Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

12 Things I Did For Myself Before My Baby Became A Toddler

"Toddler" is sort of a blurry definition. For some, a baby becomes a toddler when they turn 1, and for others this magical transformation happens when the baby starts walking. I feel like when your child is a toddler you just know, and that milestone varies from child to child. (For example, I think my son, who was full-blown walking at 9 months old, was a toddler before my more chill daughter.) So when I say there were things I did for myself before my baby became a toddler, I mean "things I did for myself in the early days of parenting."

At the time, those early days seemed never-ending. And even now, with those days behind me, they loom large in my mind. My kids are 7 and 4 now and I feel like the first three months of motherhood lasted a whole lot longer than the entirety of, say, year three. But the truth is that even though the "pre-toddler times" don't actually last too long, there's a lot that happens during that timeframe.

Most of what happens during the "pre-toddler period" revolve around your baby, and necessarily so (they are bad at doing, like, anything for themselves), but that doesn't mean there aren't some things that have to be for you and you alone. You don't suddenly stop being important once you pop out a kid. You're still a person! You still matter! And you're not a bad mom if some of what you do is motivated by entirely personal reasons. So with that in mind, here are just some of the things I did for me:

I Started Birth Control ASAP

I gleefully counted down the days to my six-week postpartum appointment after each delivery, and not to get the green-light for sex or exercise or to have the peace of mind that everything was OK (though that was all nice, too), either. I wanted a certified care provider to write me a prescription for some birth control pills because, as enamored as I was with my new babies, I did not want a new baby any time in the near future. In the case of my second, I didn't want a new baby ever again.

This was a little gift I gave to myself: a lack of the gift of a new baby until I was ready. It was great.

I Snuggled At Every Opportunity

They say snuggling is good for babies but it's also so good for mamas, too. While I, of course, want to nurture my children through comforting physical touch, snuggling as frequently as I did wasn't entirely altruistic. I wanted to soak up all the little squish-squish I could manage for as long as possible, because I was and am determined to give them all the personal space they need as they get older, which will mean, potentially, not getting hugs when they don't feel like giving them. That's OK, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck when you really want a hug and they don't want to give one. So I glommed on to all the snuggles back when my kids were too little to care that I was all up in their grills.

I Dressed Them In All The Stupid-Cute Outfits I Wanted

Kids don't care what they wear. Just ask any baby and you'll realized they DGAF because, well, they don't even know they have toes. So if you want to put them in some adorable but ridiculous get-up, as long as it isn't too itchy of cumbersome they're just going to let you go ahead and do it with no complaints. I seriously put my son in this head-to-toe onesie for a couple months that I think was technically a Halloween costume but it made him look like an adorable blue puppy and, I'm sorry, that's something everyone can enjoy.

I knew my days of holding the fashion reins were numbered (once kids are mobile, some outfits just aren't practical for them to play around and get messy in), so I indulged my games of "pretend your baby is a doll and dress them up" for as long as I could which, incidentally, was basically around the time they hit the toddler stage.

I Took A Million Pictures & Videos

I ain't sorry.

I Did All The Babywearing

Again, they say there are benefits to babywearing for your baby, but it was just so damn convenient that it's difficult to not categorize my choice as mostly "selfish." There was seriously no way I was going to get anything done for the first year of my child's life if I didn't wear them basically everywhere, especially when it came to my second child. It doesn't hurt, of course, that I loved it (so easy, so cozy, such great snuggle times).

I Bought Toys I Thought Were Cute

My babies didn't care, but I thought these items were absolutely adorable and wanted an excuse to buy them. Seriously, they would have been happy with a small collection of, like, empty tissue boxes and measuring cups. Neither of them had the slightest interest in toys for the first few months of their lives, but that didn't stop me from purchasing some precious, bespoke, handcrafted craft plush friends for them.

Did I take pictures of my children placed awkwardly next to those toys? Yes. Did I post those pictures to social media? Absolutely I did.

I Didn't Force Things

Keeping up with milestones, comparing your baby to other babies, or getting on board with The Best And Most Nurturing New Baby Feeding/Sleeping/Mindfulness Methods can be exhausting, especially when you're already so damn exhausted. Early on I promised myself the only thing I was going to commit to was my baby's wellbeing, and I kept that definition vague and flexible.

So, sure, I'd try baby-led weaning, but when I realized that just wasn't going to work for us I didn't beat myself up over it. When my son still hadn't said any words by his first birthday I didn't start working with him hours a day on speech therapy. As best as I could, I just sort of rode the ride.

I Allowed Screen Time

Because blah blah blah they're not supposed to know what electricity is until they're 15 or whatever, but, you know what? Sometimes Elmo is going to be a better parent than me. Mama needs a rest. Elmo loves my child, too! After all, he says so at the end of every episode. Give. Me. This.

I Purcahsed A Costco Membership

Because, yes, my baby is entitled to my money, but, like, maybe not all of my money? I saved a ton on diapers and formula by buying generic brands in bulk. That had nothing to do with which well-researched brand was the most suitable for my children: that was done for me. I mean, it's not like I was buying burlap sacks full of flea infested straw or anything, but if it covered their butts and didn't leak that was good enough for us.

I Kissed A Million Parenting Plans Goodbye

Remember when I said I wasn't going to force anything? That didn't mean I didn't have ideas about how I was going to do things going into this whole parenthood thing. I had a ton of ideas. Great ideas! Ideas that work for a lot of people, in fact... but they just didn't always work for me. Sometimes they did, and that was awesome! But other times, well, I had to be OK with just sort of holding that idea in my hand, looking at it lovingly, whispering "farewell, my friend," and letting it blow away into the wind.

I Instituted "Me Time"

I did this as soon as possible. It's not like I went to Ibiza three weeks postpartum, but I did go to the nail salon on maternity leave. And I went out for my fourth anniversary dinner when my son was 1 month old. A little dab'll do ya in those early days (you're too exhausted to go all out most of the time, to be honest), but I realized very quickly how important that "dab" is.

I Laughed At Myself

Friends, if you can't laugh at yourself in this time you're not going to make it. It's OK to screw up. It's OK to be ridiculous. It's OK to just be OK.