most precious thing in the world to me and I’d do absolutely anything for them. Including making them the number one priority in life.
Happy ranty Friday! x