That whole first year of being married was lots of dinner dates, some dancing and shows in New York City, a couple of weekend trips to Washington DC, and smatterings of work travel. Nothing was too crazy and there was no bucket-listing going on. The years leading up to getting married I gifted my then boyfriend a trip for almost every birthday of his and/or every Labor or Memorial Day weekend. I was always using his birthdays as a way to get us out of our already pretty predictable, grown-up schedule. It felt way too easy to fall into a routine once we both had steady jobs and had a wedding to plan and pay for. However, hindsight is 20/20, and if I could go back and tell myself what to do differently before becoming a parent, here is the advice I would give.
Think bigger in terms of travel. I sort of had the right idea in always planning trips, but they were all pretty much within 3 hours away; Vermont, Boston, D.C., New Hampshire, Maine, and the Jersey Shore. These are all places that I can still go to as a parent and am more inclined to go to now because they are driving distance from home in CT. Take this pre-baby time to travel the broader U.S. that you’ve never seen.Try to see Europe in any possible way you can across a 3 week span. Finance it if you have to, just do it. You won’t be able to do this otherwise for probably another 15 or 20 years.
Hone in and partake in your hobbies as much as you can. I take dance class more now as a mother than I did before I became a mom. Before kids I can count on only two hands how many times I took the train into NYC to take a dance class. It wasn’t until it seemed like it was an impossibility to keep it going that I committed to going somewhat regularly and found a studio locally that I fell in love with. I signed up for a memoir writing course before kids and it was the only writing, other than journaling that I did really. I write regularly now obviously AFTER becoming a mom, but finding the time is definitely a challenge that I actively navigate each week. It can still be done, it just has to be woven into my day. If I could, I would have told my younger self to have started seriously writing much earlier.
Be adventurous. Something changes once you become a mother in terms of the risks you are willing to take. Since becoming responsible for two sons that I want to see grow and thrive (hopefully into their 50’s), I am less likely to get on that roller coaster, go down that steep water slide, scuba dive, ride that giant ferris wheel, ski on a black diamond, or just take risks with my life in general. Prior to having kids, there isn’t this voice telling you to preserve your life or that “you only live once” as it relates to life-threatening activities. You’re not aware when you’re younger that the feeling of invincibility goes away after birthing a child.
Don’t wrack up credit card debt on dumb crap. I’m talking about outfits that you don’t need that add up; accessories -hats, purses, jewelry, belts. Don’t be Gemma the Generous. Buying a round of shots for ten people here and there is completely fine if you can truly afford to. I used to love to do this because it felt so good-but ouch- it hurt my pocketbook the next day! Going out to eat way too much can add up really fast. It would have been so much smarter had I figured out how to actually cook some food. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I exercised any effort into figuring out how to cook meals. This skill could have saved me so much money before kids. We seriously went out to eat WAY too much.
Try your hand at all things that interest you. When I think back to what I would do on the weekends before kids, I was kind of one dimensional. The most interesting and common activity I engaged in was going out with friends. This is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy myself in doing so! But we are all creatures of habit, and it became a big part of how I had fun and let loose after the work week. Looking back on that time, there are so many cool things I could have initiated with my friends instead of sitting and chatting over a glass of wine. We do plenty of that now! Back then, we could have tried anything without having to calculate and plan for a sitter.Trapeze classes, paint and sips, learning how to play the guitar, taking language courses, partaking in a cooking class, going white water rafting,more karaoke nights in the city, more nights in the city actually experiencing its culture, scavenger hunts, running in more 5Ks, joining a writing club, etc. The opportunities are endless. We can still do these things as parents-of course- it’s just you have to get a babysitter, ask your spouse to pinch hit, or miss out on time with your kids- all things that you have to put a decent amount of thought and planning into.
Take a babymoon. I was fortunate to only feel sick off and on for the first month or so of my first pregnancy. Beyond that, I felt like a million bucks and had more energy than I knew what to do with. For my husband’s 30th, I had surprised him with a trip to Paris-because why not? Since he’s 4 years older, he knew well in advance that for my 30th I wanted to do an adventurous trip as well. The plan was to rent a convertible and drive up the coast of California. My due date was right around my actual 30th birthday, so I let my husband know we should take the trip a month or two months beforehand. In the end, it turned out he had decided not to go through with planning the trip. He actually thought he was doing me a favor. Because I was pregnant, he assumed I would be uncomfortable driving around in the heat for long stretches of time. I was NOT happy, but still had hope since he promised we’d do the trip the following year. However, the more I thought about that, the more I disliked the idea. How would I want to leave my one year old? Who would we leave him or her with? Both our families were not close in proximity to us, and there was no guarantee our moms would be able to get off of work to stay and help out. So we waited until the next year and, luckily, my mother-in-law was able to help us out. BUT, it was just as I had suspected; we couldn’t relax. We worried the whole time, missed our one year old son like crazy, and felt like we didn’t enjoy the trip in the same way we would have pre-parenthood. To make matters worse, my son was terrified and would not go near me for the entire first day after we returned. He actually cried hysterically when I attempted to come near him. It is hugely different to take a five day trip before actually having a child. Take my advice on this and take the BABYMOON.
I’m really not one for regrets, so I don’t look at these suggestions and feel wistful or sad. It’s simply stuff I’ve learned along the way that could help someone. There was no way for me to know these things until the wisdom of parenthood was bestowed upon me. If it can help someone in their decision making prior to starting a family of their own, then I’ve done my job. We only get one life; paying helpful information forward is one of the bests gifts one can give in my opinion. Go forth and conquer!
It’s time for me to go to bed now so I can be a decent mom tomorrow.