When I was pregnant with Max, I remember hearing, over and over, from multiple family members and friends, in so many words, something to the effect of:
"You'll never be able to prepare yourself."
Never be able to prepare yourself to have a child, that is. People say there's nothing that can prepare you, there's no way to mentally situate yourself for the journey that is parenthood.
I don't really believe that. I think there is a lot that can be done.
Of course, for those fortunate enough to have the basics situated - clothing, food, a stable home, love - getting everything prepared for a child to join a family can happen more easily. If a child is wanted - truly wanted - I think it's pretty easy to make the argument that the child will be loved and welcomed into the home.
But what I've been thinking about lately is how to prepare for the complete personal life-shift that occurs when a child is brought into the world.
It's a choice: to attempt to create a family with a child or children. And for those of us who are successful in building their family with a child, we are choosing a completely different life than what we've known to this point.
For Mr. D and me, it was a choice of being open to change a lifestyle that we knew and were comfortable with. When we found out we were expecting Max, of course we prepared... we did everything we could to prepare what we could so that we felt we were giving our son the best we possibly could. And, truly, we did a pretty good job. We had all of the necessities Max required, our hearts were prepared to love our son and raise him to the best of our abilities, and we knew our routines would alter to accommodate the new person in our lives.
But what we couldn't prepare for is the completely different life that we were embarking upon. No longer were we able to do basic things that we used to - run to the store to pick up groceries, stay at work late to finish up a project, talk on the phone with a friend for an hour, figure out dinner plans last-minute, decide to grab a drink after work with co-workers... and the list goes on.
Of course, these are things Mr. D and I happily gave up when we welcomed our little guy... we knew parenthood would change our routines.
But what we still talk about is how much our core lives have shifted. We care about different things, we talk about different things... different things are important to us now. It's almost like we lived a life before our first born that was 100% different than the life we started after our child was born. We are wholeheartedly happy with the choice we made to shift our lives in this way, but this would be my advice to those thinking about having a child:
Be ready to completely give up what is important to you now in order to start a life as a parent.
Okay, so I know that sounds harsh. And I know that some parents keep a very similar lifestyle to the one they had before their child was born... and that's awesome. I am all about maintaining consistency, and if something is important to someone, by all means, they should continue to engage in that activity. But knowing that parenting could shift priorities in a way that non-parents may not have experienced... that would be the advice I would offer.
Mr. D's friend/co-worker told him that he and his fiancé are going to try and conceive as soon as they are married in August. This is the type of couple that goes out for dinner every night, stays out late, spends a ton of money, and overall... lives a pretty carefree lifestyle. While I think it's fantastic that they want to have children, I can't help but think about the incredible life shift they are going to experience if and when a child joins their lives. Mr. D was talking to his friend about how much our lives have changed since our kids were born, and his friend seemed totally confused. He couldn't seem to grasp why things are so different... why wouldn't we just get a babysitter when we want to go out for dinner? And why can't we just pack up the kids and run errands all weekend? Of course we could do these things... and sometimes we do. But our core lives are so incredibly different now, that all of these things require pre-planning, intentional conversation about what we are doing, etc.
The choice of a different life is one Mr. D and I made wholeheartedly with eyes wide open. For those determining if parenthood is a choice they want to make, I recommend determining if they are ready to give up a life they've known to embark upon a new journey.