When you find out that you and your significant other are going to have a baby, the feelings of elation are matched by a thousand questions. You spend hours researching things like feeding and sleep, and daydream about the perfect nursery. But no one really prepares you for the changes which will happen once the baby arrives.
Namely, saying goodbye to your old life. For good.
My husband and I were the first out of our friends and siblings to start having kids, so we didn’t really have any other similarly aged couples to talk to for advice. Even before our first child was born, we felt like our friends were drifting away. While our lives became increasingly consumed with birth and baby preparations, we found it harder to keep in touch and make plans. My husband and I almost felt like getting pregnant had caused a rift in our social life, and the baby wasn’t even here yet.
Once our son was born, our phones and Facebooks blew up with congratulations and coos over the photos. But that was it. And a few weeks after he arrived, our son seemed to be repelling almost everyone. He’d created a quarantine for us with his existence.
Becoming new parents was overwhelmingly isolating. As the mother, I expected to hunker down for a few weeks as we got the hang of breastfeeding, allowing my body to recover in the meantime. But it truly came to feel like we were forgotten. My hopes of friends coming by with meals, holding the baby so I could shower or just relax, never came to fruition.
I think this was by far the biggest misconception about parenting: that we would ever go back to “normal”, the way our lives were before we were parents. My hubby and I naively assumed that, once we got our baby’s routine down, we’d slip back into our pre-baby lives. Now we know that we will never be as we once were.
Don’t try to go back to life as it was.
Becoming a parent has changed you, and like a garment from your former self, your old life won’t fit the same on you as it did before. You’ll find that friends who were shallow and lacking depth, disappear; after the initial hurt it causes to feel abandoned, you’ll realize that they weren’t making your life better anyway. Grasping at disintegrating relationships will only delay the inevitable: you’re a new person, and now you see them as they are.
Babies have a way of forcing you to do a “spring cleaning” of your soul. Even as you battle it, resist it and deny it, they purify your heart. And there’s no room for anything nor anyone who doesn’t make you a better person. A better parent. You reprioritize how you spend money, time, and energy. All that fluff just falls away, and you’ll realize one day that you never really needed it.
Babies have a way of forcing you to do a “spring cleaning” of your soul.
I’m not saying that I had bad friends. And I did mourn when they seemed to forget about me, or make excuses to not come over or get past the polite brief text conversations. But I came to the conclusion that they didn’t have time for me anymore, now that I was a mom. And I would rather be a mom than friends with someone like that. So I let them drift away.
And now we have new friends, loving people from work and playgroup who share a similar interest: being parents! We have conversations over potty training and sleepless nights, we encourage each other. We listen and we understand. Friendships built on a love for our children last longer than those built on similar movie tastes. Our new friends make us better people… And our kids have friends because of it, too.
Becoming parents was overwhelmingly isolating.
Looking back, it’s sometimes hard to remember what my life was like before anyone called me “Mama.” I get glimpses into that past and I’m content with how my life was. But I’m thrilled with my life now. Everything is brighter, has more depth, and more meaning.
And there will come a day when our kids don’t live at home, don’t sleep in our beds, don’t need us like they once did. If we still really wanted to, Hubby and I could go out to movies and dinners and parties. There will be time for us to just be a couple again. And maybe, by that point, I’ll miss those evenings out and doing what I want with my free time. But honestly I don’t miss it. Especially when I look at the faces of my babies.
My husband and I found our new normal. And once we accepted that, and chose to be happy with it, we’ve never looked back. Because our life is so much better now than we ever could have planned.