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August 19, 2009 7:06 AM   Subscribe

This could be our last child-free year. What should we do/enjoy?

Emphasis on the "enjoy."

My husband is finishing up grad school, so, God willing, we'll be starting a family in a little over a year. Instead of sitting around being bummed about the babies we don't have yet, how can we make the most of this year? What will we wish we'd done more of while we were still child-free -- either individually or as a couple (other than sleeping)? What are we taking for granted right now? What will we look back on and wish we'd appreciated more? What opportunities will we wish we had seized?

I've searched and searched AskMe for this question, but I haven't found it. This is not really what I'm looking for, since my husband and I already talk about how we'll raise our kids nearly every day.

Details: I'm 32, he's 36. As I mentioned, he's in school, so money is tight (no trips to Europe for now). We're in the greater DC area.
posted by Ladybug Parade to Human Relations (40 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Take trips to local places, but travel, travel, travel. Stay in hotels. Also, sleep in a lot.

I miss leisurely breakfasts and quiet meals, but you don't lose that until after a baby is a year old or so.
posted by reverend cuttle at 7:08 AM on August 19, 2009

Sleep. Really.

Also, things like eating in restaurants that aren't in any way family friendly, but mostly SLEEP. Like, set your alarm for 4:00 am on a Saturday, and when it goes off say, out loud, "That's a clock I can turn off, and not a baby I can't." and turn it off, and go back to sleep for 4 or 5 or 7 more hours.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:12 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

We are child free, and some of the things I appreciate are: sleeping late on weekends, staying out late, travelling just the two of us, travelling on my own (and not feeling guilty), fancy dinners, Broadway shows, reading in bed to each other, planning day trips on a moment's notice...
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:14 AM on August 19, 2009

Take trips to local places, but sex, sex, sex. Stay in hotels. Screw each other's brains out. Also sleep a lot.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:15 AM on August 19, 2009

Going out to movies in theaters. Going out to dinner. Talking about things that aren't your kids. Not being worried all the time about stuff that turns out to be nothing.

But - look forward to without question the best years of your life. Good luck.
posted by crapples at 7:20 AM on August 19, 2009

Throw away your TV and internets and have lots of long, uninterrupted conversations with giant glasses of wine. If your bed isn't already comfortable, get a big, comfy one and get lots of cuddly, sleeping in sort of sleep. Use the same bed for lots of other stuff.

See all the movies, got to dress-up dinners at every place in town that doesn't have high chairs. Wear as many dresses with fancy undergarments as possible (such things are not nursing compatible). Spend entire mornings and afternoons cooking elaborate meals, travel on little trips together, spend whole weekends being utterly spontaneous. Go out with all of your favorite friends together. Go camping with nothing but a wee tent, a double sleeping bag, and a six-pack.

All this said, I enjoy our new wee family of three so much, and I've done things these last 2 1/2 years I would have never been able to do had our son not come into our lives. It's a crazy kind of adventure, and though we sometimes have wistful moments contemplating our past so full of couple time, we often can't believe that our little one wasn't there with us the whole time. Do all the decadent couple things to have something to charge against in the difficult and wistful moments, but if having a family is something you two want and dream about, then I'm betting you find that falling in love together with the new one is way more awesome than a fancy dinner.
posted by rumposinc at 7:24 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Travel. It's not that you can't do it with kids, it's just 100 times more difficult.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:26 AM on August 19, 2009

Spontaneity. When the urge hits, do it. Whatever it is. My kids are now young teens which has its own issues, but when they were newborns and toddlers, everytime we had to do something even as simple as grocery shopping, we had to plan and be ready for all sorts of contingencies. When we traveled, it was like moving a small army with car seats, portacribs, diapers, formula, clothes in case it got cold and clothes in case it was hot. It would have helped if I was an army supply or logistics expert. Then, you have to fit things in between nap schedules and feeding schedules. My kids are one year apart so at one time we had a 1,2 and 3 year old. When people talk about movies from 1994 to 1999, I have no clue as to what they are talking about. I would also start sucking up to those folks, including relatives, who you will be relying on to help. Get in their good graces now since you will be taking advantage of them later.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:26 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do some projects from beginning to end without being interrupted or losing your train of thought. It drives me crazy to have to do everything in several installments. (Wash two dishes, dry your hands, feed baby. Wash two dishes, dry your hands, feed a baby. It's hard to get back to the activity when it's mindless. Imagine figuring out where you were in your knitting 400 times per hat.)

Go to a lot of stores where you want to browse for no reason or run in and buy just one thing. Doing this when you have to buckle and unbuckle a child each time is exhausting. Totally doable, but I don't. Ever. I just drive past cute little stores and say, "I should go there soon!!"

Read a lot of books. Also, I've only brought a baby to a bar once, so there's that.

Do you enjoy any crafts or board games that use very small pieces that babies like to grab and eat? (My one year old was helping us play dominoes buy throwing them all on the floor as fast as she could and eating all the little Mexican train. If my older kids didn't like the game, it would be totally not worth it.)

Really, you can do everything with a baby. We go out to eat, go to movies (past bedtime and just feed baby the whole time), take her to friends' houses, travel, whatever. I have three kids and all of them were pretty easy to tote around and loved going out to eat and going to movies. (When my son was 18 months old, he stayed awake and interested for an entire midnight showing of Lord of the Rings. ) The only time that I found anything really impossible to accomplish is when I had a two year old and a new baby. We were sort of stuck in the house for a year or two. But one at a time is very doable.)
posted by artychoke at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dining-out at nice places.
Visiting childless friends.
More sex.
Anything that requires private time.

Basically, anything you currently enjoy in your current life. It WILL all change.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:32 AM on August 19, 2009

Wander around aimlessly, chatting and carrying very little.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:34 AM on August 19, 2009 [9 favorites]

Enjoy having control of your time. Sit and read for an hour. Sleep in. Go for a long walk. Enjoy leisurely dinners at home and/or at nice restaurants. Travel.

More than sleep, it was not having control of my own time that I missed the most. You're going to lose that.

Also, take a good look at the walls in your future nursery. Enjoy the fact that the walls have never had poop smeared on them. They will.

Enjoy the fact that right now having poop on your walls seems like a huge deal that you can't possibly fathom. A couple years from now you'll enjoy just how trivial that'll seem.

Enjoy your friends, especially the childless ones. While you can still maintain friendships with them afterwards, it takes more work and understanding on everyone's part. You'll be busier and you'll have a lot less in common with them afterwards. They'll have the freedom to go out whenever they want and after you decline a couple invitations they'll be less likely to invite you. They'll assume you're too busy, you'll assume they're not interested in going out with tired parents who won't shut up about their kid. You might both be right. When you do go out with them you'll be tired at 9:00PM. For a couple of years you might not have much to talk about besides your child. It'll be nobody's fault, just a fact of life. While I enjoy all the new friendships I've made, I miss some of the old ones.
posted by bondcliff at 7:36 AM on August 19, 2009

Pursue the hobbies you've been meaning to try. Exercise and get in great shape- it makes pregnancy and its aftermath so much easier- I can't stress this enough. Read. And, like the rest have said, shag as often as possible.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:39 AM on August 19, 2009

You'll need to practice for getting pregnant.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:39 AM on August 19, 2009

You should do whatever you enjoy. Unfortunately, things like sleeping in and having a lot of sex can't be banked--no matter how much of that you do this year, you won't be thinking, three years down the road when your child comes leaping into bed with you at 6:30 a.m., "Thank goodness I slept in all those times in 2009, because otherwise I'd be groggy and irritated right now, (while simultaneously charmed)."

That said, though, my child-free or child-grown friends do things like spontaneously go to a movie on a Tuesday evening just because that's what they feel like doing, and that gives me a pang from time to time. I'm not sure it's possible to appreciate that extra-hard before the baby comes along, though. Maybe it helps to keep in mind that in becoming a parent you exchange one set of pleasures for another.
posted by not that girl at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

These are great suggestions so far -- thank you!

We're looking forward to having kids so much, sometimes I worry that that's all we're doing -- so I really appreciate people pointing out all the positive things in our lives right now, before everything is changed forever.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 7:43 AM on August 19, 2009

Nthing dining in nice restaurants.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:44 AM on August 19, 2009

(When my son was 18 months old, he stayed awake and interested for an entire midnight showing of Lord of the Rings. )

I hope he was quiet, or otherwise you probably made a lot of enemies.

But yeah, pretty much what everyone else has said. You'll miss silence. You'll miss going to a restaurant and not having to say "___________, stop (fill in the blank)" You'll miss thinking "gee, I need to run to the store and grab a gallon of milk" without it turning into a major expedition." You'll miss "hey, let's go do this random thing just because!"
posted by Lucinda at 7:46 AM on August 19, 2009

(When my son was 18 months old, he stayed awake and interested for an entire midnight showing of Lord of the Rings. )

Also, to the OP, please do not do this. Please do not take your children anywhere that isn't age appropriate, even if you think they'll be good.

Chances are, they won't be.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

In our son's first year, I remember my wife saying many times: "I miss eating my food while it's still warm." But, yeah, I have to agree, travel is the thing that becomes much more complicated. Unless you are the type of worrywart person who packs everything but the kitchen sink already. Then it will be pretty much the same, but with a whole new dimension of things to worry about.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2009

Sleep. Did I mention sleep? A quiet meal with warm food.
posted by jaythebull at 7:59 AM on August 19, 2009

Enjoy the silence. Once the new bundle arrives, you'll never have quiet again. It's worse once they learn to talk. :)
posted by cass at 8:02 AM on August 19, 2009

Enjoy long conversations with your friends without once ever stopping to think about where your wandering child is, whose baby that is crying, when do I next need to change a diaper, what's that in my child's mouth/hand/ear, what's that crashing noise coming from the next room, who left that bottle of beer on the floor where my crawling baby will get to it, is it time for a nap yet, do I have poop under my fingernails, I hope my breasts aren't leaking and making giant stains on my shirt, what is my one-year old trying to tell me, is that an unleashed dog coming our way, is baby going to crawl into the pool, and so on.........
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2009

May not be exactly what you're looking for...but taking a leisurely approach to thinking about (and possibly acquiring some of) the things you'll need once the baby arrives may be a better approach then worrying about it once you're already pregnant. You never know if you'll be put on bedrest, or be tired/nauseous all the time, or just becomes far more stressful the closer you get to the due date to work all those things out. Doing a bit of research here & there, maybe walking through a Babies 'R Us, etc., at this point rather than when you're 4 months pregnant might make it a more enjoyable experience.
posted by brandman at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2009

But in a more practical mode, save all your sick time. You'll want it for maternity leave or for times when the baby is sick and you need to stay home. Check to see what your disability coverage is, too.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can still travel with a kid. Ours is 16 months and has flown 14 times. It's just a different kind of traveling.

Nthing spontaneous activity. What do you do next? Who cares? Neither of you needs a nap or to eat or a diaper change, etc.

Btw: while there are things I miss about my life pre-kid, I wouldn't have traded the last 2 years of my life for anything.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 8:23 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

(When my son was 18 months old, he stayed awake and interested for an entire midnight showing of Lord of the Rings. )

I hope he was quiet, or otherwise you probably made a lot of enemies.

I knew I shouldn't have admitted I did that! In general, people would turn around after movies, look at me and say, "Whoa! You have a baby? It's been here the whole time?" If they made noise I took them out. (They rarely made noise.) I've been around a lot more loud adults in movies than I've been around loud kids. Including at kids' movies. The LOTR night was sort of ridiculous, I had a separate car so that I could leave if he didn't fall asleep. Didn't expect him to stay awake and quiet 'til four. A month after the movie, he saw an LOTR poster and screamed, "FRODO!!" He wasn't scared. I didn't let him watch the movie again until he was 9, though, despite lots of begging.

I'm not advocating doing this, it was rather stupid of me. I'm just saying that you can still do a lot of what you used to do with a baby. And actually, that situation was due in part to another problem of babies. If you have a lot of friends who don't do anything until 10:00 pm or later, you won't be seeing them much.

posted by artychoke at 8:33 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

One piece of advice if money is tight. Get to know your neighbors now if you don't already, especially the ones with kids. Maybe offer to sit for them a couple of times to let them go out. We don't have family nearby, so we haven't been out much without him, but we've started switching off babysitting with some of the other young parents in our neighborhood. We're hiring an actual babysitter this weekend for the first time and it adds a large chunk to the cost of an evening out.

Other than that, your life will change, but honestly, it's not that dramatic. You'll adjust quickly and the time will fly past to when you can do normal stuff again. My kid just had his first birthday and all of the above things are true. Your meals get cold, or eaten one handed for a while, your sex life disappears for a bit, you lose a lot of sleep, going places (near or far) takes a lot more planning and you'll never quite have enough time to do all the things you used to do. I subscribe to Time and Sports Illustrated and there's a pile knee high that I need to get through (no spoilers about who won the election please!)

For the first few months we took him with us everywhere we went. He mostly zonked out in noisy places like restaurants and cafes. We quit going to quiet places like movie theaters. At around the 5 month stage he started getting noisy when we were out so we quit eating out for a while, but now he's mobile and interactive we've started again. Except we do it earlier. I always used to wonder to myself - 'who the heck goes out for dinner to a nice restaurant at 5:30?' Well, now I know.
posted by IanMorr at 8:41 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing "conversation". With each other and with your friends. Babies, toddlers, and kids all the way through high-school (when they will become quiet and sullen with their iPods and whatnot - if you're lucky!) will interrupt conversations with great regularity.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:43 AM on August 19, 2009

Sleep in. Sleep all through the night. Sleep in the middle of the day. Nap on the couch. It amazes me how quickly one misses regular, good sleep.

Wake up late on a weekend, then decide to go out to breakfast; quickly get dressed and out the door in just a few minutes. You won't have to find anyone's shoes but your own.

I do not regret having children, nor do I feel like we did not enjoy our time together before we had kids, but golly do I miss having some alone time with the missus. Those weekends when they're at grandma's are rare gems.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 8:44 AM on August 19, 2009

Pamper yourself. Get your nails done. Get a high-maintenance haircut that you can style every morning. Exercise in whatever form is fun and enjoyable for you. Enjoy leisurely meals. Having a kid doesn’t mean you fall apart (I HATE those annoying stereotypes of frazzled women who barely have enough time to comb their hair, running off to work with spit-up on their blouses – grrrr!) BUT you do lose a lot of time/sleep/energy, and you prioritize your finances differently. I work in an office so I’m reasonably well put-together most of the time, but many of the little things -- like getting my nails done and keeping them looking nice -- have fallen by the wayside. I still take a shower every morning, but I miss taking long baths. I still style my hair, but it’s a “practical” cut (i.e. can be put up in a ponytail when the need arises – and it often does). I still eat breakfast, but almost always on the go or at my desk. Etc etc.
posted by yawper at 9:12 AM on August 19, 2009

Exercise. You may find it very difficult to make time for this once children come along. As an added bonus, being in killer shape may make your eventual pregnancy easier.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 9:33 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

You guys are making me realize that there are so many things I'm not currently taking the time to appreciate while I have them (quiet, dinner, leaving the house quickly, just to name a few), which is exactly what I was hoping to get out of this thread. Excellent tips, too, on thinking about baby supplies now, as well as building relationships with the young families in our neighborhood, a few of whom we've just met. I think I'll be a little more proactive about having them over for dinner soon.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2009

Just thought of two more - really long showers and reading in the bathroom. Both of those will be gone immediately.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2009

reading in the bathroom

Ha -- I'll have to tell my husband to savor it now...
posted by Ladybug Parade at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2009

While you're doing these things, don't mourn them. They might be gone for now, but the future will hold new and unpredictable things with your family. I never knew how much I would enjoy playing a rousing game of "Smash Cars" with my two year old son.
posted by plinth at 10:32 AM on August 19, 2009

Eat every spicy, untamed, tentacles-still-moving crazy dish out there now; it'll be hard to get your 4-year-old to not freak out as you swallow a live octopus or something.
posted by mdonley at 11:51 AM on August 19, 2009

We moved house when I was eight months pregnant (I don't have to tell you not to do that!) And there are "finishing" projects that we are only getting around to now, 18 months later. Some little things like fixing the three or four broken window cranks on the casement windows. There are still a few unpacked boxes stuck away in my closet, for example.

I really wish I had forced myself to get my files and desk stuff organized before my son was born, I am still battling for control of my desk. If I could do it over again, I would have purged mercilessly while I was pregnant. I have little craft projects sitting in boxes that I haven't touched in ages, other than to move them out of the reach of little hands. I wish I had either finished them or pitched them altogether, because now they just serve as reminders of how little time I have to myself.

Also, keep in mind that fumes and off-gassing are things you generally want to avoid when pregnant. If you have any house projects to finish, get them done before you even get pregnant if you can. You have no idea how your pregnancy is going to affect you until you are in it- some women sail through, others don't. Get as much stuff done while you can more or less count on feeling normal.
posted by ambrosia at 1:11 PM on August 19, 2009

Don't sleep. Stay awake and do things that require spontaneity, mobility or concentration. Travel. Read. Party. Running. Now, having a kid doesn't mean you can't do all of these things. It just means you will have to plan, prepare, and execute these things with greater discipline once your little bundle comes into the world. You will get plenty of sleep if you're smart, follow a routine, and use a miracle blanket.......
posted by kaizen at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2009

If you love movies, stop going to movies now. Seriously. Double seriously.

Because NetFlix is awesome, but when you're tired and need an at-home date night of take in food and a movie quietly watched while the baby sleeps, nothing sucks more than, "We've seen all these."
posted by Gucky at 2:52 PM on August 23, 2009

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