I Settled Down Earlier Than My Friends & Now I’m Scared There Are No Surprises Left In My Life

I genuinely do love my life as a wife and mother. I married at 25 and had a beautiful baby at 26 and I have absolutely no regrets about that. That said, sometimes I’m afraid that settling down means that there are no more surprises in store for me. This feeling is only exacerbated by the fact that I settled down before my friends. Though I know the idea is ridiculous and I’m still at the beginning of my life, there are times that the fear gets under my skin and won’t let go.

  1. I can’t replicate the anticipation of firsts. Remember sitting around with your college roommates and talking about where your life was going to go? There may have been distant (and not-so-distant!) visions of a husband and kid, but the possibilities were still out there. The major firsts are behind me now. I had the first apartment. I got married. I had my first baby. While I’m so grateful to have had those experiences, I can’t help but wonder what other firsts are ahead of me now. Will they ever live up to the excitement and anticipation of those?
  2. Social media makes it worse. FOMO is such a real thing. I know my friends hang out watching Netflix in their cluttered apartments too, but I don’t see that part. I see the late nights in favorite bars and foreign cities. The version of their lives that I’m exposed to is so idealized that it makes me afraid that I’m missing out on something huge.
  3. Spontaneity is no longer an option. Before we got married, my husband and I used to meet for drinks at midnight. He’d work the evening shift and we’d make the plans around 10 p.m. Then I’d take the train to whatever bars were open late, where we’d drink and listen to music until closing. It wasn’t something we planned weeks in advance, it was a last-minute decision that added excitement and unpredictability to our routine. Now, if I want to go out with friends, plans and childcare have to be figured out ahead of time. On one hand, the rarity of nights out makes them more special; On the other hand, I miss having the option to be spontaneous.
  4. My child’s needs go before anything else. Once you have a baby, that baby comes first no matter what, and that’s the way it should be. But every so often, there’s that selfish thought of what could be. If I could put my own wants and needs first, I could take the incredible job with the seriously low pay or go on that cruise with my friends — but someone else is relying on me to be responsible, so that needs to factor into every big decision I make.
  5. It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine. Routines are great. They give you stability and a sense of belonging. But it’s so easy to fall into a rut and never do anything outside of your routine. Sometimes I’ll get the opportunity to go into the city and meet friends or go to a show, and despite all my fears about my life lacking surprise and spontaneity, I’m hesitant to break my routine. The idea of changing my clothes and catching the train when I could stay inside and not do anything is exhausting. Unlike most of the other entries on this list, this is one that I can do something about. It’s just a matter of motivation and a little creative thinking.
  6. I’m more conscious of my limits. Those midnight bar trips I mentioned before? We used to do those multiple nights a week, easily shaking off the minor hangovers the next morning. Now I’m lucky if I make it to 19 p.m. on the rare nights my husband and I go out drinking. My alcohol tolerance has changed post-pregnancy and I’m tired from a long day of childcare. Plus there’s the lingering idea that no matter how hungover I am in the morning, I still need to get up and be a parent. The possibility of changing a diaper at dawn weighs heavily on my decision-making process these days and while it helps in the short term, it makes me nervous for my social calendar in the long term.
  7. I envy my single/non-parent friends. Not all the time and honestly not all that often, but when I do get that envy and it’s laced with that self-pity, it hits hard. I get super-nostalgic for my college days and early twenties, viewing all those late nights and uncertainty through rose-tinted glasses. Then I assume that my friends who aren’t settled down are still living that romanticized life. I’m wrong. I know I’m completely incorrect even while I’m thinking it, but it doesn’t stop the feeling when it rears its ugly little head.
  8. I’ve stopped feeling sexy. I stopped working outside the house when my son was born. Now instead of business casual, my days are spent in yoga pants and t-shirts. I know I’m not a troll, but I feel less attractive than I did before I got pregnant. Now I’m overtired, with stretch marks and a little extra pudge that wasn’t there before. This loss of confidence has made me shyer and more prone to keeping to myself, which doesn’t help my chances of exploring new and exciting possibilities.
  9. The focus has switched to more “adult” things. Being a responsible wife and mother involves some incredibly boring work. I put a lot of energy into things like paying bills, cleaning the house, and running errands. It’s time-consuming and often extremely dull. But it becomes routine and as a result, the mindset of focusing solely on the practical can be hard to break out of.
  10. I’ve lost track of my previous interests. It’s important to hang onto yourself when you become a mom, but things can fall to the wayside, at least temporarily. That’s what happened to me. I used to love to go to shows or spend hours reading and talking about books with other adults. These things became a low priority as other responsibilities made their way into my life. But these are also some of the things that used to bring surprise and excitement into my life. Again, this is something that I can change. I’ve made the effort to incorporate my love of books and music into my current life. It’s slow progress, but it is progress.
Amanda McSweeney is a freelance writer out of Greater Boston specializing in lifestyle, books, and local music.