We’ve all heard that experience is the best teacher. Before our first child was born, I heard over and over again from friends who already had children, “Everything changes. Your time isn’t yours anymore.” Now, I consider myself a logical and rational human being, capable of comprehending speech… but these warnings never really sunk in for me. I heard what was being said, but perhaps the cliched and repetitive nature of the delivery had me tuning out without really thinking. Now that I’ve been going through it myself, I’m finally beginning to understand what all the fuss was about.
As a new parent, the underlying rhythm of your life fundamentally changes; comfortable routines either vanish entirely or are so heavily modified that they barely resemble their former incarnations. Things start earlier, and end earlier. Your revised notion of “free time” consists solely of those moments when your baby is sleeping. And even then, you’re not always so lucky. Your willingness to commit to social gatherings starts to revolve around when events begin; if it’s after a certain time of day, it seems not even worth going because of all the frustration you’re guaranteeing yourself. Traveling even short distances becomes a much more complicated affair. Your prep time increases. Your list of standard equipment for such journeys grows exponentially. Sometimes, if the destination doesn’t have certain pieces of said equipment readily available, once again you find yourself questioning whether you should even bother going. And good luck if you ever find yourself waking up with a hangover. It doesn’t take much to realize that’s not really an option anymore.
I don’t preach this stuff to my friends who plan on becoming parents in the near future, because I remember how annoying it was to be lectured by bitter, spiteful “it’ll happen to you” types. And I am now the guy who catches heat for not hanging out as much as I used to, the same type of guy that I once ridiculed. I just assume that everyone will eventually go through what I’m writing about here, awash in the realizations I’ve mentioned. That process, that feeling, is sufficient; I don’t need to scornfully waggle my finger at anyone. I just need to worry about me, and my young family.