Not Another Before-You-Have-Kids List!

First let me say that I love Erin Zammett Ruddy’s writing, and I know that she had qualms about the genre of this piece (see her Parenting blog here). Nonetheless, The Nest just ran her list of 15 things to do before having kids. Regular readers of this blog will recall how I took issue with another big list of Things To Do Before Having Kids a few months ago.

Fundamentally, I believe parents are people. Mothers and fathers can all have our own lives. Just as I worry that all the gnashing of teeth over how “torn” and “frazzled” working moms must feel leads to people postponing kids or thinking they’ll have to stop working, I worry that the mommy martyr complex many writers promote (not usually Erin!) leads women to think that life stops after motherhood.

It doesn’t. I liked the Nest’s inclusion of the tip to “stop being so self-righteous” before you have kids, because your children will destroy things too. But the others are a bit more worrisome. For starters, many are predicated on not having any childcare. You can go to the bathroom by yourself. Men do it all the time! You can take a road trip with your spouse if you’ve got other family members willing to take the kids for a bit — they’ll probably enjoy helping. Same with a winery tour. There is no historical circumstance where women have been solely responsible for their kids with no help whatsoever. Extended family has always been part of child-raising, and there’s nothing wrong with asking more members of our villages, related or not, to help with our kids, whether that’s because we’re working or have other things going on.

As for taking risks and being spontaneous, sky diving is not on my bucket list, but I’m guessing it’s not too much less safe than driving in a car, which kills 1 in 10,000 people per year. And parents still do that. Morning sex? That’s what Dora the Explorer and locks on the door are for. And I’m just confused about the idea of not taking career risks, which seems to include going for a promotion. Kids need to eat! So wouldn’t you want to earn more money to support them?

The farther I get into motherhood the more I also realize that my friends without kids have been aging at the exact same rate. No one wants to be the people at the party until 4AM, because we all seem to have lost the ability to sleep until 2PM. You can not stay up late because you have kids, or because you have to be at work at 7:30AM every day and your dog whines to be walked at 7AM on weekends, but either way, we all become a bit less “fun” over time.

You can fly business class if you want too. First, not all plane trips must be taken with your children (see childcare and working, above) but also, kids have been known to get upgraded too. Erin writes that “people don’t spend all that extra cash to listen to crying babies the whole time.” But business class only exists because people aren’t paying for it. Either their companies/clients are paying for it, or they get upgraded because they have elite status (because they fly so often; this has usually been our situation), they’re cashing in frequent flyer miles or a small handful are so rich that they don’t care. Either way, the folks in front of the curtain may be nicer about kids than people in coach.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with doing the things on a list like this before kids, but they can be done after kids too.

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7 thoughts on “Not Another Before-You-Have-Kids List!

  1. I totally agree. There are so many things (fun things!) that we have done since we had our child that we might not have done before. If anything, having children has really made us savour our time to ourselves and finally do some of the activities we had always intended to do “someday”. We’re enjoying a TV-free week this week and having an at-home date night every night. It has been wonderful – we are considering canceling the cable for spring/summer.

    p.s
    I really really enjoyed reading your book, especially the parts about working moms. I was really on the fence about going back to work full-time after my one year maternity leave, and the breakdown you did about quality time spent between working moms/stay-at-home moms was eye-opening. I find I spend a lot of quality time with my son in the evenings and weekends and he is very happy at his dayhome. Thanks for writing such a great book!

  2. I am with you – I get annoyed when I see post after post with giant lists of Things You Must Do Before a Kid Ruins Your Life. That is certainly one way to look at it. But I think a better way is to see how kids add to your life – and there are MANY things on that list that one can do with kids. I think that now that I am a parent, I am actually much better at using my time and coming up with fun things to do because I now have a better understanding of time management. I dislike how people act like your life is over once you have kids. That is definitely not true in my case (I even wrote a blog post about it – http://www.sarahrosemary.com/index.php?/archives/415-Married-with-children.html). Although parenting is not without its challenges and there are some things I am unable to do as a parent (like a super spir of the moment trip), I doubt I would have done something like that pre-kids because that is not my personality type.

  3. I remember a mom telling me about taking her 2 week old baby hiking and camping with her. And I wanted to punch her in the nose. Because two weeks after birth, I couldn’t walk, sit or use the bathroom without pain — much less go camping and hiking. A lot depends on individual experiences.

    As the mom of a special needs kid, who hangs out with a lot of other parents of kids with special needs/medical problems, the idea that all these things are possible (or possible with minimal effort) after kids very much assumes that there are no medical complications to the mother and that the kids are healthy, typically developing and don’t require specialized care. And there’s just no way of predicting whether or not that will be the case.

    So, it’s great to remind people (especially women) that they should still be able to find ways to do what’s most important for them after kids. But I also appreciate the “bucket list” reminders that if something is important to do now, do it now. Because kids *will* change things — sometimes radically — and some things really can’t be done after kids, depending on the kid. And sometimes they just make those things you had to do before much less important. 🙂

  4. I agree with both ideas — yes you can get childcare and yes you should take risks with your career,
    but NO I do not really go to the bathroom by myself or do some of the other things on here when I do not have childcare and you can’t have childcare 24-7 and be a good parent, not possible.
    It also does depend on the age of your children, as one woman noted on here about yesterday’s post. I want to go on a cruise with my husband but also want to breastfeed until my son is one year and so right now I probably will decide not to take the cruise.. to make sure I do not have to pump 4 days of breast milk… we will probably take a road trip and a shorter couple time b/c we do tend to find each other more romantic when kids are not involved BUT in one year or less I would probably go.. after separation anxiety and my own personal goals for breastfeeding… they really are little little for a very short time so it is not like your life is over after they are born… but it does change DRAMATICALLY when they are little, especially if you are trying to work… anyone who doesn’t acknowledge this isn’t really being honest. AND IT CHANGES MUCH MUCH MORE FOR WOMEN.
    I also agree with Laura’s point that we all age so why not do it with the joy of children…. I mean I wouldn’t want to work 24-7 eve if I could and neither do my childless friends…

  5. I agree with your post as well. I liked the part where you talk about your friends aging at the same rate, good point there.

    As for flying business class, my family got upgraded on a trip when the flight was overbooked and my DD was 15 months old. She cried for about 15 minutes because she didn’t want to go to sleep and I was trying to get her to sleep because she was overtired. The lady in front of me got really snarky at me, telling me to “DO something!” and that is the ONLY time I ever had someone react that way to a crying baby I have been flying many times a year with my kids since my 5YO was a baby. I also paid to be upgraded just recently when flying with my baby who was 3 MO at the time, the flight was from 9PM -12:30AM and the guy who was sitting next to me gave me quite the stink-eye when I got on the plane, but she slept the whole time! 😛

    As for travelling without my kids, my youngest is too young right now, but we left the older 2 for a night at a time, I would miss them too much to leave them for longer. Maybe once they are all school-aged…

  6. Amy, My children are now fairly healthy but we went through some medical challenges. I admire people who juggle five digit medical bills on a five digit salary every year. I love your post because it emphasizes the importance of “normal” to maintaining balance. I spent Friday afternoon helping a friend who has had three liver transplants and likely won’t survive long. It is this type of assistance that is neither covered by insurance nor often provided by people who are extremely busy themselves. I don’t know what the answer is, because most of us will have at least a challenging year or two in our lives.

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