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Parenting: Does having children really change everything?

Monday - 6/9/2014, 6:23am  ET

Parenting_AllJoyNoFun.jpg
Parenting is a joy and a privilege, but it also has its challenges. (Thinkstock)

The highs and lows of parenting

WTOP's Randi Martin reports

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WASHINGTON -- You've heard it before: Having a baby changes everything. But just how much?

New York Magazine writer Jennifer Senior explores the effects of children on their parents -- from haircuts to happy hour -- in her book "All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood."

"The baby arrives and suddenly, 24/7 you are reorganizing your life," Senior says. "It's an incredibly huge life change -- and particularly if you have deferred it for a decade."

For many women, becoming a mom elicits emotions that are both foreign and unexpected. Freedom and independence are non-existent, and sleep, friends and vacations all take a hit.

Actress Felicity Huffman, of "Desperate Housewives," told Yahoo News that she found mothering "bewildering, lonely, impossible and infuriating." She says at times, she hated being a mother, and that the stress and anxiety from parenting made her feel like a monster.

To help other moms going through the same feelings, Huffman started the website "What the Flicka," for other parents to share their "real and raw" stories and experiences.

"There's such a thin band of acceptable behavior in terms of what you experience as motherhood," she said to Yahoo.

Despite its challenges, Senior says parenting has its positives -- and parents grow, just as their children do.

"It's rough, but there are moments of pure immense joy," she says.

As the kids get older, parents get a little more freedom -- and sometimes it's too much.

"Once you couldn't get your life back, and now you just wish [the kids] would say hello to you once in a while."

Senior says children shape the lives of parents. And as parents, shaping their growth and seeing them become people is thrilling.

"[Parenthood] goes every which way; it just changes," she says.

What life changes did you make for your children? Let us know in the comments section of this story, on Twitter or on the WTOP Facebook page. Until then, a local parent talks about her adjustments in parenthood.


My evolving self
By Jennifer Lewis Hershman

Memorial Day weekend -- instead of relaxing on the beach, by the pool or hitting a swanky barbecue somewhere -- my husband and I officially fell into the cliche parenting abyss. We spent six hours with our three kids purchasing the dreaded minivan.

Even as recently as a year ago, before the birth of our third child, I vowed to never EVER own a minivan. (My husband still reminds me of that.) How quickly things change.

The moment after we signed on the dotted line and drove our brand new van out of the lot, our lives were once again redefined by our children. Gone is the peppy turbo-infused sports sedan, proudly driven by my husband for almost 10 years. In its place is this behemoth, eight-seat, spaceship-like monster.

It's no lie that children do change your outlook, attitude, friendships and priorities. We used to spend weekends hanging out with friends and testing the mixology at the latest swanky bar or club downtown. Now we now hang out with those same friends in the burbs at parties with various costumed princesses and superheroes and bounce houses -- while imbibing on cupcakes and cheese pizza.

Instead of after-work networking happy hours, we join other harried, yet proud, parents at soccer practice. And instead of getting excited about scoring tickets to a great Kennedy Center event, we get even more excited about scoring coveted tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll.

While we relish in all this memory-making with our children, we also lament our new roles as full-time schedulers and event planners for our kids' many activities. A former classmate and I have been trying to coordinate a time our families can get together for brunch, and simply cannot come up with a time in the next two months, due to dance recitals, tae kwon do, swimming lessons and the many double- and triple-booked birthday parties.

It seems as though the days of sending children outside to play while mom and dad relax are now replaced with activity after activity -- something I was not prepared for. Is this "something" self-imposed? Probably. Is it something expected by living in the D.C. Metro Area? Definitely.

It can be challenging to retain our own personal identities in this child-focused phase of our lives. My husband and I used to enjoy planning vacations, but now a family trip can be more exhausting than a 50-hour work week.

Long gone are spur-of-the-moment trips to intimate, off-the-beaten-path locations. Instead, vacations can take six months to plan, or are limited to easy-to-get-go locations. And we always purchase trip insurance. Unfortunately, we've had to use it plenty.

I am turning 40 this year and my husband has been asking me what I would like to do to celebrate. If he had asked me this 10 years ago, I would have opted for some large over-the-top birthday bash involving all our friends and family. Instead, my request is to have a night or two alone. Completely and utterly alone. To read. To play piano. To do something just for me.

A couple of weeks ago, in the waiting area at my daughter's ballet studio, I was discussing our impending minivan purchase with a "ballet dad," who recently traded in his BMW for the same minivan we were considering. He said he didn't shed a tear or look back.

"It's the next step and just a short phase of our lives," he said, as he chased after his preschool-aged twins. Sage advice.

Between the new minivan wheels and the 7 inches of hair I lobbed off, my co-worker friends have jokingly commented on my new image.

"Wow, you used to be so cool, and now you've become a bona fide soccer mom!"

Yes, I am evolving. And, yes, I am embracing this phase and new direction, which I can happily thank my three children for. I have chosen to own it. And you will never catch me wearing mom jeans.

Editor's Note: Jennifer Lewis Hershman is an attorney, wife and mother of three children -- ages 5, 3 and 4 months -- three dogs and three fish. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and in her very limited free time, she enjoys playing music, baking and creative writing.

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