Photo by Vera Kratochvil, publicdomainpictures.com.
You go in to the hospital a person and come out a parent. What does that really mean to the rest of your life.
The world really is created anew every time a child comes into it. Along with the boundless love, endless diapers and sleepless nights, parents should be prepared for changes in their relationships with their friends, their coworkers and the world at large.
Adjusting to having a baby in the house is just a small part of the equation. Sometimes the most difficult transitions can be in integrating that baby into the rest of your life.
“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.” -John Wilmot
A common complaint from new parents and their friends, particularly those without children, is the distance that grows between them when a new baby comes along.
As one of the first in her group of friends to have children – and twins at that–Rachael Steidl said she felt uncomfortable at first.
“People would offer to either help or invite you over, or say just call us if you need help, but I never felt like I could take people up on it. It just felt like it was asking so much,” Steidl said.
“In hindsight now, when I’m in that position to do that for somebody else, I realize how sincere I am.”
Both new parents and friends should recognize that true friendships are mutual and the baby is part of the package from now on.
Now the mother of a 6-month-old son, Tracy Martin was in the opposite position from Steidl, as one of the last in her group to become a mom.
“(With my friends who have kids) I relate to that aspect of their life more. My biggest surprise after the baby came was how it didn’t matter to me that I was putting myself second. I can relate to that with my friends that have kids,” Martin said.
And as far as her friends without kids, Martin said, “people are pretty understanding. … I work to maintain my friendships, too. You can’t just bail on your life.”
“See the mothers driving down the street, see their makeup melting in the heat, straight from work, the pantyhose are tight, It’s take-out tonight.” -From the Frump song “We’re Really Beat”
Returning to work after you’ve been promoted to parent also requires some changes. Luckily employers are catching on.
“More bosses are realizing that when they help their employees manage the juggling act between work and family, they get happier, more productive workers in return,” said Sharon O’Malley, editor of Work/Life Today.
It’s amazing how productive you can be when you have to be, observed Katie Donald, a mother of two, who works a 32-hour week.
As new parents come to realize, “the less time you spend on unproductive work, the more time you can spend with your family,” O’Malley said.
Of course, prioritizing family time can sometimes mean giving up some of the more enjoyable parts of the workday, like dissecting the finer points of “Desperate Housewives.”
While coworkers–and the parents themselves–must adjust to a little less on-the-clock socializing, employers also need to realize new parents are not always available for last-minute projects.
“It’s really important to set your boundaries with your boss right away,” said Donald. “As long as your work doesn’t suffer, I think bosses are generally pretty understanding when your circumstances change. Especially if you’re willing to go the extra mile and take work home when necessary.”
“I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.” -Robert Orben
Where it is and is not appropriate to bring a young child is a big issue for many people.
“When my baby was really little, we took him pretty much anywhere. He went places a lot,” said Martin. Now that her son is 6 months old, she said she wouldn’t take him to “adult places” at this stage.
“He’s getting to the point where I don’t think it’s any fun for him – and we get a lot of stares from people. Like ‘oh, no, please don’t put me next to them,'” she said.
As Steidl learned, sometimes people do more than stare.
“We took our kids to movies as newborns … this one woman looked at me and said, ‘Well, I guess people just don’t care about exposing their kids to germs anymore,'” she recalled. “Luckily there was another parent …(who) made a nice little comeback to her.”
She continued, “Any time you’re going to take your kids to an adult situation like that, that as long as you’re willing to leave if it’s not working and not put other people into an uncomfortable position, that’s fine. But we had people just make the rudest comments.”
As for restaurants, all of the parents we spoke to recommended taking little ones “that make noise” only to family-friendly restaurants. There are plenty of good ones in Santa Barbara, said Steidl, who has a whole list of family-friendly places on her Web site, www.sbparent.com.
“I personally don’t think you show up at the Wine Cask, or Sage & Onion with little ones, when for so many people that’s a special night out for them and save up for those kinds of things.”
“Never have children, only grandchildren” – Gore Vidal
What could be better than finally being a grandparent? Not only do you have an adorable new baby to welcome and spoil, but if you play your cards right, your own children will finally start to appreciate you.
Want to be the best grandma or pop-pop on the block? Here are a few tips for making your house kid-ready. We’ll leave the spoiling to you.
= Stock the right size diapers and wipes. A change of baby clothes can’t hurt either.
= Until your grandchild is mobile, you don’t have to childproof your whole house, but do have a baby area ready.
= Portable activity mats are great diversions for little ones and compact cribs are the easy answer to “where is the baby going to sleep?”
= When you want to hold the baby all day, but your sciatic nerve says otherwise, bouncer seats are a great way to keep your grandchild healthy. Plus, it’s fun to watch them discover their toes.
= Volunteer to put the dog/cat/next door neighbor outside if they’re making the baby or her parents uncomfortable.
Finally, the best way to make your house child-friendly is to make it parent friendly, which means:
= Offer your son/daughter the chance to have some time alone with their spouse (or to take a nap!), but don’t be offended if they don’t take it.
= If you’re tempted to give unsolicited parenting advice, hold your tongue and count to 50. Still tempted? Bite your tongue and try counting again.