The very concept of ‘boredom’ or ‘spare time’ is as foreign to me now as taking a walk on the moon. Savor 'boredome' while you can!
I remember the shock when I realized I was pregnant. My knees went weak. I was excited and terrified. My mind was swirling with so many questions (Was it going to be a girl or boy? What will we name him or her? Now what am I going to do with that bottle of tequila I got for Christmas?) that I didn’t stop to wonder whether I’d done everything I needed to in order to prepare for this huge life change.
Truthfully, there is nothing that can be done to totally prepare for bringing a new person into the world, but here are a few simple things you can do while you still can to be a better person and better parent when the time comes. As I quickly learned, there are just some things, like going to the bathroom with the door closed, that you don’t realize aren’t going to be a part of your life anymore once your mini-me shows up.
This was literally the first thing that popped into my mind when I tried to think back to what life was like before I had kids. The very concept of ‘boredom’ or ‘spare time’ is as foreign to me now as taking a walk on the moon. I would like, however, to add to ‘savor boredom’ the word ‘constructively.’ Don’t get me wrong, you should treat yourself to leisurely afternoons lazing around on the couch watching entire seasons of Breaking Bad or the Kill Bill trilogy, or other things you won’t be able to watch after you have kids. It was a solemn moment when my husband and I realized we could no longer listen to Tenacious D in the car on road trips. Dabble, while you still can, in hobbies and activities that even vaguely interest you, because you won’t have time to explore these, time-wise and probably financially, once your little one comes along. Take a cooking class, learn a new language, or even better take classes with your partner, like dance classes. Lamaze doesn’t count! I’m talking about pinpointing an interest or hobby that is totally exclusive to you, something you can go back to when you need a mini-break from giving yourself wholly over to someone else. Find something that brings you joy so that you can be the best person you can be.
Get In The Habit Of Taking Care Of Yourself
It’s a good idea to fall in love with going to the gym or taking long runs around the lake now while it’s still optional. I may be projecting here, but after gaining 80 pounds with my pregnancy (just saying that out loud is almost a form of birth control), I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was going to have to, gulp, work out and watch my diet to get back to my fighting weight. It sucked at first, because I dreaded it. I wished that I had had a sport or something that I couldn’t wait to get back to once I was physically able to, something that would make the weight fall off and be fun for me at the same time. Eventually, I learned to love running and am far healthier than I was before huge baby Boran came along, so I credit him for that. But it would have been way easier if I had that habit before it became imperative! And, less tedious, enjoy long baths and beauty routines that take time and precision like painting your nails or getting your hair colored while you can. If you get in the habit of all these things, it is much easier to make a concerted effort toward taking care of yourself, and not just your little bundle, after he or she comes into your life. Looking and feeling good makes you a better person/mom. And studies show that people who work out and are in good physical condition have better pregnancies (results are inconclusive regarding the pregnancies of women with great highlights).
Travel Alone. Live Somewhere You’ve Never Lived Before
I might argue that this is something you should do before you get into any serious relationship, but definitely before you get into the most serious relationship of all: parenthood. Traveling alone is a great way to explore yourself before you become part of a family unit. You’re surrounded by people you don’t know, unfamiliar places, you get to see what sparks your interest, how you interact with strangers—you get to follow your nose aimlessly. In short, you get to know who YOU are. When I was deciding whether or not I wanted to have kids, I remember my mom saying ‘oh honey, your whole life changes, it’s wonderful!’ I think she meant it in a good way, but the concept of my whole life changing terrified me. I kind of liked my life! I was worried that everything I cared about, things like painting, writing, music, would go by the wayside as I became Mommy. I ended up taking a road trip across the country and even got the chance to live somewhere I’d never lived before for a few years, where I spent all my nights at art shows and open mic nights. All my interests were so ingrained in me by the time I had my little boy, they didn’t go away, in fact he inspired me to do all those things better than ever.
By the way, it doesn’t have to be a cross-country road trip, it can be a weekend alone camping, or spent wandering in an unfamiliar city. The goal is to get outside yourself and outside your comfort zone in preparation for the biggest step outside your comfort zone you’re likely to ever take, becoming a parent.
Get To Know Your Co-Baby-Maker
Duh, right? This may sound like the most obvious advice, but after the baby comes, much of your relationship will revolve around topics of conversation like poop and formula. If you don’t have a firm foundation of why you love this person you’re making a new life with, there is the danger of poop and formula becoming the backbone of your entire connection. There are several books and articles out there that stress the importance of making sure that you and your partner are on the same page as far as raising kids goes, that you agree on how the baby should be born, that you agree on the name, that you agree on how the baby should be raised, disciplined, what he/she should eat…you should do all this before you enter into the realm of parenthood. Wow. That would be nice, but I don’t know anyone who totally agrees with their partner on any of these things. Do you want a kid, or a science experiment? Half the magic of parenthood is the uncertain ground, watching how it all evolves. You learn so much about yourself and your partner, your relationship and most of all, the new person you brought into the world. So more than worrying about all these details, get to know your partner the fun way. Spend time together. Quality time. When you go out to dinner put away your phones and look at each other and have a conversation (Newsflash: no one on facebook really cares what your hors d’ouevres look like), and enjoy your alone time. Just wait until how precious that alone time becomes AFTER the baby shows up!
Spend Time With Your Friends
Word to the wise, take the time NOW to enjoy your friends who don’t have kids. Once you have kids, you probably won’t see them for a while. Your freedom to drop everything and grab a bite or see a movie is greatly diminished once you are embroiled in the NASA-like level of coordination it takes to find a babysitter you trust, who is also available and affordable. Additionally, you might be surprised at how much more hilarious you find stories and pictures of your child spilling spaghetti all over himself than your childless friends do. Understand, you might not see these people for a while. At least, until they have kids.
The most important thing you can do, and all of the above should help in this endeavor, is get a healthy sense of self before you bring this new little life into being. You’ll be amazed how much stronger that sense of self will become as you see yourself reflected in your little one’s eyes. These small people are a constant source of challenge and inspiration. And they’re fun, because they do and say really weird things. Things I post on Facebook way too often. And of course, there is obviously one really fun thing you get to do, in fact you must do, before you have kids, and that’s Do It. Usually it takes lots of Doing It before it takes. Yep, I’m talking about sex. I’m just not allowed to say that out loud anymore. Force of habit. Enjoy!