It is amazing how our lives change, isn't it? We marry and begin what is a very nice, calm life. We have a spouse and a home and, usually, a job, and things are pretty good. We have quiet evenings with the person whom we love. We go to bed when we want, get up when we need to, eat quiet meals with the person we love most in the world. Life is good. 

Then, the first child comes. 

Suddenly, everything changes. Everything. You are no longer "quiet" in any practical sense of the term at all. There are no quiet meals like before, because you cannot take the time to fix a meal and sit down and eat it, because naps are not long enough. Both of you lose sleep. You are constantly interrupted by baby stuff (crying and feedings, at first, playing and crying later). Your life becomes more stressful, your sleep is less consistent, and every suddenly becomes harder. 

This is the "Ratcheting Up" part of your life. It is humorous (as an old guy) to hear young couples talk about "looking forward" to when their life will "settle down," usually something they think will happen in a couple of years. Trust me, it doesn't settle down that quickly. 

As your child grows (and more children come), you just keep Ratcheting Up. Two children is an entirely different existence than one child, and the third child (when they have you outnumbered) is yet another experience. (For us, the third child was the greatest challenge of our four children.)

Ratcheting Up is a very difficult lifestyle. The level of noise in your house increases, the level of things you have to do increases, your home's cleanliness decreases, your time with your husband decreases. You find yourself constantly concerned with today and tomorrow and the future (which school will your child attend? what lessons will they take?). You listen to radio shows and read books and blogs and hear dozens of people offering contradictory advice. 

Vacations are not, really, vacations for you. They are "Family Vacations" which means they are children's vacations. An occasional weekend away (with friends or family keeping children) is wonderful, but doesn't really stop the Ratcheting Up. 

Two Thoughts.

First, do not let the Ratcheting Up destroy your life. Keep a handle on things somehow. I can tell you, being an old guy, that almost all the lessons you pay for and take them to will have no permanent impact on them. Most of the "busyness" will not really make their lives better. Keep some control on this whole structure. You do not have to do everything. Keep your closeness to your husband. Find a friend with whom you can exchange child care and have some time off. Keep your children on a schedule that keeps you as rested and alive as you can manage. Do not forget that you are one with your husband, not with your children. 

Second, it ends. I am now in the Ratcheting Down stage of my life. Children are grown and growing. My eldest is married and in her own Ratcheting Up stage. My older son is in the Army, living across the country from me. My younger daughter is in college. My youngest child is a junior in high school. We are Ratcheting Down. The other day, I came home from work and sat down in my living room with a cool drink and a book and read for a little while. That is not something you get to do much with children all over the place. 

We constantly talk about "stages" and "phases," so take a minute to know where you are. If you are Ratcheting Up, then hang on and keep going. Don't let it get you down or wear you out. If you are Ratcheting Down, take some time to relax and enjoy being young again, a loving couple with one child (or no children). 

And, in either case, look at your husband and realize that you have many years together. Invest a little love in that relationship today. It will pay off.

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