Children are golden rays of sunshine. They are our pride and joy, our reason for being, the icing on the cake of life. They are also soul-sucking parasites that will rob you of your youth, energy, and hard-earned money. Perhaps this sounds crass, but there’s truth to the conventional wisdom that having kids changes everything. Suddenly your life is no longer your own. So while you’re footloose and child-free, here are thirteen things, from the general (travel) to the specific (ride a mechanical bull), you should do before spitting one out.
1. Travel for an extended period of time. Kids, as lovable as they are, impede mobility. Get a Eurorail pass, book a last-minute airfare deal, and set your auto-response. If a backpack is involved, all the better.
2. Ride a mechanical bull. There is an unspoken rule of motherhood that says, “Thou shalt not put your lady parts on a mechanized beast of burden after birthing another human being.” Imagine your mother on a mechanical bull. See?
3. Invest in some self-exploration. Elizabeth Gilbert knows what I’m talking about. Whether you’re reflecting through therapy, meditation, or an endless bowl of pappardelle, the important thing is to get in touch with the deepest parts of yourself before those parts are drowned out by the midnight screams of a colicky infant.
4. Devote a year to your career. While these days many women seem to have it all, it’s extremely hard to give both parenting and your career the full attention you’d like. Careers need nurturing just like children do. Before you start a family, consider spending a year focusing on clarifying and advancing your career goals.
5. Learn how to cook. The reason for this is twofold: 1) cooking can be a relaxing, enjoyable, and even luxurious activity when you have the time for it; 2) it will come in handy when your four-year-old decides she will only eat foods that are white.
6. Do something dangerous. Diving out of planes, running with the bulls, and climbing Mt. Everest should not be something you have to discuss with your life insurance agent.
7. Get a degree. Chances are if you wait until after you have kids to go back to school, you’ll never do it. Telling your kids to do their homework is a lot less effective when you’re procrastinating on your own.
8. Sow your wild oats. Whatever that means to you. No judgment.
9. Go to a topless beach. Even if you manage to avoid the pancake situation that follows breast-feeding, unless you’re Heidi Klum, your post-baby body is going to look like a mean joke compared to your pre-baby body. Take the girls out now before they start to feel like udders.
10. Learn a second language. If you think you’ll have space in your brain to learn Spanish, Japanese, or even pig Latin when half of your gray matter is devoted to things like your child’s classmates’ food allergies and what time ballet ends on Tuesdays in the summer, bless you.
11. Take an epic road trip. It will be a lot more fun for everyone involved if there’s not a Greek chorus of “Are we there yet?” coming from the backseat.
12. Quit your job. Living on ramen noodles for three months while you search for a job you like better is heroic. Making your kids eat ramen noodles for three months while you search for a job you like better is child abuse.
13. Sleep in. Get it while you can.