When you’re pregnant with your baby for the first time (or anytime really) you imagine what life is going to be like after they are born.
You dream of their soft little cuddles, their gorgeous milky smell and that overwhelming love that comes with the oxytocin high.
Something I didn’t really think about was all of the things I was going to stop doing once our baby arrived.
Sure, I knew Sunday sessions at the pub were probably going to stop, and leaving the house was likely to be a little more difficult, but these are the things that everyone tells you about.
It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realised there were some things I had to decide for myself that I needed to stop.
Not because I couldn’t do them with a baby, but because stopping them made me a better mother and made me feel better in myself.
When you become a mother, you are learning a new role, a new part of you that has just been created, and it can take some time to adjust.
Know that you have the ability to make decisions for yourself, empowered and informed choices, and you too can stop any of these things if you choose.
These are just some of the things I stopped once our baby arrived.
1 – Saying ‘Yes’ To Everyone Else
Before I became a mother, I was always the first person to offer to help someone, which meant I was also the person people asked to help them. And really, I loved it. I loved helping others.
Moving house? Just give me a call. Need me to pick up anything for you while I’m in town? Going away and need your dogs fed? Sure.
But once our baby arrived, I realised I couldn’t keep doing this. I couldn’t keep saying yes to everyone else.
I have a saying: Saying no to others often means saying yes to yourself.
This is so important, regardless of whether you’re a mother or not. You have to say yes to yourself.
Looking after you is so critical. You cannot pour from an empty cup, and being a mother requires a lot of pouring from your cup.
It wasn’t easy at first, because I still wanted to help people. But I needed to look after myself and my baby, so I started saying no. And guess what? People understood. And if they didn’t? I don’t even care.
Those who love you and support you will understand that you need to put yourself and your baby first, if they don’t, then they don’t deserve your time.
2 – Getting Anywhere On Time
If I’m being completely honest, I have never really been good at getting anywhere on time anyway. But when I became a mother, I felt like I had to get places on time or early to prove that I had this motherhood thing down pat.
I know, I know… but it felt like if I could get places on time then others would believe that I was a good mother.
Do you know how stressful that is?
Instead of freaking out about getting somewhere on time, I just accepted that it was okay to be late, that people would understand (and often appreciate) that I had to change my shirt 3 times before I left the house because I leaked through them or the baby puked on them, and if they didn’t, then it was their problem not mine.
3 – Feeling Like Myself
For over a year after my first baby was born, I struggled to find any resemblance of ‘me’.
Not only had I become a mother, but I’d gone through a divorce, wasn’t working in the career I loved and worked so hard for, and no time to do anything that I loved doing before.
I felt like a totally different person, and it was strange.
At around the 12 month mark, something clicked and I realised that I was trying to feel like the ‘old’ me instead of working out how the ‘old’ me and the ‘new’ me fit together.
I was completely pushing the ‘new’ me to the side, trying to forget she even existed, which is pretty much impossible to do.
I gave up on trying to feel like myself and just started paying attention to who I was.
It sounds simple and strange at the same time, but it made such a huge difference.
I gave up the expectation that I had to be like the person I was before, and just started doing the things I wanted to do, doing what made me happy and enjoying the person I was, right now.
4 – Judging Other Mothers
We are all perfect parents, until we have children for ourselves.
I’m not ashamed to admit that before I became a mother, I said my fair share of ‘when I have kids I will never…’ stories. And at the time I genuinely believed it was true.
Even when my son was born, I felt a horrible jealousy towards all the women who were complaining about their babies not sleeping at night. My son was in NICU, what I wouldn’t give to be able to wake up to him at night!!
But I quickly realised that there really is no place for judging other mothers.
We are all doing our best, we are working with what we’ve got and we’re doing what we can to get through.
Sometimes we make awesome parenting choices that make us want to give ourselves a big high five. Other times, not so much. But we can’t be perfect parents all the time.
I realised I was judging other mothers based on a tiny snippet of time, I didn’t know their story, I didn’t know anything about them. Just as I’m sure I’ve been judged too (and I honestly don’t care).
I think one of the steps in becoming confident in your ability as a mother involves giving up being judgemental towards others. And it was something I was glad I gave up quickly.
5 – Putting Myself Last
I had always believed that in order to be a good mother you had to pretty much martyr yourself.
There was a saying I used to hear and it went like this: ‘A mother, who seeing there are only 4 slices of pie for 5 people, promptly states she never really did care for pie.’
Isn’t that sweet? NO!! It’s not! It’s horrible!
We’ve said over and over again, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
As mothers, we are actually biologically wired with the need to take care of ourselves, and I didn’t realise this until a NICU nurse pulled me up on it.
I had figured, with my son in NICU, the right thing to do as a mother would be to be by his side as much as humanly possible.
I was there from at least 6am until past 10pm at night, wanting to be by his side. I pumped milk while sitting next to him, and left the room only to quickly grab something to eat from the basic hospital cafe.
And then my milk supply started to drop.
One of the beautiful NICU nurses explained to me that in order for me to have a healthy and stable milk supply, I had to nourish myself with good food, I had to get a good amount of sleep, and I had to do something to help me cope with the stress of having a baby who was in a critical condition.
I had to take care of myself in order to produce the milk that would nourish and feed my baby.
I had to stop putting myself last and start taking care of my own needs.
Ever since then I was always mindful of making sure my needs were being met to a level that allowed me to care for my children in the best way I could.
6 – Trying To Do Everything Myself
My mum will be the first person to tell you that I don’t like asking for help… with anything. She calls it stubborn. My husband calls it determined. I think it’s probably an unhealthy mix of the two.
After I had my first baby, I was still fairly determined to do most things myself. But after our second baby arrived, I started to put my hand in the air and ask for help.
You want to cook dinner for me? That would be great, thank you. You want to run those errands? Yes please, that would be great. I can pay someone to do my grocery shopping for me? Where has this been all my life?
Having two kids meant I had no choice, I had to stop trying to do everything myself and start accepting and asking for help. And you know what? It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be!
7 – Thinking I Had Plenty Of Time To Achieve My Goals
You know that blissful time in your early twenties when it feels like you have all the time in the world to do all the things.
When you think of the things you want to achieve in life, they are always wrapped up in a ‘much later’ kind of timeframe, because you have so much time.
Once our baby arrived, it felt like time just started hurtling forward and was moving at the speed of light.
Before I knew it, days had turned into months which turned into years and I found myself coming to the end of my twenties realising that my thirties, which once felt like they were so far away, were right around the corner.
I had big goals in my life, but I wasn’t going to achieve them if I didn’t start doing something.
One of those goals was to be a professional writer, something that I am now because I took action and started moving towards it.
I had to let go of the idea that I had all the time in the world and stop thinking that my goals would just happen, and start taking action to achieve them.
I know this isn’t necessarily something that always happens once a baby arrives, but it really did make me start to think of my life as a mother and a role model and what kind of ‘legacy’ I wanted to leave for my children.
We often think of all the things we have to start doing when we have a baby and we don’t give much thought to the things we stop doing (other than being able to go out whenever you want and uninterrupted date nights…).
Once our baby arrived, it was pretty clear there were going to be something I had to stop doing in order to find my happiness and balance as a mother.
I’m sure as my children grow there will be more things I stop doing, and new experiences as my role as a mother changes and evolves.
Sometimes, it’s the things we stop doing once our baby arrives that lead us to be more confident and happy as mothers too.