Saturday, July 25, 2009

The sad realization that life as you know it has changed

I once heard a quote from Will Smith, describing his marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith. (Why is it that they are the nation's marriage counselors?) Something to the effect of, "When one phase of your life ends, instead of mourning that stage, you need to embrace the new one."....he was talking about accepting the constraints that follow parenthood. It's a good point - but one I personally had an enormous amount of trouble with. Basically I took that to mean that your freedom, free time, care-free attitude and privacy you once enjoyed as a couple is gone and it's not coming back so just move on and accept it and enjoy the wonders of parenthood. Of course that's easier when you're one of the country's highest paid entertainers, but he had a fair point.

This week this issue has come up in two ways in my conversations with friends, one in terms of accepting that parenting young kids basically means you should be doing something with any free time you have left, and that thing should probably not be relaxing and lounging around. It can be on occasion on the weekend, but not usually. That is a pretty tough pill to swallow. And in fact, kids do eventually become more independent and free time returns, but it takes years.

The second way is in accepting that reaching and maintaining an attractive weight means you have to give up food as a comfort. This too is a pretty harsh realization to accept. Of course a person can and still should enjoy food, but toasted almonds can't be a main focus of gratification in a person's life.

While I was in the relentless stage of parenting babies and toddlers, I came to view food as a small source of indulgence and happiness in my otherwise kind of mundane daily life. Not to be too melodramatic, but I had a tough few years for a variety of reasons. I didn't binge eat or eat out of control, but I just ate what I wanted when I wanted all the time - it was one thing that made me happy.

When I finally took dieting seriously, I think I was able to do it because I had experienced such a tough patch when my kids were young. While I never saw it this way at the time, as it turned out those rigorous years made me used to sacrifice, delayed gratification, doing things I didn't want to do and able to look towards larger and longer-term goal. So when the kids got a bit older and my life got easier I was, for lack of a better word, more mature.

So Will Smith is right - save yourself the hand-wringing and just accept the stage you're in. Next time my kids engage in World War III in the car over who looked at whom with what expression I'll make sure to try.

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