Having a baby is scary AF! First we have to deal with getting it out of our body(!) and then once it's here, we have to actually take care of it. We’re told motherhood is all about sacrifice, so while dangling over the prenatal precipice, it's hard not to freak out about what precious parts of our lives aren’t going to mesh with motherhood and have to get chopped. Talking to pregnant friends and customers, I see that terror in their eye and I know. I’ve been there and it's never easy.
My first pregnancy was not exactly planned so I felt a general panic about what this meant for my life. Friends and family seemed to take sadistic joy in telling me how my life was going to change forever. From conception on, there seemed a line of people ready to give me endless unsolicited advice about what I would need to do or change to do parenting right. The thing which I heard most was that now that I was having a baby, it was time for me to get a car.
I live in Chicago, where I’ve always biked as my main mode of transportation. I’m originally from Michigan. I come from a car family, with relatives retired from all of the major American car companies. To them, there was no way I could possibly be a mom and live without a car.
But I didn’t want a car! I didn’t feel like we could afford it and I didn’t want to scrimp and save for something I didn’t care about just because that was what everyone else does.
Being a cyclist was more than just the way I got around town. It was a core part of how I defined myself. I liked feeling the wind in my hair and getting from place to place by my own power. Living in the city, biking is often faster than a car and I had the ability to rely on mass transit for days where I couldn't bike. However none of these arguments moved my family. To them, a car was a must. In their mind, I had to face facts, that in the “real world”, to be a parent is to sacrifice and I needed to take care of my baby first, while driving it around in a car.
After getting off the phone from one of these many car conversations, I turned to Ira and exploded. I did NOT want a car. I would NOT get one but I was also at a loss for what we were going to do.
Ira didn’t want to give up biking once we became a family either, so he started doing research into family biking methods. A few days he later, he triumphantly announced that we were getting a bakfiets! The Dutch designed bakfiets literally translates to bucket bike, and has a large bucket between the handlebars and front wheel for carrying children. He found two stores in Chicago which had recently started importing them. We went and took one for a test drive and from the minute I got on the bakfiets, I felt this huge weight off my shoulders. There WAS a way I could be a Mom and still be me.
The bike was really expensive, starting at around $3K. At the time, we didn’t have the money for it so we decided to have a big baby shower dance party to raise the necessary cash. Our friends from Metropolitan Brewing donated beer, our friend Shayna let us use her circus arts school studio and we had a few friends DJ for free. We charged $25 at the door and with the help of our community, we were able dance our way onto a bakfeits! 6 weeks after Thora was born, all three of us were back on two wheels and 7 years later, we’re still rocking it.
When you have children, your whole life does change, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t mean you have to become a different person! The more we can be ourselves, and bring that into our family life, the more authentic and awesome our family life will be. You will have to make sacrifices, but remember to value yourself. Look for what is important to you and find ways to make it work, so you can avoid the resentment of feeling like you’ve lost yourself while trying to replicate other people’s perfect parenting.
So when women ask me about parenting, I say just be yourself! Don’t change just because you think you have to. When we are our authentic selves, we not only live happier lives, but we teach our children how to seek out and value their unique authentic selves too.