Ask the Mamas: Taking the Plunge
Each week we will ask our mamas a question from our readers that pertains to babies, toddlers, or parenting. Make sure to check back each Tuesday to see their responses!
Do you have a question you’d like to ask the mamas? If so, send us an email with your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MSW reader Joanna F. asks:
“I am not a mother yet. Growing up, I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother. I’m 32 and was recently married in April. Considering my age, I feel some pressure to start a family soon. After babysitting some bratty nieces recently, I’ve had a change of opinion. I’m in no rush at all to start a family and I am ambivalent. Lately I can only see the negative side to having children— they’re expensive, your time is not your own, etc. I’m having trouble seeing the positive side. I know that I can’t really evaluate many of the positives until I actually have kids— like the intense joy and love. So my question is, have any of you mamas had a similar experience where you weren’t sure you wanted kids or were ambivalent? Can you please share your story with me? I would love some good words from someone who understands how I am feeling.”
The best part about how you are feeling is: it’s completely normal! I think we all have a bit of that before really deciding to take that “plunge” into the world of motherhood, because lets face it, everything changes! I was very much like you in knowing that I wanted to have a family when I “grew up,” and that I wanted kids to be a part of that. In my experience, I have had my run-ins with some children that were, lets say, less than angelic, and it made me question my whole thought on ever having kids. How could I get up every two hours? How could I not pick up and go out when I wanted? How could I watch my body change like that? These were all struggles.
One day, before ever getting pregnant, I was with a friend who has a son. I hung out with them all day and her son was an angel. I mean, he had his moments, but overall he was just so sweet. He was smart, funny, cute, playful and everything in between. I told her about my “fear” about having a child, even though I wanted one so, so badly. She just said to me, which to this day is still one of the best pieces of mama advice I’ve ever received, “all kids are different. My son may be amazing, but my next one might be a terror. So don’t worry about other kids, because your baby could be totally different.” It was that moment where the light really turned on for me.
All kids are different. No child is the same. Trust in that and everything will fall into place. I now have the most unreal, fun, joyful, sassy little girl and I’ll tell you, she sure IS different than any other kid I know! And that’s all because she’s my baby, and she’s the most special little thing around, even when she is a terror!
I wish you luck in your decision! The joy of a child of your own is truly unrivaled. ~Sarah H.
I’m the youngest in my extended family and had no experience dealing with kids growing up. I was never ashamed to admit that I disliked kids. I disliked kids with a perpetual runny nose, drooling toddlers and crying babies. The weird thing was, I always trusted that I’d love my kids, although I could not visualize it. I knew from observing parents and how much they loved their annoying kids that it’s something most of us are hard wired for. We love unconditionally anything that comes out of our bellies, just like how we love ourselves.
Although I didn’t like kids, I wanted to have my own, not out of love, but simply because I knew I’d probably regret not having kids when I’m older – when I can no longer reproduce. I’ve always been a practical person, and I was confident I’d be an alright parent, just like 90% of parents out there.
Now that I have a kid and have another one on the way I can confidently tell you that, unless you’re one of those one-in-a-million that are wired differently, you’ll love your child. It might not happen the minute you find out you’re pregnant, it might not happen the first time you meet your wrinkly screaming newborn covered in gunk, but it’ll happen. When it hits you, you realize that all the joy you experienced in your “previous” life means so little. Birthdays, engagement, graduation, even weddings, they are like little twinkly stars next to the high noon sun.
It sounds like you wanted to be a mama until your recent babysitting experience. I can’t put it in words, but I’d like to borrow my favorite article on parenthood, and explain to you why you can only see negative sides of child rearing after your babysitting experience. The author (a dad) drew a graph explaining parenthood: it’s 49% “incredible pain in the ass” and 51% “most sublime joy you’ve ever felt”, and it’s that 1% that makes all the difference. Unless you’re the parent, you really only experience 49% of the parenthood, and maybe 5-10% of the sublime joy side. For an outsider, parenthood is 90% of work and 10% of fun, and the fun part doesn’t beat a good two-hour movie on a Saturday afternoon. So of course you have trouble seeing the point. There’s something magical about becoming a parent that opens the hidden door for you to experience the sublime joy. I don’t know what it is, but most parents will nod in agreement that the magic exists.
Yes, you’ll give up backpacking to exotic places, you’ll give up going to the movie theater every week, and you’ll give up bar-hopping on weekends. But those things are not a big deal anymore after you have kids. You happily give them up to trade for nights cuddling with your child. You’ll miss the freedom occasionally, but that’s what babysitters and relatives are for. You can send your kids away for a few hours or a few days and do things when you really want to, but rest assured you’ll want to spend time with your own (bratty) children most of the time, voluntarily and happily. ~Rebecca S.
I distinctly remember these exact feelings. I had been suffering from some major baby fever and was visiting a friend who’s son was 15 months old at the time. One morning I was woken up by that adorable baby just before 6 a.m. on a Sunday. My very first thought that morning was, “I’m not ready to give up sleeping in.” Who’d have thought that something so trivial would cure my baby fever for quite a while? Probably much in the way your bratty nieces just did for you. Funny enough, I was blessed with a son who DOES sleep in.
It is true that no babies are the same. And you will find your own children not nearly as annoying as your nieces. It doesn’t help that when other parents talk about becoming parents for the first time, they always seem to dwell on the negative parts… sleep deprivation, losing yourself and your freedom, how your body changes, temper tantrums, and they’re expensive! I don’t really care that I have only been to the movies twice in the last three years or that I sometimes don’t get to shower every day. If these things were really THAT bad, parents wouldn’t be having more children. And deep down inside, I believe they simply can’t put into words the sheer joy that having children brings to them.
As much as it’s sometimes difficult for me to admit, I’m a firm believer that it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. We got pregnant very quickly with our son when I expected it to take a little time. I often questioned whether we were really ready for this whole parenthood thing. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone is fully prepared to become a parent for the first time and there’s no such thing as the “perfect” time to start a family. There’s always another trip you want to take first, a credit card you want to pay off, or a project you want to finish first.
Try your best to tune out the pressure you’re feeling to get started right away and enjoy your brand new marriage. Listen deep down inside and find your mama instinct. She’s quiet right now (and probably still irritated with your nieces). But she will let you know when the time is right. And I can attest to the fact that you are going to make an amazing mama. ~Alex T.
My answer will vary from the ladies before me because I didn’t plan to get pregnant when I did. In fact I took a pregnancy test to prove to my friend that I WAS NOT pregnant.
It was a very tough time in my life and there were many times that I questioned if I could actually do it. As my baby started growing in my belly and moving around, I knew that she was my baby. It wasn’t an easy road but that little girl saved my life. ~Miriam R.
I wont lie, like you I knew I always wanted kids… but I did go through times where I would have cold feet and uneasiness with the thought of having a human being under my constant care. I couldn’t “give him back,” I would never be able to take a break, or just go out on a whim to dinner with my hubby or friends… I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.
I had worked in day care for eight years prior to getting married, and thinking about maybe having babies and with the knowledge of how annoying and obnoxious other people’s children can be, I was nervous. However, I will say with 100% certainty, when it is your own child, it IS NOT THE SAME. I used to constantly worry about having to work all day and then go home and take care of a screaming baby. Before he was actually here, I was kind of annoyed at the thought of having to wake up multiple times a night to feed my child; I still wanted my time to be mine. However, once that baby came, and he was mine to take care of and I saw just how much he depended on me and needed me, these things were hardly a chore. In fact, I LOVED being up at 3 a.m. and seeing his little “gas” smiles in between feedings. And now my favorite time of day is at home after work playing with my little guy.
Another thing for me was that I never really thought I would have that overwhelming love and devotion to my child that so many mamas talk about. I always knew I would love him but I honestly worried that I wouldn’t feel the same way so many amazing mamas feel about their child. It took a few weeks, but that little boy stole my entire being… I love that kid with everything I have inside of myself, and as cliche as this sounds, “I never knew there could be a love like this”.
Regardless of what you decide, just try to not pressure yourself one way or another… when the time is right, I am sure you will live up to your expectations. Good Luck! ~Melissa T.
We honestly decided to start a family simply because we felt we were ready. We did not analyze if we made enough money or stress about other things, we wanted a child and so we started trying. I think things like money just seem to work themselves out. The decision to not have children could be something one could really look back on and regret. But the decision to have children will NEVER be regretted. You will always be thankful that special little someone is in your life. Babysitting a bratty niece is completely different than being with your own child who you adore no matter what. Yes, they can drive you insane but you are in love with them regardless. A child can make things harder, but it is worth every minute. ~Lindsay P.
Dealing with a bratty niece while babysitting is not the same as having your own children. When it’s your own child, Mother Nature makes sure you have this, “I would step in front of a bus for you,” kind of love. It’s amazing. When that baby is placed on your chest after delivery, most women feel this all-encompassing love. I had my kids young. I was 22 when I had my first daughter. I was in the height of the most selfish period in my life. But after she was born, everything became about her, and not in a bad way. I take so much joy and pride in her. My girls have completed my life in ways I could never comprehend. I still go out with friends occasionally and enjoy all the other things I used to do. I just do them with my girls at my side. ~Bonnie N.
I knew I wanted kids 100%, we were trying to get pregnant, and still, when I saw that positive test my first thought was, “Oh my God, what have I done?!” It hit me all at once what I was giving up, that I had made a decision that would drastically change my life and there was no going back no matter what.
All I can say is, once he was here it never once occurred to me to regret my decision because of the things I’ve had to give up. That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes think longingly for the days when I was carefree and had no real obligations, but it’s more like I think of those days and then I look at my beautiful baby and think, “Nah… this is so worth it.”
Don’t be ashamed of your cold feet. It’s a huge commitment and a monumental change that you are making. Apprehension is appropriate, it will make you a better and more aware parent. Don’t let it hold you back though… like everything else that comes along with raising a child, getting pregnant is the first in a very long line of flying leaps into the unknown. Be brave. ~Kate D.
I grew up babysitting LOTS of kids, and even though they had their bratty moments, I knew I couldn’t wait to have kids of my own someday. Though I never questioned whether I wanted to have children of my own, I can tell you I wasn’t prepared for certain things after having him. I knew I wanted to be a mama and couldn’t wait for that time, but when he finally came along, I never imagined I would feel such intense feelings of love that I do! Sure, he has changed our lives drastically and we can’t go out at the drop of a dime anymore, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. My child has brought so much light to my life and I smile every time I see him and can’t stop kissing him. Man — its crazy! I can’t even explain it. I just love that kid so much and wish every woman in the world could experience the joys of being a mama. It’s truly the greatest blessing! ~Heidi C.
I was positive I wanted kids. And I’ve always known I wanted kids young too — we started trying for a baby soon after we got married. But like some mamas before me said, I too was scared out of my mind when I first got my positive pregnancy test.
My life is definitely different now that we have a baby, very different, but in a way that I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. My baby brings me so much happiness, so much joy, she is quite literally the light of my life. It is absolutely, 100% worth every moment.
Your kid *will* have their bratty moments, and your kid *will* throw fits, and at times will not be a perfect kid. But you’ll get through it and love them all the more for it. And you know what? You’ll know just how to handle the situation. If the time is right for you, go for it. You’ll be a great mama. ~Cassie W.
I too was completely ambivalent. I saw how frazzled all my friends were and how “bratty” their children were. My husband was very persistent, and although I did want a child, I really just wanted more dogs. I told myself, he (my dog) loves me unconditionally, he’s grateful for everything I give him, and best of all, he can’t talk back to me. But we did in fact take the plunge.
I’m going to go ahead and admit to you that I did not get that “immense joy and love” when I had my daughter, and I’m still having a hard time accepting that, but she is nothing like all the nightmares I envisioned. She really is a dream and I do love her very much and can’t imagine my life without her. It just isn’t the way I always pictured it.
Somehow, the finances just work. We can’t go out as often, not only because we can’t afford it, but because we don’t always have a sitter. We would take her but she goes to bed so early. The fact that “time is not your own” is definitely hard, but you adjust. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a husband, friend or family member who can help give you some time to yourself which I feel is very important. I think the bottom line is no one can tell you how your child is going to be, and I truly believe they are born with their personality. Your experience will be your own. It will be fun, it will be hard, but it will be worth it. ~Debbie F.
Before I met my husband, I never thought I’d be ready for children. I worked with children as a dance teacher, and I loved it, but I sometimes thought that would be the extent of it. I kind of expected to have children of my own in the far off future, but never really imagined it ever happening (if that makes sense).
Shortly after my husband and I started dating, though, we found out I was pregnant. I had just turned 21 and he was 24. We both felt we weren’t ready, but we didn’t have much of a choice. We miscarried. It was hard on us, but we realized that God had his reasons for the way things turned out. After that, we decided it was time to grow up and that kids would eventually be a part of our future. We married a little more than a year later. We didn’t start trying for children, but instead believed that children would come when God felt we were ready.
After about two years, our daughter was born. All throughout the pregnancy, we questioned if we were ready. We spent all that time worrying, but it was our first time around. It’s normal to feel that you’re not ready, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not. You learn as you go, and adapt with time. I was worried about having to “grow up” and take on a new responsibility, but I also knew everything would be fine and that it would be well worth it.
That day I saw my baby girl for the first time, everything finally fell into place. I stopped questioning if I was ready, and just knew that I was. I knew I wouldn’t want life any other way, and she truly is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It completely melts my heart when she comes up to give me a hug or kiss out of nowhere, or says, “Love you!” or when she rubs my arm or holds my hand while cuddling and just looks at me with all of the love in the world. She “mothers” her baby doll and takes her stuffed puppy with her everywhere, treating them so gentle as if they’re real. She’ll tickle daddy’s toes on command and go crazy dancing whenever she hears music. Sure, sometimes she isn’t always on her best behavior, but the sweet, fun side of her overshadows those times.
I went from thinking I’d never get married or have children to not being able to imagine my life any other way. You never know how great it is until you experience it first-hand. ~Sam A.
The advice given here is solely based on our individual experiences and in no way is it going to be perfect for every mama, every baby, and every situation. None of us are medical doctors. If you have a question regarding a medical topic we can give our opinions, but please consult with your doctor. We are not liable or responsible for the results of following any specific advice in any given situation.