I recently shared on social media that I’m pregnant with my second child. While we’re feeling incredibly excited and thankful, there’s also anxiety about how growing our family will impact our lives and our carbon footprint.
Anxiety is something I’ve had to manage for many years. For me, it’s largely triggered by what’s happening in the world, especially the climate crisis. As an introvert, I tend to internalise a lot of it and this has led to me having panic attacks in the past. Over the past 6 or so years, I’ve done a lot of mindset work and learnt a lot about myself and what I need to do to manage my anxiety. One of the key things for me (and probably for most people) is to talk about what’s worrying me.
Often a solution can be found just by voicing a concern. Sometimes it will come from the other person but I think, in most cases, we know what we need to do. Answers tend to come to you as you’re allowing yourself to process the thoughts and emotions. The key is giving yourself time and space to step out of the fight/flight/freeze response that anxiety can induce.
So, I’ve talked about things with Charlie, my husband, and have been able to process my thoughts in a more rational way. Now I’ve had time to let them settle, I want to share them with you, in the hope that it helps you deal with any of your own worries about starting or growing a family.
I’ll talk about a few of my specific concerns, first giving you the initial voice inside my head and then my rational response.
1. We’re draining the earth’s resources at an unsustainable rate. How can you add to the problem by bringing a second child into the world?
Our feelings – including the ones perceived as negative, such as guilt – are so important in guiding us and keeping us true to ourselves. The key is not letting them paralyse you or take you down a path that isn’t right for you.
Guilt, in particular, is extremely useful as it often tells us when something we’re doing is not aligned with our values. One caveat though – it can be influenced by what we feel we should be doing (or not doing) based on social norms and the opinions of others. It’s vital that you do the mindset work to figure out what’s most important to you – your core values or ‘big why’. This is one of the processes we go through in the Striving for Simple membership.
The guilt I feel about having children is definitely borne from thinking about others’ opinions. So, what’s my own opinion?
I strongly believe we need conscientious people who care about the planet and its people to have children. If we don’t, the next generations will mostly be raised by those who don’t care. That can only lead to more indifference and more destructive behaviours.
Through my influence and management, my family’s carbon footprint is also smaller than most. Yes, having another child will increase it, but nowhere near as much as the first did. For instance, I’ve kept almost everything we used for Sophie, so there’s not much we have to buy this time – and what we do need will be sourced second-hand.
My guilt tells me I care about the planet and its people. I want to contribute to a fairer, more sustainable world by raising children who share these values and will continue to advocate and act towards achieving that vision when I’m gone.
2. How are you going to cope with two children when neither of you drive?
This is certainly a more practical concern but it is somewhat influenced by others.
I remember when I was pregnant with our daughter Sophie, where someone would say something like “You’ll need to learn to drive now then, won’t you,” or “You’ll struggle without a car.”
I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider learning to drive because I was having a child. It would surely make life easier.
However, I’ve never driven a car in my life and I really didn’t want to start. Read my blog post on why I’m glad I don’t drive.
I’m used to walking most of the time and getting a bus, taxi or train when I need to. Having a child didn’t really change the way I travel, just what I take with me. You do need a lot more stuff with you when you have a baby. It makes travelling slightly more difficult but it really isn’t that hard (as an able-bodied/minded person).
The only time I ever found it particularly difficult was when I travelled with Sophie by train on my own. It meant not being able to share the load of carrying all the baby stuff. I’d have to take Sophie with me if I needed the toilet. Also, I’d be physically and mentally drained because of having to keep her happy for the duration of the journey, with no respite (the longer the journey, the more tiring it was).
That said, I didn’t travel on my own very often and I found people on the train were willing to help me with my luggage, getting on and off the train with a pram and even entertaining a toddler. Most of the time I didn’t even have to ask for help, they offered.
So why do I think it’s going to be harder with a second child?
My main concern is those occasions when I may have to make a long train journey with them on my own. If it was tiring with one, surely it will be even more draining with two. Two kids – one school age and one infant – needing very different types of attention.
Yes, that will be challenging but it won’t happen often. When it does, I know I can do it – even if I need to sleep for a week afterwards.
Besides, it’s not like travelling with kids in a car is without challenges. You still have to find ways to entertain them, especially over long journeys. When kids get older they’re likely to start bickering. I remember being in the back of the car with my sisters on long journeys. I’m pretty sure we spent most of that time fighting (my poor parents).
There are many benefits to travelling by train, whether you have kids or not. On a train, you have the freedom to get up and move about. You can go to the toilet whenever you need to, without having to wait for a service station. You can read, watch a film, do a crossword or just watch the world go by out the window. Whatever you like to do to pass the time. Things you definitely shouldn’t be doing if you’re in control of a moving vehicle.
I’ve said before that I’ll never rule out learning to drive if I ever really need to. However, if I can get through life without ever driving a car, I’ll be happy and very proud of myself.
3. You’ve worked so hard to get to a point where you feel like the different aspects of your life are in harmony and now it’s all going to go up in the air. What the f*** are you doing?
Charlie and I were laughing (nervously) when we found out I was pregnant. We have settled into a slower pace of life that works for us. We were also just a few months away from Sophie starting school, which would give us more flexibility when it comes to our businesses. Good timing, as we both have a lot going on or in the pipeline.
I had mixed feelings about my little girl going to school. Partly grieving for the baby and toddler phases being over. Partly looking forward to the next stage and watching her develop. Mostly, I’m not going to lie, I was looking forward to having some more time to spend on my business and other non-parental things.
With the realisation I was going to be doing it all over again – the nappies, the night feeds, the general knackeredness (not a word but I’m going with it) – that vision evaporated slightly.
I have a small window of time (about 4-5 months) where I do have that extra time. So, I intend to make the most of it. That includes taking care of myself and the life growing inside me, so I won’t be overdoing it work-wise.
I’ve accepted that I will have to take a big step back and focus on being a baby-mama again, for a while, and I’m more than happy with that. I’m so grateful for this baby and I have no reservations about taking time off to take care of him/her. I’ve factored it into my strategy for the year ahead, adjusting my goals for the income I can bring in and, therefore, the impact I can create.
How do I feel about the coming change to family life?
I’m (mostly) pretty excited about it. We want to make Sophie feel part of this journey (because she absolutely is) and I intend to make the time after school ‘Sophie time’. I’m glad to have a partner who shares much of the housework and parenting, though if I’m really honest I probably do most of it, simply because Charlie is out of the house more than I am because of his work.
That said, we’ve found a balance that works for us. I’ve also learnt to be more open with him when it starts to feel that I’m taking on too much at home. It’s going to be even more important that I do this going forward.
This next phase in our lives is going to be just that – a phase. It will pass (probably all too soon) and I intend to enjoy and cherish it.
I feel stronger in my convictions and have more belief in myself now. Partly because I’ve been through it once already, I know I can do it again. More so because I’ve done the mindset work that’s given me clarity, focus and confidence.
What’s more, I know I can embrace change easier and stay motivated, even when life gets hard. This is largely down to living at a slower pace and taking time to meet my needs. Not just getting enough sleep, food etc but practising my morning routine to set myself up right for the day, getting outside into nature regularly, and allowing myself to be creative and have fun.
This foundation I’ve built for myself is going to help me adjust to this next stage in my life. I may have some reservations but mostly I feel incredibly blessed and excited about what’s to come.
Do any of these resonate with you? Is there anything else that worries you about starting or growing a family?
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, whether you’ve already got children or are thinking about having them.
Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions, either in the comments below or send me an email.