For years, I waffled on the “should I or shouldn’t I” fence about having kids. Early on in our marriage, my husband and I just assumed we’d have kids. Eventually. You know, when the time was right.
But we were usually too busy with careers or pets or traveling to really stop and say hey, I need a totally dependent creature in my life that will tie me down for the next 18 years or so. Because, frankly, that’s a pretty big decision to make.
As my friends and co-workers were busy getting married and getting pregnant, I would ask them, innocently enough, “So, why do you want to have kids?”
I didn’t say it with any sort of tone of voice, at least not that I intended. It was a legitimate question and one that I could have easily phrased, “So, why does anyone decide to have kids?”
I wanted to know. What was the point? Was it that people cared about someone carrying on their last name? Was it a biological urge to reproduce? Was it simply enjoying the idea of raising little people and sending them off into the world? Because from what I could see on a day-to-day basis at my local Target, it never seemed to be that last one.
What I didn’t know then is that you cannot measure a mother’s joy at being a mother while she is schlepping her way through Target. Motherhood is not a sprint through the store. It’s a marathon through 18 years of ups and downs (and that’s just the beginning).
Eight years after making my own leap of faith, I’ve got my own experience to rely on. And I know the reason I chose to have a child is honestly that last idea. The idea of raising a good little person and sending him off into the world if both terrifying and gratifying at the same time.
He’s my one and only. I only have one shot to get it right and I do my best but I sometimes think about what I would do differently if I could do it all over again.
1. I’d have started earlier.
I never had any sort of biological clock ticking and when I was around 36, I decided that it was probably now or never. While I don’t mind being an “older” mom, if I started younger, I maybe would have considered a second child.
2. I would have had more children.
Being a mom didn’t come easily to me. I was so anxiety-ridden for that first year that I couldn’t even think about having another child until I got to the easier stages of parenting. And by then, I didn’t want to go through that all over again. But I do wish my son had a sibling and if I had to do it all over again, I’d start earlier and hopefully deal with it better.
3. I would have slept more.
You know that saying sleep when the baby sleeps? I should have abided by that. But I was too busy being anxious about when he was going to wake up next that I never could really relax and nap during the day. Oh, how I wish I could have.
4. I would have traveled.
I unintentionally put the family on a 3 year travel restriction because the idea of traveling with a baby just seemed so difficult. We did take a few short road trips during the first year but each time I felt like I had completed a cross-country move.
5. I would have given him formula from day one.
Oh, how I wanted to love breastfeeding. I knew before he was born that it would probably be difficult for me for physiological reasons. But I gave it the ol’ college try. I lasted exactly 3 1/2 weeks until my husband told me to give myself a break and just give some formula a try. At that moment, the stress of being able to properly feed my baby was immediately lifted. I wished that I could get back those first few weeks where I could fall in love with my baby instead of focusing on how I was failing him.
Hindsight is 20/20 though. And when you have one child, you don’t get second chances or do overs. You look back and hope that maybe your words of wisdom might help some other new mother someday. That’s really what the sisterhood of motherhood is all about.
The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, is that, as mothers, we make what feels like a million decisions every day. They can’t all be the right ones but after eight years, I can tell you that I must have done something right because I’m so proud of this bug guy that still calls me mommy every day.