A few things gave me the idea for this post after a long dry spell of absolutely NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT.
First, this topic is something I’ve talked about with my fellow child-raising family and friends many times. Secondly, I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend at a cottage with my sister and a few new (ladies only!) friends, all of whom are somewhere in the stages of having little ones, which sparked many interesting and lively conversations. Lastly, I’ve read a few articles/blog posts lately about women who miss having babies/younger children, or the void that can be left when one decides not to have any more children.
Now, no disrespect intended towards those who feel differently than me, because we all have different experiences and perspectives that deserve respect and understanding, but….
Carter and I decided to make our decision to have no more babies as permanent as we could when our littlest baby, Kitten, was a mere 6 months old. Some people in my life worried on my behalf that we were making the decision too soon in our lives and in the lives of our young children, and might later regret it, but that day has yet to come, and I can’t imagine it ever will (though how God does LOVE to prove me wrong!). We simply felt that our stress levels, coping mechanisms, and financial resources were stretched too thin to responsibly take on another child….and, just as importantly, we felt “done.” As time went on, the older the kids got, the less we wanted to go back to that 24/7 in-the-trenches type of parenting that babies and toddlers inherently require.
So without further ado, I am here to offer a different perspective on being Done Having Children, and why, for me, being a mom of older kids ROCKS MY SOCKS OFF.
One of my favourite phases in each of our children’s lives was when they started to talk. It was always so exciting and fun to hear their vocabularies and abilities to express themselves increase by the day. And the older they get, the more complicated and interesting those thoughts and expressions get. I LOVE conversing with my kids. I love hearing their hilarious, ridiculous, touching, and sometimes incredibly insightful thoughts on the world around them. Sometimes I have answers for their increasingly difficult questions, and sometimes I don’t, and that’s okay. I embrace the challenge, and love how these conversations help me get to know these little people for who they truly are. And their jokes are crossing that line from little-kid-silly to older-kid-clever! I love when their wit catches me off-guard!
2. Reclaiming Your Space
When your kids are young, they have this way of insidiously taking over your home. You can fight it, but really, what’s the point? It’s a losing battle. Somewhere, your style is hidden under all those building blocks, flashing, plastic toys, crushed Cheerios, and stuffed animals.
But as they get older, and you start to pass along all the toys and furniture that they outgrow, you’ll start to see your own stuff re-emerge! An added bonus is no longer needing to childproof. Putting a centerpiece back on the coffee table is a big moment! Lighting a few candles to enjoy some ambience! Not having to struggle with those blasted child locks on every cupboard! It’s a beautiful thing.
3. Me Time
With the kids’ increased independence comes increased “me time.” The one thing I really noticed that I could start to do again once my kids got to be school-aged, was read. I have loved reading since I learned how to read, but didn’t manage to get through one thick, juicy novel in all of the years that my kids were under 5. Now I read pretty voraciously again, and it’s great! Older kids have their own things to do, and they often don’t require hands-on or even eyes-on supervision. They might be reading, doing homework, doing housework, playing video games, playing with their toys, or playing outside….all while you suddenly find that you’re not needed for a little while, and you can put your feet up and rediscover how good “me time” really feels. Take the break; you earned it!
4. Mommy’s Little Helpers
My kids are now 9 (almost 10! wow!) and 8. Currently, they are responsible for tidying their own rooms, folding and putting away their laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and helping to set and clear the dinner table. On Saturdays, they do extra jobs as requested, like tidying other rooms around the house, dusting, helping with yard work, etc. All of their youthful energy really comes in handy sometimes! I don’t work them to the bone, because I do believe that kids need to enjoy their short childhoods while they last, but I do expect them to pitch in at least a little every day, and occasionally more when needed. It helps us keep the housework under control, and helps them to learn responsibility, work ethic, and selflessness. Win-win!
This is a big one. I do not handle sleep deprivation with any grace whatsoever….seriously, I am the worst. The mental fog and moodiness that can come with not sleeping well for weeks, months, and for some, even YEARS at a time can really take it’s toll!
Getting to the place where your kids usually sleep well all night is AWESOME and something I never want to go without again.
6. Easy(ier) Outings
Gone are the days of struggling to bundle up crying kids to brave the winter winds, only to have them need to go to the bathroom as you’re headed out the door. They can dress themselves! No longer do I need to lug that horribly heavy and awkward carseat everywhere. We’re even past booster seats! They can hop in the car and buckle themselves up! They also, conveniently, have developed an awareness of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in public, so we’re pretty much past the earsplitting-tantrums-in-the-grocery-store phase. Even better, now I can employ the lean-in-close-and-whisper-threats tactic and they actually respond to it! Heaven forbid I embarrass THEM! How the tables have turned…..
Family vacations and day trips are also easier and more fun. I love knowing that the memories we are making together at this stage in their life are ones they will actually be able to remember as adults! It makes it that much more meaningful to me.
7. Less Babysitting
We’re not yet at the point where we can leave the kids home alone and enjoy an evening or day out, but we’re getting close so close we can almost taste it! When your kids are little, your adult life revolves around the ability to find babysitting. We have started to be able to zip out for very short errands (nervously and giddily!) and walks down the road together, and blissfully ALONE. A couple more years, and we are pretty much home-free!
8. Improved Health
When the kids were little, it felt like someone was ALWAYS sick. And that was mostly true. Each virus would pass from one to the other, to the next, until it had had it’s way with each one of us. And just when we were all breathing a sigh of relief, the next one would hit.
This gets worse before it gets better; those first couple of years of school are the worst! Those kids bring home everything! But as they get older, something changes and it gets better. I’m not sure exactly what it is (stronger immune systems? the fact that kids get better at washing their hands and coughing into their sleeves instead of directly into your face?), but knock on wood, we’ve all been healthier than ever these last couple of years. There’s no reason I can think of that this shouldn’t continue.
9. Shared Interests and Entertainment
Carter loves that Frog has embraced his loves playing the drums and playing sports. I love that Kitten has embraced my loves of reading and art. It’s fun to be able to spend shared time on activities that you both truly enjoy. It’s also a relief to be able to watch movies and TV shows that we all enjoy, instead of suffering through the daily grind of obnoxious cartoons. SpongeBob and iCarly crack me up for some odd reason, but the rest of them are the WOORSSST! Now we can curl up on the couch together and watch shows that we ALL enjoy, like Storage Wars, Mantracker, Survivorman, and game shows that they finally understand and can participate in! It’s also fun sharing favourite movies from my childhood with them, like The Neverending Story, the Princess Bride, and Flight of the Navigator.
So there you have it; my comprehensive list of why I love having older kids. Enjoy the baby, toddler, and preschool years while they last, because they are indeed short,
but know that different and fun days are ahead! This doesn’t mean that parenting older children is always easy, because it certainly isn’t (and I haven’t even hit the teen years yet!), but it’s certainly very different. There are still always parenting issues on the table, but with older children, the issues are more complex, but they’re less in-your-face, 24/7. You can take more time to think about and deal with them. And often, the best way to deal with these issues is by supporting your kids while THEY do what needs to be done, in order to foster their independence. So while each phase of parenting has it’s own blessings and challenges and I do love few things more than a lovely, squishy baby, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the joys of parenting older kids, and encourage parents to see the blessings in life marching forward!