Dealing with the Calm Before the Storm

calm before the storm

As I write this, I am less than two weeks away from the birth of my second child. Life as I know it now will be dramatically different once the new child is born. In some ways, I will re-learn what it means to be a parent, as all children are different. My expectations will break and reform as I navigate the world of raising both a toddler and an infant. I will need to help my elder daughter cope with this dramatic transition. I have no idea when I’m supposed to sleep during all of this. There’s only one thing I know for certain: things will change, and not always in the way I expect them.

I call these periods before dramatic change the “calm before the storm.” We’ve all experienced them. Leaving for college, changing jobs, coping with relationship changes, and many other situations can create these little pockets of borrowed time. There are two general facets to dealing with them: “enjoy your last moments of familiarity” vs. “prepare yourself for change.”

Enjoy Your Last Moments of Familiarity

Sometimes the best way to cope with looming change is to enjoy what you have now. Close your mind. Live in the moment. It may be the last time you will be able to enjoy this situation.

I’ve gone through my fair share of enjoying my last moments with only one child. I’m reading and playing with my daughter as much as I can, since I know that will be more difficult once the baby is born. Our family has gone on a lot of little day trips to enjoy new things together while we’re still a threesome and mobility is not an issue. I’ve minimized my consulting business to a few key contracts so I can relax more in the evenings, rather than worry about work during family time.

The advantages of enjoying your last moments can make the transition easier. You know you did your best to appreciate what you had before your life changed. You can navigate your old comfortable routine to do things you enjoy, knowing you will have less time after the change has happened. This can make your new life more bearable as you are thrust into the chaos of change.

Prepare Yourself for Change

Of course, preparing yourself for change can help ease the transition as well. Exploring what life will be like after change can a foreign situation more relatable. You can anticipate problems and adapt faster once change hits. Doing prep work when you are more relaxed can also mean fewer tasks you have to fulfill once you’ve entered your new life.

Even though I’ve gone through giving birth and raising an infant before, I’ve gone back and revisited some of my old parenting books to remind myself what it’s like raising a newborn. I’ve talked to parents of multiple children to get advice on how to deal with two children instead of one. We’ve rearranged our house to fit one more child. Even though my elder daughter is only 2, I’ve attempted to introduce the concept of having a sibling to her, so the situation doesn’t hit her completely out of the blue. All of this work should help ease the transition when I bring the baby home.

These Methods are not Mutually Exclusive

By now, my personal example should show that you don’t have to choose one method over the other. You can both enjoy your last moments and prepare for change at the same time. The challenge is determining how much of one or the other you should use. This will all depend on your personality, the type of change, and many other factors specific to your situation.

If you need more personalized advice on how to cope with imminent change, it often helps to talk to others who have gone through it before. Internet support groups and peers can be great for this kind of feedback. However, just because one person dealt with change one way doesn’t mean you need to do the same. At the end of the day, listen to your gut and make the best decisions that pertain to you.

If you have any advice on utilizing your “calm before the storm” time, please write them for others in the comments below.

Photo by Atilla Kefeli

16 thoughts on “Dealing with the Calm Before the Storm”

  1. Great article Deborah, and congrats on the new addition that is soon to join your family. Our family welcomed our second child about 9 mos ago. The transition to 4 was much easier than expected and so much of the anxiety that was related to the “unknowns” of the first child hasn’t been there for the second. But, this is only my perspective- maybe you should ask my wife……

    1. I’m about 2 weeks into it, Tim, and so far so good! I’m definitely sleeping less, and the post pregnancy hormones made it a little hairy at first, but other than that, we’re doing well as a foursome. Glad to hear your family is doing fine as well.

  2. Hope all goes well with the birth of your child. And yes every child is so different requiring different things from you. And one thing I know is that your children will have a very different view of how you did as a parent. But as someone reminded me when I was complaining about my parents – “they are doing the best they can given what they know” Love the listen to the gut but also listen to the heart and just do your best always. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.

    1. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Roberta. I hear all the time that “every child is different,” but never thought how every child might view my parenting style differently. Good thing to have in mind!

  3. I guess I needed to hear that because my son who is 16 has decided to detach from me mentally physically and emotionally. ( his Words) It is painful and very lonely but I only have to move on with a hole in my heart. Wondering if he will ever change and mourning the loss of times that could be spent. How to wrestle against the ex and his domination of my children. Not sure how to be but must keep moving along.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you are going through a rough period with your 16-year-old. I don’t know what will happen in the future, as teenagers can be quite emotional as they wrestle with being both a kid and an adult at the same time. Like all relationships, you can’t control his actions, but you can control yours. You can always love him, even if he can’t give you the kind of love you want in return. He may change one day, he may not, but at least you can do the best you can as a parent so that you know you are there for him. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

  4. Hans Peter Nikolaj Mallet

    Good to read and know that there are other out there using the same strategy, I have Applied, when starting on a new semester. Always get yourself prepared before the new situation starts, by having the right Things and tools you need ready and already start reading & learning a bit in good time, so you are sure to be used and familiar as soon as the first waves hits you! ;-)

    I thank you for this post and wish you and your Family a pleasant birth & new time with the new member of the Family. :-)

    1. You sound like a very smart and prepared student. Doing some prep work beforehand will make the new semester easier, buying you some time for other things as you gear up for a new year of classes. Good luck with your studies!

  5. Not that I will ever give birth, but when it comes to change I find that a clean break is what works best for me, I tend to linger and postpone all too easily if I give myself the chance. Maybe it’s because I’m weak, haha! But in the situation that there is a countdown, like 2 weeks before I move to a new place, then definitely enjoy the last moments of familiarity!

    Also preparation is definitely key.. as you say it can be the difference from easing into something, and facing complete shock and shutting down when the change occurs. (Like when I lived in Japan for a year… some people were underprepared for the whole endeavor, and become overwhelmed with homesickness. But I had prepared myself for the change, and I was doing good.)

    Great post, and I’m sure everything will work out this time around as well :)

    1. I spent some time living in Japan as well, Ragnar, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. Culture shock is very real, and when you layer that with homesickness and not knowing the native language, it can be extremely overwhelming. Moving abroad is definitely an endeavor that I would spend some time preparing for.

      That being said, I think there are other times where the “clean break” method can be best. I’ve done that before a major move to a new city, and it was the best for me, since I needed time to spend with old friends before I moved forward with my life. Assessing the situation can really help drive your personal strategy.

      Thanks for your insights.

  6. Hi Deborah – enjoyed reading your preparation for your upcoming major life change. I’m sure you’ll do well and child 1 has well-prepared you for child #2 :) This is not only a calm before the storm for you but for your elder child, who will be surprised to have competition around! As an elder child, I’ve seen my influence in my family decrease with each sibbling. When the youngest came around, I was simply an afterthought. haha

    The two solutions you give of enjoying the present moment and preparing for the future are so much more constructive than fear and anxiety, which is what we usually experience. In my life, before imminent major changes, I’ve probably spent more time on preparation of next steps for the change. I knew I couldn’t change the future but I could probably be better prepared for it. When the change struck, it was painful and tumultuous time in my life. Having done some early legwork did help smooth things over a bit but going through the storm is a feat and adventure by itself.

    1. It’s true that even if you know it’s coming, there are many changes you must weather (if you will allow me to use the “storm” analogy here). I hope that your prep work eased everything a little, but sometimes you have to just close your eyes and plunge forward with whatever is coming your way.

      I hope that you’re passed the worst of it now and have gained some valuable insight about yourself in the process.

  7. Hi Deborah thanks for your great words of advice….this timely for me as I face a huge change of my own…tranistion from old to new is always a challenge but living in the present can help. Good luck with the birth…xx

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