Monday, November 9, 2009

You Wouldn't Have Believed Me

When I saw my OB at my six week check-up after Big Boy was born, I asked her why no one tells you before you have children just how hard it is.  Her response?  "You wouldn't have believed me if I had."

John J. Edwards III contributed a thought-provoking post this morning to The Juggle: "If I Had Only Learned About Work/Life Balance When I Was Younger..."  In a previous post about the Obamas' marriage, Edwards had asked his readers what trade-offs they and their spouses have made in raising their families.  (I guess Edwards and I, and much of the rest of the NYT-reading world were on the same wavelength last Monday in the wake of Jodi Kantor's article in last weekend's Times Magazine; I posted about the Obamas as well.)  Readers of the Wall Street Journal's work-family balance blog responded with a list of things they wished they had known going into starting their families.  Some highlights:
  • "You simply can’t do it all, all at the same time your spouse is doing it all. Something has to give to sustain a marriage and a reasonable quality of life." (from commenter "ellieandtheboys")
  • "As I always knew I wanted to have children, I would have chosen a different field of finance that was less demanding in terms of pressure and hours worked…I also would have had children earlier on, and would have had more children because I started earlier." (from the prolific "ellieandtheboys" once again)
  • save more, earlier (from Edwards's wife)
  • get a "better handle on the degree of selflessness required for a good relationship, a good family life and a balanced integration of those with work" (from Edwards himself)
While I certainly agree with all of these points - particularly Edwards's about the "balance" challenging one's own inherent self-centeredness - I am left wondering if there is any preparation for the fundamental changes that rock us all when we move from couplehood to parenthood. 

Or was my OB right after all?  And no matter how many books we read, or how much advice we get, there is no way to pre-chart the new course of parenthood, no way to know how you'll feel about going back to work, no means of discerning your reaction to your new status.

What do you think?  Is there anything you wish you had known about balancing your own life and your life as a parent before you became one?

1 comment:

  1. I think about this often. I think about how utterly unprepared I was (and am) for the myriad complexities of parenting. I am not sure how I feel about this. I think that I am grateful for the ignorance that carried me here. I think there is something about the not knowing, the gray terrain, that is exciting and raw. On a practical level, I do not think there is a way to prepare for the wilderness of parenting. It baffles me that there are so many parenting books out there and that they sell so well because in so many ways, these things cannot be taught. And yet, as someone who craves answers and order and pattern, I am exactly the kind of person who reads these books (some of them at least) in the hope that something about this world will become a little less opaque.

    Interesting, well-articulated post.


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