You have the house and the picket white fence. The mini-van is parked in the garage and every room in your home is filled with the colors of childhood. You spend your weekends at the zoo, taking in the newest Disney Live show and plan vacation destinations in places like Disney World. Your every decision from what neighborhood you live in, to what food you stock in the fridge is based upon having the best intentions for your child at the forefront of your life. Then, one morning you wake up, step out of bed onto a Barbie doll in your hurry to fix Fruit Loops and realize that life after children isnt all it was cracked up to be. When is the last time you slept past 8am? When is the last time you spent an entire day in bed with your spouse, making love and watching television intermittently without interruption? When is the last time a simple trip to the grocery store was easy? And where in the hell is all that money you work so hard to earn going?
The reality of life is pretty insane. You start out clinging to your family, only to realize by the time you are a teenager that you can’t wait to grow up and get away from it all. Then, you spend your time out on your own plowing through life, making stupid mistakes, doing whatever you want – only to find that you are desperately trying to find someone to settle down with again. You push aside everything that growing up with your own parents ever taught you about relationships and life and whole-heartedly believe that it will all be different for you. Then, you meet him or her, at a bar during a night of wild partying – and a few months later; you willingly put all that freedom and sowing of wild oats aside to be ‘in a relationship.’ Next up, pressure to get married and nagging desires to have children, because nothing else in the world could be so meaningful, right? (Funny how you forget what a pain in the butt you were as a child) But still, you now cannot imagine life without children only to wake up a decade later wondering if there is any life left after children? What were you thinking?
It’s amazing how the innate desire for procreation can make perfectly sane, successful, and happy people put aside careers, dreams, passions, freedom, and financial prosperity just to bring a tiny baby into the home. It’s also pretty crazy that regardless of all the horrible things you have seen in friends and family members who are sweating life trying to raise a family, that you still believe you can do it better and without a hitch. You never believe that you and your spouse will be the kind to not have sex. Your children will love life with you because you will be the most perfect parent ever imaginable, doing things the complete opposite of how your own parents did things with you. Then one day they (those angelic children of yours) say they hate you and you look in the mirror with tear stained eyes, only to see that you have turned into your own mother! And if that isn’t enough to scare you into hiding in some foreign country, you have another child, and another and lay down $25,000 for a van that can magically play even more cartoons, ensuring that you are never able to escape the madness of life with children. And yep rather than spending that $5 grand you saved for a peaceful vacation in the Caribbean where you could be sipping fancy drinks and getting a tan you opt for overgrown life size editions of the most annoying characters in the world. Oh yeah, life after children is wonderful.
It really is no wonder that so many people are left holding a cup half-empty after they have children of their own. It could be that nearly every one of us goes into marriage and raising a family with twisted and perverted ideals and expectations of how things will be. We somehow believe that we can defeat and defy the odds and don’t take ten seconds to heed the warnings or advice of people who have been there done that. Our own parents are just happy that we finally understand them (how awful is that) and gloat in the opportunity of being grandparents. In the meantime, you are exhausted, hideously drained, and creepily juvenile, choosing all things kid safe and friendly over adult exciting and adventurous. You and your spouse pass and repass, both wondering what the heck went wrong and barely recognizing the shapes of one another as the same from your wedding day. And sex… well, let’s not even go there. After all, that was what created this mess to begin with.
The really sad part is that there is life after children. In no time at all, you will find yourself sitting at your child’s high school or college (God willing) graduation dealing with empty nest syndrome and wondering what you will do with your life now. First, you have to reconnect and get to know your spouse all over again and actually find something else to talk about besides the kids. You’re still broke. Your big house is empty and having an office of your own suddenly doesn’t seem so important. Your kids are out in the big world making mistakes and you now have to figure out what life after children holds for you. Are you going to wait to have grandchildren, or are you going to try and live a little. For years you swore under your breath, feeling jailed and trapped by the confines of family secretly dreaming about wild escapes and escapades you could be having if only. And now, that time is upon you and you wish you could have your old life back again.
The really ironic part is that most of us spend the stage of life we are in, wishing we could be in a different stage. What if just once, we decided to carpe diem, to be happy, content, and grateful for the place our feet are currently planted? Chances are we would never be wondering about life after children, just going with the flow. Living with no regrets and never spending so much time looking forward that we fail to see what is right in front of us. But that would likely be too simple.