Post and photo by Andy Hinds.
I have a cycling buddy who has a child a little older than our 2-year old twin girls. Once, on a bike ride, when both of our wives were pregnant, my friend started talking about how he wasn't going to make big sacrifices in his lifestyle just because he was about to become a dad. I got a little swept up in the moment, and started Amen-ing his every point.
"Our parents didn't give up everything to cater to us! We had to adapt to their lifestyles!" he said.
"Yeah!" I replied.
"And I'm not gonna sell my Porsche or give up cycling or any of my other hobbies just because there's a rugrat in the house!"
"Damn right!" I said. "Me neither. I mean...I don't...have a Porsche or anything...but...yeah! All the rest of what you said!"
"That kid is gonna learn to adjust to my schedule ; not the other way around."
"Right on, brother!" We fistbumped one another awkwardly, almost getting entangled in each other's handlebars and crashing.
I don't really know how that approach to parenting worked out for him. We don't see each other much anymore, since I have only ridden my bike about a half dozen times since the kids were born.
So there are people like my friend, who resist changing the way they live when they become parents.
And then there are people like me, whose resolve to be his own man washes away as soon as he realizes how important napping schedules are.
My twin girls were born when I was 42 years old, so I had had a long time to develop habits and expectations. I didn't think about those expectations very much before the kids came along; but after they arrived, and I became their primary caregiver, my life changed a great deal, in some ways that I had expected, and in some ways that I had not. And the changes required that I adjust my standards--downward in most cases.
For me, it ended up not being too traumatic. I'm pretty flexible in just about every way, and if I can be convinced that giving something up is the best thing to do for my kids, I won't struggle very hard to hold on to it. I know parents who have fought to maintain their pre-children identity and lifestyle, with varying results. Some seem to have pulled it off. Others seem bitter that their kids continue to get in the way of all the other things that are important to them.
If you feel like your kids are cramping your lifestyle, I have a bit of advice for you: lower your standards. Here are five areas in which I have given up, and in so doing, become a happier, and arguably better parent.
1. Personal Appearance
To tell you the truth, my interest in fashion and grooming has been on a bit of a downward trajectory since a couple years after college; but becoming a full-time parent has made my standards for my own appearance slide precipitously and inexorably into the abyss.
I still have a closet full of slacks, flashy shirts, and shoes that were cool three or four years ago. I think that stuff is still in there, anyway. I wouldn't know because I only dress myself out of the drawer that holds my gym shorts and t-shirts. Flip-flops are my footwear of choice, but I will wear socks and sneakers if it's extremely cold out or I'm going somewhere fancy.
Haircuts, eyebrow trimming, ear-hair plucking, shaving, and showering are luxuries to be partaken of only when absolutely necessary. They are the domain of the child-free. The full-time parent has no time for such niceties. And if you see a parent who looks put-together and stylish, you can gloat to yourself about how much better you are at parenting than they are.
As I mentioned, I used to ride bikes a lot. I also used to work out at the gym, do yoga, surf, hike, etc., etc. I have been able to sneakily get some exercise while hanging out with my kids by doing things like pulling them around town in a bike trailer and doing chin-ups at the playground; but it's just not the same.
I gained about fifteen pounds in the first few months after the birth of my kids, and have not yet been able to lose it. But I wear my paunch with pride, as it indicates that I care about my kids more than myself.
Just as my interest in fashion has been on the wane for years, my passion for pop culture has been cooling down since about 1999. And once the kids came along, as far as I knew, Hollywood could have shut down, and music been made illegal to produce. I've seen maybe 3 movies on the big screen since the kids were born, and downloaded a handful of new albums. Live music? Are they still doing that? But somehow I've learned a lot about Elmo, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Dora the Explorer, even though we don't have a TV.
Giving up in this case has removed all that distracting stimulus, and rendered children's books and puzzles exciting enough to keep me interested in the same things the kids are interested in.
4. Social Activity
Why bother pretending? Most of your friends understand what raising children entails, and they don't take your falling off the face of the earth personally. And the ones who don't understand probably never will, unless they have kids of their own some day. In either case, your friends have written you off, and your children are better off for it. You need to be home waiting on them hand and foot, and cleaning up after them while they sleep.
5. Living Spaces
Pre-kids, I was rarely accused of being a neat-freak. The house didn't have to be ready for a white-glove inspection, but I couldn't tolerate very much clutter. I actually could not relax when there was enough random junk around to distract my eye from the architecture of the house.
This was also true of the outside of the house. While my lawn wasn't always the best maintained (or even in the top ten) on the block, I couldn't stomach the idea of neighbors seeing our junk scattered around on the deck or front yard.
Nowadays, there are just a couple of rooms in the house that I insist on keeping neat and clean. As long as the kitchen and bathrooms are safe and more-or-less sanitary, I don't feel any pressing need to conceal every bit of evidence that we have kids. I have been know to relax so much in the clutter of the playroom that I've fallen asleep on the floor with a teddy bear for a pillow.
And our deck is now populated by a sandbox, a kiddie pool, shovels, buckets, bubble wands, and garish plastic toys of all descriptions. For some reason, the deck was the last out of these things that I gave up on. Maybe it was because I only finished building it in the last year, and was still protective of its clean lines and expensive materials. But now I realize, as with all the other examples, that caring less about what used to be important clears more psychic space for what really matters.Top Posts about LifestylesHigher Percentage of Same-Sex Couples Have Children in Conservative States and Suburbs 6 Jobs That Are Worse Than Being a Stay-at-Home Dad20 Far-Out Fears I Developed Since Giving Birth