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September 20, 2007

They say your life changes

Mm They say that your life changes when you have kids, but they, as usual, aren’t exactly right. In fact, I’d argue that not much in our lives has changed, or at least not significantly, since Z was born, and certainly not much more since Baby A was born two months ago. We still have the same jobs, like the same foods, still spend time doing the same things we did before.

The biggest difference between “now” (life with two kids) and the rapidly fading memory of a pre-kids “then” is one of freedom.  Our lives haven’t changed much, but they have been divided up into much smaller (and far less flexible) parcels.

“Then” we were free to do whatever we want, whenever we wanted. Now,

we’re equally free to do whatever we want, but there are countless considerations to keep in mind. What do we need to bring? Who will be there? How much does it cost? Will there be something for everybody to eat? Will we be back home for naptime or bedtime? Do we need a babysitter? Can we find a babysitter? The list is endless.

Factor in that the day is still only 24 hours long, and that by sundown we’re typically both pooped, and living our unchanged lives becomes a challenge. So, no, your lives don’t change when you have kids. It’s the parents who change to accommodate their new charges, plus all the joys and frustrations that come with them.

Now, sacrifice is a hallmark of responsibility and maturity (as are gray hairs and bald spots), but I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t miss the freedoms we used to take for granted. It’s been ages since I’ve read a book from start to finish. Watching a movie has become something of an ordeal; staying awake past 10pm a chore. Listening to music is fine, but try pumping the volume too high or playing something that not everyone agrees on: no dice.

You know the studies that note how much cumulative time we spend going to the bathroom? Well, try calculating the time spent tucking in, cleaning up, reading stories, dancing around, cooking food, cooking more food when the first batch of food is deemed not good enough, watching Disney movies, watching PBS Kids, waiting by the potty to wipe. Having kids practically reduces you to the role of kiddie valet.

And then, one day, they’re all grown up.

Today we brought Z to her first day of school. Preschool, mind you, which is a long way off from college, but for the first time we could really feel the wheel turning. This was a step toward total independence, a time in the not so distant future when our daughter – and eventually, both of our daughters – will no longer need us.

But the hope is that at the end of this long, protracted, equally rewarding and maddening process, they will still want us around: for guidance, for advice, for unconditional love, support and affection.

It’s one of the great perversities of life that you’re never quite sure how well you’ve done until you’re closer to the end than the beginning.  Yet with every unsolicited hug or smile I get, I feel like I’m doing something right, and all those sacrifices we make to make everything right for our kids suddenly recede into the background once again. Who needs a movie when such a great story in progress is singing and playing right in front of me?

No, our lives haven’t changed one bit, but yes, the way we live our lives has been changed forever. And I wouldn’t change it back for anything.

Josh is married to Chicago Moms Blog contributor Alma, aka Marketing Mommy. He occasionally updates his own blog, Basement Patter.

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