Finding love, getting married, buying a house, and having 2.2 kids where mom wears an apron and dad clenches a briefcase is an outdated advertisement for people still on AOL.
I am forty seven years old. I am not married. My girlfriend is thirty six. Our daughter is five months old. She was born into a pandemic. She hasn’t seen many faces other than ours. We are both therapists. We work from home.
And we’re one and done. 1.0. No 2.2. Not interested in The Brady Bunch life. Now that we’re out of the first few months of survival mode where you lose complete sense of who you are and our life plane has stabilized, we are finding balance and ourselves again. We are both equally active in the childrearing and upkeep. I do dishes and change diapers while she gets her yoga class in. She breastfeeds and takes Logan on walks while I go to the gym and get my motorcycle rides in. We travel. Go out to eat. Play with sex toys. We are back. (Quick note: “Back” is not easy. It takes lots of work, that becomes a lifestyle. Not just a decision.) And now that we have found ourselves again, nothing has really changed before Logan came into our life save less sleep and planning when you need to shit.
Your priorities may have shifted. Your life lenses may have changed. You will be pickier on how you spend your time. But who you are, where you’re going, and how you take care of yourself should not change because you have a child now. I am writing this blog post because many don’t make it back. Instead, they enter the long dark hallway straight into the American nightmare.
Marriage ->kids -> losing yourself -> Drift in the relationship -> Staying in it just for the kids -> Kids grow and leave -> You don’t know yourself. Or the person who is now sleeping in the other room. You’ve spent half your life unhappy and disconnected from self because you put your children above you — tracing something sold to you by commercials and a wrinkled blueprint passed down from your parents.
Once you have children, it’s no longer about you. You will not be able to do all the things you did before. Your life is now over. It’s all about the kids and family now. No more colored pencils to color wildly outside the lines. The universe has given you a permanent marker. So no more risks or stupid decisions. Be safe and responsible.
This nagging lecture was leaked into your subconscious like tear gas. For years. Dropped with timelines on when vows should be exchanged and when you should have children. And if you don’t hit those marks, something is wrong with you. And now, your life.
We put our children before everything else, including ourselves and our relationship. Not just because we love them. It’s bigger than that. It’s about proving the filtered images we’ve staged and posted on social media are true. Not just to them but also ourselves. This is our life and it’s perfect. We’re happy now. We finally have proof. A family. So everything hangs on the child. She becomes the sun we revolve around. Everything else gets put on the back burner. Including things that made us feel happy and alive. Life becomes a series of endless tasks. What also gets pushed aside are relationship issues that need to be addressed and resolved, the same ones that existed before but now ignored due to time. Personal space and self care also take a back seat. It’s not about you anymore. And smaller things that you now file as extras. Like books you’ve been wanting to read. The coffee chat with friends on Sundays you value so much. The guitar you picked up again. All stuffed into a giant Hefty garbage bag and placed in the corner, to be taken out with the trash.
They say the days are long but the years are short. Yes, partly because it’s so much fucking work to raise a child, especially if you’re doing it alone and even more so if you feel like you are. The days feel like they go forever. They start bleeding into each other. But it’s also because you are starting to lose your sense of self and purpose. That’s what makes days long. And the only way to stop the bleeding is to find yourself again. It isn’t just dirty diapers and a baby that can’t latch. Days bleed when you become invisible.
By losing your life to your child, you won’t have one to share with them.
As we drift more and more from ourselves because we are so busy taking care of another, we start to drift with our partner. The drift in ourselves always causes drift in our relationships. So we hide. Behind along daily checklist. Netflix. Grubhub. Being a parent. Whatever gives us something back. We sweep eggshells under the bed and force smiles. Because we don’t want our child to know. Because we signed up for this. Because we know there are no refunds. And what about the image of the picket fence? We have it now. We can’t lose it. But the picket fence has splinters and it’s what Norman Rockwell chose not to paint. People sleeping in separate rooms. Children used as pawns. Infidelity. Prescription pills and television. A depressed mother who has given up on life. An overworked father who hates his job and feels like he has zero purpose.
Here’s the truth.
Yes, there are going to be sacrifices. The days of getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep are long gone like pencil-thin eyebrows. Things will need to be scheduled. Your lenses and how you see the world will be permanently different. The intimacy between you and your partner will change. Not forever but sexy time and afternoon delights will be few and far between. Time will be more important to you than ever before. Every decision will now include this new little person you and your partner have brought into this world.
You can still pursue your dreams. You can still go on that dirtbike adventure in Alaska. As long as your partner can also see Rome like she’s always wanted to. Self care can still be a priority. As a matter of fact, it should. Because if you’re not taking care of yourself, how are you supposed to take care of others? You can buy sexy clothes and get pedicures. You can take time just for you. You can pick up new hobbies. Write a book. Go on runs. Still have inappropriate humor. These things don’t make you a shitty parent. They make you you, the person you were before. And that’s the piece you can’t lose because if you do, you turn into a cardboard cutout lined with sharp shoulds, and you pass that on down to your child.
What if we can’t afford it? What if there’s no time? What if he’s not on board?You both made another human. You both can make other things happen. The reason why it’s not happening is because it’s not a priority. The baby is priority. And if that’s the case, the baby is not the priority. Because if you don’t work on / take care of you and your relationship, the baby will suffer the consequences.
This is the old picket fence. The gleaming white one that turns us into prisoners. It’s time to smash that shit and build a new one that is made of non-negotables. Because the old one, although pretty, made us negotiate ourselves and our relationship.
Having a baby does NOT mean you should negotiate -
- Self care / self compassion / self love
- You time
- Physical or emotional abuse
- An expired marriage
- Rock climbing
- Motorcycle rides
- Things that brought you joy before the baby
The new picket fence includes you instead of divides you. It supports you and your family while also championing your story. The new picket fence is not a fence.
It’s a bridge.
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