You’ll Never Be Relaxed Again

If you are thinking about having children, you’ve probably asked someone what it’s like to be a parent. If you already have kids, you might sometimes try to recall what it was like before your children came into your life.

What does one normally hear when they inquire about what it’s like to have kids? If you’re a parent, what do you usually say when someone asks that question of you?

“You’ll never feel totally prepared.”

“Your life will change in ways you won’t expect.”

“It will be challenging.”

“It will be fun.”

“It will be frustrating.”

“It will be rewarding.”

All of those things are true. But I find that they don’t really get to the real feeling of what it’s like having children. The feeling within your bones.

I often think about what it was like before having kids. Not the obvious stuff, like having more free time or more disposable income, or not constantly running out of peanut butter or chocolate syrup. But how did I feel in my day-to-day before becoming a dad? What changed, fundamentally, about how my brain operated once my sons were born?

Here is what I would say to someone who genuinely wants to know what it’s like to go from not having kids to having kids:

You’ll never be relaxed again.

Now, on its face, that sounds like a bad thing. But I assure you, it’s not. Let me explain…

When I became a dad, I forever surrendered the ability to ever be completely at ease for the rest of my life. The reason why was because, all of a sudden, there was something in my life that was much more important than anything I could have ever imagined.

It’s true when they say that having a kid is like letting your heart walk around outside your body.

Imagine having a quintillion dollar-winning lottery ticket wander around with its own thoughts, feelings, and (usually uncontrollable) impulses. Imagine allowing other people to care for that lottery ticket. How would you feel letting that lottery ticket out of your sight for even a microsecond? Would you be able to sleep soundly? Would you be able to really kick your feet up with a beer on a Friday night and let the relaxation wash over you the way you did before you had said ticket?

Would you really be able to tell yourself “I’m finished” for the day once you sign off from work and close your laptop?


You’re never off the clock when you have kids. Ever. You don’t have mental downtime. Even when you have the night to yourself and someone is babysitting them, like your in-laws, whom you trust completely. You’ll still have your phone volume on high, in case there’s an emergency. You’ll still wonder how they’re doing and if they are happy and safe. You’ll still do the mental math of how long it would take you to get to them if you needed to.

Every minute of every day will be spent thinking about the well-being of your children. There will be moments of temporary distraction, of course, but every action you take from the moment they are born will be in service of their quality of life.

Now, some of you childless readers are thinking “Wow, having kids sounds terrible! I don’t want all that stress!”

But here’s the thing with the stress of having kids…

It’s the same as when you achieve anything good in life like scoring a great promotion, or launching a successful business, or attaining a once-thought-unachievable fitness goal. You, all of a sudden, have the added stress of maintaining, managing, and growing that new level of success.

And you love it! Once you create that wonderful whatever-it-is you feel jazzed in a way that you couldn’t possibly have comprehended before. You WELCOME the stress that comes with it. You welcome the stress because it means you created something great.

That successful business, for example, is “your baby” and you pour your time and energy into its cultivation. Is there more stress than when you were living at home during college with a minimum-wage job and someone cooking your meals? Of course! But the stress is not a bad thing. The stress feels good. You feel like you’re doing something that matters. The stress feels like the fatigue after a good workout.

That twinge of anxiety you feel which prompts you to check on the kids for a fourth time before you turn in for the night will be with you forever, just like it existed in the minds of every parent who ever lived before you. That twinge is what sits you up in the middle of the night when you hear something benign like the heater or the windchimes. It gets you out of bed and drives you to their rooms just to make sure everything is alright, even though you know, deep down, that it is.

That twinge might sound unpleasant to some, but for a parent, there’s a feeling of pride and satisfaction in the near-neurotic worrying over your children’s well-being and safety.

You think “I created the most special thing that has ever been in all the world and it’s up to me to keep it safe.”

That’s exciting. It’s not unpleasant. It’s not a nuisance. It’s not an inconvenience. And I don’t long for a time when I didn’t have that responsibility.

Having children is one of the surest paths to becoming a true man, since you are thrust into a situation which requires near-constant selflessness.

So, yes, everyone knows that having kids is stressful on many levels. But that forfeiture of relaxation is an indication that you now serve a purpose much higher and much more important than anything you have done in the past and your actions (or inaction) will reverberate through generations to come.

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