Parenthood

Step 10 // How to Keep a Baby from Ruining Your Life

step 01 // narrow your playing field

step 02 // don’t victimize yourself

step 03 // make yourself a priority

step o4 // get away

step 05 // put down your phone

step 06 // break routine

step 07 // go to church

step 08 // share the care

step 09 // wait

This series has been fun, eye opening and at times challenging.  But I am ready to move on to creamy desserts, mix tapes and bike coops. If you have any questions for me or want to converse about this subject more, you can email me at the link provided above.  You can also follow my twitter handle @keepingwillow or @stacyfeyersalo on Instagram.  Now, finally, I give you, step 10.

step 10 // ask a different question

The question we have been asking throughout this entire series is “how can you keep a baby from ruining your life?”  Each step I have offered has begged to question the idea that we are taught from a young age, that having children will in fact ruin our lives.  But what if the last step is simply asking a different question?  Maybe it’s saying, whether or not a baby will ruin my life is not the bigger issue.  Maybe there is something more important that I am not even considering.

So here is my proposition:  rather than asking, “how do I keep a baby from ruining my life?”, maybe the better question is “how do we keep ourselves from ruining a baby’s life?”  

What kind of world would we live in if humanity did a better job of asking this very question?  What kind of abuse, neglect, and heart ache would disappear if we took the time to better ourselves in order to protect the innocent?  What kind of people would we be if we decided to set an example for children, whether they are ours of not, of what the best kind of life can be?  A life full of love, fidelity, health, kindness, fairness, joy, and self-control.  It would be pretty crazy, incredible, right?

You see, the central reason why babies “ruin our lives”- and if you’re not a parent yet, you will discover this shortly after your child is born- is that we are exceedingly, self-centered creatures.  You may think that you are the kind of person who doesn’t believe the world revolves around you, but wait until you cannot manage to have a moment to yourself, even to go to the bathroom, and your own basic needs are thwarted in order to provide for a helpless baby.  Then suddenly, you become very conscious of your past selfishnesses and you want so badly to be selfish again.

I offer this as the last step because if we continually ask ourselves how we could possibly better ourselves for the children around us and the children to come, there will no longer be a need to ask how to keep a baby from ruining our lives. It would become an unfathomable question. It would force us to take an honest look at ourselves. Some may say, “maybe I wouldn’t be a very good parent. Maybe not everyone has to have children and if I didn’t it would be ok.” Those who do decide to have children may make wiser choices for themselves and their family. 

This step may seem as idealistic as a solution for world peace, but, I offer this as a suggestion because we are agents of choice.   You can change yourself, and that’s the big point.  You can be the owner of your own thinking.  We can question the social norms of our society and better educate people so they can make better choices for themselves.  Although you may not be aware of it and though it may seem small, just like in the iconic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, you make a difference in the lives of the people you are close to, in your greater community and even in the larger cosmos in ways that you may be unaware.  How you live your life affects all of this.  Your life matters.

Of all the steps I have offered, if you don’t move in with other people, you don’t stop having sex, or you never go on another vacation again in your life, I wouldn’t really give two flying rats.  These steps were all lures to help you understand  that the only person that will ever truly ruin your life is yourself.  If you can accept that and maybe question your previous ideas of parenthood, then this entire series would have been a success.

The short time I have been a mother I have shifted from terror and grief over the life I thought I had lost to probably the most at peace and happy I have ever been.   Because a new, beautiful life joined my already existing life, a life that never ended or went away.  Being a mother is nothing like I had expected it to be because I always let someone else define that role for me.  I hope that the lesson I learned, that there is no box or mold or fixed path for any stage in life, will stay with me my entire life.

May you live for a bigger picture than yourself, let life grab you and take you places you never expected, and choose things that make yourself and our world more rich, free, and beautiful.  May you go against the grain when the grain doesn’t seem right.  And may you never believe that a baby will ruin your life.

xoxo

 

 

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Parenthood

Step 09 // How to Keep a Baby from Ruining Your Life

step 01 // narrow your playing field

step 02 // don’t victimize yourself

step 03 // make yourself a priority

step o4 // get away

step 05 // put down your phone

step 06 // break routine

step 07 // go to church

step 08 // share the care

step 09 // wait

I have been thinking about this post a lot.  It is a step that many will find to be extreme, black and white, or unfair, and maybe I think that it is a bit too.  But I also think it holds some wisdom.  I think that’s why I’ve saved it for one of the last steps.

Waiting is one of the hardest things for us, the human race, to do.  We hate it.  It drives us mad.  And yet, there’s that saying, “good things come to those who wait” that begs to suggest that waiting isn’t such a bad thing.  And if you think having a baby is going to ruin your life, I would like to suggest that waiting is exactly what you should do. And by waiting I mean abstinence.  And by abstinence I mean no sex.  And by no sex I mean…no sex.

Yep. I said it.

NO SEX!

Before I explain myself further, I would like to first say that I am in no way moralizing sex here.  Do what you do with whom you do and follow the traditions and convictions that compel every other aspect of your life.  Preface over.

I am aware of two different audiences who regularly read this blog.  One is probably really excited and cheering me on right now.  The other is either mockingly laughing at me, yelling at me, completely pissed off or left the sight a few sentences ago when they saw the words “no sex”.  To the former I will say, don’t pigeon hole me just yet!  To the latter, please, just hear me out.

Now, I would like to ask a question. If you are convinced that having a baby will completely ruin your life, then why are you having sex?  Don’t you know that SEX MAKES BABIES? It’s like fighting fire with fire.  Yes, we have contraceptives that work well but not 100% of the time.  We all know someone or know of someone who was religiously taking the pill, on several forms of birth control, or always used protection and still ended up getting pregnant.  If there’s anything we can learn from the major motion picture, Jurassic Park, it’s that life finds a way.

Ok, ok, the chance of getting pregnant when someone is using birth control is small.  Maybe the small chance that your life could be ruined is worth it to you to make whoopie on a regular basis (that along with all of the other side affects of using a birth control pill).  Most of us tend to think that accidentally getting pregnant will never happen to us or our partner.  But what if it does happen to you?  What now?  You have two options: have a baby or have an abortion.  We have already determined that you think the first choice will ruin your life, although adoption is a viable option after you’ve gone through all the hard work of having a baby and being socially stigmatized.  But what about the second option?  It would be really easy to terminate the pregnancy and move on.  But the reality is, no matter which side you lean toward morally or politically, abortion is not without its own risks.  I am pro choice, but I will say that most people never want to have to go through with having an abortion.  It’s not fun.  It’s invasive, there are potentially dangerous side effects and some women live with regret later in life.

Wouldn’t it be a whole lot less messy if you just took a cold shower?

Ok, maybe I’m being unfair.  Maybe I’m not. But the real point I’m trying to make here is that there is wisdom to waiting until your more ready (you’ll never fully be ready).  Put off marriage or a serious relationship a while.  Go travel or something.  Discover yourself (you can decide whether that is a pun or not).  Focus on your platonic friendships and become a better person.  That way, when you’re more ready, you can love someone better and fuller than you could before.  And a baby will not ruin your life.

xoxo

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Parenthood

Step 08 // How to Keep a Baby from Ruining Your Life

I had originally intended that this entire series be one post.  10 weeks later and I’m still writing about it.  Here are the last 7 steps in case you need to be caught up.

step 01 // narrow your playing field

step 02 // don’t victimize yourself

step 03 // make yourself a priority

step o4 // get away

step 05 // put down your phone

step 06 // break routine

step 07 // go to church

step 09 // wait

step 08 // share the care

In my opinion, this step seemss fairly obvious.  We live in a society were women go to work and sometimes men stay home with the kids.  It isn’t revolutionary to say, “hey parents, share the responsibility for caring for your children”.  But, what I would like to propose is that sharing in the care of your children goes beyond the mother and/or father.

In October of 2013, my family and I moved in with my parents.  We are moving to Toronto at the end of this summer and are trying to save some $$$ before the big transition.  Moving back in with your parents can be awkward and weird (I’m being nice here), but overall the experience has been immensely positive.  My parents have had the opportunity to spend loads of quality time with Willow.  I watch how much she loves her grandparents and her uncle and how she gains new perspectives and experiences by hanging out with them frequently.  But that’s besides the point, right?  The point is that having this shared experience in raising our child takes a huge burden off our backs.  It feels right, like this is the way it always should have been.

Yes, I am suggesting that living together with other people is a great thing to do.  “That’s weird!” you say?  No, way to live.  Ok, yes, living with other people may be complicated at times, ruining our idea of individuality, but in my experience of living with other people and I believe it is the best way to live.  It’s a risk to take and people who are married or have children are often put off by the idea due to our societal ideas of the isolated, nuclear family. I highly encourage you give it a try anyway.

If you still believe that having a baby is going to ruin your life, sharing the parenting role with other family members, close friends and the like, will not only make your life exponentially better, it is really good for your baby. And taking it as far as sharing your home is really the cherry on top.

xoxo

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Parenthood

Step 07 // How to Keep a Baby from Ruining Your Life

In case you need to be caught up, here are the links to the previous 6 steps.

step 01 // narrow your playing field

step 02 // don’t victimize yourself

step 03 // make yourself a priority

step o4 // get away

step 05 // put down your phone

step 06 // break routine

step 08 // share the care

step 09 // wait

step 07 // go to church

WAIT!! If you are not religious or do not have any theistic leanings, please, just hear me out before you desperately jump to the back button.  I am not trying to preach here and my only intensions are to share my experiences and how they have been beneficial to both our family and me.  I ask that you have grace and patience with me as I embark on a deeply personal and often times emotional topic.
Preface over.
There are four reasons I feel people should participate in a religious community, whether religious or not, to keep a child from ever ruining their lives. I believe these are vital components of society that have been lost with modernity and the dawning of the suburbs that most religious communities have managed to preserve in some way, shape, or form.  There are no other social forms in our society that I can think of that fulfill all these roles at the same time.
First, free childcare.  Yes, your child can play and socialize while you sip your coffee in peace for at least an hour and you don’t have to fork over a penny.  Find a community where you know that every single volunteer has had a rigorous background check, thorough training and has a standard procedure that children or students will never be left alone with a single adult at any moment (you should have these same concerns with any childcare situation).  Having this free hour of head space will make room for my second point, which is so vital to living an aware and balanced life.
Second, centering and mindfulness.  There are all kinds of faiths and communities with different perspectives and expressions. Find somewhere where you feel safe and comfortable to center yourself, reset for the week, and focus on how you are living your life.  Where are you wasting energy?  How can you better yourself?  Slow down your mind and breathe slowly, inviting the universe into every deep inhale and letting out the stresses of life with each exhale.
Third, familiarity with children.  If you are not a parent, when was the last time you held a baby?  Or how often do you have the opportunity to play with children?  Are most of your friends your age and in the same stage of life as you?  We once lived in a society where generations were mixed.  We helped each other raise our children.  We looked to our elders for wisdom and guidance.  The idea that someone would never be around children was unthinkable.  Today we live in a generationally segregated society.  In our young 20’s and 30’s we aren’t around children very often and if we are it is from a distance.  We leave our friends house  in relief when their kids get out of hand, am I right?  It should come as no surprise that many of us believe that having children will ruin our lives.  We aren’t around children enough to know any better!  In most religious communities the generations are still mixed. There is a unique opportunity to be in the same social setting with people of all ages, offering a unique opportunity to learn and grow from every generation, including children.
Lastly and I feel most importantly, community.  A place of worship is a place where people take care of each other and the world.  They come around each other to offer friendship, love, a shared table of food, care when you’re ill and good thoughts when you ask for them. They gather together to feed the needy, care for the earth or join in solidarity with the suffering.  When you have a baby, and are losing your mind with frustration and fatigue, they stop by your house with a hot meal and a few tricks on how to soothe an upset newborn.  It is this kind of community that is so vital for human life but is completely anemic in our society.  This is why I feel it is so vital to join yourself to some sort of faith community.
There is nowhere else you can find all four of these things, free childcare, mindfulness, intergenerational interaction and a sense of community than in a religious community. Even if you don’t have faith in God, most religious communities will love and accept you as you are, admitting their own lack of faith in the process. If you take the risk to participate in a religious community, your life will feel less shattered by the arrival of a child and more fully whole.
xoxo
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Parenthood

Step 06 // How to Keep a Baby from Ruining Your Life

step 01 // narrow your playing field

step 02 // don’t victimize yourself

step 03 // make yourself a priority

step o4 // get away

step 05 // put down your phone

step 07 // go to church

step 08 // share the care

step 09 // wait

step 06 // break routine

Everyone feels stuck in the daily grind. It gets monotonous and we want out. When you become a parent, that grind gets heavier, with seemingly endless things to do, and you can find yourself stuck in a very regimented routine that leaves little room for spontaneity and fun. A lot of people who are childless get frustrated when their friends have children and fall off the face of the earth. While these friends maybe cannot understand what life is like with children, is their frustration not a little merited? Is it really that hard to hang out every once and a while? Well, the answer, I think, is both yes and no. Yes, it is hard to hang out when your childless friends ask you to hang out at 9:00 pm on a week night, or are relatively insensitive to the lifestyle changes that have to be made when a little one comes around. Even on Saturdays, I am in bed at 9:30 pm, snuggling my book and flirting with a REM cycle. BECAUSE CHILDREN WAKE UP BLOODY EARLY. LIKE 5:30 AM!!!! And yet, no it’s not really that hard to hang out.  You don’t have any plans and your day is free, but we can get tunnel vision and feel restrained to a routine that is completely child centered and inflexible. Saying “no” is just so much easier.

Here I have two examples of Saturday routines. One follows a strict routine at home, where life is pretty much the same day in – day out. The other, not so much, and sounds like a truly fantastic day.

Life Ruining Saturday Routine
6:00 wake up
Coffee
7:00 same ol’ breakfast
9:00-11:00 First nap (workout/ shower/ nap/ etc)
11-11:30 play/watch cartoons/read the newspaper
11:30 lunch
12:15 play/watch the news/read a blog/Twitter
1:30-2:30 Second nap (do something productive)
2:30-5:00 play/fold laundry/watch a youtube video/snack/clean
5:00 start dinner
6:00 eat dinner
6:45 clean dinner
7:15-8:00 Bath, pj’s, book, baby bedtime
8-9:30 veg on the couch and eat ice cream
9:30 read a book & bed

YOLO Saturday Routine
6:00 Wake up
Coffee
7:00 Make a big breakfast together
9:00-11:00 First nap (throw in a load of laundry/workout/shower/pack for the day/put clothes in dryer)
11:00 Meet at your friend’s house/catch up/laugh
12:00 lunch and margarita’s (because it’s noon)
1:30-2:30 Second nap (you brought a pack and play and the baby monitor. You knew you bought that for a reason) Play game that doesn’t involve too much shouting. Like this new one Jazz bought me for Christmas.
2:30-5:00 Go to the park with friends/PBR/soccer/frisbee/playground/snacks (in the winter go to the art museum or something. Common! You’re creative!)
5:00-7:00 early dinner at local restaurant or back to your friends for a cook out
7:15-8:00 Go home, pj’s, bath, book, baby bedtime
8:00-9:30 Talk to your partner about the books you’re reading right now over a glass of wine and folding laundry
9:30 book & bed

Ok, ok, the first routine isn’t going to ruin your life.  Everyone needs weekends like that and a day at home seems like the funnest thing on the planet.  That’s just life.  I’m not trying to be unrealistic.  But if you take the risk and break your routine often, your life will feel less paralyzed by tasks and a schedule and a whole lot more rich and full of people you love. Once again, take responsibility for your life and hang out with people. Life will go on if your house is not spotless, but if you never leave your house life will feel like a never ending task.

Break the routine and live!

xoxo

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