To Young Parents
As our older child surpassed a decade of existence and my sister recently began her adventure as a parent, I thought it might be good to impart some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the past 10 years. Namely two areas that most parenting advice sources don’t talk about. Yourself and your partner.
From what I’ve seen of different fellow parents over the years, there are two extremes. One extreme are the parents whose sole reason for being is the child or children. The other extreme are parents who may be in denial and hope to live their life like nothing has changed or to prove to others that their life won’t change. As with everything, most parents fall somewhere in between, but many gravitate toward one or the other. For the first extreme, I would just suggest to keep other interests or activities in your life outside of your kid(s). Trust me that it will keep you sane after that new baby smell wears off. Your life will change dramatically, but it doesn’t have to be completely. But of course there is the other extreme where people go about globetrotting like they just have another member of their travel group or continue to go out clubbing every weekend. It is almost as if they are in denial that they are a parent. My advice to that type of parent is that the more intense part of being a parent doesn’t last as long as you will see later on. Before you know it, they will spend more time playing with friends until they don’t want to be seen with you in public. Spend time with your kids while you can. It’s all about balance.
One surprising observation that I’ve seen over the past 10 years is how many of parents of my child’s friends are divorced. One even divorced before the kids first birthday. It surprises me, but at the same time does not surprise me, that it happens when the kids are so young. Having young kids can be incredibly stressful. If a relationship is not very solid or is not well suited for adversity, they will likely have difficulty and may even break-up during those early years. In relation to the paragraph above, I’ve seen couples where one parent completely embraces parenthood, while the other feels life should not change whatsoever. Obviously this creates extreme friction. But even if both parents embrace parenthood, since we all have different backgrounds and likely different views on raising children, these differing views can cause friction. Communication is the key to pretty much everything in society and of course it is essential for an intimate relationship. Although emotions and stress run high, an effort needs to be made to communicate about what kind of parents you will be and how you tackle different problems. But in order to keep the relationship healthy, you need both time together away from the kid(s) and time alone. You must work in a way to achieve those on a regular basis. It is not easy unless you have a reliable babysitter.
Early parenthood is difficult, but you should come out of it a better person and better couple. As for myself and my wife we had some pretty difficult and dark times. But it forced me out of my comfort zone and I’ve become a better father and a better person because of it. I suppose it depends on what you view as easy, but I’ve found that parenthood has gotten easier as the kids have gotten older.
Best of luck.