How to have a calm life with a kid
June 25, 2017 9:45 PM   Subscribe

We're old, married, set in our ways. Are we cut out for parenting?

I thought I couldn't get pregnant, but it turns out I can. I'm 39, he's 43. We have a very comfortable and settled child-free life. We love to read and travel. Neither of us is especially sociable; we have friends, but we spend most of our time with each other. We knew we didn't want to go through fertility treatment, and over the last few years we've got used to the idea of a future with just the two of us. Surprise! I'm pregnant.

My question is about quiet and introverted parents, and how they adjust to having a child. All we can see ahead is a life of servitude to a tiny tyrant. It sounds selfish and it is selfish - I hate even writing it down. But that's how we feel. We value our quiet evenings together, our quiet weekends about the house or going out to lunch, our overseas trips with just carry-on luggage.

The answer I don't want to hear is "but you'll love them" or "you'll change once you're a parent". The answers I do want to hear are from quiet parents and older parents, you must be out there, right? Is it all as noisy and chaotic and non-stop as it seems from the outside? Is there any way we can make this work?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Quiet weekends about the house: will not happen
Quiet evenings: will definitely still happen
Overseas with carry on: will not happen for a number of years

It is definitely noisy, chaotic and nonstop. That, however, does not mean that a person will not be able to carve out quiet moments. A person does, however, have to understand that plans will be meaningless. Plans have to be discarded. Plans will become nothing more than selected possibilities.
posted by aramaic at 9:54 PM on June 25 [16 favorites]

There will still be quiet moments and you will cherish them all the more.

Especially when the kid is little, you can still do lunch out. As the kid gets older, lunches tend to get shorter (or you do them in shifts), but then as the kid gets older, lunches can get longer.

We got very lucky and our kid is a good traveler; we started with short flights that coincided with naptime and have now done several transcontinental trips with her. We read to her from the beginning; she loves to read and still loves to be read to.
posted by mogget at 10:11 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]

I'm not always a quiet person, but: your children are likely to fit into the house you live in. So for me, I had long periods of quiet reading: as even just a single parent, it was super easy to scoop the kidlet up, tuck her into the crook of my arm, and enjoy my book. As she got older, the change was that she brought her own book. Kids want to be with you and getting some of your attention, but that attention can and will be quiet attention if that's the household they spend most of their time in. Shared art is a good way to accomplish this.

As far as traveling, I traveled the world with a five year old and had a blast. The noisy chaotic thing you're talking about, I never really saw. It doesn't have to be that way.

Kidlet is now a teenagerand super sensitive and thoughtful, so doesn't appear to have been harmed by said upbringing.

You'll be ok.
posted by corb at 10:13 PM on June 25 [35 favorites]

My partner and I give each other quiet time by taking the kids out of the house and leaving the other parent to luxuriate alone, every week.

It's hard to answer this question because every baby is different, and then they change again as toddlers, and then they change again as kids. They change a lot and your somewhat static lifestyle will change and adapt with them, sometimes in surprising ways, sometimes in predictable ways.

Is quiet time gone forever from your life? Definitely not. Can dealing with a young kid be loud, and chaotic and frustrating, and noisy and non-stop? Definitely.

1) Your standards and expectations change. You won't believe me, but you'll notice the noise and stuff less - or rather your scale of 'noisy" will adapt.

2) One kid two parents is a lot easier than multiple kids when it comes to "me" time.

3) Infants, even toddlers, often sleep quite a bit. You may be exhausted too when this happens, but it will give you stretches of essentially quiet time.

4) You can incorporate your kid into a lot of different activities, including those quiet ones you like. Most parents, also, like spending time around their kids, even as they crave solitude. It's a weird paradox, but there it is. Like, as a working parent, I have basically never felt I have spent enough time with my kids, except when I took six months off with the second. So you'll (probably) want to spend time with them, noise and all.

You can make this work, OP - far worse people than you do, every day. The question is, do you want to make it work? You are approaching this with a laudatory and conscientious level of caution. And, should you decide to have a kid, this will serve you well. The parents I know who've taken to parenting the hardest were the ones with really unrealistic expectations about it, I found. Don't feel guilty for your ambivalence! Mine are 5 and 3, and I still feel ambivalent about sometimes, lol.
posted by smoke at 10:22 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]

There is no way to make it work without a material change to your life and quiet life. Having said that, it is not all noisy and non-stop. To me, it was more about the always knowing you needed to be responsible, that you two are responsible for this little being, and that there was rarely going to be a break for the next 20+ years. Lots of pluses, lots of minuses. I will add that certain things you want to do like read, you can make it work. You will always be able to find time to do your priorities especially if you and your spouse are willing to divide and conquer.

Things like travel for sightseeing will take a while. Travel to see relatives across the country? Doable. I have flown with three under three and besides having to buy drinks for the two rows in front and behind me, it was actually ok. Lots of checked baggage, but ok.

Agree with corb that to some extent you can set the tone and create the atmosphere you want. This is especially true if you have only one child. My best friend has one son and he and his wife have raised him from day one as part of a big team and all in this great adventure of life together. He took on much more responsibility as a young boy than most his age from eating at nice restaurants at the age of 3 to traveling to just being around adults a lot.

I have three very different children personality wise, but they all learned to be very good sleepers from an early age (4 months) because we made it a priority. We were rigid about sleep schedules and it paid off for us big time by giving us our own evening and afternoon nap time quiet time as well as less tired crankiness bc a well rested child is much more likely to be a well behaved child.

I love my kids and I would do it all again, but if someone asked me if I would advise them to have kids, the answer is no way would I advise yes or no. It is too much of a life changer for me to take any responsibility for having made the decision either way.
posted by AugustWest at 10:22 PM on June 25 [10 favorites]

Like all things, parents come in all shapes and sizes.

Rarely are quiet, introverted, older parents depicted on TV or in movies because where is the drama in that? Kids are incredibly mouldable, which in your situation sounds like you'll be raising an awesome person.

Kids fit around you, and your routines, and your life. Sure, you're life will change, but being a parent won't change who you are as a person. You're new family member will become a part of whatever kind of life you choose to lead.

The quiet life sounds perfect.

As a very nervous new mother 12 years ago, my advice is always the same, relax and stop worrying as much as you can. Everything is going to be great.
posted by Youremyworld at 10:24 PM on June 25 [9 favorites]

We had our only kid about 5 years older than you guys. It's been the best thing we ever did. Remember that your kid is made of you and grows up in a world you make, so it will be in a lot of ways like you and adapted to how you live. If you are quiet and calm, that's probably how your kid will turn out too.
posted by w0mbat at 10:29 PM on June 25 [8 favorites]

I am an older (almost 44) first time parent of an almost 2 year old. Of noisy, chaotic and nonstop, for me it's really only the last one. But it's getting less intense. I miss the large swaths of alone time and it is a new dimension of together time with your partner, which can be pretty intense.

But, this morning, for example, dad had other plans and so we took the stroller to breakfast and shared eggs and fruit and a muffin at a cafe and watched the other patrons and dogs that passed and I drank my coffee and we strolled back and it was pretty much what I fantasized parenthoood might be like before I did it.
posted by vunder at 10:39 PM on June 25 [9 favorites]

I'm not a quiet parent, but I am an older parent. I think I disagree a bit with what has been said - I don't find it to be noisy and chaotic and non-stop at all. In fact, I often find it quiet and boring, as there is a lot of sleep/nap time involved. Patience is a virtue. When little one is awake, there is a lot of energy to be run out, but a walk to a local park is all that is needed, and I can bring my coffee and a magazine and just chill while the bean runs around.

I think the more pressure you will receive will not be from the child or yourself, but from other parents/relatives who may try to engage you in the noisy, chaotic and non-stop. You can join as you see fit - but remember, you are the adult.

If I can add about the older parent piece - the benefit of being an older parent is having seen the world, and knowing that the world will be there again when the family is ready whether that is within 3 months, 3 years or more. Also I feel as an older parent that I have the ability to not get dragged into the mayhem or drama being developed by the child or other parents/relatives. I do a lot of one-eyebrow-raising and saying the words, "that's interesting..." and both seem to get me pretty far with child and adults alike. It's not to say that younger parents can't/don't do this - I just would not have as a younger parent. For me, age helped me be a better parent.

One thing about children that I find particularly appealing is their ability to challenge you in new ways. If you enjoy travel in order to learn new things, meet new people, understand different cultures, and find beautiful and unusual places, then I think you will enjoy parenting for the very same reasons.
posted by Toddles at 10:45 PM on June 25 [10 favorites]

So, except that I got pregnant on purpose at 35, I'm you. A person who needed a lot of downtime, a lot of quiet, a lot of alone time. I now have four children, and what I can tell you from my experience is that a lot depends on the kid. My first child started sleeping through the night at seven weeks; was on a predictable feeding schedule also from about that age; and took three-hour naps every afternoon. When he was a toddler, we could put him on the bed with a basket of trains and he would entertain himself for an hour. I was pretty rested; I read a lot; even though I was running around with him to the park, to the zoo, to music classes, to the nature center, to the hands-on science museum, and so on and so on, things were pretty mellow.

#2 didn't sleep through the night until he was almost 3, but whereas kid #1 needed to be home every day at nap time, kid #2 would just go to sleep wherever he was. I remember one time we were with about ten other families in a huge room. He was asleep on two chairs pushed together, and kids playing tag were literally jumping over him screaming and he snoozed right through it. It was a busy life, but still not too bad.

#3 Couldn't be put down for the first month of his life. I think I was not holding him for something like 20 minutes a day, a bit more if there was someone else to hold him, though my partner was pretty busy with 1 and 2. I slept with him on my chest; my partner would get us arranged sitting up, and then tuck a sheet all the way around me so that the baby was basically tied to my chest. It was an exhausting time.

Once #3 started moving, he never stopped. Among his first phrases were "I ready go" and "I do it self." He's almost ten now and he does gymnastics in the house; trains dogs in the house; rollerblades in the house. He decides it's a good time to bake cookies, so he bakes them. He decides the dog needs baths, so he bathes them. He has little interior life, which means that he talks constantly, just a chattering stream of whatever's on his mind. He has only recently started sitting down to watch TV; he used to always be jumping on furniture or at the very least sitting upside down in the chair. He prefers a lot of stimulation in his environment, so even if he's only sort of watching it, he likes to have a show on.

He's an amazing kid. He's one of the best gymnasts in the state; he's been training dogs since he was 4, and is very good at it; a couple of months ago he started up a business caring for dogs, taking care of people's pets, and training dogs. He has three clients, including an ongoing twice-a-week training session with a standard poodle, so that's pretty successful for a 9-year-old who has done the whole thing on his own except some photocopying.

There is no such thing as quiet with him around. I have actually learned to get quite a lot done despite the noise, which I would have never thought possible. I have learned that I don't need quite as much alone time as I used to think I did. But when he's gone for the day or overnight? You can hear the whole house and everyone in it exhale.

So, what I'm saying is: it depends. But when it comes to having kids, everything depends. You take your chances, hope for the best, do what you can to protect the other parts of your life that are most important to you, and trust yourself to rise to the occasion. In my experience, that's how it works.

Last year, a young physical therapist I was working with asked me if he and his wife would regret having children. I said, "In my experience, no. But there will be days when you think you do."

That's what passes for my wisdom on the subject anyway.
posted by Orlop at 10:46 PM on June 25 [38 favorites]

I love my kid greatly. That said, I think breeding is overrated. There's a book about happiness that notes that couples are supposedly happier before they have children and after the children move out. I think raising kids is often joyful but can also be really hard, especially if a kid has special needs of any sort and especially if you, as a parent, happen to be a bad match for your kid's personality. I'm going against the grain by pointing this out, because culturally we're supposed to be all rah, rah, kids are the best! And they are and they aren't.

Also, there's a lot of wear and tear on women who give birth. We don't talk about that much either. I adopted my child so I don't know personally but I was there when my first grandkid was pushed out and got to see my kid get stitched up afterward. I got to see how hard it was for her simply to pee, how long it took for her to heal, etc.

That's not special but it's also not discussed that much. So feel free to look at the risks of giving birth, the wear and tear on your body, the giving up of your sex life for an indeterminate period, the expense of raising a child, and the potential inconvenience and trouble involved--as well as the potential love and joy--when you make your decision. Also, consider that unwanted children tend to sense that they are unwanted. This is a real thing that no one would want to experience for themselves.

All we can see ahead is a life of servitude to a tiny tyrant. It sounds selfish and it is selfish - I hate even writing it down.

Dear OP: That's an excellent description of parenting, if you ask me. Only it's not an entire lifetime. Also, it's not selfish to want to be child free. People like me who become parents usually do it because we--quite selfishly--want to be parents. We want to have children. I really did. So for me, having a kid was selfishly doing what I wanted to do. If you don't want to have a kid, that doesn't make you more selfish than me. It makes you exactly as selfish as me. And in these cases, especially, it's important to be the right kind of selfish, the kind that works for you.

In Eat, Pray, Love the author, who does not want to have children, is told by her sister, a mom, that having a child is like getting a face tattoo--it's a real commitment. You may be pregnant but you are not obligated to want this baby, have it, or raise it. You may choose to do so, but you can also skip it. That's the whole point of having a choice. And you don't have to feel bad about not wanting a baby just because most people do.

Finally, if you're totally happy with your life as it is now, congratulations! Not many people are. Whatever your choice, best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:07 PM on June 25 [52 favorites]

My wife was 37 and 43 when she had our two kids. I think the main challenge is lack of energy, more than anything else, especially around bedtime. When you're older you just don't have as much energy.

The other stuff can be mitigated with time management and planning.

You also can't be selfish. Parenthood is basically The Giving Tree brought to life. But that's okay. It is the way of things. Just accept that there are different kinds of happiness. And having children is a great way to live with intent.
posted by My Dad at 11:09 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

Forgot to note that I was nearly 39 when my kid was born; her dad was 40.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:10 PM on June 25

38 when first child came, my wife and I are both introverts, I definitely enjoy quiet and alone time. I still get some of that but dramatically reduced. I have plenty of time to read, but not much for tv or movies (much easier/practical to read while taking care of kids than tv). Travel: I have been to more than 20 countries and lived years of my life overseas, but right now I am just not interested in it anymore at this point, maybe when the kids are big enough not to need a car seat.

Still, I don't think my life is particularly noisy or frenetic. Quite a bit busier, I don't have those lovely long afternoons and evenings to just putter around or go for an aimless walk or things like that. I value all those things but don't particularly miss them, it's just one of those things.
posted by skewed at 11:22 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

If you don't want kids there's no reason to feel guilty about that - it isn't any more selfish than wanting kids.

But if you do want this child, but are daunted by all the horror stories, relax. You only hear the absolute worst cases, because nobody wants to be that parent who comes in to a thread of parent war stories with smug tales of how chill their kid is in comparison.

"Servitude to a tiny tyrant" is ridiculously melodramatic. I don't recognise that at all. My baby comes most places with me in the sling (British Museum, Tate, ten mile walk), and my husband takes him if there's something I want to do that isn't baby-friendly. We can't run together, or do clashing activities, but that's about it.

When they are older they will take their cues from you - if they see you sitting and reading quietly, they will play quietly. The shrieking kids you see running about in cafes generally have very lax parents, in my experience. My friends' kids are not like that at all, because they get taken out if they don't behave properly.
posted by tinkletown at 3:17 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Single mom, two kids, intense introvert. No one has pointed out yet that kids aren't static - a phase of neediness and noise is just as likely to pass into a phase of self-directed play. Kids are always changing. Like another poster, above, I get plenty of reading time (and my kids are old enough that I simply tell them I need a little break to have a cup of tea and read without interruption, and they can join me if they're quiet) but very little TV time. I take them to movies frequently now that they are in preschool. They take after me and as a result I travel with them (two carryons until they were old enough to manage their own rolling backpack), take them into antique stores (yes, really, and there are several stores where they ask to visit as a treat and the owners are wonderful to them), and they get me outside more than I'm naturally inclined, which is a good thing.

Babies were easy. School aged kids that can interrupt me with questions constantly have been much more difficult in the sense that I've had to learn how to recover from distraction better and am finally seeking treatment for adult ADD. I love their questions and the way they think, I am just grateful for a few hours of preschool every week where I can work uninterrupted, because it helps me be more engaged with them when we are together.
posted by annathea at 3:50 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]

I'm childfree and an introvert. I swear a lot. I just plain like being an adult, being quiet, not participating in the childification of culture, not being around children. I'm kind of an aesthete - I like to eat at new restaurants and listen to loud rock music too. I have a friend who is very much the same way who is open about how having two children has stifled her creativity and not been as fulfilling as she hoped. It's kind of hard to watch her avoid her children or openly (with just-not-kidding humor) detest them. I am the kind of introvert who hates unplanned things and interruptions and that seems to be what ails her - what's tyrannical over her inner and creative life about kids. I can't imagine having an infant when a particularly engaging Skye call makes me feel like I need to unplug for 30 minutes. Just a thought.
posted by sweltering at 4:00 AM on June 26 [9 favorites]

My husband and I are both introverts, and our kid's nearly 3. I think the initial shift to parenting is actually easier for quiet homebodies than for social butterflies: you don't have to completely change the way you relax, and it's easier to maintain something kind of like the status quo with your friendships. You can curl up with a good book during a surprise extra-long nap; it's much harder to spontaneously go out with four best friends.

And kids aren't all miniature Donald Trumps, fortunately. There are difficult days full of time-outs, and you do have to think like a kid, but little kids also frequently like structure and calm and will often accept your rules and feel good about helping out. My kid will put his socks in the laundry if I ask! It's amazing! They are louder and more energetic, but that's what parks and preschool and soccer lessons are for. You'll get a sense of when the kid needs to burn off some excess energy, and a lot of loud outdoor activities require only quiet supervision rather than active participation, and you can tag-team it so one parent gets the afternoon off.

You do lose your weekends, and traveling becomes significantly less fun. Not gonna sugarcoat that.

And, to reiterate what others have said above, you don't have to have kids. I love my kid, am happy he's around, and am surprised by how rarely I get tired of him, but life without kids was also really good. Ambivalence about parenting is not necessarily a sign you shouldn't pursue it (people sometimes say you have to be like 120% sure you want kids, and I wasn't), but when it comes to leaving your childfree life, I think there's a difference between worry and dread. Worry is normal; dread is a red flag. Be honest with yourself and your partner about which one you're feeling.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:27 AM on June 26 [11 favorites]

Yeah, no. Don't do it. I think what you crave is not only quiet but a certain peace of mind.
And you can't have that while a miniature person is constantly throwing challenges at you.
Sure, there will be down times but on the kid's own schedule. The only way to get some "you" time is to carve it out for yourself. (Mostly by making the kid your partner's job during that time.) How good are you at organising responsibilities? How good are you at setting boundaries with crying little people who only want their mommyyyyyyy? How large is your network of people willing to babysit and do you have the money to pay for sitters? That's ultimately where your downtime is going to come from.

Parents are happy because the highs are deliriously high, but your life really is full of low level dramaz and putting your kid's needs first.

I have two kids, I kind of like chaos but I would never suggest it to two people who want to maintain their quietly happy lifestyle.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:32 AM on June 26 [9 favorites]

My kid is the sort of kid who tells us to turn the tv down, and who doesn't like noise and whose idea of a rad time is sitting quietly on the mat playing with his train set. There's no reason why you *must* have chaos, anarchy and noise with your kid. We're fairly quiet, bookish folks around here, and my son has sucked that up. He has his moments of noisiness, but it's not like it's 24/7, and small kids sleep a lot. Your nights will probably stay quiet, and like others have said you'll likely do better than parents who miss going out and partying and being noisy and chaotic themselves.
posted by Jilder at 4:37 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

My experience hasn't been that it's noisy and chaotic and non-stop, but that your time is no longer your own. Yes, I totally found time to read, or go out to eat, or whatever, but I didn't always get to decide when/for how long those things happened. So I think you can still be a quiet introvert, as long as you're a patient one. There is nothing like (your) stubborn kid to test your patience.

Also, of course, all kids are different. Even if you and your husband are a certain way, and have generally matched temperaments, that does not mean your kid will act accordingly, and more importantly, that's okay.
posted by lyssabee at 5:07 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Having one child would cut down on the chaos in the house. A lot of the noise and fighting that happens is between siblings. That said, as they get older you may need to seek out more social opportunities for them. Play dates and such.

Every kid is different and please don't assume just because you two are quiet introverts that your child will be. As an introvert myself, parenting takes a lot of my emotional energy. Especially resolving conflicts. But again, a single child would make that a lot easier.

Being a parent does place restrictions on you and does require sacrifices. You will need to change your routines, your furniture (babyproofing), your meals, your attitudes. Giving my kids what they need requires me to step outside my comfort zone. I don't view them as tyrants.
posted by friendofstone at 5:17 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

I want to acknowledge the enormity of what you are asking here. As someone who has experienced a lot of kid medical stuff too, I want to really highlight that parenting is a step into the unknown. You could have a child with challenges, or a perfectly introverted only child who is preternaturally adult. It's less about trying to control all the variables and more about confidence that as a parenting team, each of you will get quiet time you need _while_ you meet the challenges kids bring.

I am an older parent married to an introvert but not introverted myself. One thing to add to this discussion is how much money can you throw at this problem? Being an introvert parent who can afford sitters, preschool, camp, art classes, two hotel rooms (eventually), etc. is a different experience than having date night at IKEA because you can sign your child into the ball pit for free and go get a $1 coffee and read (despite being an extrovert, I may have done this from time to time.)
posted by warriorqueen at 5:24 AM on June 26 [13 favorites]

I had my son at 38. Like you, we had some fertility challenges for a few years and figured it probably wasn't going to happen and were fine with that. I went to get some basic endocrine diagnostics done just to make it final, and hey presto: knocked up.

I'm also an introvert and I'll be real, being an introvert mom is tough. A lot of parenting manuals and philosophies assume the opposite.

Kids are little individuals, though, and they come out the way they come out. In part they're offshoots of you, but there's something about every kid where you're like, where did that come from? Case in point: my kid is an extrovert. He takes after my dad, I think. How well a kid sleeps, how quiet they are, how well they travel, these are all things that you can try to influence but there are no guarantees. I think the best success I've had influencing how my kid turned out is in areas where he had already had a natural predisposition that I consciously helped along. Like, he was always a pretty good sleeper (for a given value of crazy baby sleep patterns), but I put a lot of time and effort into really cementing that and improving it because child shenanigans are infinitely easier to cope with if mommy gets her 8 hours. But I know people whose children just do. not. sleep. And it's not like they were like hey, you know what would be super fun? Never sleeping. They just wound up with an unsleeping kid. It happens.

All that said, if I had to cross stitch a sampler for new parents it would say this: It's not going to literally kill you and it's not forever. I actually wrote that message on post its and stuck them around the house during some tough newborn and baby times. Kids change constantly. The thing that is going on right now that is making you crazy won't last forever and will not have a death toll. It's hard to remember that when you're on the thick of it, though. But then one day you'll wake up and be like, huh, that was a thing that happened but now he's super cute and well behaved. (That, too, will not last forever.)

My son turns 5 next weekend. He can be exasperating, but he's also an actual walking talking little person who can hold a conversation and says things like if a tyranasaurus came to the playground, he'd hide in the tunnel slide because he has a hypothesis (his word) that t-rexes are too big to put their heads in there. And he loves Bjork and Doctor Who, so clearly we've done something right.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:36 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]

I'm an introvert, and although I didn't have my kids later in life (I had my first at 27) I can completely understand the desire for quiet/alone time. I'll be honest, the first couple of years are intense, but after that it really eases up.

If you only have one child, I think things will be much easier. I have three, and as someone noted above, a lot of the noise/chaos comes from siblings fighting and playing. There are also ways to carve out quiet time...the hours between the baby's bedtime and yours will become golden. One parent can take the kid to the park while the other enjoys silence at home. Also, sometimes you can use daycare to your advantage...someone I know has her son in daycare, and instead of picking him up after work she goes home for 45 minutes to hang out and do things before picking him up.

When I had my son and in the midst of postpartum upheaval, I remember thinking, "I've ruined our lives. We'll be at his beck and call for the next 18 years." That absolutely wasn't the case. My kids are 9, 6, and 3 now, and I have a lot more freedom as they can play and entertain themselves while I read or engage in my hobbies. Your life will be different, but not worse.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:38 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Older parents here, our first baby was very chilled out, he was like an old soul...independent and easy to please. i always felt like we had understanding. We had our second 11 months later and he is much more active and needs a lot more of me. I have said to my husband that if we have a third that baby is going to nursery at a very your age because staying home with him was hard. Both are fab sleepers so we always have our evenings mostly quiet. We pay for a babysitter regularly. You might get a nice relaxed baby, and if not, there are options- but it's not as horrible as people say and once they get to being proper toddlers they can be very cute. Also, the house is extremely loud in the mornings and before bed- transitions are hard. But might be easier if there is only one.
posted by catspajammies at 5:38 AM on June 26

Also, I think money is important here- if you have money you can get a lot of help or use nurseries (which I think are great!)... when you have help you can get time to yourself.
posted by catspajammies at 5:53 AM on June 26

There are definitely ways to make it work, but they all require sacrifices from you and your SO. There is a 0% chance of maintaining the life you currently have, even if you get a really chill kid (kids make themselves, in large part; it's not just that chill kids emerge from chill parents). So, if your current life is the dream you've always wanted, maybe a kid is not for you.

Before our kid (kid is 3, I'm 42, wife is 39), we traveled a fair amount, slept in, went to different restaurants, read books, went to the movies, etc. We're both introverts (I more than she), but we went out, saw friends, did our things. Now that kiddo is 3, we're getting back to that, but there aren't enough hours in the day to do a tenth of what we ever did before, and we're at the tail end of perpetual exhaustion. Kid is a pretty good sleeper, but as a parent you're attuned to every noise. I don't think I've had more than six consecutive hours of sleep since my daughter was born.

So, it is hard, and maybe not for everyone, but I can't imagine trading more nights at the movies for this miraculous little human. Kids really are incredible. There's lots of chaos and a dearth of free/alone time in the early years, but I wouldn't ever ask for a refund.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:07 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]

Also, I think having a kid has actually spurred me towards greater creativity and self-improvement, just to give a counterpoint to the "kids will suck your creativity and take over your hobbies" possibility.

I'm naturally pretty lazy. Pre-kid I had weekends where I never left the couch. Just reading and binge watching and internetting. I can't be that extremely lazy anymore, though, because there's a little guy who needs an adult pretty frequently. So instead I've switched gears completely. Now that the kid is able to play on his own and be alone in a room without risk of grievous injury, I've set up a woodshop in the garage and I'm learning woodworking. I've stepped up my gardening game. I'm politically active (protip: kids love canvassing). I'm constantly involved in a project or two. I feel more accomplished and fulfilled now than I have in years because having my son rocketed me right out of my comfort zone (which was really, really comfortable).

That said, though? There's absolutely nothing wrong with hearing all that and going yeah, no, my comfort zone is a-okay and I wish to stay there forever.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:07 AM on June 26 [12 favorites]

I'd also say that, while I would dive head first into a wood chipper to save my daughter from harm, there are some days where I'm just "Jesus Christ, you devil child, give daddy five minutes to take a shit in peace!" You take the good with the bad. My wife is particularly zen about the whole thing; I'm quite a bit tighter wound. But I'd never say it wasn't worth it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:17 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]

I am not an older parent (I was 27 when my son was born), but my husband and I are introverts who have been together since we were young teenagers and we are definitely quiet people. Quiet weekends, nights in, backpacking trips, reading, etc. We don't like going out. We like time with friends but in small groups and small doses.

I don't feel as though we've been forced to change now that we're parents. Quiet nights in are practically obligatory. Of course there will be nights when the kid has trouble sleeping, and early on there will be a great deal of waking up in the night, but we don't have chaotic miserable evenings at all.

Quiet weekends? Some of that you get to keep, some of that you don't. Many kiddos (including mine) wake up early for a while, or go through early-waking phases. For the first 18 months we were getting up at the crack of dawn. But now he's 3 and likes to sleep until 7:00 or so which is great. (We're accustomed to a 5:30 alarm, so it seems luxurious.) There are still lazy mornings cuddling in bed. We still go to cafes. There were phases when the visits didn't last very long, but now the kiddo takes an hour to drink a hot chocolate and eat a bagel so we have plenty of time to sit back. We can't spend all day lying around and reading - we usually have to have something to do because kiddo can only entertain himself for a few hours before he starts getting a little stir-crazy - but we still do the same stuff as before, like hiking, bike rides, visiting museums, etc. In fact, both of us feel strongly that we do more things that matter to us now than we did before kiddo was born, because we don't have the option of just not making a plan for an entire day. In the last 3 years I've continued to perform with my orchestra, done a triathlon, spent a lot more time winter hiking, read a whole bunch of novels, started an art project, and just generally done a lot of personal work that was worthwhile. Plus on the work side of things... I got a PhD.

Travel will be radically different in the early years. You need to prepare for every trip, even just to the grocery store. Your kiddo's nap schedule will loom large. Kiddo will likely not tolerate long plane rides well and it will be a major challenge. That said, we traveled overseas when our kiddo was 1 and it was fine. The flight wasn't fun but it wasn't hellish either.

Maybe this will be useful to you; here's what I miss from the days before my kid was born: being able to do physically/mentally challenging things like backpacking trips (at a pace and in conditions not appropriate for children), having money available to travel (I would totally be thrilled to bring my kid along if I could afford it). There is a relentlessness to parenting, for sure. Sometimes you want to push pause and you can't, but since it's absolutely not an option, I haven't really wasted any time thinking about it.

Here's what I don't miss: days with literally nothing to do. I never really enjoyed them; I like spending my time purposefully even if that often means reading a book or taking a hike. I don't miss wasting time on the internet. I don't miss late nights out or anything because I never did that anyway. I don't really miss our pre-kid marriage; it's just as good if not better now.

An important note: kid temperament has a lot to say about how the first year or two goes. My kid was NOT chill. He didn't sleep well, he wasn't relaxed and he hated just laying around. He need stuff to DO and was very high maintenance. (This does not mean he is a super-extroverted kid; in fact he's an introvert too. He was just a restless baby and disliked the lack of freedom that comes with the inability to walk and talk.) Some people have dreamy quiet babies and their infancy experience is totally different.
posted by Cygnet at 6:21 AM on June 26 [7 favorites]

I'm an introvert and something of an older parent. I used to go to the movies (a lot), read (a lot), go to museums (at lot), and I did creative stuff (a lot). All that is gone now. Every plan needs to involve kids somehow, or finding ways to get rid of them for a few hours. If I sit on a couch I know that I'll probably have to get off it in the next five minutes because of some tragedy involving a plush toy and spilled water. Still, I don't really miss my quiet, introvert times, because children are simply fascinating. As another poster noted above, kids are always changing. A kid goes to sleep, and a slightly different one wakes up, with new abilities, new words, new expressions. There's chaos, but, for introverted me, this is stimulating, intellectually challenging chaos, not the dreadful boring kind.
posted by elgilito at 6:25 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Your kids will fit into your routines, unless they don't. I have two radically different kids, and can tell you that your kid will like anything, or be like anything, just because you are...well, your mileage may vary. You will absolutely influence your kids, but there's a lot you can't predict about who they turn out to be.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:05 AM on June 26

I'm going to answer this from the other side (even though I'm 35 and in the process of trying to conceive): as an only child of quiet parents.

I totally agree with the people who said that one child is very different than more than one child. My experience growing up was in a clean, quiet, calm household, and I remember always feeling shocked and even off-put when visiting friends houses and everything was chaotic and loud and messy and all the food and culture was kid-ified. I think it has to do with the adult to child ratio. Adults were winning in my household; two parents, one kid. In households where kids outnumbered adults, things were different. By age 5 I was eating sushi in restaurants and watching whatever tv or movies my parents had on, and never making any sort of mess in any room but my own.

That being said, I never fit in so well with other kids and being an only child made me this weird mix of over-mature (tastes, vocabulary, etc) and immature (social skills with children; my social skills with adults were always fine). Still, I think my quiet, calm, non-child-culture parents didn't find themselves overwhelmed forever with me (though I was expensive. I think a main reason kids limit travel is that kids are expensive). And I don't wish I had had a chaotic, siblingful, juice-box and lunchable room-sharing time as a kid. My husband and my best friend are also only children and their experiences were very similar to mine.

Also, a lot of personality is inheritable. It is theoretically possible that two quiet, calm people will have a very loud, boisterous kid, but in my experience, energy levels seem to be one of the most inheritable personality traits.
posted by millipede at 7:25 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]

A big, big factor is the work/life balance of the parents. One major difference in our life when we added a child (at age 36) was that we had to start cooking, and therefore grocery shopping, and cleaning up. (I thought my child would eat prepared foods from Whole Foods but he wouldn't. And takeout doesn't have many vegetables and fruits.) If you have to rush home at 6 pm to fit that in before bedtime, and weekends are filled with tasks, life feels chaotic.
posted by xo at 7:42 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

A couple things that I haven't seen mentioned:

1) Childcare and work. Day care is expensive. The way that my wife and I have made is work is by essentially working opposite schedules for the past 16 years. Right now I work Monday to Friday 7-4 and my wife works Fri, Sat & Sun 7am-7pm. We are lucky that she has a career that lends itself to non-standard schedules, and we both have enough vacation time that we can find ways to spend more time together on a regular basis, but it hasn't always been easy. If paying for daycare/nannies will not be an issue for you, you can safely ignore this as an issue, but it is something to consider.

2) Friends. Your kid will, eventually have classmates and teammates and boy/girlfriends. All those other kids have parents that you are, at least somewhat, expected to be friendly to and socialize with. If nothing else at birthday parties and concerts and the like. You've also got teachers and coaches and senseis to consider. When my child was younger (and we lived in blue states) we were lucky to find some awesome people that we still keep in touch with. These days (in Trump's America) we are less enthused about spending quality time with most of our daughter's friends' parents. In any case, as an introvert, I always find it a struggle to make chit-chat with the other moms and dads, and I know other parents find me a bit weird. I try and foist as much of the interacting with other parents off on my wife (with her blessing), but as the primary weekend caregiver - see above - that's not always possible.

3) Stuff. Having kids requires a shit ton of crap and stuff. Cribs and swings and onesies and strollers and car seats and stuffed animals and action figures and LEGO and playsets and bikes and musical instruments and posters and cosmetics and and and. We have a pretty non-materialistic kid, and even so we just have so much stuff. Granted, some of it is fun to have around if you like toys and games like I do, but it can just be overwhelming to someone with minimalist tendencies like myself.

That said, my kid is awesome, and I wouldn't trade the experience of being her Dad (or watching my wife be her Mom, for that matter) for anything in the world. We always wanted kids, but she was a surprise at the time, and a challenging one for her first couple of years, but even so, I love being a parent.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:53 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]

We were 39 and 42 when our son was born. We definitely were settled into our own life and both tend toward introvert. You definitely get eased into it because first they're a baby and like a lot of folks said... there's sleeping and you're kind of in your own bubble for a while.

Our son is 4.5 now and I think the hardest part for me has been getting used to way less alone time, which is something I definitely need. Though when we're all home, it's not chaos. I mean it is occasionally because he's a super busy guy, but as he's gotten older he'll sit and build stuff quietly now. I mean it took 4 years for that to happen, but you could have one of the kids I see at pre-school drop off who are coloring quietly by themselves. They seem magical sometimes.

I miss going out to dinner randomly during the week at 8pm and sitting at the bar. Now it's more like 5:30pm and we can't sit at the bar. But our kid can order for himself and has gotten into the rhythm of eating out which is great.

So yes, it's not easy, but we've adjusted and he is SO FUN. It's gotten even better as he's gotten older.
posted by jdl at 8:31 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

We're old, married, set in our ways. Are we cut out for parenting?
Depends on the "set in our ways" part. Are you willing to change EVERYTHING? EVERYTHING?

If you hesitate to say yes even a tiny bit, then parenting will destroy you as an "older parent".
posted by TinWhistle at 8:48 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Did not read other answers to just say this from my own experience.
I'm a quiet person and my husband is a quiet person and we both are really ok staying at home and doing our own thing. This all changed when we had our kid. Kids don't do well staying inside all day cause then everyone starts to go crazy. I have two kids now and the dynamics are certainly different. With just one, you can still find a bit of quiet time if kid learns to play by themselves (like, of course you can't leave them alone but it's a plus if you can read or work or whatever while they play near you). Also, you cand your spouse can take turns on the weekend and still sleep a few more hours or take a nap or whatever.

Being an introvert and a mom is somewhat hard to manage, specially now since he started school, so yeah, things change when you have kids, but (even if that's the answer you didn't want to hear), it's true that you change too....not your personality or your temperament, but your priorities and your needs change. It's different putting yourself second for other people than from your kid, it really is. It's also really important to not put yourself second all the still need to find time for yourself.

Congrats on the pregnancy.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:04 AM on June 26

One thing about children that I find particularly appealing is their ability to challenge you in new ways. If you enjoy travel in order to learn new things, meet new people, understand different cultures, and find beautiful and unusual places, then I think you will enjoy parenting for the very same reasons.

I came here to repeat this. I assume that's the reason you like to travel.

I was 37 when my son was born and honestly I was a little apprehensive. I never did want kids and I did not like change and I liked having me time. Having a kid meant adjusting big time and it was not all roses.
The first six months were a blur. But it was paradoxically the saving grace - it was survival mode and I never thought about other things that I was missing. It slowly ramped up from there when I started getting vestiges of my old life back.
There are of course others that I cannot get back to until the kid is fully independent. I cannot for example go out at the drop of a hat. I have to continually monitor this little being for his safety when he starts exploring. When it's bed time, I have to drop what I'm doing and take him to bed.

But you know what....just like travel, having this kid challenges my way of thinking. He is like a blank slate, a miniature of me - I have to re-learn to separate needs and wants. (Remember this well if you are afraid of 'servitude to a tiny tyrant'). And what applies to him mostly applies to me as well. I cannot leave the house at the drop of the hat - why? Because I'm living the American lifestyle. Two parents in a bubble separate from communities. I like my me time - that's my want. He, and I, needs community. I can ignore this need when I'm on my own. For now. Not for long since loneliness is a huge issue for older folks. Yes...I still need my me time and I do get it. But not in the scope that I originally envisioned and I'm recognizing a need in myself that I have long neglected. And having a limit on wants is a good thing. Remember how excited you were for Halloween and all the chocolate you can eat? Would you have the same excitement if you can have that every single day?

Same with food. I can feed the kid take outs every single day. That's what I do plenty of the time anyway. But that's not healthy, is it? Should I then feed him something better even if he doesn't like it? Yes...yes I should. I should make him healthy meals. Why then am I not applying the same principle to myself?

As for chaotic? Definitely. But there are a couple of things to bear in mind:
1. I'm not his friend - I'm his parent. I control my household and the rules that go in it. He will challenge it and I will not have 100% total control...nor do I want it. But I set the tone and directions in this household. Not him.
2. Simplify. My life and his. He will make a mess...yes. But it's a much easier mess to clean up when he has only a bucket of toys compared to a roomful (or for some people, houseful) of toys. Same applies to other aspects of life. 3 different lessons in a week are too chaotic? Then don't have that.

Your life is your own - you decide if you want this kid or not. From my experience, things do change...yes. But it's a good thing since it challenges my old preconceptions and forces me to break out of my old shell.

And oh - he is a god damn joy to be with. Most of the time.

tl;dr version : just like travel, having a kid challenges my way of thinking. It has forced me to learn the difference between wants and needs. And it has honestly made me a better person.
posted by 7life at 9:14 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Babies are very demanding. They need near-constant attention. It's exhausting, some people like babies and enjoy hanging out with them, some don't. Up until about 3, you don't get much peace, though they do sleep more and better.

Children are really all quite different. You might have a pretty mellow kid, you might have a child who is anything but. You are both quiet and introverted, so maybe the odds are higher that your child would be on the quieter side.

Current US parenting suggests that you should be taking your child to playdates, activities, etc., constantly. I think you can involve your child in things you and they can both enjoy - trips to the beach with a lifeguard where you can sit and keep an eye on them and still read a book. I did a lot of taking my kid to fun places where there were lots of kids and reading a book, esp. as I haven't been able to ski, bicycle, etc., due to arthritis. I like being outdoors, walking, camping; my kid loved those things.

My son is about to be 30 and is an enjoyable person to have in my life. I adore my grandson, though he is with his mom and too far away. Take the long view as well as the short view.

Me, I always wanted kids. If you decide you don't, it's a perfectly reasonable choice.
posted by theora55 at 9:45 AM on June 26

Money makes a huge difference. If you can afford good child care, a weekly house cleaner during infancy or longer, a good babysitter, healthy food delivery, life is way more manageable.

None of my friends had babies when I did; it can be easier to have friends to share stuff with. The web probably makes that easier.
posted by theora55 at 9:50 AM on June 26

I have found that personality traits are often inherited. I have two super-anxious friends who had kids. Their kids are super-anxious. I am a high-energy, willful person who never shuts up. And guess what? So is my 3 year old. I find it exhausting but I'm able to have empathy because I know where those traits come from. So, while kids in general are a lot of work, you can expect, from both nature and nurture, that your kid will be more like you than not.
posted by missjenny at 9:53 AM on June 26

I was older than you when I had my first baby and I'm a huge introvert. But neither of those things felt to me like they made parenting harder. I'm not the kind of person who needs quiet around me or likes sameness and routine. It sounds like maybe you are, which could make things tougher.

But the way you describe your life makes it sound like a child could actually fit into it fairly easily. If you had said you and your husband were always on the go and that your evenings and weekends were usually spent at movies, concerts, and nice restaurants or skiing, rock climbing and riding motorcycles, then I'd say parenting would be a huge disruption to your life. But a couple who enjoys quiet evenings and weekends at home with each other is the kind of couple whose lives are least likely to be disrupted by having a child.

Traveling will be harder, for sure. If you only have one kid, it won't be noisy and chaotic, except when your kid has friends over or you go to some kid activity. (If you have more than one, there will definitely be noise and chaos.) I found that my kids, at least when they were little, felt almost like extensions of myself, so being with them wasn't draining in the way being with other people can be. Being alone with a baby didn't feel that different from being alone with just myself. The hard part is that you can't just do whatever you want whenever you want. I think that's probably equally hard whether you're an introvert or an extrovert.

Even though some of your peaceful, quiet times are going to be taken away from you, there will also be other peaceful, quiet times that are pushed onto you. Sitting in the shade and reading while your kid splashes in a creek or digs in a sandbox. Snuggling on the sofa wile you read aloud from children's books. (If you love reading, you may find this to be one of the best things about parenting. I have.) Browsing the web or watching TV while your baby nurses. And if both parents are willing to participate equally you'll still be able to go out alone or have the house to yourself reasonably often.

The hardest part only lasts about 8-10 years. Then your kid starts being able to stay home alone while you go for a walk or go to the store, do her own thing around the house while you do yours, accompany you while you hike or shop without complaining or slowing you down, watch the same movies you enjoy, etc. (Depending on the kid, some of those things may start happening even earlier.)
posted by Redstart at 10:01 AM on June 26

All we can see ahead is a life of servitude to a tiny tyrant. It sounds selfish and it is selfish - I hate even writing it down. But that's how we feel.

There is a certain amount of that, but then there is the flip side. There is no-one in the world that I can make as happy as I make my daughters. Not all the time, of course, but when I pick up the micro-lurglette and say "Hi", the look on her face is pure, unadulterated, weapons-grade, primo joy. When I read to the older one (or when she reads to me), it's the same - unfiltered, fresh from the mountain spring happiness.

That won't last, but it's wonderful while it does.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:19 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Hi, I've lived and am living this life. Kid at 38 (a month before 39) , only one, introverted, love the quiet life.

As other people have said--she's 'like us'--she fits in great, and she's got the verbal skills to say 'enough of us hanging out solo; I want a friend over'. Even if we....don't....we still make it happen for the kid.

Can you have a calm life? No. But realize you couldn't in the first place. A thousand things can harsh your mellow. We have animals--the cleaning up of pee and vet appointments are pretty mellow harshing on their own.

Is it hard? Yeah, it's pretty hard. I don't think I could have had more than one kid, though I had a miscarriage that broke my heart in my early forties. I'm not sorry. One is right for us. She sleeps over at friends' houses, she is close to her grandparents and we got date nights even when she was an infant. We are both introverted and we work hard for her, to give her what she needs. She's a bit introverted herself, but we try to give her space to be extroverted when that surfaces.

She's super funny, quick witted and smart. Was it a pain in the ass? Yes, it was and is a pain in the ass. But recognize lots of things are a pain in the ass.

I love her very much. She is the best thing either one of us has ever done.

Also: while I'm saying and advocating 'this can be joyous' -- you do not have to do this thing simply because the universe rapped your head. You can not; you can terminate the pregnancy and it is your absolute right to do so. You do not have to do this if you do not want to--no matter how many cutesy stories there are.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:04 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

We were older parents, 39 and 41 for our two kids. I had said for many years that I didn't want children, but gradually came around to the idea, which is obviously different from your surprise! pregnancy. I think I was much calmer as an older parent. I was also less interested in constantly being on the floor entertaining them, so I expected them to be more self-entertaining and for the most part they were.

I am also an introvert. Because we moved from one coast to the other while I was pregnant with our first I was totally without any support from family or friends. But I was OK with that, and actually found it incredibly relaxing to just be by myself each day getting used to being a mother. I eventually did find a mom group which was nice, but I certainly didn't feel like I was going out of my mind being on my own each day.

Each child is an individual, of course. We were lucky that kid number 1 slept through the night at around 8 weeks. Kid number 2, on the other hand, refused to sleep anywhere but in my arms in a rocking chair for the first few months. But I think because I had more confidence in my judgment I was OK with that and just took it as what I needed to do for that particular child, even though I'm sure parenting "experts" would have frowned. Then at some point she was ready to sleep in a crib and it was fine.

I will say that I wanted to and was able to stay home with our children, so I don't know if that made a difference in the disruption to our lives. But I honestly don't remember our lives being particular noisy or hectic or chaotic. (Both children are older teenagers now so it's been a while :-) ) We were mostly homebodies and that continued once we had children. Congratulations and good luck!
posted by Bresciabouvier at 4:17 PM on June 26

I'm mostly an introvert too and pregnant with my third child at 43. My other two kids are 8 and 7. I had challenging reflux infants who always cried and that I could never put down. I also don't have family close to help, so I have only had 3 weekends away with my husband over the last 8 1/2 years. I agree that money, family and willingness to hire outside help will be a huge factor in your decision.

Now that my older kids are in elementary school and have extracurricular activities, I am more of an activities coordinator and chauffeur. It's exhausting to make small talk with the other moms and I do it only because I don't want to be the reason my kids aren't invited on play dates or birthday parties. I'd 1000 times over rather lay on the couch and read a book, but instead I'm taking them to the park to run off their energy. One of them has only about 5 foods that he eats so going out to dinner is a real pain in the ass.

Still, I love them and don't regret them. I'm even having another and (gasp!) considering a 4th. Having said that, if your life is happy and fulfilling right now, then maybe..... don't. I always wanted to be a mother, so I willingly give up the freedoms of the childless. If it's not a burning desire that you have children, then I would say revel in your freedom and not see this pregnancy through.

People talk about how children change you and how much you grow to love them and it IS true. But it's ALSO true that children can suck the soul right out of you. It's a-ok to nope out of that risk.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:59 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

I think you've gotten lots of good things to think about. I definitely side with those saying you can do this - if you think you might want to, I think you should go for it. As quiet homebodies who like to travel I also agree that really, it's as easy a transition as it can be. All the things we like to do are kid-friendly (farmers markets, not clubbing) so we still do the same things with kiddo in tow.

It's not easy, but I also don't think it's what you're thinking it is either. As you've noted, you don't see a lot of depictions of older, quieter parents with only children - because it's not that dramatic or interesting or makes as big a joke. You can also have options: breastfeeding is intense and time consuming - you don't have to do it. You don't have to let them sign up for a zillion activities, you don't have to have more kids. There's so many messages out there - you hardly have to anything. Just do what works for you - the kid will be fine.

Agree that it's a lot like travel! There's weird illnesses, you don't speak the language, you sometimes spend a lot of time getting basic needs met, but it's also worth it for very similar reasons.

Nth that I get to do everything I need/want to do eventually - just not necessarily on my timetable (but then, I show up at work every morning when I'd rather be doing other things so...). It's getting better as he gets older, too.

We took our almost 2 yr old to Hawaii for three weeks from Sydney with only carryon and it was fine. In fact, not waiting at baggage claim with a toddler was awesome, and the only thing we weren't able to bring was a giant bottle of sunscreen.

Anyway, I wrote almost three pages of "hacks" that we used to deal with being introverted parents! Feel free to get in touch some way (my MeMail? Mods?) and I'll happily send it over.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:58 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Oh the key in having a calm life? Be calm, patient, and compassionate with the kid. Model the behaviour you want. Encourage and teach them to do things for themselves, have them join you, etc. Leave enough time to in the mornings/evenings to not have to rush - even if you get up a little earlier. Calm can be cultivated!
posted by jrobin276 at 6:03 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

This morning my 8 year old put the kettle on the hob for me, because today is a much beloved Friend Day and she was worried I would find it hard to handle all the noise of her friend and her little sister arguing. But it is just my kid and her friend and they are being hilariously solemn and serious little girls, playing with dolls and engineering kits to build a plane, and now a video game while they picnic on the floor.

My kid is very much like me in many ways, but she is a total extrovert, as is her father. This can be difficult for me to handle, as they are Full On From Waking Up, while I am a Grump, but we muddle along.

I found baby-days were relatively easy - as long as there was milk and cuddles, kiddo was content, regardless of if I was at the library, or a cafe, or out and about. As she got older it was harder - the years between baby and able to read were most difficult for lazy cafe mornings, but the advantage of persisting through is that I have a kid whose 8th birthday party was at a local cafe she likes, where the owners know our names, and we got compliments on their demeanour. We finally did a non-driving trip with her as a conscious human (as opposed to all the trips when she was a wee little baby) and she adored it enough that she is saving for the next 'family trip' and has firm plans to go overseas with her jet-setting aunt and uncle once she is older.

She is an only, and most of our problems have not come from her but from family who are either discontent with our parenting, our relationship, our overall choices, or that my child strongly resembles me and that is somehow an affront. Oh and holidays. Fucking holidays.

There are days that are really hard. So hard. Days that I just call a friend and we organise a time and our kids go play while we bask in drinking a full cup of coffee and no questions. I have no patience with people who converse via questions now. That's the biggest hurdle for me in this stage of parenting - there is a lot of conversation and a lot of it is serious stuff, but a lot of it is also bids for attention/reassurance/confirmation that sound a LOT like narrating every single step my kid takes, and questioning everything including boundaries. I have a lot of familiarity with childhood development and it helps a LOT to understand what is happening. The dropping the spoon off the highchair is as much a science experiment as a social one, and has NOTHING to do with behaviour, so to 'fix' that you need to address both components (gravity always works on spoons, sounds change depending on the floor surface, someone will pick it up and it isn't too much fun BUT in the bath dropping things is fun!). Same with boundaries - she pushes more with me because she is most secure with me, and I am the biggest constant in her life, so it makes sense to try and understand the shape of the world through me, rather than strangers, or teachers, or relatives you only see occasionally.

So I be honest with my kid. Mama has trouble listening, so please look at mama's face when you talk. Please stop talking unless you're talking to me. Please stop humming. I am interested in your story please wait until I have stopped making dinner and can listen. It's all about balance - err too much on the 'be quiet' and you force your child into an unnatural shape, but at the same time leaning to not constantly talk is a skill people need. And I make clear to her dad that he needs to be on board for this - that teasing me about my brain-settings was okay-ish when we had no kid but teaching her to dismiss my needs is a very bad precedent.

I do think it is a LOT harder to do any of this with more than one kid.

Tiny tyrant and unending chaos have not been my experience. The tyrant is understandable, gets to be bigger than me, and the chaos can always be controlled, or brought to an end.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:23 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

We are introverted parents. When the kids were tiny it was often hard. Infants cry and toddlers chatter (which is nowhere near as bad as crying, but can wear on a person.) But the chatter is manageable - you can tell a child "mama needs quiet time now please" and it's ok.

Now that my kids can both read, there is no problem at all. Hours of silence. Quiet, peaceful weekends.

All is well. You'll be fine.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:50 PM on June 26

My husband is a mega introvert, I am a basic introvert, and my mom was worried that our child would have speech delays because she thought my husband and I didn't talk enough to each other. Surprise! Our kid fills any and all conversational voids, usually with a mix of 50% English / 50% random gibberish (he is 4). He spends much of the day repeating things he heard on Bill Nye the Science Guy, demanding answers to impromptu math quizzes, and telling me about the life and times of his imaginary friend Robert. He does not sit in a room by himself and build towers; he busts out of his bedroom at 5:30am demanding to do chemical reactions with baking soda and vinegar, parental supervision be damned.

As my posting history indicates, he is probably in the top percentile of worst sleepers but finally started sleeping through the night when he turned 4. He literally only stops moving when he's sleeping (it was the same when he was a baby). He has always had major fear of missing out while sleeping and is simply ON 100% of his waking hours, and that is exhausting even though we are all sleeping now. There are other things that didn't go as planned on our path to parenthood (medical stuff, see posting history), and traveling is a risky venture for us due to medical logistics, so it has been a long resetting of expectations over the past 4 years. I'm not going to lie: it's been so much harder than I expected, but it will probably be easier for you.

How did we cope? My husband spends his free/quiet time building his own amplifiers and optimizing his stereo system. I read ridiculous amounts of fiction. We talk to each other less than we did before having a baby; after having our space and eardrums continuously invaded during our son's waking hours, we need to retreat to our own calm spaces. I think that will get better when our kid starts hanging out with friends and being an aloof teenager.

That said, while I wonder what life would be like with a well-behaved girl child, it is totally fascinating and often hilarious living with a continuous man of motion and noise. My life would be a lot cleaner, duller, and more rigid without him. And we are totally stopping with one child.
posted by Maarika at 7:57 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

very introverted parent here who had a kid when my husband and i were both over 40. our kid is wildly extroverted and noisy and energetic, and it has been so hard at times, but on the whole, he has added far more to our lives than he has taken away. he is getting to a point where he can be thoughtful about his noise level, or our need for some quiet time. our recharging time is often spent alone while the other parent handles the kid, with occasional sitters so we can have some time together, but he has also gotten so much more fun to hang out with that i feel less of a constant desperate need for that alone time. so yes, from my perspective, there will likely be some big adjustments and difficult times, but they will evolve into something workable!
posted by eseuss at 9:04 PM on June 26

I was in your situation a couple of years ago, and... well, I had said for years that if I had kids, I would like to adopt, preferably older children, because I was Not A Fan of babies. My husband had less experience with babies and, being adopted himself, thought that he might like a child of his own. So we took our unexpected opportunity. Here is what we have learned so far: I am still Not A Fan of babies, and neither is my husband, but we do think our kid has pretty great potential as a person! So our goal has been to survive our son's baby and early toddler years, while raising him into someone whose company we can legitimately enjoy. We are lucky enough to have inherited a little bit of money shortly before I got pregnant, which lets us afford a really good daycare, and right now we are pretty dependent on them. This does lead to some criticism; I'm a teacher, and people seem taken aback that my son is in daycare over the summer, but one thing I have learned from being a parent is that sometimes you just have to say "fuck it" to other people's expectations. My son likes his school and is frankly miserable if he doesn't spend a certain amount of time out of the house every day, I have three levels of curriculum that need rewriting this summer, and everyone involved will be happier if we can keep him in the school routine so he's not in complete upheaval when I go back to work in August. Next summer we'll re-evaluate, but this is what's working for us right now.

To answer your specific question: yes, you can make this work. You will still get quiet evenings at home! The weekends are much more of a crapshoot; we've had some awesome weekends with our son where everything went smoothly, and we've had some weekends we would like to forget (it rained all last weekend; see above re: kid needing time out of the house). Sometimes we can take him out to eat, and sometimes that's a really bad idea, but you definitely get a feel for when that's going to be possible. Is life noisy now? Not especially. Is it chaotic? Occasionally. Is it non-stop? So far, yes... but both of us were apparently very active little kids, so it's no surprise that our son is, too. Yours might not be! Overseas trips with only carry-ons -- those might be pretty difficult for the first few years, but if that's your thing, your kid will probably adapt and you'd be able to get back to that eventually.

Look, parenting is hard, and so far my husband and I have not found it especially rewarding (for what it's worth: I think some of our most rewarding moments have been watching each other interact with our son). If we had to choose all over again, I think we'd make the "selfish" choice and not have a child. But I can also see that our answer may well change if you ask us again in a few more years. I think that when it comes down to it, you just have to decide how happy you are with your current lifestyle. If you're living the life you always imagined, and you don't want to risk changing that? You don't have to. Your life will go on, with or without a child. But having a child does not have to mean the end of your peaceful existence.
posted by Daughter of Time at 10:27 PM on June 26

I'm an introvert, and was a younger and an older mother (I had my oldest when I was 24, and my youngest when I was 37 or 38).

I think, firstly, that if you really just don't feel very excited to have a child, you shouldn't feel guilty to just...not have a child. You just never know how things will turn out, and I think maybe you can drive yourself mad trying to calculate every possible outcome of every decision you might possibly make.

I find small babies very easy and pleasant. Their needs are very simple, and generally pretty simple to achieve, so you have a nice, warm little bundle, who looks adorable or makes cute little noises while you happily read a book. Larger babies and toddlers require more interactions, but they also like to mess about with toys, or watch fish or the television, and they also have naps. Naps are really great, and I try to encourage "nap time" for almost forever, even if the "nap" is just "go and spend some time in your room being quiet with a book", because having some quiet time in your own house is really wonderful. Even bigger children, all the way up to young adults, all want your attention, but they get better and better at doing things for themselves, and they can be very funny and interesting, which is kind of wonderful. The first time you catch a kid making a real live joke of their own is really amazing!

But any age can be kind of full on, and maybe there are always periods of chaos :) I think everyone must feel overwhelmed from time to time, whether because their kid is ill and super annoying, or they are stressed out or whatever, or the kid/s are just in a crazy or noisy mood. The chaos doesn't last forever, and there's always bedtime to look forward to. A child is just a person, too. It can be hard going into parenthood if you've been brainwashed about doing it all perfectly, but it is absolutely possible to make some space for your own brain in amongst it all. Maybe some things will have to fall by the wayside, and I have always tried to prioritise my mental health over stuff like laundry. I really can't see why you couldn't continue with your life with a child in it, but only you can know if it really will work for you. Barring things like illness, I have always been able to have quiet evenings. Weekends will become a little busier, but they can be busier with things you enjoy, too, not just loud annoying kid stuff. I can't see why you can't continue to travel with a kid. They really don't need half the garbage everyone says you must have. Do you have access to family for child minding, or have money to pay for it? Those are things that can really help.

How Not To Be A Perfect Mother is my go-to book for expectant parents. You might find it at least amusing, and maybe helpful to read a point of view that isn't about completely signing over your life to your precious offspring. I notice that a lot of material I read about babies and children from US sources, is often quite hostile to actual mothers, and I think that must be rather daunting.

Feel free to drop me a line if I can be helpful.
posted by glitter at 6:59 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

You've got a few years until you can travel easily again. That's just how it works; until they can help you a little bit (maybe three years old, but realistically more like five), it's a *lot* tougher.

That said, other than nightclubs, they make great travel companions, as everything is damn shiny and new to them. :)
posted by talldean at 5:24 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Coming to this very late, but here's the provisional theory I'm developing after 8 months of parenthood:

1. Kids teach you patience, for all the obvious reasons – you have to wait till they're ready for things, let them learn to roll or crawl in their own time, keep going back in to try to get them to sleep, change yet another diaper, etc;

2. Patience has to do with strengthening the "muscle" that enables you to tolerate or let go of uncomfortable emotions that drive you to want to act faster and get things over with;

3. For a quiet, introverted person, a big category of those uncomfortable emotions are to do with too much noise, not enough quiet to hear yourself think, too much activity, etc;

4. So while having the kid will reduce your ability to put yourself in situations where you don't have to feel those emotions, it will simultaneously make you less bothered by them. As a result you find that – at least some of the time! – it's perfectly possible to feel "calm and quiet" mentally while not being in a typically "calm and quiet" physical situation.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:38 AM on July 22

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