Parents

Exposed: 3 Myths About Becoming A Parent

It’s the news that is guaranteed to change everything: you’re going to be a parent.

It’s funny how extremely different the reaction to this news will be depending on the person hearing it. For some, this is fantastic news and caps off months, even years, of “trying”. For others, this is the news they dread. They have big plans for their life, and it certainly doesn’t involve kids (at least not for the next few years). I was given the unexpected news that I was to become a father on my 24th birthday (what a present!). My reaction was that of the person filled with dread – this was not what I wanted!

It’s amazing, though, how perspectives can change with time. It is now 19 months since I heard the big news, 11 months since my son was born, and 2 months since I discovered our second child is due in July 2008. During this time I have gone from dreading fatherhood to considering it to be one of the greatest things I will do with my life.

The reason I dreaded being a young parent was that I had always pictured myself as being financially secure and well traveled before taking the big step into fatherhood. I also believed that parental responsibilities would be a huge obstacle in the way of having fun. What I have come to believe, though, is that there are certain myths surrounding parenthood. Sure, you can play the victim and believe them if you want. But it is far more enjoyable to smash them into pieces.

Myth #1: “I can’t afford to have kids”

It’s true that a baby brings with it an assortment of expenses you once would have never considered. The funny thing is, though, you will find a way to make things work. You have to.

Now that I am a parent I am more motivated to succeed than I once could have ever imagined. This motivation has led me to sort out my finances, simplify my life, attain a higher paying job and, perhaps most importantly, establish multiple streams of income. Expenses will inevitably rise when you have kids, but use this as motivation to increase your income and simplify your life.

Myth #2: “I won’t be able to travel”

Ok, so if you have a grand vision of traveling solo across the globe you will need to adjust this after becoming a parent. But there is no reason why kids should stop you from exploring what the world has to offer. For example, when my son was 5 months old we relocated from Australia to Canada. And this is barely scratching the surface of what is possible.

Two of my personal heroes are Tony and Maureen Wheeler, the founders of the Lonely Planet guidebooks. In their autobiography Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story, they recount stories of trekking in Nepal and relocating from Melbourne to San Francisco for a year with their two young children. Rather than letting kids kill their love of travel, they simply found a way to include them.

For more inspiration relating to traveling with kids, see Tim Ferriss’ recent article New Year, New You; How to Travel the World With (or Without) Kids in 2008.

Myth #3: “I won’t be able to have fun”

Have you ever looked back on your younger self and shook your head at what you once considered to be fun? Most of us have, and I make this point because it proves one thing: our idea of what constitutes fun can change. I live a quieter life now that I am a parent, but it is no less enjoyable. I still have a lot of fun, and it is now filled with a richness that only a parent can truly understand.

Of course there are certain types of fun that don’t change and which don’t involve kids. I admit it can be tricky to create free time by yourself or with your partner, but where there is a will there is a way. What is my number one tip for finding time away from the kids? Be good to your parents. One day they will be grandparents and you will appreciate their help.

Peter writes about how to enjoy life at The Change Blog. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to download his free e-book, A Year of Change.

  • http://www.craigharper.com.au Craig Harper

    Children are the most wonderful gift you can receive as a human being. The fun begins when you have children. Ask any parent! Small children teach us (if we not too busy parenting) what’s really important in life. As we’re busy dealing with ‘important stuff’ kids are focusing on the really important stuff like which superheroes are the best and why.

  • http://www.varsityblah.com/about Eugene (Editor, Varsity Blah)

    Myth #2 was shattered on a recent trip I took to Egypt. There was a couple in our tour group who traveled with their son who was about a year old. They said that traveling with a child wasn’t all that difficult, with the exception flights. It’s proof that you can still do all the things you wanted and even more!

    • http://didntpullout.com TeenDad

      I’m now 19 and experiencing being a dad. I must say although it feels good it’s still hard. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but to be honest, the hard part is having to balance time. My daughter is great and makes managing her never dreadful. -Teen dad

  • http://www.freefrombroke.com/ Free From Broke

    Nice post! One – yeah kids are expensive. No getting around that. But what an amazing expense! Two – It’s not Nepal but we took our 6-month old to Disney, along with our 7-year-old, with no problems. Maybe the logistics change but you can definitely still travel with kids. Three – No fun? Kids are fun every day! You never know what they will do or say and it’s a ball seeing the world through their eyes!

  • http://financialphilosopher.typepad.com/thefinancialphilosopher/ The Financial Philosopher

    Myth #4: Wait until it’s “the right time” to have kids…

    There is no such thing as “the right time.” The greatest things in life are not “planned” and the most valuable inventions were “accidentally discovered” while looking for something else…

    One more quick comment: As the first commenter said, small children teach us what’s really important in life. When my first-born son was four years old, I was extremely busy “climbing the corporate ladder.” He asked me why I was away from home so much and I explained that I was working hard for our family to earn money for all the things we have… Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “I’d rather have my Daddy than money.” I was floored…

    From that day, I began a plan to start my own business. That was two years ago; I now operate a successful business out of my home; I drop my son off at school, greet him when he gets off the bus, put him to bed at night, and I’ve never missed a significant event in his life since then…

    Thanks for the lesson, son…

    Thanks for the post today, Peter…

    Thanks, son…

  • Eric

    You have no idea how badly I needed to hear this. You’ve probably made my wife a very happy lady.

  • http://www.stephenmartile.com Stephen Martile

    Thanks for this post (Peter) and you’re optimism (Craig). My wife and I are planning to have kids next year and I’m looking forward to it more and more.

  • http://www.iwillchangeyourlife.com Peter

    Thanks for the positive comments everyone!

    @Eric: I wrote the article for people such as yourself. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Jim

    I never thought I was ready to be a dad until I became one. Spending time with my 1 year old is the best! But it has made me seriously think about our finances. We finally started to create a budget-spreadsheet to see where our money goes. I bring my lunch to work instead of eating out (an added bonus to that is I’m actually losing weight!). If anyone can recommend a personal budgeting software, that would be great. Not for doing bills, checks and such. Just a place to enter what I bring home and where things go, and maybe do an analysis of what I have to do to save more.

  • http://sirjorge.com/blogx sir jorge

    this is a great post, very well thought out

  • http://practicethis.com/ alik

    Myth #5 -I cannot mix great career and balanced family life.
    Myth #6 – My mom knows better
    Myth #7 – I cannot go out with friends and drink few beers

    Loved the topic! I just LOVED the topic.

  • http://constantmatters.blogspot.com Aurooba

    @ Jim

    Buddi (http://buddi.thecave.homeunix.org/en/) is a very simple and easy to use application, it can handle quite complicated things, as well as just keeping track of where you money goes. I suggest you give it a try, it works Windows, Mac, and Linux as well

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  • http://www.iwillchangeyourlife.com Peter

    @Jim: check out this post by John back in Oct. There are some great suggestions in the comments for tools ppl use to manage their money.

    @Financial Philosopher and Alik: thanks for adding to the list – it seems there are a few myths about parenthood going around!

    @Stephen: best of luck! You will love it :)

  • Kathryn

    One thing people with small children probably don’t realize is that it is can actually EASIER to travel with a baby or small child than it is with a tween or teenager. A baby’s whole world revolves around you, and as long as you provide yourself, plus a regular supply of nourishment and sleep, they’re pretty content. An older kid’s world revolves around their friends and their electronic entertainment (often intermingled), which can be more challenging and/or expensive to pack.

  • Deb

    Amen to that Kathy! Just got back from Hawaii with 4 young people ages 15-20. Had to limit the phone calls home and confiscate their laptops,Ds and other things. PLUS babies/toddlers cry but teens WHINE.

    That being said,my kids have added more to MY life than I could have imagined. I mean EVER imagined!

  • http://www.mhlcoaching.typepad.com Terri Holley, The Health and Life Mixing Bowl

    Being a parent is wonderful; it is also a huge responsibility. Many sacrifices have to be made. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are so many unwanted and abused chidren in the world because the role of parent has been taken lightly. I love being a parent but my life is very different. I have way less time, money and leisure time for myself, but that was my choice and I am lovingly committed to the role. My mantra:

    …Take your short window of time, enjoy them, love them, and most importantly, sow some seeds to make the world a better place…

  • http://www.NomadMom.com Alexis

    My daughter is 5-years old (she’s been flying since the age of 1)… I’m a single parent by choice (which adds a very unique dimension to the equation)… and so far we’ve lived in Paris and Montreal.

    I’ve lived in other countries because I wanted to expose my daughter to a vibrant lifestyle outside of the traditional US suburban neighborhood.

    People are always in awe when they discover that I’m a single parent living this lifestyle. I just see it as our way of life.

    And yes… my daughter now loves to travel 10 times more than I do. :-)

  • http://www.lingq.com Steve Kaufmann

    Having kids is about the kids and the joy of family. It is about sharing. It is about creating the most valuable thing you will ever create in your life. It is about continuing our community and our society.

    “I can’t afford kids? I can’t travel with kids? I won’t have fun with kids?” I do not understand.

    It seems that the wealthier we get as a society, the fewer kids we have. Is there something unsustainable about a high standard of living?

  • http://www.goodparenting.co.in pooja

    being a parent is a wonderful feeling which cannot be described in words…kids are biggest joy….‘
    “I can’t afford kids? I can’t travel with kids? I won’t have fun with kids?” rubbish…

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  • Lyndsey

    Thank you Peter. I am currently considering having kids and was basically afraid of the three “myths” you discussed. You’ve helped me come closer to a decision. Now I just need to get over the fear that I am too selfish… that I won’t know what to do…

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  • http://www.indianmoms.com/ Indian Moms

    Good article.
    The point most noteworthy was
    ‘simplify your life.’.
    Then u won’t worry much about expenses.

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  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ Family Matters

    I couldn’t agree with you more! My husband and I took our daughter with us to the market when she was only 3 weeks old and our 3 kids have lived and traveled with us far and wide and had a most excellent time.

    This is one of those rare posts I love to read. Well done, Peter.

    Ronit Baras
    Parent Coaching is the way to skilled parents!

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  • Rute

    This is all so real to me. I’m 21 and my boyfriend just turned 19 and I am now 4 months pregnant. I was so angry that I fell pregnant and was seriously considering what most young women of today would normally do if they didn’t want a kid so soon, but there you have my boyfriend with the biggest grin I had ever seen on him in the 3 years we’ve been dating.

    I thought, “you know what, this morning sickness and 24-hour sleeping is so depressing that if I ever want a child in the future, I’ll just have this one and never have to go through this again.” Three months later, and all those horrible early pregnancy symptoms gone, I cannot imagine my future without my unborn baby. It’s so bad that we’re already thinking of baby number 2!!

    All those ‘myths’ are made up by people who have never had kids because they don’t understand. I was once one of them. But now, when my baby is born, it’s my mission to enjoy life tonnes more and take advantage of all the babysitting being offered!

    Peter, you are absolutely right. You’ll never know what you’ll get till you have it.

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  • Katherine

    Hi, just want to say thankyou. I think this post said everything I have been trying to convey to my husband for months, in a language he understands. Please let us know where we can read more…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=554655429 Dan Iel

    Not sure how adding new “multiple streams of income” in addition to more mouths to feed and clean up after will “simplify your life”…