This weekend, thanks to the wonderful efforts of grandma and grandpa, we had a “date night” out on the town… dinner at our favorite restaurant, followed by dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. These nights are beyond rare, and we’ve learned to cherish them. We miss the kids, of course, and we worry on the behalf of the poor souls who offered to watch them, but we enjoy ourselves.
By happenstance, we ran into a co-worker of mine. What are the odds? She’s young and recently married (no kids); she came over to introduce her husband. She was surprised to bump into us. “I was just telling my husband,” she said, and her eyes widened. “They have three kids!” Yep, that’s us. I admitted that it was our first night out in a long, long time. We couldn’t remember how long.
“So what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t go home now,” her husband said. “We should go out and enjoy life!” Yes, I told him. And here are ten things you should try to enjoy while you can.
The first few months after bringing your baby home will teach you the true meaning of chronic sleep deprivation. Newborns eat every 2-4 hours, day and night, 7 days a week. Even if you’re taking turns, that’s somewhere between 3 and 7 hours off at a time.
Some people can survive on relatively little sleep. Some of us, however, need a certain amount of REM sleep each night to function the next day. If you’re in this category, you may spend a few months as a walking zombie.
2. A Clean House
If there’s one way that having a baby will visibly impact your life, it’s inside your home. The messes in store for you are probably beyond what you can imagine right now. It tends to happen in a few stages:
- Baby gear takes over. Unless you had a nice, big empty house when you decided to start having kids, space is going to be a problem. Baby gear — the furniture, swings, bouncers, strollers, etc. — hogs space. Your possessions and furnishings will be pushed out of the way.
- You have no time to clean. You have a new full-time job (possibly your second one): taking care of a baby. Sure, they sleep a lot, but that’s usually when you’ll first have the chance to sleep or you know, shower, so those things will come first.
- The world’s most creative mess-maker has arrived. Babies invent new ways to make messes. They spit up. The shred things. They throw food. Anything you clean up, stack, or organize, it will be their goal to dismantle. Once they outnumber you, the hope for a clean house becomes even more bleak.
If you think it’s bad now, just wait until they start accumulating toys.
3. The Movie Theatre.
In the four years that have passed since our first was born, I think we’ve seen a total of 2 movies in the theatre. It’s one of those things that we loved to do BC (before children), but didn’t appreciate enough. Once the baby comes, if you want to see a movie in the movie theatre, there’s one of two options. You can wait until he or she is a little older, and go to a children’s movie, or you can get a babysitter and go out.
The problem is that, when you think about it, by the time you buy the tickets, find a seat, watch the commercials (when did they start doing those, anyway?) and watch the movie, we’re talking about a 3-4 hour process. That’s a big chunk of babysitting time!
Look on the bright side: there’s always Netflix.
We have some friends who are taking a trip to England, even though she’s due in about four months. They’re braver than we are! Forget traveling while pregnant, going anywhere with a baby in tow increases the difficulty, cost, and risk. It’s only one tiny additional person, but all of these things increase about three-fold. The baby will take the lion’s share of your luggage. He or she will change your room requirements, your mode of transport, everything.
The good news is that children under 2 can fly free. The bad news is that they have to sit on your lap. Can you keep your baby happy, fed, clean, and quiet in a cramped space amongst strangers at 30,000 feet? Now that’s a parenting challenge.
You can, and should, show the world to your children. You should take them to Disney and that sort of thing. But there’s plenty of time ahead for that, so don’t rush it!
5. Your Fancy Car
It’s said you can tell a lot about someone by the car they drive. When you have a baby, a slow war of attrition begins. First, the car seat base establishes a beachhead in your backseat. Then the diaper bag moves in. Next thing you know, there’s a stroller in the trunk, crumbs on the floor, baby bottles the cupholders, and emergency baby snacks stuffed into every compartment.
Your cool, clean, young-professional-adult car has had its time. Now that you’re a parent, you might as well accept it and get that “Baby on Board” sticker for the window. Once you have a couple of kids, and realize how much crap you have to lug around for them, you’ll suddenly realize that a minivan isn’t that bad of an idea.
Trust me, it’s coming.
6. Your Hobbies
Young, vibrant couples without kids have some of the most fascinating hobbies. They host murder-mystery dinners, they learn to sail, they join adult kickball leagues or take salsa-dancing classes. Regrettably, most of these activities will be curtailed (if not canceled outright) when the baby comes. Babies get up early and go to bed early. They require, you know, supervision.
It’s not to say that you must give up all of your hobbies! You simply might have to adjust for having less time, money, and energy to devote to them. Besides, having a baby in the house will give you all kinds of new hobbies to enjoy.
8. Dreams of Being A Secret Agent
Have you ever noticed that most spies and secret agents — and I’m relying completely on Hollywood for my experience here — don’t have families? I don’t think this is a coincidence. Having a family (especially a child) makes you vulnerable. If the bad guys get a hold of your child, there’s nothing you won’t do to get him back. Nuclear launch codes? Sure, here you go. Just give me my baby back!
Not to mention the fact that your spouse won’t be too thrilled with you traveling to Hong Kong and Beirut and other exotic locales while they’re at home feeding the baby every three hours!
7. Quiet Meals
If there’s one time that will change drastically when you have a baby in your life, it’s meal time. This is one of the things we have come to appreciate most about our date nights. Meals out at restaurants are quite a different experience:
- You have to pick a family-friendly restaurant. Usually you can judge this by how accommodating the host/hostess staff is when you come in with a giant stroller and ask where you can put it.
- The first thing you do when you sit down isn’t ordering drinks: it’s finding, sanitizing, and securing your baby in a high chair.
- You’ll probably be the center of attention, since your table now features a cute baby, and this might be a new experience for you.
- It’s very possible your meal will be quickly ordered, eaten in a hurry, and not even remembered because you’re so buy keeping the little one happy.
9. Your Carefree Existence
You may look back on your life BC and think about how easy you had it. What a simple, carefree life you lived! Having a baby complicates many things, but it sort of simplifies your point of view. That sweet little baby is now the most important thing in your life. In time, you’ll soon be shaping your whole world around him or her. Almost everything you do, say, spend, and think about will be baby-related.
If you have friends without children, this might drive them a little crazy. But that’s OK. They’ll understand when they have kids of their own.
When the Baby Comes
When your baby does come, and so many of the things you enjoy must be curtailed, it’ll take a little adjustment. But I doubt you’ll have any regrets. We wouldn’t trade our little ones for anything!