I'm excited to be doing another post in the Real Talk With Real Moms series, where myself and some fellow moms share our thoughts on a parenting topic. Today we're tackling the touchy subject of the when and why of growing your family. This one brings up so many emotions for me, as I feel like the decision to do so was the source of so much anxiety for us, and can come with a lot of difficulty for so many couples.
Nowadays, it seems the norm has shifted so much from previous generations. My mom was in her 20's when she had both me and my sister and that was pretty standard at that time. When I was in my 20's, having children was the absolute last thing on my mind. I still felt like one myself, and was still coming into my own in so many ways. I wanted more from my youth. I wanted to explore every last corner the world had to offer me before settling in and putting another being before myself. Travel, dining out, building my business, cute outfits, learning new skills, finding more ways to gratuitously lengthen my beauty routine, movie nights, exploring my neighborhood, taking high-commitment styling gigs at a moment's notice - you name it.
Leading all the way up to when I got pregnant at 33, whenever someone would ask "Do you want kids?" I always responded "Yes, just not right now." I was sure about the "not right now" part, but not so certain about the "yes" part. I knew I wanted to have a family, or rather - I knew I didn't want to NOT have a family. Honestly, at the time it felt like an extreme statement to decide to not have kids, and now I see that was because of how intensely society positions having kids as the norm. But while the idea of "rugrats" didn't appeal to me, I was into the idea of sitting around the breakfast table with my older kids, talking about real life stuff. Raising young adults when I'm in my late 40's appealed to me, and that's where the "yes" part came in.
But the thing is, no matter what I thought was fun about the concept of growing our family, I didn't feel like my life was missing anything without them. After a couple years of my 30's had gone by, this feeling still hadn't changed. There was no void. But the conversation was happening more and more and it started to feel like the time was coming where putting it off wasn't going to fly anymore. Both with Ian and in other ways with myself. He was ready and always so excited to be a dad (the guy works in kids entertainment and truly has a knack for understanding and connecting with little ones). For me, it was a constant battle of whether to trust my feelings right now, or trust the plan I always had in mind for myself. It's an odd thing where you can't just wait until you decide you're ready. You have to think about your life in the big picture, and timing plays a huge role in the decision.
I've watched some of my friends struggle to get pregnant and it really put things in perspective for me. Having children isn't a given. It isn't something where you snap your fingers and boom - there's a kid. It's a gift, and a privilege. A miracle. I started to feel a bit like an asshole to keep saying "Eh, I just want a few more years to go out to dinner without getting a babysitter." What if I put it off for so long only to find that we were going to struggle too?
The hard truth I had to face was that I was simply NEVER going to be ready. People say that all the time, it starts to sound cliché. But it was 100% true for me. Never was I going to feel like my life was missing something in my 30's without kiddos running around. What I had to put faith in was that meeting my own baby was going to change everything. I had a feeling that thinking of this child as a nameless, faceless person wasn't enough to inspire me to take the plunge. I needed to meet her first, and then see how it falls into place.
It happened. When Sailor got here, the love did flow in. Despite the hard days, she is literally a part of my heart - so much more than the nameless faceless concept of a baby. Aside from her general adorableness... she's a reason to love my husband more than I always did, as I see how she is just as much a part of him as she is a part of me. The thing I trusted would happen did happen, and now life is a whole new normal. I'm learning new things about myself, my boundaries, seeing who I am as a mother - things that were hard set in my personality, and things that have softened and changed. It's such an interesting way to learn more about who you are, as you face the daily challenges children come with.
I have to say though, there are days where I still don't "get" why so many people want to be parents. I struggle with balancing it all, I fantasize about the days when I could make an appointment without taking anything else into account other than my own personal priorities (which I never fully appreciated when I could). I still hate ugly baby toys. I still don't want to hear the "welcome to our learning farm" song on repeat. I marvel at how she can be such a handful and so needy, almost like she's intentionally testing me in her manipulative 9-month-old way. I'm still somewhat of a vain, selfish person who often has zero desire to put someone else before myself. I kind of hoped that quality in myself would magically go away when I became a mom, but it hasn't, and I need to make it work by learning how to compromise. She is here, and I love that she is. I love watching her grow, and thinking about what she will be like as she gets older. I panic to think about what I would do if anything ever happened to her. She's a reason to work on the less desirable parts of my personality. I'm accountable to her now.
So much of what people say is true. You're never going to be ready, and your life might feel perfectly full as is. If a baby comes along, you won't look back and you will embrace your new normal while also combing through the challenges and making it all work in whatever way that suits you. You'll find new ways in which life is fun, and see the world differently through their eyes. If a baby doesn't come into your life, you will explore the world with freedom. You will go to the movies. You will make appointments without having to consider anything other than your own schedule. You will have ample time to pursue your career dreams. Everyone has different paths and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just know that whatever happens, you always get to navigate it in your own way, making your own choices, focusing on what makes you the happiest with what you are given, and without regret. Yes there is always compromise on every road, but you have a lot more freedom to choose how you do it than you might think.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How was the decision to grow your family for you? How do you feel about becoming a parent, or what are your hopes and fears about doing it in the future if you haven't?
Be sure to read my fellow moms' stories too...
Jen from The Effortless Chic / Eden from Sugar and Charm / Alex from Ave Styles / Caitlin from Sacramento Street / Samantha from Could I Have That? / Amy from Parker Etc. / Kat + Em from The Refined Woman
Photography by Heather Kincaid (except the last one which we took ourselves)