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The GEM Debate: Life Before Kids – What Do You Miss Most?

Couple holding hands in field, looking at horizon

In the car yesterday, Casey and Cole were lamenting the fact that the summer camp they’ve gone to for the past two summers is not holding its usual sleepaway session this year.

As I drove we talked about the things they loved about the camp – the curriculum, the small size, the chance to learn more about music and to bond with friends and each other, away from the withering gaze of their parents.

Seizing the moment I thought it was time to drop a little Good Enough Mother wisdom on the kids pertaining to the windows that open and close throughout our lives. You know what I’m talking about; the chance to backpack through Europe, to go braless outside of your own bedroom, to read the Sunday Times actually on a Sunday or to stay in bed all day with your mate, conscious of no one’s hunger pangs but your own (By the way, for me, every single one of those windows is not only closed, but also nailed down, boarded up and the sills covered with lead-based paint).

I was telling Casey and Cole that even if they had the camp next year, they would be in a different place. Not physically so much because of course, they’ll still be in our home. But mentally and emotionally they’ll be different. Maybe they’ll have new friends and interests; maybe they won’t want to go back, even if they could.

I was thinking about that conversation when I read this piece in which a Florida father outlines the things he regrets about being a dad – and there are many.

It’s not that he doesn’t love his kids; it’s clear he vows to be the best dad around. But in the article the dad outlines all of the things he had to give up when his children, 4 and 1, came along; playing ball with the boys, golf on the weekend and working on his Masters to name just a few. I even heard a twinge of sadness when he talked about his wife and her utter devotion to the kids. I know some people might read the piece and think, “How SELFISH!” and they would be right. But what’s wrong with that? The fact is life changes, people change, relationships change and you have two choices, to look back fondly – or with deep regret. In listening to this father, I hear regret now but I don’t think he will feel that way forever…

See, right now, the poor guy is sleep-deprived. Anyone who’s ever had a newborn in the home knows that kind of fatigue is otherworldly. His children are small and needy. And demanding because they don’t know to be any other way. I’m dying to tell this guy how my kids used to be the same way. Now I have to use the Jaws of Life to extract them from their rooms.

And lastly I would urge him to remember Good Enough Mother’s motto; your dreams and goals don’t have to die just so others’ may live. He can still pursue the Master’s degree, golf on Sunday, hang with the guys, get away for long weekends with his wife, in fact he’d BETTER. Because in feeding that part of himself he will be fulfilled and a fulfilled parent is a happy one; better equipped to do their job.

Of course, it’s not going to be EXACTLY the same; he won’t be able to jet off on a business trip without making plans that would make troop movements in Afghanistan look like child’s play. And the crazy part is that when he is gone, he’ll be amazed at how his mind is THERE; lying on the floor with his toddlers crawling over him, the intoxicating feeling of having small hands draw you in for a kiss or having your heart expand three sizes when they say, “You are the best dad” because you replaced the batteries in Thomas the Tank Engine.

Florida father may still have a twinge here and there but I suspect, like Casey and Cole and summer camp, he’ll soon be able to look back fondly. After he gets some sleep.

But what about you, can you relate to what this Florida father is saying? Have you ever felt the same way; that a window was closed, never to open again? What are the things you miss about not having kids?

Start those comments coming…




  1. darryl Alexander

    June 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Being able to go out with my wife on a whim, not being at the mercy of family who can watch the kids and/or money concerns for a babysitter.

  2. Smarty P. Jones

    June 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    So in other words, folks like me should enjoy all this “me” time?

  3. Dawn

    June 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Since my son’s father and I split while I was pregnant (due to his long-term infidelity) coupled with the choice to spend some time working on my relationship with myself, I would have to say that I miss sex.

  4. Buster Spiller

    June 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Wow Rene, aka G.E.M., you went there with this question. It’s interesting that you timed the posting of this right before Father’s Day this Sunday.

    I’ve come to dread Father’s Day because my son and I are estranged. Interesting because so am I and my father. *Ponder*.

    Regarding the Florida father’s sentiment, I get them but I wouldn’t trade what I lost raising Andrew for anything in the world. Actually, my son is responsible for settling me down, focusing on someone else’s needs other than MINE, and forcing me to return to school to finish my remaining 17 hours of my undergraduate degree.

    I can vividly remember exhorting him on the virtues of education but I had dropped out of college after 117 hours and 6 invested years. I was tired but more, I was a young person who wanted to live life my way.

    Well, life schooled me. After some wonderful jobs that I excelled in that ended rather abruptly (“you know how that is”), resulting in bankruptcy and some really lean years, my “Baby” ends up on my doorstep with a need that was screaming “RAISE ME!”

    I wasn’t prepared for it but I sucked it in and set out to be the best father that I could be without any real tools other than the example of my father. Also, because Andrew had a diagnosed reading disability, I gave up all of my community activities to focus 100% of my attention on him, including operation of my theater company which at that point had requests to tour.

    It was a HUGE sacrifice but I don’t regret it. Andrew came first. He graduated from high school on a Recommended track (something school administrators didn’t think he could do) and he was accepted into Texas Tech. He opted to stay home and go to community college but my pride in him was still strong.

    He followed my path and dropped out of school after 3 semesters (LOL) but I’m still proud of him and the decision I made to give him my all.

    Now, my biggest issue has been trying to reclaim the “passions” I had before he got here that were dormant for years. Immediately after he left home, I was an “empty nest” MESS – LOL. That has taken several years to get through but I think I’m getting there. It’s a struggle, I have to admit, but “Life after Andrew” is beginning to unfold.

  5. Victor Hogan

    June 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    life b4 kids…. wow! very blurry memories. lol

    i got married very young(22) to my college sweetheart, at the time, and we had our 1st child(my beloved 13 y/o son lol) a year later. we had child # 2 a year and change after that and children 3 and 4(at her persistent, relentless request) came a few years later. unfortunately the marriage didn’t last b/c my ex-wife chose a different path for her life.

    looking back b4 marriage and kids, i do regret starting so young. i didn’t realize that i was still a baby. there’s sooo much more that i could’ve accomplished b4 going down this path(so young).

    BUT, i gotta tell ya… the feeling that i get when my 4 y/o baby girl grabs my face kisses me on my lips and says “daddiiee u r the best daddiiee in the whole world… and i love the food that you cook for me”… i swear, i’m getting choked up just writing about it…. NOTHING compares to the love of a child. it is SOOOO pure, with no alterior motives.
    The joy i get when my knuckle headed 13 y/o son solves a problem quicker than i get my 1st thought out(this kid is actually pretty damn smart), the laughter that flows from my gut when my 7 y/o son walks into a room looking like a geeky little professor with his shirt tucked in down to his socks and utters words that sounds like they should be coming from someone’s grand dad(and is clueless as to why it is so funny), the pride that fills my heart when my 12 y/o daughters graces the stage @ her middles school talent show and w/o shame belts out vocals and dances like the whole audience are her fans…. and kills it…. are all priceless.

    when its all said and done…. starting my family “too” young was worth every sleepless night, every bounced checked(a kid will drain ur bank acct.!), the stress of making sure their ok, not being able to sleep in on a saturday mornings, and soooo much more, is one hellova deal for what i got in return. I live for my kids. and they’ll always know it!

    do i have regrets? yes, of course, I’m human. would i give my kids back b/c of those regrets? absolutely not =)

  6. kim

    June 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    i love my kids dearly, but there are a few things i miss about the days before they came along. the one thing that sticks out right now is the freedom to make unsure choices. once your kids arrive you have to be so adult and responsible ALL the time. before i had kids i was free to quit a job i didn’t like and live off my savings until i found something better, but who the heck has money in the bank for THAT these days? sometimes i wake up and think about just getting in my car and driving until i run out of gas, starting anew somewhere else. but i would never do that now because there’s no way i’d ever walk out on my kids, no matter how frustrating my complicated life gets.

  7. Lynn (@lynnsc08)

    June 15, 2011 at 8:15 am

    I think every parent thinks about this either during pregnancy or once the little bundle of joy has arrived. Once things slow down a bit after the baby arrives and you’ve actually got time to sleep and think a little bit again, many parents (I think) appreciate the changes that have taken place in their lives.

    I don’t know that there’s anything I miss from pre-kid life. I worked with kids for so many years that I don’t know that I’ve ever not taken care of kids (I started taking care of my brother around my third grade year).

  8. Nichole

    June 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Rene, I’ve often felt like the Florida Dad and I’m the Mom of just one. I often reminice on the days of pre-marriage, pre-baby and think, wow how good I had it. Funny, at that time I thought my life was in shambles. Boy was I blind! But just as you said Rene, sleep deprivation does a job on your mental and physical. We chose not to have another child because we thought those sleepless nights were too much to go through a second time. However, now that my son is 5 years old I wonder if we are making a mistake. Now that we’re out of those sleepless nights the good outweights the bad. I love my family but a lot like the Florida Father I forgot about me, and how to do the things I enjoy. Therefore, I became resentful of my current life. When I began to make time for me, by working out, happy hour with the girls, TV and Reading time, life didn’t seem as bad. But every now and again, I forget to make time for myself and I go right back to that sad, pitiful, parent full of regrets. I’m learning to live in the now. Looking back does me know earthly good. Although I can’t jet off to France or Italy and attend a Cavalli fashion show on a whim or drop $1500 for a pair of Louboutins. I can have wonderful weekends with my family, purchase a really cute outfit at Target and grab a cocktail with some friends and relax and know that I’m just where God wants me to be. 🙂

  9. Nichole

    June 15, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Just wanted to add for the Florida Father. I started my MBA when my son turned 3 years old and I completed it this pass December! Two years of hardwork and juggling, but I accomplished what I set out to. The Florida father can do the same! Get that Master’s Degree!

  10. Andy

    June 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I miss lots of the things Florida Dad misses. I miss playing softball on Saturdays. I miss watching a ballgame on TV with nobody bugging me. I miss crawling into bed at whatever time and being able to decide that I’m not getting up again! I miss good nights of sleep. I miss having it be me and my wife together and alone.

    I certainly don’t regret having kids, and I love them so dearly. I just wish I had known how much life would change so I would have savored the moments without them as much as I now savor the moments with them.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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