What I miss about not having kids…

April 20, 2009 | 48 comments

This post was originally published on September 17, 2007…although the sentiment still applies today.


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 kellymom 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, warming a bottle 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.

48 Comments

  1. Ade

    Your post brought tears to my eyes this morning…I could so empathize with those feelings. It brought back the days of two under two (and you have that TIMES TWO! ack!) and reminded me of the mantra I used to mutter through tears or clenched teeth…”I can do anything for five minutes, I can do anything for five minutes….”. The sad reality that in five minutes I’d be dealing with a new or different crisis made the mantra effective…LOL!

    You may not feel like you have it all figured out anymore, but you are doing the very best you can. Sending a prayer for endurance and energy your way today.

    Adrienne

  2. SuburbanCorrespondent

    My theory is that God gives us enough children to sufficiently humble us.

  3. Roxane B. Salonen

    Ah, yes. It is a painful lesson we all must learn. And with my oldest of five a teenager now, I know less each year. Therefore, my parenting column in our local newspaper does not dole out advice, but simply reveals nuggets about life as a parent. The hardest thing about our lot is bumping into those who “still have it all figured out.” Some of them haven’t been “here” yet. Some have, but memory can be foggy. I just realized this would make good material for a column (in my own words of course). Thanks for the idea!

  4. Headless Mom

    Yes! That is probably the thing I miss most. Although my kids are a little older than yours that feeling doesn’t go away. It’s easy to know it all when you’re not in the thick-middle of it.

    I know that you’re doing fine!

  5. TwoSquareMeals

    I had forgotten about this post (which I loved) and SO needed to re-read it today. Thanks for reposting!

  6. Christine

    I had 4 children under the age of 7 and it was busy. Now they are older and it is just a different kind of crazy life.

    The best thing is to talk to other mothers. Those books are sometimes so goofy.

  7. Kris Livovich

    I laughed out loud as tears streamed down my face. We are having just that kind of morning. I wish I still knew it all, too.

  8. Allen

    How true it is, I love the comments almost as much as the post. I needed 9 kids to humble me and help me to shed selfishness.

    BTW: NewAdvent twittered a link to this blog entry, that is how I ended up here.

  9. Mom E

    This has been an absolute blast to read and reminisce, but at the same time enjoy the little things that I take for granted on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Renee

    I naturally waking up. I do. But if I didn’t have children I would of probably slept-in half a good part of my life away.

    I think the key to sleep is to be up before they’re up. Nothing worst then trying to care for children while still groggy. You need to use the potty yourself and get a cup of coffee first, then really it isn’t that bad.

  11. Jen

    I only nursed my last two kids (out of the current four) and remember thinking that I was going to be banned from my LLL meetings for having to supplement both of them for a good five months. If and when we have another baby, if we have to use a bit of formula, so be it. I ended up going on to nurse both of them for two years. So, those bottles actually helped us nurse longer…which is funny because bottles are a big no-no in nursing. 🙂 The kids are now 8, almost 6, almost 5, and 2. I just spent a good half an hour Magic Erasing all the marker off from the cabinets, walls, and floors…oh, and the chairs, which once again interuppted getting school done. You are not alone in your quest for heaven!

  12. Anonymous

    I love this. I remember being like this before parenthood. I am living through the adjustment of one-to-two children now. My new baby is 4 weeks old, and I’m living through 23 times a day feedings and crying jags.

    And, I inwardly cringe at my friends with no kids who think they have it all figured out and tell me so (lovingly of course, but still annoying as heck). I struggle to have a meek and quiet spirit with regards to others who really don’t know what it’s like.

    ~V.

  13. Elizabeth

    I liked Suburban Correspondents theory…Humility is truely mandatory…it allow you to smile at both your “old self” and the new moms who still have all the answers.
    Pax Christi, E

  14. Jim

    Thanks for re-posting this. As a grandfather of ten, it still “works.”

  15. Madame Rubies

    AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Lisa

    AMEN! I remember those days when I knew it all.

  17. Maggie Dee

    Amen Sister! I too thought I had all the answers. And even thought so after #1 (who was easy going). Then…#2 came along a blew all my parenting so call knowledge out the window.

    I like the humble theory. Apparently that was why I only had 2 because parenting the second child has been the most humbling experience of my life! I love her to death and am constantly amazed by her tenacity but parenting her most days hurts my brain!

  18. ABBEY

    Dear Jennifer, you inspire me to write about my own conversion. I enjoy your blog very much, and thus have posted an award for you on my own blog. Please stop by to see it when you have a moment.

    Blessings,
    Abbey

  19. dino

    Of course I knew all about parenting, I had observed the good and bad in different cultures for a half-century.
    Then came Instant Parenthood: legal guardianship of three, two boys and their sister.
    Now I know I didn’t, and don’t know anything, because they tell me regularly.

  20. Anonymous

    Oh Jen, I can sooooo relate. We’re expecting our 4th boy and I am humbled over and over every day. You totally articulated my feelings! Thanks for your blog…I enjoy it very much.
    Katie in Maryland

  21. Christi

    OMG, I laughed so hard at this. I was exactly like this. I swore every which way that MY kid would never take a pacifier. No way, Jose. I was home from the hospital maybe 15 minutes with my first when my husband and I were tearing our house apart looking for that paccy that someone gave us at the baby shower. Anything to stop the crying. 14 years and 4kids later, I still don’t know anything about parenting and am praying everyday that I’m not ruining them.

  22. Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft

    I totally get it. I really do. I believe the biggest issue is not so much that we suck as mothers, but that our expectations are so high they can never possibly be fulfilled. I suppose that’s why we’re lucky to be Catholic. God can fill in those holes. And just imagine poor Mary being the mother of JESUS. Like she had any excuses for complaining? I wouldn’t want her job. LOL

  23. Brenda

    Thats the best part about having kids. . . not having all the answers!

  24. wheelsonthebus

    fantastic post (she writes as her kids suck down chocolate milk for calcium)

  25. April

    Amen!!! Amen, amen, amen! I now know nothing about parenthood, marriage, faith, etc. Thank God.

  26. JillS

    awesome!! I cringe at some things I thought or said before kids…..boy oh boy, was I a little off!!!! 🙂

  27. Jodi

    Which logically leads to the thing I love most about having older kids – knowing exactly what all the new ‘think they know best’ mom’s to be will be going through and forgiving them anyway. Great post, it’s so totally true. And should be something people remember more often about more than just motherhood…we can’t assume people are crazy until we’ve walked in their shoes.

  28. Aelinn

    Oh, so I’m NOT the only one???!!!

    ::whew:: 🙂

  29. Maria

    Not that I didn’t have opinions of my own, but the really dogmatic women who had to tell me the gory details of their particular method for or commitment to breast feeding, potty training, discipline, etc. were part of the reason I didn’t have kids until my 40s! I’m more tired now than I would have been a decade or two ago, but I’m not as easily intimidated, either!

  30. jbrooke6

    Amen, sister! Wait till they’re teenagers!!! Just in case you weren’t quite humbled enough by their infancy!

  31. Christine

    This is the BEST post ever. Thanks for reposting it! As another Mom-Who-Sucks-at-This-Parenting-Thing (by my old standards) this made me laugh out loud.

  32. Emily

    I truly believe that God gives us children for so many reasons, too many to write about here…but one of the main things that we as parents learn very quickly as we let our old selves die away is that ‘old self’ was very, very arrogant. Thank you Lord for our children and the fact that you use them everyday to reveal Yourself to us!

  33. Amy Andrews

    I had it all figured out so well too! Suffice it to say, I had NO idea what hit me when we had our first. And then we had 2…and 3…and 4. Talk about things going downhill! 🙂 But I must say, life is a lot better down here — there are far fewer places from which to fall.

  34. Anonymous

    Ha! Love this post. Great way of expressing it in your last paragraphs! I. too,had so many black and white statements when I was pre-kid (now I have 3)…well even when I had just one…I STILL had a lot of those “answers” then too. God used kid #2 to really humble me and now I’ve found that most of life is varying shades of Gray!
    Susie

  35. Meghan

    Yep.

  36. LauraD

    Amen, sister, Amen!

  37. JoAnna

    A thousand times ditto!!

    I have to admit it’s nice watching others come to this realization as well…

    After I had my daughter, my sister was chock-full of unsolicited comments… why breastfeeding was gross, why co-sleeping was dangerous, why my house was too messy (new babies, I was told, do not take that much time and I should have spent my maternity leave housecleaning).

    Now, she has a son… and boy, do I (inwardly) gloat!

  38. becky

    Haha, and don’t you just want to go back and smack yourself for being such a know-it-all? Trying so hard not to fall in the TV pit, and failing miserably. Mommy has to work, kiddo, and you have a lot of toys that you’re not playing with!

  39. Stephanie

    I don’t think you REALLY want Old Jen back – hanging around telling you what to do all the time. 😉

    As far as what I’d want to know in the book: what were the turning points? What changed your mind? It’s been a long time since I’ve read Surprised by Joy, but, I remember feeling like he left out part of the story. One minute he didn’t believe, the next he did. I know that some of these things are just mysteries, and maybe you can’t pinpoint it all, but I would love to know more about the process. What did God use to change your heart?

    P.S. I should say, too, that I haven’t read your story here, so that might even answer my question. Some day I will. 🙂

  40. Stephanie

    PPS I think I just commented on two different posts with my last comment. (That’s what happens when you read things in your Reader and come back to comment later in the day, isn’t it?) Sorry about the confusion!

    The second part of my comment was in response to this: http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2009/04/im-writing-book.html

  41. Jessica

    so, so true.

  42. Wendy

    I am so with you on that one. I even slip back into that for other people and their children because you know mine are perfect. Yea, right.

    I am always humbled by the thought that God has handed me this amazing assignment of nurturing little ones while he is still working on some big stuff in me. I get it all wrong and He still wants me to do it. I guess I have to trust him to know what He is doing but I wish I knew it all too.

  43. Jess

    right there with you! I am well and truly over knowing it all about toddlers now. Just waiting to be over knowing it all about teenagers one day!

  44. Anonymous

    It’s odd — I have a close friend who has done just the opposite of what’s described here. Before she had kids, I don’t think she really had any theories about childraising — now that she does, any parent who doesn’t do things her way is doing it all wrong and God help them. She’s a good person and a good mother and I love her, but I don’t understand her mentality on this point. (Of course, it probably doesn’t help that I’m one of those clueless childless people. 🙂 )

  45. Anonymous

    I could have written this post myself! Not only did I have these thoughts in public, but also about my brothers & sisters who'd already had children.

    I know now that God sent me my one incredibly spirited, energetic, beautiful daughter because there was a lesson that I needed to learn, and He was determined to make sure that I learned it in this lifetime! And when I wonder why He only gave me one child, my mother tells me that she's the equal of 4 other kids, and God knew what he was doing – given me just enough that I could handle.

  46. Susan

    You know what I like to do? I invite parents to be to sit behind me in church so they can enjoy their last few weeks of looking at my kids and thinking, "I'll never let me kids act like that" before their baby actually arrives.

  47. BRIANNABlair28

    Houses and cars are quite expensive and not everybody can buy it. Nevertheless, mortgage loans was invented to support different people in such hard situations.

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