10 Things I’m Glad I Did Before Having Kids.

Via on Jul 5, 2013

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I might not be waking up this morning at a super cool yoga gathering, but, boy, have I been to festivals in my day.

Oh, Wanderlust.

I’m updated on the happenings out there in Colorado in part by a wonderful friend who made the trip from Ohio as well as, of course, by Waylon via elephant journal and Facebook—and I can’t help but have a little Wanderlust envy.

Still, I’m looking over at my daughter smiling and giggling at the Sing-a-Long dvd that she’s watching, and I’m momentarily mentally transported back to a few of the many adventures that I had before I became a parent—and to how wonderful my life has been.

Don’t get me wrong—my little lady is quite the adventurer herself, and I have no doubt that, as a family, we have better experiences ahead than the ones that are already behind (especially since, like my husband and me, she’s an outdoor lover).

Regardless, there are some things, both internally and externally, that I’m glad I’ve gone through before I figuratively (and literally) settled down.

1. Moved around.

My husband and I moved to New Mexico and fell in love with the mountains, the trails and the overall lifestyle of active living there. While we do still miss it, we missed our families more, so we left there for the Philadelphia area and then finally came home to Ohio.

Now, I’m not judging anyone out there who moves around with their children. For work, and for other reasons, this is part of many kids’ childhoods, but, I have to admit at this point in my life that I’m glad that I got my roaming itches out of my system so that I’m able to stay in one location without wondering if the grass is greener elsewhere. (Note: my discovery is that the grass is only as green as the gardener tends it.)

2. I recovered from my eating disorder.

If you’re suffering from an eating disorder of any kind, consider getting help if you’re considering having kids. A lot of your unhealthy behaviors will be noticed by your perceptive children even if you try to hide them, and, especially if you end up having a daughter like I did, then you’re putting her at risk for developing a poor relationship with food and her own body. 

3. Partied like it’s 1999.

I got a lot of rebellious partying out of my system in my youth, and I’m forever grateful for it. I don’t ever feel like I missed out on anything, and I hope that I’m able to relate to my daughter if she ever needs help navigating her own adolescence safely. Additionally, I don’t fear becoming one of those moms who acts like a teenager in her 40′s because she never got to be one.

4. Anger.

I’ll probably always be a moody, temperamental—okay, grouchy and fiery—sort. I have my moments, and I might always, but I have discovered ways to deal with my anger (exercise, communication, and getting in touch with my underlying feelings). Displaying unhealthy anger around children is a surefire way to light their own unhealthy fuse, especially if they genetically have your disposition. 

5. Solidified my relationship.

To outsiders, my husband and I often seem to have the perfect, storybook relationship. What many people don’t see, however, are the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into making our relationship happy and healthy.

Like anything worthwhile in life, good relationships take work, and I use the word work because that’s sincerely what it feels like when you’re hashing out make-it-or-break-it problems.

Sometimes, relationships aren’t meant to last, but, rather, are meant to be learning experiences for your next one. I know how lucky I am that I’m still in love with the man who I met as a boy when I was 14—but, again, we deserve to be where we are because we put the effort into getting here.

6. Self-love.

This slightly goes hand-in-hand with recovering from my eating disorder, but not completely.

I was desperately insecure as a child, and I carried around a lot of baggage into my early adulthood. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I began practicing yoga regularly, on and off of my mat, that I learned to finally love myself.

Bryonie wrote a piece recently on how moving through asanas on your mat can help you connect with that primitive spark within us (call it your soul if you want), and I can’t tell you how much I related to her story.

Another thing that’s helped me on my path towards self-love has been learning to speak to myself like I would a beloved child—with tenderness, respect and care. Would you talk to a little kid the way you do yourself sometimes?

7. Accepted my flaws.

So, yeah, loving myself is great, but part of being authentic and part of true self-love is owning your flaws—and then accepting them. Easier said than done, for me at least, but in my book this is necessary. How am I going to teach my daughter to embrace her own quirks if I don’t embrace mine?

One thing that definitely helps me in this arena is seeing my positive and negative qualities as flip sides of the same coin. Sure, I’m a hot head, but I’m also one of the most passionate people that you’ll ever meet. Yes, I might be overly talkative and analytical, but, conversely, I’m observant and animated. You get the idea.

8. Anything late at night.

This one is my hubby’s suggestion, and I totally agree. We have a difficult time doing anything past 9 pm because our toddler has a hard time sleeping (with anyone but her daddy). I’m aware that not all, or maybe not even many, parents have this as a concern, but for us—let’s just say that I’m glad I saw my favorite bands play countless times at concerts throughout the years.

In short, I’m glad that I stayed up and woke up late—because it might be a very, very long time before I can do it again.

9. Forgave.

Oooo, you can get into some sticky “let me tell you that you need to do” b.s.-type writing with a suggestion like this, but give me a chance.

I will not pretend that I can tell you how to forgive the people in your past that have deeply wounded you, but I can say this: the one thing that’s really helped me move out of anger, resentment and pain towards people and experiences in my life is my realization that I could not be who I am, as I sit here typing this to you, if it weren’t for these challenges.

Life isn’t fair. Good people get hurt, and some things are hard to recover from. Again, consider taking the first step towards emptying yourself of this ugly and unnecessary baggage—so that you have more room for the good stuff in life—by acknowledging the ways that you are actually better for having experienced these people or situations.

10. Stopped waiting for the perfect time.

My husband was still in graduate school when we had our daughter. Looking back, we both wanted to have a baby for years before we finally did.

I remember living in New Mexico, and a girl I worked with asked me what I was waiting for. “There’s never a perfect time. You’ll never have kids if you’re waiting for that.”

Oh, man, was she right. I’m certainly not advising that we all go out and irresponsibly bear children, but I am offering up that, for me and for my life, I’m glad that I moved past thinking that I had to meet certain criterion in order to have a happy family. (See my recent article on re-defining success.)

Life is complicated. I think it comes as no surprise that having children—or being in any type of relationship for that matter—is complex too.

I guess I can summarize this list by telling you that I’m relieved that I’ve accepted—and tamed—many of my own inner complexities before I even attempted throwing kids into this mix.

Because being a parent is its own intricate dance, and one that, as far as I’ve witnessed, never stops.

These days I still fantasize about going to events like Wanderlust—only now I dream about taking a tiny person as the best friend that I drag along.

 

Like elephant family on Facebook.

 

Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

{Photo: via Pinterest}

About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She's also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she's also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer then make sure to check out her writing, as she's finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer's first book, The Best Day of Your Life, is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and on her website.

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19 Responses to “10 Things I’m Glad I Did Before Having Kids.”

  1. denise says:

    i love the list. as a parent of almost 22 year old, 19 year old and 10 year old – yeah, highly recommend having another one with older kids in the house – two great benefits 1) birth control incentive for them 2) babysitters (just don't abuse them) – anyway i'd like to say that you do get to do some of those things again and keep doing others. specifically:
    2 – keep doing this
    3 – sorry not this one – a hangover or late night is NEVER the same…i'll let you know how it is when everyone is out of the house (although i suspect it's still not the same)
    4 – as your children go through ages and stages where you experienced anger and frustration as you were growing up there may be triggers for your old anger – like the eating disorder, you (at least I) always keep working on it
    7 – as i see my flaws coming out in my children i have to keep accepting them…
    8 – YES! i did get back to doing things late at night…those toddler/infant stages don't last forever…they don't always need just you at night…case in point – often, if my husband is working nights, and it's storming or late, i can be found knocking on doors "anyone wanna sleep with mom tonight? we can watch a movie…."
    9 – the biggest things I've had to forgive are things people have said or done to my children, or things that were threatening to my family as a whole….
    10 – never a perfect time for anything….seize the moment….

    thanks!
    namaste

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      Denise, this is the by far the best reader feedback ever. Thank you so much for taking the time to articulate your response to my article.

      I absolutely agree with you that much of my list is and will be a work in progress, including the ones that you listed.
      I think another aspect to add on to is that relationships, with children or without, continuously take work.
      I also agree that triggers definitely come into the mix after having kids. Everyone tells you that, but it becomes so real when you experience it for yourself.
      The hangover thing—yes! There are some things that just are never the same again.
      The late nights—I'll get back to you on that. My lady is closing in on 3 and I'm exhausted.
      And seize the moment—never a better truth.

      Thanks again, Denise!

  2. anna says:

    ditto!
    (mother of a 2yo)

  3. jsh822 says:

    I love this Jennifer! I enjoyed your last article sited here about re-defining success and the overall message of "live the moment, seize the day", but now putting this prior to having kids has definitely given me a new perspective, and very powerful one! I don't have kids (yet) but in hope of being a great parent and mom some day, I value your words here very much.

    Btw- perhaps one day your daughter can join you to Wanderlust! Imagine how wonderful and even more awesome that would be! xo

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      Thank you, thank you!

      Your feedback is beyond beautiful to me. To hear that you're contemplating your inner self and the person who you are, as well as who you want to become—this is the stuff that I hold dear to my heart.

      And, you know, wouldn't it be great if someday the three of us finally met up at Wanderlust?! xo

  4. Uma Simon uma simon says:

    Wonderful article. Good for you and all the hard work you've done!

  5. @delabeaux says:

    I'd like to add: watch tv, watch the news, do anything, ever. With 3 kids 5 and under 99% of my day is kids, 0.5% me time which includes restroom, shower etc, and 0.5% sleep.

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      ha! Oh, God, I relate. I honestly take showers at my yoga studio whenever I can as a treat ha!
      Bathroom…what's that like, going alone.
      As far as movies, I have to really want to watch it and expect about 4 days to get through one (because I would usually rather read anyway).
      Maybe my next article should be about why all of this is worth it!

  6. Beth says:

    Thanks for sharing! It's always a relief to hear other parents are going through what you are. And amazingly my list is very similar to yours. I too am so happy that I had a fun (read: wild) 20's exploring the world, staying out late, learning who I am so now with 2 girls 3 yrs and under I don't miss any of that. And when I do I can go out and realise that by 10:30pm I am ready for bed and come home! The anger point is for me the hardest, I too am fiery and when tired (so most of the time!) impatient. So my yoga practice helps immensely with staying in the present moment, realising my thoughts are just thoughts and that I can let them go and not react. Or another technique I've been doing is that if I can do all of the above I just yell over and again "purple elephant! purple elephant!" It not only gets out my frustrating but it stops the girls in their tracks as they are trying to work out why I am saying purple elephant! Anyway thanks for sharing.

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      haha! I'll have to keep that one in my back pocket. Purple elephant—very creative.

      I think that practicing yoga gives us a leg up as parents (or I like to think this) because we become more adaptable and able to deal with frustrating circumstances. Still, some things might always take practice and perseverance!

  7. Emma says:

    I love you. Just saying. All of your articles are fantastic. Thank you! :)

  8. Charlene says:

    A persons life is simply an unfinished book. Pages are written everyday. It is only when problems occur that we need to look back on what has been written, understand and accept what has taken place, take responsibility for our own part only ( this will become more important as your beautiful child become somebody else as a teenager) and actually make decisions about how one is going to change how they act and react from now on. Without knowing exactly why you said what you said, did what you did, didn't say or do what you should have, you don't give yourself the chance to chose to do things differently. You sound like a good mother. Just remember that giving yourself permission to be bad tempered is to give yourself another opportunity to feel badly about oneself, and children will push your buttons until you feel your choices slipping out of your grasp.

  9. Laetitia says:

    I have to respond to this:

    This list cannot be read prescriptively. I had children before I travelled, before I went to great concerts, and before I lost my self and accepted my flaws and managed my anger. I have grown and developed and changed. I have made mistakes. I travel as much as I can with my kids and see as much as I can. While I didn’t do all the typical stuff others did when they were in their 20s, I don’t feel the need to one day be a 40-year-old who acts like a teenager. Why? Because life is about accepting exactly where we are when we are there. My choices as a mother in her 30s don’t have to do with “getting it out of my system”. I know plenty of people who had wild youths and still party as parents. I didn’t have a wild adolescence and yet I don’t feel the need to rebel now either. I like a drink or two (or 3 ;)), my cherubs are old enough to make their own breakfast – so a sleep in until 8am is finally possible! They travel like troupers and I see things in a different light.

    In short, love where you are at. Make decisions looking forward, don’t regret the past or make a beacon from it either. We each have a journey that is unique.

    I know you weren’t trying to be proscriptive – as in, this is how everyone should do it – but I just wanted to highlight it is possible to do the things you think you can’t after kids, including a music festival every now and thing. Just takes better planning, and more comfortable accommodation before heading back to the cherubs ;)

    • Jennifer S. White jenniferswhite says:

      The list is called things I'm glad I did before kids. Not things everyone should do before kids. Enough said, I think.

  10. Laura Deanna says:

    I feel this article is a personal story, not something to be followed by everyone.
    Also some critique – Who calls another mother a "wanna be teenager" in their 40's since their youth got unexpectedly changed?
    How sad. Life is all about accepting where we are, flowering where we are planted, and living in the moment.
    You may want to revise it next time, from saying how you mean no offence to those who have had early children, to simply not comparing yourself to the lives of others. :)

    • Jennifer S. White jenniferswhite says:

      Hmmm. I think you've missed the point entirely.

      I never wrote anywhere about people who had "early children." That was an incorrect assumption that you've taken from this piece. In my personal experience, age is not the most important deciding factor to positively assessing and dealing with one's complexities. Rather, the desire to be honest, authentic and our best self is the largest deciding factor. There's no comparison to others made here either. I think that the comparison is yours.

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