Maybe you’re considering whether you want to become a parent before you actually do that or perhaps you’re already in the thick of it. Either way, if you’re out here wondering, Will having kids ruin my life or make it infinitely better? welcome to this safe space.
You’re not wrong if you feel like Instagram: Baby Edition lies or that every TV series or movie makes parenting look like a thing you’d never want to do on purpose. And that makes it hard to get honest answers as to what raising a small human is actually like. So we’ve gathered here today to explore the emotional gray area that is having a child.
No matter your situation, hearing different perspectives from parents can help you feel more chill about your own thoughts and feelings on taking care of a bébé. From parents who weren’t sure they wanted kids and are so freakin’ glad they did to people who love their kids but aren’t sure they’d do it over again—these very real takes will give you the full spectrum of feels when it comes to having a kid.
Do some love that mom-ing or dad-ing has become their entire personality? Yep. Do others get the sense that parenting is a complete drain on their time, energy, and bank statements? Sure. But there’s a lot more in between. Behold: 13 very candid takes on how it feels (mentally, emotionally, and otherwise) to be a parent.
1. Babies can be boring…until they’re not.
“When my wife and I were dating, she made it clear she wanted kids and it was a deal breaker if I didn’t want them. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I did, but I agreed I’d be willing to have them one day because I loved her. Fast forward, and we had a daughter about a year ago. The first few months, I was worried we made a big mistake. Newborns are blobs. They just sit there and cry. It’s exhausting and a ton of work. But around the 6-month mark, that all changed. Suddenly, this little blob started developing a personality. I have grown to feel so connected and in love with my daughter. I want to be with her all the time and am so glad she’s ours.” —Chris M., 32
2. Surprise! It’s exhausting—like, really exhausting.
“Throughout my childhood, I did a lot of babysitting. As I got older, I spent a lot of time with my friends’ kids. So, I felt like I knew what I was getting myself into when my husband and I had our daughter. I expected to be exhausted and overwhelmed. But even though I knew those things would occur, I was totally unprepared by the velocity of those feelings. I never get to rest. When I am sick, it’s not like I can take a day off—even if I call out of work, I still have to attend to her. If she wakes up early, so do I. The non-stop nature of parenting is something that is impossible to understand until you are in the thick of it. I don’t regret becoming a parent, but I had no idea I’d be bone-tired all day, every day.” —Ann H., 35
3. It can bring buried issues to the surface.
“Becoming a parent put a spotlight on all the areas I need to do work in. For example, when my daughter was a newborn, I felt like I was the only person who could take care of her in the right way. I iced out my partner and barely let him do anything. When I realized what I was doing, it made me look closely at my issues surrounding control. More recently, we started feeding her solids. I have suffered with disordered eating for most of my life but thought I had done the work to get it in check. As I was picking out her first foods, I was dead set against giving her anything sweet. I didn’t want her to develop a sweet tooth. I became really militant about it and realized that was my disordered eating brain rearing its ugly head. Trying to be a good parent has made me realize that I have a lot of work left to do on myself—which has been pretty overwhelming.” —Grace P., 36
4. It sometimes gets better with time.
“The truth is, I was indifferent about having kids. However, it was really important to my partner—so, I agreed. My indifference lasted through the newborn phase. Sure, I loved my son as soon as he was born. But I wasn’t all, ‘I am mother, hear me roar!’ As he grew and started to develop a personality, I became obsessed. Watching this little person grow and figure out the world around him has brought me unspeakable joy. We share a bond that is so pure and real—I am so glad I get to experience being a parent.” —Jane B., 41
5. You may feel like you’re missing out sometimes.
“When I got pregnant unexpectedly in my mid-20s, I debated whether or not to terminate. Ultimately, I decided to move forward with the pregnancy. I knew I wanted to be a mother and, though the timing wasn’t ideal, my boyfriend and I were committed to one another. I don’t regret my daughter at all—but I do often wonder what my life would have looked like if I had waited. I feel like I missed out on being carefree in my 20s.” —Inez G., 32
6. It can be kind of healing.
“I experienced a lot of trauma in my childhood—an alcoholic father, an emotionally abusive mother, you get the picture. I’ve done a lot of therapy to work through issues stemming from the way I was raised. When I had my own child, it both triggered me and healed me in ways that therapy didn’t. I felt such a natural protective urge toward my daughter and it made me sad that I didn’t have parents that felt that toward me. On the flip side, it gave me a chance to give my kid the childhood I didn’t have. Being able to provide the safe, supportive space I never had was like a balm on those emotional wounds.” —Janelle P., 33
7. Being an older parent can be tough.
“I was hyper-focused on my career in my 20s and 30s, so I waited until my early 40s to have a kid. My age meant that it was only possible for me to have one child. I’d have loved to have given my son a sibling, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I’m glad that I was able to focus on my work for so long, but sometimes I regret waiting. As an older mom, I find that I’m more exhausted at the end of the day and have less energy for my kid. I also worry that I won’t be around as long for him as I would have been had I given birth at a younger age.” —Claire D., 46
8. You might envy your kids.
“I had a very difficult childhood. I was raised by a single mother, and we didn’t have much money. My mom was stressed all of the time and wasn’t there for me. Not only that, it was clear from a young age that I was gay and she didn’t accept that. I always knew that when I had kids, I’d be the kind of parent I wanted to have. I’m proud to say that I’ve made good on that promise. I’m happy that I can give my two kids what I never had. But, if I am being honest, I also feel jealous of them sometimes. Giving them what I always wanted highlights all the things I never got and I really have to check myself and that jealousy on a regular basis.” —Jeremy D., 38
9. It’s awesome, but other relationships can take a hit.
“Having kids? I love it. Being a mother is a role that comes naturally to me. What surprised me more about having a kid is that it changed how I interacted with my girlfriend. Before having kids, I was super focused on nurturing our relationship and, honestly, doing anything I could to make her feel good and supported. Once I had kids, all that energy went toward them. I no longer had the patience to do all the things she was used to me doing for her. (I legit used to pack her lunch for work each day.) It’s been bumpy figuring out our new dynamic, and I think sometimes she resents our kids because it took my focus off of her.” —Eliza S., 37
10. You might become more fun?
“I’m not silly. Never have been. I don’t love comedies, I don’t dance, and I don’t laugh all that much. At least, I never really did those before I had kids. I’m an academic and tend to be pretty subdued and serious. Having my son changed that. Seeing this little kid that was so full of wonder and excitement infected me with a playfulness that I never had before. I am now totally that weird parent who makes funny faces and does ridiculous voices and plays make-believe. It’s been pretty awesome getting to know this new side of myself as a parent, and it has made me really value what having a kid did to my life.” —Rachel W., 30
11. Having one kid might be enough.
“I always thought I wanted a big family—at least four kids! After having one, I decided I was good with stopping there. Being a parent is great. I love my kid. But I don’t want any more. It’s much harder than I thought it would be and it takes so much time. I have very little time left each day to focus on the things that I want to do to better myself. If I had more children, there’d be even less. I feel like to be the best mother to the son I have, I can’t have any more kids. I need to be able to give him the time and energy he deserves while also still nurturing myself—and that just wouldn’t be possible if I had another child.” —Leigh F., 35
12. Being a single parent has some perks.
“Listen, being a single parent isn’t easy. But I made the decision to do it because I wasn’t in a committed relationship, and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to be a mom just because I hadn’t found love. There’s a lot of stress involved in doing it on your own: All the financial burden is on my one salary, I get no breaks, and I worry about what my kid is missing out on by not having two parents. That said, I also love it. I get to raise my child the way I want to and don’t have to compromise with a partner. It is also so gratifying to know that I am raising this amazing person all on my own.” —Trisha S., 38
13. You’ll figure out that you don’t really know anything.
“I used to think my parents knew everything—well, until I was a teen and then I thought they knew nothing. Before I had a kid, I figured you just become wiser when you enter parenthood. Nope. I can’t believe how much I just wing. I don’t know what I am doing. With every new milestone my daughter meets, I find myself turning to Dr. Google to figure out what to do. In a way, parenting makes me feel dumb. What should you do when a kid throws a tantrum because you want them to brush their teeth? No clue. Can kids eat raw fish in sushi? Um, beats me. What kind of coat keeps a little person warm? Heck if I know. Being responsible for another person has made me realize how much I don’t know. It’s still freaking fun, though.” —Desiree D., 34
These quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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