Crossing the threshold to parenthood changes everything. What once was a carefree – and even selfish – existence becomes a more duty-bound role filled with bonding, guilt, tenderness, sleepless nights, and unequivocal love.
To better prepare here's a glossary that provides pre- and post- definitions of commonly heard words and phrases – all of which completely change in meaning once an individual takes on the title of "parental guardian."
Birthdays were a time for bar crawls and late nights with friends. Sushi or spicy hot Mexican food were top menu choices for one’s annual dinner celebration. Sitting at a high-top table while wearing skinny jeans was mandatory. Endless selfies were captured via cell phones and birthday cake came in the form of huge appetizers.
While no one liked aging, birthdays were viewed as logical reasons to stay out until sunrise and then bask in bed the following day for as long as necessary to recover from the night’s fun escapades. A person’s birthday, prior to parenthood, could stretch on for hours, days, or even weeks.
Parental units do not celebrate, and rarely acknowledge, their birth date. It's not uncommon for a mother or father to actually forget their own age because so many years go by without any big to-do or special gathering taking place to commemorate what was once a sacred, annual event. When a baby enters the picture, the only birthdays that matter are those of the children.
Parties must be planned weeks in advance and involve pastel invitations, pizza, ice cream, cake, and favor bags filled with stickers, fake tattoos, and plastic toys that will break within 24 hours. Piñatas, streamers, party hats, and matching napkins appear to be mandatory and the celebration typically takes place at a strategic time of day so as not to disturb the napping or eating schedules of siblings or party guests. Loud restaurant chains, playgrounds, and aquatic centers are the common venue choices.
Before parenting duties took over one’s lifestyle, the thought of taking a road trip with friends or a significant other was met with joyful glee and butterflies of anticipation. Dreams of a "Thelma & Louise" adventure (without the morbid ending) were possible and even expected. Driving a convertible with the top down or hitting a nude beach were legitimate vacation goals.
Men could pack light and women could pack heavy because there was always more than enough room for the luggage in any vehicle. Long hours on the open road meant deep conversations, loud music, and being able to sleep in the reclined position whenever necessary because the road trip was an experience, not just a destination.
Real road trips no longer exist for parents. If traveling for multiple hours in a vehicle becomes necessary it's typically due to a cousin’s out-of-town wedding or funeral. Parents meet the travel challenge with fear, nausea, an apocalypse-ready supply of snacks, food, and drinks. An extended amount of time in the mini-van with little ones means continuous cartoons and constant singing of "Frozen" or other Disney musical hit.
Children will yell, fight, and complain while moms pound the ibuprofen and dads pray for ear plugs. Unscheduled stops to use the restroom have the potential to extend a family road trip by hours, if not days.
Hearing a musical icon sing sweet melodies into a microphone and jam out on stage were what great date nights were made of for most couples. Be it indie rock groups, country music legends, or a Top 40 superstar, people without children would line up for hours to secure tickets to see and hear their favorite musician perform live.
It never mattered if the concert started late and the encores kept the audience in their seats until well into the wee hours, because those in the crowd were happy to sip their alcoholic beverages and sing along to the tunes that spoke to their heart.
Live music no longer means amphitheaters or concert halls. It now consists of holiday programs, where a toddler is sure to stand around and play with his or her belt while getting knocked in the head by an enthusiastic four-year-old with bell ringing duties.
There's no longer a need to pay money or dress up for live music events because they can occur in one’s living room. Nightly renditions of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" will be performed ad nauseam by preschoolers wishing to prolong the bedtime process. Parents may also find themselves pushed into the starlet role of crooning out numerous verses of "Bah Bah Blacksheep" in order to coerce their kiddo into taking one more bite of veggies.
Perusing through a magazine, reading the newspaper, or relaxing with a great novel used to be the only way to spend a Sunday morning. Book clubs could be joined and the book could actually be read to completion. Having time for real reading meant having great, adult discussions at club meetings that always included good wine and delicious cheese.
The only authors a parent gets to regularly read are: Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, and any other child author that knows to stick to the basics of colors, shapes, and animals. Plot lines are much simpler and before long most hard-covers can be read to children without even actually glancing at the pages. What was once entertainment, is now an important obligation because it has been determined that children really do better in everything if they are read to by their parents.
If by some chance, a mother or father is able to sneak in a quick chapter from Stephen King or Gillian Flynn before bed, they can plan on re-reading the same four pages multiple times due to falling a sleep from the simple act of sitting down alone. Sometimes parents will not get further than one page in a book of their own choosing due to interruptions of tiny, desperate requests for more water and another bedtime story from kiddos.
Before the duty of parenting took hold, a person’s adult life was their own. It was okay to be selfish and spoiled. It was common to just go ahead and buy the expensive shoes, and hit up happy hour every night. Sleeping in late and going to bed even later was the norm. Daily showers, having enough time to see friends, and going to the fitness center were things that were taken for granted before kids entered the picture.
Having a child is the best and most brutal job in the world because a parent’s own life must take a backseat to the lives of their children. Schedules are dictated by nap times, extra curricular activities, and toddler temper tantrums. The simple acts of eating and sleeping are altered as little sons and daughters demand attention for absolutely everything.
Pre-parenthood love does not hold a candle to post-parenthood love.
While life gets harder after having kids, it also gets so much better. Life as a parent is a challenge, but it's worth doing for the reward of loving – and being loved by – a child.