How fear can be helpful as a motivator An honest reflection on motherhood and preparedness

NADINE RIOPEL

The day my pregnancy test read positive, I cried. They were not tears of joy. While this was a planned pregnancy, I was terrified.

Although I had never pictured myself with kids, when my husband and I were dating, we decided to have a family.

But I was scared. Not of pregnancy and labour, although they were pretty unpleasant. I was afraid of the transformational, irrevocable life change everyone kept talking about. I was in my mid-thirties, well into my professional career and personal development. I wasn’t interested in being totally “transformed”.

Many well-intentioned people told me how everything was going to change:

“Nothing else will matter to you anymore! You won’t recognize yourself! Up will be down! Green will be purple! You’ll love it!”

Less well-intentioned people also chimed in:

“Enjoy sleep now—you won’t be getting any for the next few years, ha ha!”

Having children is a huge life change. | Rosanna Wegner

I pictured losing my identity, interest in work, friends. I pictured myself knee deep in diapers and tantrums for years, only to wonder what happened to my life when my little angel grew up and became more independent. And I knew I’d love my child, but would I like him?

Four years later, my terror turned out to be surprisingly useful and is probably a key component of how things turned out.

I got to work. I looked for parents who seemed to be maintaining their health, identities, and sanity. I asked them for advice and observed them with their kids. I read books they recommended. I lined up techniques to handle the scenarios I feared most (like sleeping and power struggles).

I also got to work building my bench. I wasn’t going to be able to do this the way I wanted without serious backup, including a clear co-parenting plan with my husband. So I talked to him, my parents, my in-laws, my neighbours, and my friends. I had babysitters lined up from day one. My husband took several months of parental leave as part of our commitment to doing this together.

Being terrified motivated me to figure out a way to have a kid that would work for me. And for the most part, it has. I still don’t think parenthood is my natural calling. It does change your life/lifestyle, and not all those elements are what I would call fun. I get bored watching him at the playground; I dislike picking up after him; my schedule isn’t as flexible as before. I often say, “I love my kid. I don’t love parenting”.

But everything is temporary, and the day will probably come again when nobody needs me for anything for days at a time. Change is constant in life.

Meanwhile, I have an adorable little man who is a joy to be around. I still feel like me, and I still have things in my life that are not about my kid. My husband and I still get a lot of kid-free time together. It seems to be working.

There’s an element of good fortune in all of this, but I honestly think we owe a lot to my terror. If I had been really enthused about motherhood, I don’t think I would have gone to the effort of getting the support and skills I need now. So here’s to being terrified!

My favourite easy read about parenting: Confessions of a Slacker Mom.

Header image: For Nadine Riopel, being terrified of having kids led her to getting support and skills. | Rosanna Wegner

Nadine Riopel is a professional facilitator and connector. She is also an enthusiastic member of the Spruce Avenue community, where she lives with her husband and young son.

 

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