What I miss about not having kids…

September 17, 2007 | Motherhood | 30 comments

Some of the comments to this post got me thinking about what, if anything, I miss from my pre-kid days. The travel? Nah. Living in a little loft downtown? No. Being able to sleep in on weekends? Certainly not, I relish every waking moment with my precious children, even if it’s first thing in the morning! (I’m lying. I do miss that one.)

Anyway, the events of the past 24 hours have made me realize that there actually is one thing that I really, really, miss about my life before children: having this whole parenting thing all figured out.

When I was pregnant with my first child I stopped taking new clients for my business so that I could just focus on enjoying the pregnancy, reading, and learning. I met other likeminded pregnant women through the midwives at the birthing center and through Bradley class, and boy did we have some opinions about parenthood! From childbirth to babies to breastfeeding to discipline, I was a sort of one-stop shop for all answers as to the “right” way to parent.

Now that I was all knowledgeable about kids and stuff, I took a keen interest in other people I knew who were parents. I remember meeting a friend of a friend at a birthday party, who mentioned that she really wanted to breastfeed her baby, but gave up after a couple weeks because of low milk supply issues. The horror! Though I nodded politely, inwardly I sort of imagined a neon sign with an arrow hovering over her head that flashed in bold colors, “NOT DEDICATED TO BREASTFEEDING”. Had she not heard of pumps or lactation consultants or La Leche League? Perhaps somebody (ahem) was just not trying hard enough.

And then there was my husband’s coworker’s wife who frequently mentioned that she spent a lot of time cleaning up after her two-year-old, who had a penchant for pulling things out of draws and cabinets. Old Jen Who Had It All Figured Out thought something along the lines of, “Just get control of your kid! Simply teach him that he’s not supposed to do that and offer him alternative ways to amuse himself. It’s all about consistency and discipline, honey.”

And then there was my friend who let her three young children watch TV. Clearly she hadn’t read the research on children’s brain development and television! I couldn’t quite find a polite way to inform her that it is not ideal for young children to watch television, even for just an hour a day, and that she needed to find some nice classic toys for them to play with — perhaps wooden blocks, or a wagon — and use that to entertain them instead of the television. Sheesh!

So as I stood in my living room this morning, eyeing a can of formula because my baby isn’t getting enough to eat despite herculean efforts at breastfeeding, watching my one-year-old pull every single pot and pan out of the kitchen cabinet, listening to random crashing sounds coming from the living room where my toddler was throwing toys at the window while watching Dora the Explorer, I realized exactly what it is I miss about my pre-parenthood days: having all the answers. I’d like to have Old Jen Who Had It All Figured Out back. Because Current Jen Who Evidently Sucks at Parenting has learned many a hard lesson that she really, really does not have this motherhood thing all figured out. 🙂

30 Comments

  1. majellamom

    I’m with you Jen!

    I think that it was just divine justice that everything I believed and planned and thought I could control about parenting flew out the window with my first baby!

    When I heard of people who had c-sections, I always felt sorry for them that they were duped by some doctor into consenting for a surgical procedure that was dangerous for both mom and baby, and that I would NEVER be one of those women who took the “easy way out” and had their baby surgically extracted…two c-sections later, I’m constantly warning new moms to at least read up on c-sections “just in case”

    I also thought that anyone who ever bought a can of formula cared more about their convienience that about their baby…until I still had no milk at day 5 with baby #1 who had lost over a lb from her birth weight while recovering from major surgery that didn’t go very well…

    Then the TV issue…We didn’t have any TV programing for the first year of dd #1’s life…she did get occasional viewings of “Holy Baby” on the DVD player. Now she’s 3 and freqently watches the Simpsons (we only let her watch ones that we deem appropriate for all ages!) and goes up and hugs and kisses the TV occasionally…

    I do miss being a good parent, rather than a crappy formula feeding, c-section having, TV watching, occasionally screaming like a banshee mom I have become due to parenthood!

  2. SteveK

    Oh come on, Jen! You just lack the necessary consistency and discipline to make it work.

    Slacker.

    [/joking]

  3. Jessica

    oh man, I hear you. The will to pull all the cans (and open box of constarch AND the open box of Cheerios) out of the pantry just will not be denied. Not by my one year old, anyway.

    peace of Christ to you,
    Jessica Snell

  4. Christine the Soccer Mom

    I have to tell you, Jen…

    …I love you!

    This is one of the best posts you’ve done on parenting yet. 🙂

    The only thing more frustrating than the parents who seem to have it all together with all the above-mentioned things are the non-parents who are so much better at parenting than I am.

    Oh, and my old way of thinking that I’d never let the TV babysit my kids went out the window years ago. In fact, when I was sick with the Spring Flu this year and ran a fever of 102 for three days, my girls watched HOURS of TV. Occasionally, I’d wake up enough from my stupor (between making meals, natch) to say, “Enough TV. Play with toys now.” Poor Big Girl was convinced on the first of those days that she should make lunch so I could rest! I convinced her that wasn’t necessary, but that, just as they’d had a week off from school (each) when they had the flu over the last two weeks, we’d be off from school this week while TeacherMommy recovered.

    Yes…our days of being allogists are over now that we are parents.

  5. The Right Side

    Oh how I loved this post! I am right there with you thinking the same thing. Thanks for putting it all into words. 🙂

  6. LilyBug

    I think you, Jen, and majellamom have really hit on something that I’ve found interesting…this tendency to look at what other mothers are or aren’t doing and immediately want to jump to a conclusion because it is not something that we would think of doing. In parenting, though, there is no “right” answer that works for every child, is there? Like you I have found that what works great for one child or one mother may not work for another. So, in the end, parenting research? Bah. I would trust parenting instinct and parent/child intuition over parenting research anyday. That does not mean I am a relativist parent but I do think there is something to be said about individualized parenting according to the child’s and parents’ need. I feel I need an example. I have a good friend who is a firm believer in sleep-training and it has worked great for her and her new baby. I thought about sleep training; it made me an emotional wreck and my baby just was not “falling in line” with the method. I gave up and went back to co-sleeping and both me and my LilyBug are extremely happy and well-rested. That doesn’t mean co-sleeping works for everyone or that sleep-training is bad. I think most parents just do the best they can with the baby they love. And as long as baby and parent are thriving, God bless them.

  7. Melanie B

    Wow, Jen, I could totally have written this post.

    I did the same thing when I was pregnant with my first… read all the books, figured it all out. And then had a baby and discovered how little I had figured out.

    When we got our minivan that came with a DVD player, I vowed that it would never get used…
    Then we spent Labor Day weekend in the car. Driving up to Maine and back, and several in-car trips while we were there. Then a long trip to Connecticut the next day. By that point our little girl was on her third day of little or no nap. Thank God we had Finding Nemo so she could watch fishies. It saved us from two hours of constant screaming and made one little girl very happy.

    In the end it’s all about what works for me and for my child and forget about what anyone else thinks.

  8. Patty in WA or Rover

    I loved this quote I knew before I became a parent (at age 38, thank you).

    “Before I had children, I had six theories of child-rearing. Now I have 6 children and no theories.”

    I don’t know who said it, but it was immensely helpful to me as a new parent.

    The thing I miss? A six-month review where a boss has to do a LOT to keep an employee happy, so you get a lot of nice things said about and to you and a raise. And you have an IN box and an OUT box not and ENDLESS DO THIS box (laundry, dishes) and you go home at some point.

    Would I go back? No. But there were some nice spots in that old place. There just wasn’t my great kid.

  9. Colleen

    So, now that it sounds like you’ve come to terms with the fact that all your parenting plans aren’t going to come to fruition, do you feel guilty about that? I feel like even though I know my parenting isn’t ever going to be perfect (and that it’s unrealistic to think that it ever will), I still feel guilty about falling short. Any tips on how to ditch the mommy guilt?

  10. Jordana

    I know that I’ve definitely had to rethink a lot of my pre-child parenting wisdom as my children have arrived and taught me a thing or two.

    There were the things I gave up early on, like wanting their hair to be brushed and their clothes to be stain-free and matching, but harder and much more painful for me were the things that hit at my own pride more thoroughly. When my daughter had a huge hemangioma birth mark on her forehead I had to figure out that their personal beauty wasn’t about me. When my youngest dropped off the bottom of the weight charts and I started having to supplement with formula, I had to stop perusing other people’s shopping carts and thinking how much better I was as a parent not be using that horrible stuff.

  11. Red Cardigan

    Boy, did this one bring back memories:

    Me, expecting first child. Reading a newspaper about a child injured by a metal coat hanger which her father was allowing her to hold (the horror). Remarking to husband “What kind of idiot parent would give their child a coat hanger???”

    Me, watching first child enter what seemed like day five thousand of what seemed like nonstop colic screaming. Muttering to husband “If I even *thought* giving her a coat hanger to hold would make this stop….”

    🙂

  12. Abigail

    Humble Lessons from having child # 3 (along with sibling age 4 and sibling age 2)

    -my mother deserves A LOT of credit for just getting me to adulthood. I longer feel superior to her for feeding my kids organic milk and using the “time out” chair instead of spanking.

    -while consistency is a general goal, it’s okay to throw the candy and Tv restrictions out the window on family flu days, & mommy’s bad pregnancy days.

    -when I start to lose my mind over the disciple battles my toddler son, I need to remember that I’m the one who needs the most work out of the two of us. My son is just learning the lessons that he’s supposed to be learning at this age. I’m the one behind the learning curve on mastering the lessons of patience, meekness and persistence.

    Thanks for this wonderful post!

  13. Erika S.

    Jen,
    Just look at my post from today on my blog…..
    That just about says it all.
    I too was a bradley method, breast feeding, well disiplined parent and then I had to wreck it by having kids. 🙂
    Just hug them and tell them you love them and everything will be OK.

  14. Sarahndipity

    I can so relate to this. When I was pregnant with my daughter I read about attachment parenting and it sounded so great. I was never hard-core AP, just quasi-AP, but I was still whacked upside the head by reality once I actually had an actual baby.

    We co-slept for awhile, starting when my daughter was 9 or 10 months old, and that was a huge mistake. We didn’t really plan it that way, but she was still waking up once at night to nurse and I thought it would be easier if I just brought her into our bed then and I could nurse lying down. Well. That just made her sleep problems worse, not better. She ended up waking up more, nursing all night, thrashing around and kicking us, and not allowing us to get any sleep. I know some babies and parents actually sleep better while co-sleeping, but not us! We finally did sleep training when she was about 18 months old (and still waking up 3 or 4 times a night).

    Ironically, breastfeeding was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. I had heard so many horror stories about it and was fully expecting it to be difficult, but it wasn’t bad at all and I ended up loving it. I nursed for almost two years, despite having to go back to work when my daughter was three months old. I’m definitely going to breastfeed any future children we have if at all possible, but I’m definitely not going to co-sleep. Of course, my next baby will probably be completely different and I’ll have to throw those expectations out the window. 🙂

    So many people seem to have the attitude “this worked for my kid, therefore it must work for everyone’s kid.” Or, conversely, “this didn’t work for my kid, therefore it can’t possibly work for anyone.” They need to realize that every baby, every parent, and every situation is different.

  15. Sarahndipity

    Oh, and another thing that was a disaster was always nursing to sleep. It got to the point where that was the only way she could go to sleep, even when she was over a year old, and sometimes it would literally take an hour of nursing before she would fall asleep. I would try to pull away and she would wake up and latch on again. I really wish we had gotten her used to different ways of falling asleep and taught her to fall asleep on her own when she was much younger. But like I said, every baby is different, and I’m sure there are mothers who always nurse to sleep and have babies who fall asleep after two seconds of nursing and never have any sleep problems. You really just have to figure out these things yourself through trial and error.

  16. kris

    And I only had two kids, not too close together, and looking back I’m pretty sure they were perfect and that I’m perfect too. NOT!!!!

    Didn’t let kids watch TV (just little kiddie Christian videos now and then), but only because really and truly, it is HUBBY who is a TV-hater. If it had been up to me, we’d have been Boobtube-aholics like everyone else. NOTE TO SELF AND OTHERS – not having TV is one of THE things my big kids have thanked us over and over again about. So, keep trying to get rid of it. You’ll backslide, but keep your standards. You won’t be sorry. It is worth it in the long run.
    Hang in there, Mommies! It’s worth it!

  17. Michelle

    {{{hugs}}}

    Hope your week gets better.

  18. Tienne

    Wonderful post, Jen! As usual you go right to the heart of the matter. I think the most important thing we can do is to refrain from judging other people, whether their parenting method or otherwise. We just never know what’s going on in someone’s life. The woman you see feeding her child formula might have tried everything for months and months and finally had to give up breastfeeding against her will. The crotchety old man who yelled at you in the grocery store might be on bad medication or suffering the beginnings of dementia. The driver who cuts you off and speeds away on the toll road might be rushing to the doctor’s with a sick kid in the back.

    More understanding, more prayer, is always the answer.

    That being said, I think it’s very important to educate and evangelize whenever possible. Many women don’t realize that formula has risks, or that it’s not the same as breastmilk. So if someone is talking about their plans, it’s right to step up and give them good information, websites to visit, and encouragement to do what’s best for their child. Same with other parenting decisions, like spanking or letting an infant cry it out. Our expectations for our children’s behavior are WILDLY off base most of the time. Sleeping through the night, for instance, is a developmental milestone that can occur anywhere between 2 months and 3 YEARS of age. Like potty training, it’s more important to discern when the child is ready for this step than it is to fit the child into an arbitrary schedule imposed by charts, well-meaning family members or the larger community of parents.

    I love that quote about having 6 parenting philosophies and no kids, vs 6 kids and no philosophy. It so encapsulates where I am in my parenting journey as well!

    The best advice I’ve ever heard is to focus on the child, not the behavior. That, and to pray for Mary’s guidance constantly throughout the day. Parenting is a tough job! I couldn’t do it without God.

  19. Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

    Ah well we change by the day don’t we? i breast fed some, bottle fed some, had TV, had no TV..none of it made any difference they all came out right in the end…good enough is fine!

  20. MY NAME IS SIMCHA.

    Hey – this is a post about a good mother who is keeping on top of her baby’s nutritional needs, who remembers to put safe, wholesome playthings in easy reach of the one-year-old, and an obviously healthy toddler with a good, strong arm and the ability to multitask. Good job!

    Not to mention that, from what I know of you from this blog, if everything turned out the way you planned it, you’d find something else to berate yourself over anyway. At least you’re stressing out over issues that other people can sympathize with.

    Also, YOU JUST HAD A BABY. Things are not supposed to be orderly, even in a household where Mama hasn’t been sick and in pain from day 1. Give yourself some time. Lots of time. That’s the nice thing about little ones — they really don’t care, and if things are a little hairy for a while, they won’t remember.

    There’s no other job in the world where you’re supposed to be an instant expert. Why do we expect ourselves to be the perfect mothers when we’re amateurs? I consider the first three babies “practice kids.”

  21. Christine the Soccer Mom

    Melanie brings up another point: the DVD player in the car.

    Soccer Dad said the girls ought to have one for long trips. I said no way, I didn’t have one and they should learn to play something else in the car. Soccer Dad said get one. I relented. My parents said we did so have something to do, and it’s called Simon and Merlin (remember those?). Then my parents said that if they had something like that when we were trekking from NJ to FL on vacations in the car, they would have been all over it!

    I stopped thinking that parents who let the kids watch movies in the car are bad people.

    Of course, the girls are bummed because the trip across town is not long enough in my book to warrent popping in the DVD. (Unless it’s Schoolhouse Rock. Shhh…don’t tell them it’s educational!)

  22. Anna

    Colleen,

    One thing that I found helped me to get more comfortable with my parenting choices is doing the Ignatian examen of consciousness every day.

    So maybe that sounds like a strange solution, but it has helped me. Every day (except those days I forget or am too lazy *rolling eyes*) I take the time to review my choices for the day, think about whether they were really the right choices, was I doing that out of selfishness, or was I doing it because I thought it was the best thing for everyone right then, is that something I want to be a policy, or should I make myself resist the urge to do it next time, etc.

    Doing all this kind of self-examination on a regular basis helps me listen to my conscience, helps me hear God better, helps me get in touch with what I really care about.

    I now have a better idea of the fact that there are some choices I *should* feel guilty about, but that they may or may not be the choices that others would condemn me for.

  23. Peter

    Reading your post I began with the self righteous chuckle of “yeah… those people who judge us with none or one child.. heh heh” but soon found myself feeling less comfortable with the post.

    I realised this ‘judgement’ of parenting styles exists within our home. Perhaps to a lesser extent than ignorant outsiders, but more crucial because I, among all people, should know and applaud my wife’s efforts not criticise them.

    Might be time for me to write another mea culpa post.

  24. Colleen

    Anna,

    Thank you so much. That examination of conscience sounds like a wonderful solution. Not only does it allow you to recognize areas of improvement, but it also allows you to let go of those things that are a waste of time to be worrying or feeling guilty about. Thank you!

  25. Karen E.

    Oh, it’s so true. I did all my best parenting before I had kids.

  26. davisfarmmom

    You’re on your way to having it figured out when you realize you haven’t got it figured it out. God’s got it figured out. He’s the only one. Hang in there. Sounds like you’re doing great to me. Love your blog, btw.

  27. Courageous Grace

    Wow, lots of advice and stories, you’re blessed to have such wonderful commenters, Jen.

    I read the term “Pregnancy Police” in a book recently and am starting to understand that they just graduate to “Parent Police” when the kids are actually born. The worst Pregnancy Police I’ve found so far have been men (in my own experience) because apparently they know all there is to know about how a pregnant woman has to take care of her body.

    Then there’s my mother-in-law who (God bless that woman, at least we mostly get along) insists that she knows exactly what my son will be like and what problems I’ll have. At least my own mother just says that x, y, and z are possible but each kid is different.

    Or the mistake I made on another blog where I mentioned I wasn’t going to (for various reasons) try to give birth med free, that I don’t do pain. I received some very insistent replies and emails that I should do all I could to try to go it “natural”. No reply when I mention that my husband’s family all has babies that average 10 lbs and 24 inches at birth and that I’m 5’5″ and can’t tolerate pain.

    lol, guess I’ll step off my soapbox now.

    On the DVD in the car thing…the major thing about those in-car DVD systems that bothers me is when it’s set up so the DRIVER can watch too. I have seen so many of those lately, it’s scary. I tend to give those drivers plenty of room.

  28. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    I had a friend whose toddler used to take everything out of the kitchen cupboards…. all the time… and arrange things to his satisfaction on the kitchen floor. The same young toddler is now in the third year of an engineering degree… and can make anything out of nothing. Who knows where your toddler’s spatial explorations of the contents of the kitchen cupboards will lead!
    All the best Jen.

  29. Emily (Laundry and Lullabies)

    Jen, this is such an amazing post. I’m sending my readers over here because you just wrote EXACTLY what I wanted to. 🙂

  30. Mrs. Brown

    Long time lurker here. This has to be one of my very favorite blogs!

    I’m expecting my first, due February 24th, and husband-man and I are thrilled. I have to admit though that reading these lovely posts from all these experienced mothers has freaked me out a little. I’m one of those researching types. My mother, who had 4 kids and we all turned out fine, has fielded a ton of questions from me. I’m not sold on all AP principles, but I do like a lot of them. So, I researched, just to see what’s out there. I have no delusions of knowing it all. However, I am in possession of a fair amount of common sense. Any advice or encouragement for the scholarly mother-to-be?

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