How is one the magic number?
March 8, 2012 9:11 PM   Subscribe

What are some things you wish you had done (or you are glad you did) before you got into a long-term relationship or had children?

I'm a single lady in her early 30s. I have had long-term relationships, and one day I hope to get coupled up and have a kid or two. I sometimes find myself "waiting" for that dude to show up, and I feel like I could be using my time more wisely, and being more appreciative of the time i DO have on my own.

This isn't a dating question, exactly; I have faith that I have an active enough social life to meet The-Man-Of-My-Dreams, so I don't really need help looking for him. I AM curious about what other people (who are now in relationships or who are parents) wish they had done when they were single, or else were really grateful that they took advantage of when they were single. I'm hoping that this will inspire some new projects or ideas, or gratitude in me.

Any answers are welcome and appreciated; I'm mostly interested in things I can do while holding down a job in a city, rather than ditching my existing life to trek through the jungle (but if that is what you feel, by all means).

Thank you!
posted by andreapandrea to Human Relations (18 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I finished graduate school (PhD in biology) and got a job before getting married. All done! Then waited until we'd been married a couple years to have kids. Picked the best possible husband and dad, having met him on a groupcamping trip. Before kids, we backpacked into the Grand Canyon (a one-week vacation from work), honeymooned at Big Bend for a week, plus many smaller weekend trips, hiking, backpacking, white water rafting, etc. Really glad we did all that first, because camping with babies proved difficult for us, and there's so little time after babies are born.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 9:25 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

P.s. The character-building aspect of pushing hard in those outdoor activities made me feel stronger much later, able to manage those difficult all-nighters with a screaming baby. "You're strong, you can handle this," I told myself, and it really helped.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 9:30 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wish that I had stuck with the piano, written more stories, found ways to use Spanish ... I think it would have been a great example for my kids if I could say "take chances! be creative! it's worth it and fun and you'll surprise yourself!" when I was actually doing so, rather than telling them "yeah, I used to play piano/write/speak Spanish pretty well but I haven't done that in years."

I also think I'd have made better choices wrt partnering up if I'd gotten to know myself better/learned how not to settle beforehand.
posted by headnsouth at 9:44 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm mostly interested in things I can do while holding down a job in a city, rather than ditching my existing life to trek through the jungle (but if that is what you feel, by all means).

Living in one place and having a job, I've found that there's exactly nothing (other than catting around and bringing home strange women on a regular basis) that I can't do now that I could while single. Whereas travel is more complicated, and even more so the kind of upheaval that you describe -- "ditching my existing life" is orders of magnitude more complicated when there are two lives involved, and enormously more so when there are kids.

So even though it's not the answer you are asking for, I'd say that if you have thoughts of travel or crazy adventures, do those now. Hopefully you will end up in a great relationship with a person who encourages you to keep traveling, both alone and together, and your adventures will only increase. But for a lot of people, that's not how life works out, so I'd suggest taking those opportunities now.
posted by Forktine at 9:52 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm glad I bought a house - well, actually, a condo - but I did it and it was mine. Buying it made me feel more like an accomplished adult than anything else I had done up until then.

What I wish I had done: completed my graduate degree. I think back on all the free time I had when I was single, and I spent much of it working and just having fun - looking back, I know I could have squeezed in a class or two each semester.
posted by kbar1 at 9:58 PM on March 8, 2012

Travel (which I did whilst holding down a job in the city) - particularly the more "challenging" kind in developing countries, involving some long, very uncomfortable & sometimes hair-raisingly dangerous legs. We still travel, but for the time being at least it's going to be a lot softer & safer (peninsular Malaysia & Singapore coming up soon). Truth be told, I don't know if I'll ever return to 36 hour bus rides along potholed dirt roads in the Himalayas, for example, but I'm very glad I've done them.

I'm glad I finished my Masters degree, a couple of days a week after hours for years. It's something I'd still have capacity for now within the family situation, but it'd be much more demanding, and my partner's embarking on a PhD, so that's a kind of contingency you'd need to bear in mind: just because you might have the inclination or energy doesn't mean you're free to spend it however you like - there are other people in the equation later.

Definitely also cultural life: plays & concerts & galleries & so on. The need for a babysitter these days raises the threshold for going out much higher: instead of going out a few nights a week randomly on a whim, or on the off chance that something might be an OK diversion, now I need to be convinced that an event is 90%+ guaranteed to be pretty damn good or I just can't be bothered making the effort even thinking about it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:59 PM on March 8, 2012

I wish I had gone out to more fancy restaurants, plays, galleries, concerts, etc and perhaps lived in another country for a while. Once you have kids, you kind of lose those opportunities for a while.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:04 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've done some traveling alone and every time I do, my married/child-having friends always express envy/regret that they didn't do it when they had the chance. They still go places -- and I'm not an adventure traveler, so it's not like I'm going places you couldn't take a kid -- it's just different to set out by yourself versus having to take some number of other bodies into consideration. As a single person it's easy for me to feel envious of people who have built-in travel partners, but I really do like being able to make all the decisions about where and when to eat, whether to spend all day in a given museum, or to take an unexpected side trip to somewhere that catches my eye.
posted by katemonster at 10:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you have thoughts of moving to another city or country it becomes many orders of magnitude harder after you get a family.
posted by bongo_x at 10:25 PM on March 8, 2012

From the perspective of someone who is old enough to be divorced and whose kids are in high school and thus pretty self sufficient and who now has every other week to himself, I appreciate the irresponsible things and not having to adhere to a schedule. Last year, for the first time in about 20 years, I voluntarily slept until 10:30 a.m. in my own bed on a weekend, then I got up and had some leftover cake for breakfast before I went to the store to get a six pack of beer so I could watch football all afternoon without leaving my couch except to get another, pee or answer the door for the pizza delivery guy. In my 20's, I had worked full time, got a graduate degree at night, got married and had 3 kids (in my 30's). Sure, I had many good times back then (I am the veteran of over 100 Greateful Dead shows before 1995), but I took it for granted. Just do stuff you want to do to have fun. Oh, save money for retirement or later in life expenses. You will appreciate it so much when that first tuition bill comes due.

I don't care how much you love someone and love being with that someone and family, make sure you appreciate now and insist on scheduling it in the future, your own personal down time. Especially as a person who is female and planning on having kids which means pregnancy, breast feeding, and all the logistics of keeping up with little people who shit in their pants.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:47 PM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

Lived alone. I'm really glad I got good at being by myself before I tried to be with someone else.

Also: made good, solid, life-long friendships.
posted by spunweb at 11:10 PM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

From my perspective, there's not much you can't do in a couple that you can do single, if it's the right relationship. And most of the stuff you won't even notice if it's right because it'll be replaced by a tonne of awesome shit with someone you love.

As a parent with a five month old baby, some things I (already!) miss are:

1. Sleeping long, and hard, and generously. This is so much further ahead of everything else right now.

2. As a corrollary to one, it would be very difficult for me to do further study or work *really* hard in my career at the moment. At least for the next year, my career and education are both on cruise.

3. As a corollary to 1, and 2. Pretty much anything that takes uninterrupted hours is largely gone. Once in a blue moon, maybe, but anything more than that isn't far on my partner and vice versa.

4. We went to Africa (specifically, Namibia), a couple of years ago. You could do the trip with kids, for sure, but not very young once, and not the same kind of trip we did.
posted by smoke at 2:05 AM on March 9, 2012

If you want to do anything dangerously adventurous like jump out of a plane, my meditation instructor said the other day she wished she'd done stuff like that before having kids, because now she feels too scared to do them when kids depend on her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:40 AM on March 9, 2012

I'm glad I learned to live on my own for a significant period of time before I became involved in any serious live-together situation. It can come in handy later in life.

Oh, and I'm really glad I decided very young that I must never have kids, and that I was very upfront about it with the women I became involved with. The longer I live, the more grateful to my younger self I am about that.
posted by Decani at 7:26 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

In terms of things you can do in your home city, I would say explore new hobbies/interests--things that you've always sort of had an interest in but never put any time into to see if you like them. The barrier to entry gets higher as you acquire partner/kids, because even though many people have hobbies that they don't share with their significant other, most people don't put as much effort into NEW hobbies that they can't do together. When you have kids, especially if you're also working, it gets hard to even maintain your activity level in things you're already doing, let alone take up new ones. There are a bunch of things I'd like to try out (knitting, learning to build stuff with Arduino, carpentry) but I work probably 60 hours a week and my time with my husband and son is very precious to me, so I would rather spend my Saturdays hanging out with them. Depending on which hobbies you choose, of course, you might even meet someone you like.

For me, like many of the folks above, travel was a big one. I have very fond memories of bouncing along a rural road in Cambodia perched atop a rubber mat covering a load of iced fish in the back of a pickup. I would have substantially different feelings about taking my 15-month-old on that truck or to Cambodia at all, and frankly, our last trip with him to Grandma's house in the midwest was much more harrowing than any of the many overseas trips I've been on. At least none of them involved me catching someone else's vomit in my bare hands.

I would also agree with getting on with any additional education that you are considering. It's not such a big deal to be in school with a partner but basically, if you take the four options of having small children, working full time, being in a demanding educational program and enjoying your life, you can have any 3 of them at one time but not all 4.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Travel, for sure.

More adventuresome outdoor stuff. Mountain climbing, kayak trips, etc.

Live alone if you haven't/don't already.

Something I think I could have done with *less* of as a single guy is going out drinking, eating, seeing shows every night, etc. I don't seem to miss this aspect of being young and free as much as I thought I would and in retrospect, I think the money and time I spent being a hip urbanite out on the town, could have been channeled into more meaningful activities. Maybe I only have this perspective because I got it all out of my system but I think I could have gone out half as much, had just as satisfying social life, and learned three or four foreign languages.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2012

Develop and nurture good, strong friendships. This becomes much harder to do once you're married, and even harder once you have children.
posted by kitcat at 1:17 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Traveling to far away places for a long time. I spent 3 weeks in Asia and I would never be able to do that now that I am hugged up with kids.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:27 AM on March 10, 2012

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