Today I met with a friend who has no children for a coffee. It is important to mention that he has no children for a few reasons. The main being that I appreciate friends who have no children and still want to hang out with me. Not because I am suddenly not interesting enough or talk exclusively about diapers (do I? tell me if I do), but because it requires a lot of effort, energy and understanding on the part of the friend. I know because I was that friend.
It is not uncommon in Russia to get married and have kids in your early twenties. I watched a few of my girlfriends become mothers while I was changing jobs and countries every half a year. I didn’t get upset if they didn’t call me — I always called first. I would tag along to a playground or a class at preschool or stay at my friend’s place the whole day, because meeting up for cocktails was not an option anymore.
It didn’t bother me, truly. I just accepted the new rules of the game. The only annoying thing was that I could never have an uninterrupted conversation with my friend for longer than 5 minutes.
Now that I have a kid, it is me who gets distracted, asks “where were we?” every few minutes, and has to suddenly leave without saying proper goodbye. Such was the case when I met Seb for coffee.
Between making sure Kroshka doesn’t run to the road or grab something of value at the flea market where we met, I said: “You probably look at us and think: I never ever want to have kids of my own!”
“I am not sure I am cut out for that”, he replied.
“I don’t think anyone is cut out for that”, was my immediate answer.
Either no-one is cut out for that or everyone is, because I don’t think any one of us is ready for what’s coming, but then we somehow do it anyway.
I once spent a whole day with my friend who looks after two kids at home. I arrived at 9 am and left at 6 pm. The one thing I remember most distinctly is that she had to come up with fun activities for her four-year-old every fifteen minutes of the day, because that’s how long kids hold their attention. In the evening, I left to see a play at a theatre. She stayed to feed the kids dinner and tuck them in bed. “I could never do that!”, I thought.
I felt bad for my other friend who had to walk after her 2-year-old around the restaurant instead of enjoying a meal with the girls, because 2-year-olds are not particularly fond of sitting still and listening to adults blabber. “Nope”, I thought, “I love to eat my food in peace.”
Most frustratingly, I watched my friends stop traveling almost entirely after having kids. “Oh no no no no no! When I have kids, I am going to travel. I am so going to travel!” While the everyday routine of staying home and not being able to enjoy dinner felt unbearable, I was sure I was cut out to spend twelve hours on a plane with a screaming baby, if I had to. Ha. Ha-ha.
We have a lot of preconceived ideas of what we will look like as parents, what we are able of, what we will tolerate and what we will never allow. But as soon as the baby comes you learn that you somehow both under- and overestimated yourself.
Right after disembarking from the plane on my first flight with Kroshka — two hours, no connections — I swore I’d never do it again. I had to go back home, however, so I did. It was even worse.
I never thought I’d be the kind of mother who gives her child a croissant just to keep him in the stroller, and yet here we are — the stroller forever covered in crumbs.
But I also never imagined that I would be able to stay up and rock my baby to sleep for 10 straight hours, while both of us had fever, because every time I tried to sit — or, God forbid, lie down — he’d cry. At 8 pm that day, I didn’t believe I’d get through the night. At midnight, I thought my legs would give in. At 6 am, I gave Kroshka to his dad, collapsed on the bed and fell asleep, knowing that that was the roughest night of my entire life and I made it.
I didn’t know I had it in me to cook a healthy meal from scratch, observe my son smear the food on the table, the floor and himself (not a single spoon making it to his mouth), clean everything up and start cooking the next meal only a few hours later. I won’t say I do it with a smile on my face, but the fact that I don’t smash the plate on the wall after this exercise in futility is astonishing.
No-one is cut out to be a parent, just like no-one is truly ready to become one. If we knew for sure what’s waiting for us on the other side, we would cease to exist as a species.
No amount of watching your friends take care of their kids will give you a real idea of what you’d be like as a parent. Turned out, I really don’t mind staying home and playing a new game with my son every 15 minutes. Actually, every 5, as he’s not yet two and his attention span is even shorter.
I am even ok with not traveling as much as I used to — and this comes from a travel blogger! Gasp!
I learned, however, that if a certain someone doesn’t let me put his shoes on after 5 tries, a song, a dance, and a role play in which “look! a bear puts his shoes on, too!”, the shoes might fly into the wall. See? I thought it would be the plate with untouched food, but it’s the shoes that do it for me. You’ll never know.
this sound so much like me yulia…my 18 months daughter is having a meltdown in the other room as I hide in my room and read this post. talk about being a mother 😀
Sending you lots of love, Roli! You will get through it, like you have before, like you will so many more times! Hugs, Yulia
Hi! Not sure if you remember me – I was following you when we both lived in Austin (and then turned out also both lived in New England before that, and I’m back in Boston now). We chatted on Instagram a few times. Anyways, I had a son last year (found out I was pregnant the week Boston went into lockdown in March of 2020 yay! haha) and he’s turning 1 tomorrow! This really resonates on so many levels:
1) Like you said, nothing can prepare for what’s to come. I had no clue. First 6 months were SO HARD. But I also agree that I underestimated myself, especially how patient I would be. I am NOT a patient person. But I was so proud at how patient I was through all the tears and screaming and sleepless nights. I also expected that I would be much more “annoyed” (for lack of better word) with motherhood. I was never a kid person, I was never sure if I wanted my own kids. My husband and I were married for 11 years before we finally took this step. And I was really surprised at how much joy it brings me, even though it is so, so hard at times.
2) I definitely fed my 10 month old a pastry (strategically very, very slowly) so I could could enjoy my coffee and try to actually have a conversation with another mom I just met, whose daughter, of course, was peacefully sitting in her stroller while my son was screaming his head off trying to get out of his stroller and I knew that feeding him is the only way to keep him contained for just a few minutes.
3) I LOVE traveling. Before having my son I also thought “we’ll have to make sure he fits into our lifestyle, we can’t just stop living our life” thinking we’ll just keep traveling the way we did and do all the things that we did. L O L. In reality just getting out of the house for a walk in those first 6 months felt like a huge victory (it was winter which made it so much more difficult). So far we did one roundtrip flight (also 2.5 hrs direct each way) and it was like wrangling an alligator non stop for 2.5 hours. And we had 3 adults to alternate entertaining him. There was also a 7 hr drive from Boston to NJ and let’s just say it wasn’t all that fun. At this point I do not know when I’ll muster up the energy to fly home Ukraine. Though one thing I try to keep in mind that even though traveling itself sucked, the trip itself was definitely worth it.
Of course, I remember our conversation, so many coincidences! What a twist of life – you are back in Boston again! I hope the winter is not too harsh. I am in Sri Lanka right now, enjoying the sun and ocean for a few more days, until we have to go back to Hamburg.
First of all, congratulations on being a mama for one whole year, that’s huge! Now that I have a baby, I strongly feel that your baby’s birthday is your celebration first and foremost, at least in those first several years that are so integral and change you so much. My baby just turned two and I think it does get a bit easier. A whole new set of challenges arise, but at least you get more uninterrupted sleep 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your story. The part about wrangling an alligator made me laugh out loud 😀 I think traveling with a baby in general was the part of motherhood that no-one prepared me for. I followed so many family blogs and mama accounts on Instagram, watched them fly half way across the world with 3 kids, and thought: “I can do that! That will be me!” How frustrating! As you said, getting out of the house to do groceries is a journey in and of itself that requires about the same amount of energy as a red-eye flight with two connections.
We flew 12 hours to Sri Lanka but, although it was tough, seeing the family after almost two years was all worth it. So I hope you get to travel home to Ukraine and see you loved ones soon!