Having a baby changes everything.
If you’re pregnant, or you’re a new parent, you’ve probably heard that countless times. It’s true - having a baby is a monumental change. But having a baby doesn’t mean that you need to lose yourself.
It can be very easy to get caught up in sleepless nights, countless diaper changes, poop or spit-up emergencies, illnesses, and doctor appointments, play dates, and all things parenthood - but parents need to remember that they were once a person before they became a mom (or dad).
Losing sight of that person can be very disorienting, and may even cause depression and anxiety or relationship problems down the road. Maintaining your identity as a person while still growing in your role as a parent is vitally important.
It’s ok to change and to grow, and enjoy being a parent, but you must not lose sight of your broader goals and aspirations for your life. Only you will be able to figure out how to balance your time doing day-to-day parenting duties and cutting out time for self-care and fun.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some simple ideas for how to maintain your identity while still being a successful, happy parent.
- Make time for self-care.
Whether it’s doing a quick workout, taking a warm bath, curling up with a good book, or grabbing coffee with a friend, make sure you cut out time for self-care. Despite what common misconceptions say, self-care is not selfish. The more you learn to take time for yourself, the more you will be in tune with your own emotions and needs.
- Date your spouse.
Don’t let childcare duties take over your life. Even if you can’t afford a babysitter, you can still find ways to have a “date night” with your spouse. If you do have a trusted babysitter or family member nearby, take time to go out - explore a new restaurant or bar, go dancing, go to the gym, go see a movie. Take turns planning date nights, and see how well you both know one another. If you can’t afford to go out, have a date night in! Light some candles, cook a nice meal and just hang out together. Turn on your favorite movie or show, play a card game, or just sit and talk. All that matters is that you both show each other how treasured and loved the other person is.
- Find a trustworthy babysitter.
If you don’t have friends or family nearby, you can still find a reliable babysitter. Many college students look for part-time work, so that might be a good place to start asking around. Maybe your neighbor has a responsible teenager that would be willing to make some extra money. Use websites such as Care.com. There are many ways to find a good babysitter - and it’s important to have one! You need time to spend on yourself, or with your spouse, without the kids in tow!
- Write out your goals, and work towards them.
Get a journal or start a note on your phone, and jot down some goals. Then write concrete steps you will take to reach those goals. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal you set for yourself!
- Join a gym or find a new hobby.
Many parents find motivation and power in pursuing fitness goals by either working out at home or joining a gym. Attending fitness classes or working out at a gym can also be a great way to meet new people. If health and fitness isn’t your thing, pick a hobby that resonates with you. Maybe it’s reading, or journaling, or gardening, or baking. Pick a hobby and carve out time each week to pursue it.
- Spend time with friends, even the ones without kids.
Make sure you continue to invest in friendships, even after you have kids! When life becomes bogged down with parenting duties, it can be hard to find time to spend with friends. New parents often complain about their former friends drifting away once they have kids. But remember, friendship is a two-way street, and you will get out of it what you invest in it. Pick up the phone, call a friend, and find time to meet up for coffee or play date if they have kids.
- Do a mental check-in every month to see if you’re truly happy.
You will be the best judge of whether you are living in tune with your desires, dreams, and needs. Every month or so, do a metal check-in and evaluate how you are spending your time. If there are areas that need to change, activities that need to be eliminated, or new goals you’d like to pursue, make sure to note it somewhere. It’s ok to let things go to pursue the things that make you truly feel fulfilled.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.