When I was a kid I thought that I would be married and have kids before I was 30, because that was old, right? I never imagined that in my circle of close friends, that at 33 years old, I would be the first one to have kids.
I recently tried to articulate this double-edged sword and found that my list of pros and cons for being the first one in your social circle with kids is the same list.
You are a trailblazer
You are the first one. This means no unsolicited parenting advice from friends, no older kids teaching your kids things that you don’t want them to learn, and no ridiculous, competitive rivalries with friends’ children. This also means that, let’s face it, you’re rookies: you don’t know what you’re doing and no one can give you advice because they don’t know either.
Those annoying kids are YOUR annoying kids
You have to recognize that not everyone is going to love the idea of hanging out with your kids. As lovely as they are, your kids and their colic-ridden screams can be annoying to you — imagine how it sounds to an outsider with no paternal bond to your child. Many people will be helpful and understanding, other people just aren’t interested in hanging out with your kids and that’s okay… although it does mean that you’ll probably see less of them. That’s a choice that you’ll both make, and sometimes it will suck, but that’s okay, too.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Getting away from my kids makes me like them and appreciate them more. When you’re out solo you can connect with your partner and friends as adults away from parenthood. We try to avoid talking about the kids while out without them, unless we’re asked. It’s good to get out and to be reminded that you like your kids, but also that you exist in a world outside of parenthood. It’s also a wonderful, albeit sometimes expensive, way to show your partner and friends that they are important even though you now have many other competing priorities.
You will become public domain
I didn’t realize the impact of this one until I became pregnant and someone started picking on me because I was pregnant. This hurt, but it also prepared me for the bad touch (people touching my belly without asking), comments in a coffee house line up while I got my small coffee, dirty looks for being a pregnant woman in a bar, or people pointing out to others how giant I had gotten in my pregnancy. The public nature of being a parent doesn’t stop when your kids are born — it just expands, and is now directed at you AND your child(ren). For as many people who tell you that it’s too cold to have your children outside there are five who congratulate you, tell you how lovely your child is, pick up a stray sock for you and remind you how great having kids is.
People will look at you differently (and in turn you’ll look at yourself differently)
Maybe it’s the fact that I have baby spit up on my shoulder or in my hair at least 40% of the time, or maybe it’s that I’m a mom now and have become somewhat androgynous, but compliments nowadays are more along the lines of, “I don’t know how you do it” and not, “You look great/hot” or “I like your shirt.” When my nagging teenage inner monologue tells me that people just won’t see me that way any more. I can’t say it doesn’t sting a little bit, but the other day someone told me that they admire the way that Chris and I “do” parenthood, and that made me happier than any other random compliment about my shirt.
Maybe I’m growing up… or maybe I’m just accepting that most of that baby vomit in my hair will eventually brush out.
(This post originally published on Offbeat Families.)