• Fri, Feb 28 - 3:00 pm ET

Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot What Did You Want To Accomplish Before Having Kids?

mom adviceAs you all know, something that I worry about in terms of my life is everything, but specifically, I have wondered about when I’ll magically know it’s the right time to have children. As you’ve all made clear, there is no magic time and I’ll never be one hundred percent ready, so I’m letting go of that one in favor of a more pragmatic approach. I’ve heard people say that they didn’t have an age in mind so much as “life place,” and that makes a lot of sense to me. But then, of course, I have no idea what that “life place” really looks like, outside of being financially stable.

I figure that most people have some sort of list of accomplishments they want to cross off before trying to have children–the ones that I hear most frequently involve traveling and career fulfillment. Those both sound like great ideas. I like traveling. Being fulfilled is great!

Obviously, I’d love career fulfillment, a steady paycheck, and to have done a bunch of traveling if at all possible. I also think that raising a dog with my partner would be a worthwhile accomplishment before making our own little spawn, and if I’m being really honest, I have a fantasy list of accomplishments. In my fantasy world, I’ve written two books, work as a writer of television shows, and am my own best friend (but also have real friends who aren’t me, because my friends are great. I just mean that I’d like myself a ton. I promise I have real friends). Those fantasy dreams sound great, but I’m okay with a much smaller approximation of that. And I’m okay with working towards those goals after I have kids, too.

Quick unrelated note: thanks for sticking with me yesterday during my unusually sad sack post about death. You all rule, and help me deal with silly stuff like having being surprised by a live birth video as easily as you help me try to find answers to the bigger questions.

But back to business. I’m curious–what did you all hope to accomplish before making the decision to have children or actually having children? Did you do it? If you didn’t cross those things off of your list, how do you have to adapt once you’re a parent?

Photo: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

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  • Kay_Sue

    I am not a good person to answer this from personal experience, buuuuut…I have a few thoughts, so I’m going to bang on my keyboard for a minute and see what turns up.

    First off, I am not a good person to answer this. I know I said it already, but I was 18, in college, and running rampant with a mental disorder I did not want to deal with, when that pee stick had far too many lines and no amount of shaking would change it. If you’d asked me before then, I would have said the usual: I wanted to be done with college, have a job, and be married.

    Now, I fucked that up. I’m okay with that–it turned out well for me. My best friend, on the other hand, is a perfect example of how you truly can control your fertility. From the time we were in high school together, she had a very specific checklist for her life–and she is NOT Type A at all, so it makes it all the more amazing to me. She checked off each one. When she met her now fiance, that plan shifted to include marriage and maybe children. She very clearly said she wanted to finish college, get a job, and get married. But the tenacity with which she has stuck to that is awe-inspiring to me. She’s altered the plan a few times–she got a different degree first, decided she didn’t like it, went back to school, got an associate’s degree for something she likes, and is now going to night school for her bachelor’s. But at the end of the day, she’s always stuck to it.

    Anyway, I guess my point is–it’s a really personal thing. It’s important, I think, to have your priorities, and to have your plan. It’s also important to stay flexible about it, and be willing to make the changes that you can.

    • Crusty Socks

      I hope you’re able to achieve your ambitions even as a mom.

    • Kay_Sue

      Oh most definitely. It just would have been easier had I done it pre-children. I checked off the college and getting married. I got a good job before I’d finished school, and as much as I may complain about the bad side, it was a job that I enjoyed. Now, I enjoy what I’m doing and I don’t mind it one bit. ;)

    • Crusty Socks

      Awesome Kay. Good on you.

      You planning on any higher degrees for later?

    • Kay_Sue

      Toying with the idea. I have more free time now, and I’m considering going back into a different degree program, anyway…my undergrad was free, because my father has a Purple Heart and one of the “perks” is that his children (or he himself) can attend any state supported school with no tuition costs. That being said, all of my friends feel student loans, and now that my time to use his Purple Heart has ended, I apparently feel the need to join them…*shakes head at her own insanity*

  • Megan Zander

    Ok, how do I saw this without sounding like a #blessed A-hole…yes, there were certain things I wanted to do before we had kids ( buy a house, pass the bar, get a job doing divorce law, travel) that we did to, and a ton of other things I thought I wanted to do that we didn’t get to ( go to Europe together, parasail, write a book, steal JT from Jessica Biel) but once my kids were here, the list of what I wanted to do changed. It’s not like they blotted out who I was or what I thought I wanted, it just shifted my perspective as to what I need to be fulfilled. There are new things that seem very important, like I really want to run a 1/2 marathon. There are things I realize I can still do, like travel with my kids when they are old enough, and there are things that I wouldn’t care if I don’t get to do them. Though I would still total nab Justin if given the chance. I think that’s why people tell you there is no ” right ” time, because no matter where you are in your bucket list having a kid changes the list. For me anyway.

    • arrow2010

      This is why increasingly Western women are delaying or not having babies at all.

    • meteor_echo

      And you’re saying it like it’s a bad thing?

  • G

    We are going at it slightly differently. I am 20, my husband is 24 and our son is one and a half. We are the clucky baby loving type so we decided to have kids first, then tackle the rest later on. We got engaged before we got pregnant and that is it. Now we are married, he works full time and will be a qualified software developer this year. I am a SAHM at the moment but I am going back to university when he’s in preschool. For me, making the decision to study/have a career after having a baby and not before was a calculated one. I knew I wanted to spend at least the first two years at home with him every day. It made no logical sense for me to get into thousands of dollars of debt if right after, we were going to have a baby. We are getting the hard (but wonderful) bit out of the way, (the teething, the tantrums, the sleep deprivation) while we are at our most energetic phase of life. We dream of travelling a lot with our son, it seems more meaningful doing it as a family.

  • EX

    I can’t say that I had a specific list of things I wanted to accomplish but I did want to be “ready” and wanted to feel like I’d have no regrets. In the end, the things I did before kids that I’m really glad I did are the following: getting my graduate degree and a good job, buying a house, marrying my husband and having time to enjoy just being married (we were married 3 years, together 7, before kids), having a dog and cats, traveling (some, there’s still plenty I’d like to do), and then, the last thing I wanted to do before trying to start a family, run a marathon. Accomplishing all of that meant waiting until I was 35 to have kids but I feel like I succeeded and have no regrets.

    ETA: just to be clear, this was NOT a list of accomplishments I had ahead of time, they kind of came up one at a time – like, “maybe I’ll be ready after I do this…” And I kept thinking of a new “this.” To be fair, I am infamous for my procrastination so maybe that’s all this was.

  • Lilly

    This is a hard one because the issue with children is there good times socially/financially/emotionally and good times biologically and sometimes these windows don’t line up.
    I would say that regarding travel do some before but it can be fun and interesting to plan travel with kids because you start to view places through a different lens.
    Financially, be stable enough that you aren’t worry about how to provide the basics (food shelter etc) but otherwise don’t worry about being able to provide the best and most luxurious stuff — kids don’t care.
    I know personally I have struggled after doing the exotic dink lifestyle for a while and having to change direction after the child was born, I think having him sooner might have help as I wouldn’t know what I am missing.

  • val97

    My personal experience will probably be of no help to you. I am proud of so many of my accomplishments post-children – degree, masters, dumping loser, finding awesome husband, career with promotions, house, and just an overall feeling of being comfortable in my own skin. I probably sound like a blowhard, but before I had kids, I was a hot mess.

    In general though, like I tell my youngest sister, financial stability – good. Relationship – make sure this is someone you want to cry about shit (sometimes literally) with. Travel – if you have a burning desire to travel, do it before kids. I love our family vacations to the beach, but they are not the same experience as backpacking around Europe.

  • Tinyfaeri

    For my husband and I, we wanted to be financially stable, with jobs that would allow us to be flexible, and we wanted to move closer to family both to take care of parents when they got older, and so our family would have more family around it. For me personally, I wanted to feel like I was grown up enough to be someone’s mother. That’s beyond subjective, and I couldn’t even begin to describe how one knows that. I can say that, oddly enough, my biological clock started to tick with a BOOM after watching Knocked Up. I think I actually felt it start, it was the weirdest thing.

    You can travel with kids – I think it’s probably easier when they’re older and can appreciate what they’re seeing, but we trucked all three of us to CA for my cousin’s wedding last summer, so it can be done at any age. My in-laws have trucked their kids to South America, various places in Europe, etc. You can get an education or continue one with kids. I got a certification for work that was kind of a big thing when the munchkin was a bit over a year old. Things are more complicated with kids, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not, but anything is still possible.

  • Lee

    I wanted to finishing painting our house before I had a baby. I didn’t expect to be knocked up 3 months after we moved in. This last thing that was painted was a wall my dad painted for me when I was giving birth. The thing is, it will get done eventually. Just like all the other plans that had to be on hold. They will still be there when I have time.

  • JustAGuest

    Tenure. There is no babymaking until I get tenure (hopefully next fall.)

  • LiteBrite

    This is a hard one for me to answer because I wasn’t even sure I wanted children for a long time. Therefore I had no preset ideas of what I wanted to do. I guess if there was anything I felt like I HAD to do before having kids it would involve being a full, emotionally mature adult. Honestly, I never felt like a grown-up until I hit my early 30s. Also, finally finding a man who was a true grownup himself helped a lot and I think contributed to my thought that “Yes, a child would be okay. I can handle this.”

    I also never had the mindset that there were things that I **had** to do prior to having kids. Travel would be a good example. I never thought “Oh, I have to travel and see everything before I have kids!”; Actually, I’m looking forward to doing more traveling with my son as he gets older because you tend to notice different things through a child’s eyes. In fact, I think having the mindset of “I have to do all these things before” contributes to this idea that parents have to lose themselves after having kids. Obviously being financially stable and emotionally mature are important qualities to have prior to having kids, but there is nothing in the books that says you can’t travel, get your PhD, or learn to play ice hockey, etc after having children. True, it might be a little harder, but it still can be done.

    I hope I’m making sense here. I’m exhausted and not expressing myself well, as one of my co-workers so kindly pointed out earlier.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    I wanted to have a career, or a job that would lead to one. Not a dead end one like I’m in now. I feel as if my career moves have all been lateral and its frustrating to not have earned much more than when I graduated from school.

    I want my son to see me confident and sure of myself. I want to have a respectable profession I feel proud of to set an example. And yea, pay off all the debt I racked up in my early twenties. I did just settle in full 2 big debts today so at least I’m getting somewhere with that.

  • Ptownsteveschick

    I have a slightly weird take on this, but I blame my parents, because the way I grew up was similar. I didn’t want to be an older mom, because for me personally, I knew I wasn’t going to have money to travel, party etc that people want to do when they are young before they have kids. I wanted a family, and knew that even if it might be a struggle, we could all grow together. So I had my daughter young (23) and our family is getting our lives started together. Then when I am 45 and free, I can do all the adventurous things that maybe I didn’t have resources to do when I was young and I can do them with the wisdom that comes with more life experience.

  • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

    Book deal.

  • Wendy

    Never a “perfect time.” You might think you can plan it out, but you never know how long it will take to get preggers and/or if you will have fertility issues, and there will ALWAYS ALWAYS be stuff you wanted to do first but didn’t. Ultimately, I agree with many posters that once you have the kids, your priorities do change. So I think the bottom line is – if you feel ready, start trying. Get out of your head and get into bed!! :)

  • CW

    Married and both of us finished with our educations. Achieved the first, but had a double-contraception failure 2 weeks after my husband got accepted to grad school. Things were REALLY tough financially when our oldest was little and I had to put her in daycare when I’d wanted to be a SAHM, but it all worked out okay in the long run.

  • J

    I’m an academic, so a tenure track job for at least one of us, lots of fun skiing, biking and traveling just the two of us, and a house with lots of room and a big backyard were all essential. We checked each off the list and the first baby came at 30. That said, I wish my husband finished his PhD too because he’s a bit behind schedule but it’s made for amazing family time when the boys are small and he’ll defend this May so it all worked out :)

  • noelle 02

    I wanted to be married for at least three years, to have teaching certification, and for my husband and I to have our Master’s degrees. My firstborn came five months before our three year anniversary, I finished my Master’s and got my teaching certificate while six months pregnant with him, and my husband got his Master’s when our little one was five months old. Now my goals are simpler: get all the laundry washed, dried, folded, and ironed in one day. Or convince the four year old that coming out of the bathroom stall in the ladies room with his pants down is NOT okay. Or stay far enough ahead of my fifteen year old little sister in chemistry that I am teaching her and not vice versa. Pre-kid goals were much more lofty somehow!

  • Justme

    I knew that I wanted to travel internationally, and my mother (who had gone straight from the her parents house to a dorm room to married to my father) wanted me to live on my own for a few years. I didn’t have a “check list” per se, I just knew that I wanted to be young, independent and have all sorts of wild adventures before settling down and getting married or starting a family. I went to Europe three times, bought a brand new car, paid my own bills and built up a fabulous closet. I enjoyed crazy nights in the big city with lots of liquor, cigarettes and men. My early twenties were absolutely amazing…but also a little lonely and riddled with terrible choices, as well.

    Now I’m 30 and living a boring life in the suburbs with my husband and daughter…but I’m totally okay with the ordinary BECAUSE I’ve lived the wild life. I look back on those years fondly and I want the same life experiences for my own daughter.

    I still have things that I want to accomplish, both as an individual and with my family, and luckily I have a husband who is supportive of me fulfilling my life with things other than being a wife and a mother.

  • Alice

    I would like to install central heating and reliable electrics in my home. You wouldn’t think it was much to ask but it’s currently all that’s stopping us. I don’t give a hoot about getting the house nice in any other way, so long as we’re warm and can use the kettle at the same time as the toaster. Oh the luxury!