Monday, February 20, 2012

Weathering the storm: Setting goals

What's the point, I asked (perhaps yelled) in exasperation, one night reviewing our budget.

Of course the inherent goal was to pay of debt and stop living month to month, but in the end -- what were we striving towards?

I am not a big fan of indefinitely delayed gratification. My grandparents squirreled away money here and there with the goal of buying a trailer they could use to tour this big country North to South and East to West after they retired. My grandpa had retired, and I think my grandma was just finishing up a part time job. They bought their vehicle of choice -- a lovely 30 foot tow behind trailer. My grandma outfitted it with its very own plates and dish towels -- made it into a home away from home. I'm sure they used it for local trips, but the trailer never made it out onto the open road. My grandpa suffered a massive heart attack after mowing the grass one day, and died peacefully under a tree within eye sight of their beautiful trailer. My grandma died less than two years after that. So yeah -- life is too short for putting everything fun off until "someday."

I knew my goals, but admittedly did not know BT's. Turns out our goals were not the same once we sat down to discuss them. You see -- through this discussion it was revealed that BT did not want any more children. Although our plan from before we were even married was for two kids, he was satisfied with one (and wary about having another). He pointed to some logical things, like whether or not we would be able to afford another kid (Although additional day care costs will cripple us, I support a large enough share of our finances so that it would take 3 or 4 kids before it made sense for me to stay home. Plus, I have awesome health care benefits).

Then, other concerns came out -- like questioning how additional kids would impact our stress level and our relationship. We are not natural parents. Where some people can hold a screaming crying baby with a look of peace on their face (I've heard one friend describe it as a blissful moment, knowing her baby has strong lungs and is thriving -- no joke), we are both put on edge by the slightest hint of unruly behavior. Calm people seem to breed calm babies. People who bit off more than they can chew have the kids who get dragged out of restaurants kicking and screaming.

He was right, of course, about us not being the types to handle a gaggle of kids. But I just wanted one more -- a sibling for Hank so he wouldn't be an only child like me. Somebody else to focus attention on so it isn't 4 eyes and ears scrutinizing Hank's every move. A chance to hopefully be more calm the second time around, and cultivate a different personality type than the Type A we already spawned. We have learned so much -- why let that knowledge go to waste?

Some goal setting was in order. Not putting "having another kid" as a goal, 'cause only God knows the outcome of that exercise. But just goals for life in general, and if another kid fits into that framework -- so be it. I get jealous that something that seems like an easy decision for folks in both our real lives and online (She just loves babies, and we like making 'em. It's already a circus around here -- what's one more! I had a dream God wanted us to have another one.) has become such a struggle for us emotionally if not physically (though I did have the one miscarriage, and I ain't a Spring chicken), but if this process strengthens our relationship, I am willing to give 200%.

So the goals -- Here is the framework we used, and the goals for each category:

3 things that work:
1) Only want to be with each other
2) We have money/security
3) We have accomplished a lot, and should not discount that by focusing on what we have yet to accomplish

3 things that don't:
1) Think too much about things
2) We are both dreamers -- we have big ideas, and feel things should work out without effort
3) Our communication methods

3 things to change:
1) Set aside more time for each other outside of mama/dada roles
2) Work on the house more diligently
3) More planning needed for projects, spending, etc.

Then we each set 3 personal goals. I will only share mine:

1) Better health (mental and physical)
2) Stop looking at the Joneses (i.e. not evaluating other couples' decisions to have more kids. Ahem.)
3) Learn better communication skills (not to go on the attack)

Jumping ahead, so as not to leave you in suspense, this series does not end with an ultrasound picture. But, as mentioned, it also does not end in divorce. I am so grateful for my partner -- and that an old bird like me can continue to learn and grow, to be a better mother, a better wife, and a better me.


Sarah said...

How many kids you do/do not have is an intensely personal issue but I just want to say this (perhaps again) - some kids are just super, duper easy kids and some are not. When you are the parent of an only child who is NOT an easy kid it is very easy to see yourself as the problem, to think that *YOU* are not a natural parent. Having Samantha has shown me, very very clearly, that all those years I spent thinking I must be a most craptastic parent was not really about me, but about what kind of kid Jack was/is. (And obviously some of that is how I approached him). Because Sammi? DAMN she is like the easiest kid ever. I can see how people with different kids find it a breeze to parent like 20 kids! Now if I had 20 Jacks? Please, kill me now. I love my boy so very much, but he is a challenging kid. :-)

sweet little sister said...

This post gave me lots of food for thought. Where's my husband? It's time for a sit down. I really appreciate your honesty. I'm so happy that this dream came true for you guys. I know you'll never regret it