This is a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit now that Pete and I are pregnant again with Baby Bier #2. I think it’s only natural to reflect on the past as we prepare for the future, and there are a few key things that stand out to me that I want to remember before too much time passes.
Parenting with a loving partner has brought us closer together as a couple. Since we got pregnant so soon after getting married, and since we got married 1.5 years after meeting each other, one of my biggest concerns about having children was what it would do to our marriage — how kids would change our dynamic, how kids would affect our time spent together, and how kids would shift our focus (from each other to the children). These were major concerns for me, especially since I had pretty much written off having kids until I met Pete. Once we started dating, and we began talking about marriage and life goals, this changed for me, but for most of my adult life I never really considered kids as part of my future.
It’s been a huge relief that after one year of being parents (more like two if you count the time being pregnant), Pete and I are closer now, and more in love now, that ever before. I’m not sure what I expected would happen, but becoming parents together, and tackling the challenges that parents face, has bonded us in a really remarkable way. It’s been an unexpectedly endearing, loving, and humorous experience.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to parent in a way that makes you feel comfortable. My sister-in-law advised me before Liesl was born to not buy into the “competitive parenting” idea. I had no idea what she was talking about at the time, but now I get it. Especially for first-time parents, you want to do things “right”, or be “good” mommies and daddies; in all honesty though, you simply need to do things that feel right and good to you as parents.
For example, Pete and I are pretty rigid about certain things, like keeping Liesl to a schedule and nap times. At first, I felt the need to defend our parenting choices to other parents, but have since stopped. Every parent is different, and every child is different, too. Once I simply accepted that “this is how we choose to parent our child, and it doesn’t matter what other people think”, parenting became a lot less stressful and pressure-filled for me.
Pete and I have learned the value of time away from our children. While we of course love Liesl, we’ve learned that we are both happier people (and parents) when we can carve out some time for ourselves. This could be time away at work, working out, or dates, and we’re fortunate to have a great support system around us to make this possible.
Before having a child, I never really understood the additional joy they could bring to your life. Truth be told, it just seemed like parenting was a ton of hard work without a big pay-off, or just a means to an end (e.g. getting your kids to be independent adults). But, now that we have a little one, I totally understand how having kids reveals an entirely new side of emotions within oneself. When Liesl accomplishes something that she’s been practicing (like walking, using a toy, or dressing herself), and her face lights up with joy — “Look at me, Mom!” — it’s as if a ray of sunlight shines directly into your heart. It’s the greatest feeling to see and experience joy through your children and their accomplishments.
The fact that Pete and I are optimistic, happy, and eagerly anticipating this next chapter of our life — becoming parents to another little human — is encouraging to me. We know it will be hard work, and present a new set of parenting/life challenges, but at the end of the day we feel good about being parents together and what we can accomplish as a team.