It is ridiculously easy to lose yourself in parenthood. Our children, adorable as they are, demand so much attention that it’s hard not to drop everything for them at any given moment. Still, some of us still find a way to hold on to the things that mattered to us pre-baby, though usually not without a bit of guilt or judgment from others. So, let me say this: there are things it's still OK to care about after having a baby. After all, you're procreated. You haven't endured a lobotomy.
Who invented this absurd narrative about the mother who gives her all for her children, anyway? Why is it that moms are, more often than not, portrayed as having to give up various facets of their lives in order to be a “good” parent? Why do we, as a culture, endlessly praise the selfless mom as if martyrdom and a complete lack of self-care should be every mother's overall parenting goal?
Parenting and working and hobbies and fun are not all mutually exclusive, folks. You don’t have to “give up your life” to raise children, and I would argue that it’s beneficial to your kids that you don’t. It’s healthy for your little ones to see you take pride in your work, to see you enjoy fishing or karaoke or whatever else you enjoy, and to care for yourself, too. Plus, your mental health demands that you care about other things besides your kids, which will also benefit them (and you) in the long run. So, here’s a list of things you need to stop ignoring or feeling guilty over still caring about, now that you’re also a parent.
We live in a nation where maternity leave (and paternity leave) policies suck (or are non-existent). Most jobs will only give you three months of unpaid leave at best (less if you’re a man, usually). Many of us can’t survive without those three months of pay, and many parents choose to return to work sooner. It’s OK to care about making money. You need it to feed yourself and your family, and people who turn their noses up at you for prioritizing this need a slap in the bank account.
Yes, yes, I know it’s hard to be stylish with nursing bras and our bodies being beautifully lumpy after giving birth. Or maybe you weren’t the one giving birth, but you have zero time for laundry and most of your clothes now have spit-up stains on them. It’s tough to be a stylish parent, especially for those who used to pride themselves as fashion-forward.
However, it’s alright if you’re slowly coming out of the fog and bought yourself a pair of nice-fitting pants or a sweet jacket or some freaking Jimmy Choo’s if you can afford it. Work it, girl.
Having A Good Sex Life
Postpartum sex can suck. Like, real bad. I mean, sex for new parents sucks in general because you’re sleep deprived, possibly nutritionally deficient, potentially smelly from lack of regular showers, and also because your kid will always interrupt at the wrong moment. Add the fact you may have a still-sore vagina or a c-section scar to contend with and well, yeah.
But hey, you can still care about having sex! You can still care about wanting to connect physically with another human being! You can still care about orgasms and getting yours! You had a baby, but that doesn’t mean your genitals have to go to pasture. You just need to get creative.
I’m not saying you should be freaking out about your “mom bod” (or “dad bod” or whatever you call your "parent bod"). We are all freaking gorgeous human beings responsible for the rearing of other, tiny humans and that’s so, so, so cool. But maybe you want to work out because you know it absolutely helps with your health, physically and mentally. You aren’t “shallow." Moving around is good. Hell, you can even include your kiddo.
Truth be told, nothing makes me feel more like my pre-baby self than getting pampered at the salon, or even at home. Having someone massage my legs, pain my nails, do my hair; it all feels amazing. I can’t usually afford to do this, but even throwing on some eyeshadow and lipstick or giving myself a little face mask treat goes a long way for me. If I can do it, so can you.
Maintaining Your Friendships
My friends were my main priority during my early twenties. Well, them and school. Going from weekly hangouts and daily texts to almost zero contact with anyone that’s not part of my immediate family was one of the hardest things for me about getting married and becoming a parent. Still, I do my best to reach out to my friends any way I can, and while that might mean a night away from my kid once every few weeks, I know it’s totally fine.
Lots of parents end up putting their education on hold when they have a baby. However, learning isn’t just something we should do in high school or college . Educating oneself is an important, lifelong process. New parents can go to school part-time, or take online courses (there are even lots of free ones!) and you can always learn new things alongside your kid.
Some people think having a baby means giving up travel entirely, at least until your kids are grown. I don’t believe that should be the case at all, especially if you have the means (or ways around the means). You should still care about travel. You should still travel (with and without your kids). Traveling gives everyone a broader sense of the world and a more global perspective, which benefits everyone.
Having A Clean House
OK, look; your house is never going to be spotless (unless you’re a baller and can afford a daily cleaning service). You can still take some pride in having a somewhat clean house, though. You don’t have to just throw in the towel and accept the mess as is (unless that brings you joy, then do you, boo).
Kayaking, karate, knitting; whatever your hobby, don’t give it up just because you had a baby. Find ways to fit it in while your kid is sleeping (alright, that’s when you sleep or shower or Netflix, I know), or ways to incorporate your child so they can partake in your hobby, too.
I sometimes do yoga with my toddler and while it’s not easy at all, I know he’s learning from it and I benefit from it. Someday, it won’t stress me out when he jumps on my back during cat/cow (or better yet, he’ll stop jumping) and that’s cool, too.
I put this one aside from making money because not everyone’s career path necessarily brings them money at first, and not everyone’s job is their career. You might put certain aspects of your career on the back burner (e.g. if it requires higher education, or if you need to work for low wages to work your way up), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still care about it. You can and should absolutely continue to care about your career goals. I still do, which is exactly why I’m writing this article. Hopefully it inspires you, too.