One piece of advice that I received time and time again as I transitioned to becoming a new mom was that I didn’t have to give up the things I loved just because I had a kid. I could maintain my hobbies, my interests, my friends, my career, and anything that was important to me or made me feel like ME. This advice was so encouraging and empowering to me in the early stages of motherhood, when I felt like a Netflix-watching, food generating, sleep deprived shell of who I used to be. When my son was an itty bitty, yes, I loved being with him but I also loved the freedom of the things that used to make me, me.
As my son transitions into toddlerhood and is more active and energetic and fun, I am finding that the advice originally given to me is missing a second half. So Mamas, here’s my updated advice for you.
You absolutely CAN do anything, but you don’t HAVE to.
Having kids will change you. It will change your insides and outsides, your body, mind, and soul. For everything you CAN do, there is a trade-off for something you CAN’T. This is the tough love part of the advice. Mama, you had a beautiful and full life before the littles came along. You didn’t get extra time in your day when you had a kid, and no one should expect you to maintain every bit of that life you had now that you’ve added babies.
So my advice is to give yourself permission to grow and change and adapt as your kids grow and change.
Your vision for what your life looks like will change. That’s okay. You do not have to justify changing to anyone. What works for you and your family might not be what works for someone else. You may have seasons where doing something that used to make you feel like you feels right and empowering. And you may have seasons where doing that same thing makes you feel tired and overextended.
If you love marathon running, you can keep doing it. It’s possible. Believe me. I know some awesome mother runners! But if that training schedule no longer fits into your life, you don’t HAVE to keep doing it just because you think you should. If you love traveling and seeing other countries, you absolutely CAN find a way to do it. Ask me. I went to Antarctica when my son was six months. I could and I did. If you love baking cupcakes, or volunteering, or scrapbooking, or wine tasting, or nail painting, or white water rafting…whatever it is, Mama, you can. You CAN. But you don’t HAVE to. If you hit a point where something no longer fits into the life you are building, you don’t HAVE to just because it was a part of who you were.
Stepping back doesn’t have to mean you’re quitting forever, it doesn’t mean you can’t come back to it later, it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a part of you somewhere. As your kids grow and change, you will grow and change, and your life will grow and change.
It’s okay to reset priorities, to dive deeper or to pull back, to let interests take center stage or fade into the background for a bit. Give yourself the strength to know that becoming a mom doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to the other pieces of your self-identity. But also give yourself the freedom to embrace your new life and let it rebuild and reshape you.