Everything Changes

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This is what I always thought I would be doing when I grew up (not really)

People say everything changes after you have kids. “Oh you’ll find out.” they’ll say. They’ll tell you that you won’t get to go out with friends anymore. They’ll tell you that you have to give up your hobbies. They’ll tell you that you just can’t have fun anymore. They’ll tell you your life is over.

This is mostly bullshit.

As long as you can let go of the idea that nothing in your life will ever change, you should be just fine.

I’m not going to lie to you here, you won’t have as much free time after you have kids. Crystal and I had worked full time most of our lives, but we always had plenty of free time. We had time to read, watch movies, and in my case, work on nerdy side projects. After we had kids, this time started to disappear. Kids are a lot of work, and they take up a lot of your time, but that just means you need to change your priorities.

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Over time my kids became one of my highest priorities, but I didn’t realize that while it was happening. Suddenly I didn’t have time to think about learning to play the guitar, writing the next great American novel, or developing the next killer mobile app. It was frustrating. I had all of these big ideas but no time (or energy) to do anything about it.

Crystal’s ThoughtsMark has always been full of big ideas.  I don’t want to say kids have stifled those, but they have changed over time.  Instead of writing that novel (true story, he was working on it.) His ideas are more centered around backyard forts and home remodels)

Then I realized that all of these “important” ideas and goals weren’t really important to me, if they were I would have made the time to work on them. Since then I have worked to try to get rid of any side projects or hobbies that suck up a lot of time but don’t really bring me any joy. I have “decluttered” my free time. I can’t tell you how to do this for yourself. But next time you go to do something “fun”, ask yourself if it’s really something you want to spend your time on.

Time with friends, or just time outside of the house, can be tricky after you have kids. I think this is a time when you find out who your friends are. You will probably find a core group of friends that still want to spend time with you, and then rest will fade away. That’s not to say your time out with friends is gone. It’s just something else you need to make time for.

Crystal’s Thoughts You will find that as you grow and change you will find friends that either grow with you or you drift apart.  Some friends will not be willing to come hang out and have a night in while your kids sleep and want to go out to a swanky bar instead.  I’m a firm believer that there are relationships you just outgrow over time.

Don’t feel guilty getting a babysitter so you can have an adult night out. Also don’t feel like you have to get a babysitter to have a meal out of the house. If you start taking your kids out when they are young, they will know how to behave in public. Sure you might want to start at Red Robin or some other family friendly (read: screaming and crying friendly) restaurant, but after they know how to behave there are few places you can’t take them.

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Having less time can also affect your relationship with your partner. Maintaining a relationship is hard work, having kids is hard work, and maintaining a relationship after you have kids is even harder work. With that said, our marriage is stronger now than it has ever been. I know it doesn’t work out that way for everyone. I know some couples don’t last after they have kids. But we did, and it comes down to communication.

When we first got married we were terrible at communicating. We rarely told each other how we felt about anything. We loved each other, without a doubt, but I don’t know how much we really knew each other. That kind of stuff takes time, and like I mentioned, hard work. Having kids has a way of speeding things up though, it’s a trial by fire.

After we had kids we had to operate as a team or nobody was going to be happy, and the only way we could get there is if we started talking more. For us it happened naturally, it wasn’t like we had a moment where we sat down and talked about our feelings and then everything was amazing. It’s an ongoing process, it’s not something that’s ever “done”, and something we still work on (read more about how we stay connected here).

Crystal’s ThoughtsI feel like we say this over and over again. COMMUNICATION. It’s imperative. Neither of us are mind readers, it is not productive for either of us to get upset when we can’t anticipate the others wants/needs.  You need to communicate with your team to be able to run smoothly. 

We’ve talked about keeping your relationship with your partner strong, but what about keeping you strong? As a new parent, it’s easy to take the role of “parent” and make that your entire identity. Your life revolves around your children. You volunteer for all the school events, go to all the birthday parties, and spend every waking hour trying to make sure your kids are safe and happy. Somewhere in the middle of this, you start to lose yourself.

It’s different for everyone I’m sure, but I stopped doing much of anything. I took up running, which I really enjoyed, but I still didn’t have much of an identity. For me, I really found myself the first time I went to the local SQL Server user group in Detroit. I found “my people” there. That was the big difference when compared to running. Running was something I did alone, this was something I could do with other people.

I think it was my second meeting when I heard about a free full-day training event coming up, and they needed speakers. I had never spoken in front a group of people before, but I thought I would submit a talk and see what happened. To my surprise, I was chosen to speak and it changed my life. If it weren’t for this opportunity I wouldn’t have found how much I like to teach. I also wouldn’t have gotten my current job. My employer was impressed with the fact that I spent my spare time teaching and writing about database administration.

Crystal’s ThoughtsOne of the big phrases in the mom circles right now is “self-care” and as much as I usually hate to jump on the band wagon, it is really important.   As parents, we often lose ourselves and become drained.  You can’t pour from an empty cup.  You need to find that thing that fills your cup, for Mark it’s teaching in the SQL community.  For me, it’s doing things like getting a massage, getting a manicure, reconnecting with other mom friends who are just as drained as I am. I am a better mom and wife when I get that time.  It’s not selfish, it is addressing my needs as a human.

When you have kids it’s important to remember that you are still a person with needs. It’s also important that you don’t think of taking time for yourself as “selfish”. If you aren’t happy there is no way you’ll be able to keep up a relationship or provide any sort of role model for your children.  Of course, things are going to change, life would be pretty boring and stagnant if it didn’t.  The important thing is to embrace that change and go with it.

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