When I was pregnant with my first son, I remember googling “Postpartum Care” and was a ball of anxiety after reading the results. Almost every article focused on the challenges of parenting (i.e., how to sleep again, how to lose all the baby weight, how to reconnect with your spouse, how to deal with the hormones, how to find time for yourself, etc.). There was no shortage of content that spoke to how overwhelming postpartum and parenthood can be, especially when balancing it with a career.
You can blame poor Search Engine Optimization or an overall lack of content, but the majority of what I read seemed to position parenthood as a “loss of something” and set me up to generate anxiety-ridden, preconceived notions of what postpartum and parenthood entailed that would eventually influence my perspective on the challenges to come.
Of course, an overarching issue is at play: parents have little support. Therefore, I understand the value of content that speaks on the challenges or even memes that put a humorous spin on the experience, as no one truly prepares you for life changes that come once a new human is brought into your world.
Trust me. I consumed and valued plenty of this content. But as my eldest son approached pre-school age last year, I realized that one way to support new and anxious parents is to get them excited, not fearful of what’s to come, reminding them that parenting has a multitude of pros. When framed correctly, the challenges arising from parenthood are pivotal to your journey to discovering who you are.
It’s worth mentioning that every person’s journey is different. Additionally, personal growth and self-discovery are not reserved for parents, as I know many individuals who have grown leaps and bounds from their experiences without children. That said, when you do encounter the uncertainty and anxiety that sometimes accompanies seeing parenthood on the horizon, you need to find some balance in the content you consume so the anxiety minimizes and excitement flourishes.
While I acknowledge that parents need more support, I also want to emphasize that parenthood is not just about sacrifices. It’s about growth – personal and professional. Raising children feels empowering, creates new opportunities, and leads to fresh perspectives that transcend all facets of your life.
There is no denying juggling work and family is a daily challenge. However,
when I shifted my focus from the “losses” to the “gains,” I made substantial and sustainable changes that I would never have initiated without having children.
These shifts made me feel like a better, more centered version of “me,” resulting in my becoming a better business owner, friend, and spouse.
Here are the four main things I did to shift my perspective and the associated gains that led to a more powerful, empathetic, and resilient version of ME.
Action: Stop using “Well, I’m a mom now” as an excuse.
Gain: A more profound reverence for my time and what occupies it. Plus, I deeply understand that commitments must lead to action if I am to initiate change within myself.
Children become your priority, as they should! Your new priorities don’t mean you flake on commitments or sequester yourself in your home. I realized that my complaints of loneliness and not having “me time” were my own doing. I began to use motherhood as a crutch, an easily accessible, albeit honorable, excuse to explain why I wasn’t “out there.” It was easier to blame my circumstances than admit my laziness or preference for sweatpants and Netflix. I needed to own the decision if I decided not to do something. If I decided to make plans, I needed to commit and act. No excuses.
Action: Release the fear of parenthood stunting my career.
Gain: Being a mother can expand your world in ways you never imagined.
As a new parent, one of my most significant worries was that I had to bottle up my ambition and choose between parenthood and career. I was nervous about this months before I even became a parent. I didn’t anticipate motherhood would give me even more ambition, focus, and perspective. Motherhood has enlightened me on the type of entrepreneur I want to be, how I want to treat others in business, and vice versa. It has reinvigorated my love for my craft and has served as my North Star to help me set priorities and realign my purpose and vision for my company. It introduced me to new groups of women, like St. Louis Mom, who offered support, networking opportunities, and career advice.
Action: Devote time to doing things you did pre-parenthood.
Gain: I became a more confident and energized version of myself in all facets of my life.
Many of us fondly reminisce about our lives before children. Remember when we could shop alone at the grocery store exponentially faster, stay out late, sleep all day, and go to the gym or take impromptu trips whenever we wanted? Yes, those were great times, weren’t they? But who said we can’t do those things now as parents? We might not be able to do them daily, but the things we did pre-children are still in the cards. I felt free when I realized that my life pre-kids and post-kids do not have to be categorized by the things I can or cannot do. The no-kid version of me and mom-me are the same person, and my hobbies and needs then can still be present now. I had to adjust and value my time more to make it happen.
I decided to add one thing I liked doing pre-children back to my plate every few months.
For example, I loved running, working out, and completing races. After my two kids, I cultivated the mentality that I had no time for anything and started to resign myself to the fact that my post-baby body was going to be my forever body. Everything else took priority over running, as I complained almost daily that I missed being able to run again.
I told myself I was a victim of my circumstances, and it was too difficult to start running or doing any exercise again with babies and a business. WRONG. I merely had to change my perspective. I began to look at running as “me time” and “work time” – a prime opportunity to ideate and develop business solutions or my best creative ideas. This framed running as a non-negotiable.
How I did it: I started slow. I started walking 30 minutes daily when I dropped the kids off at daycare or took them to the park. Like any business meeting I would never miss, I considered exercise a non-negotiable in my work schedule. Of course, walking turned into running, and fast forward to today, and I am in the same shape I was, maybe even better, before I had my sons. This boosts my confidence and gives me the energy to keep on keepin’ on despite what life throws in my direction.
Action: Stop reading content that made me feel “less than” enough.
Gain: I am confident in who I am as a person and mom. I am determined to blaze my path.
We all do it. We scroll on Instagram and cannot scroll past the posts that make us feel like we are doing it all wrong. I commend those who can avoid making comparisons. Still, many of us feel inadequate when we see someone who looks perfect doing it all and promoting testimonials from other women in her circle doing it all. I am in the marketing industry, so you should never believe what you see at first glance, as you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in these influencers’ lives. That said, I still find it difficult to avoid comparing myself. I started to feel overwhelmed with all the content from experts. The mental dialogue went something like this:
Instagram Account: “Moms! Don’t do this when your kids do this!”
Me: Oh, no! I am doing that! My kids will be scarred for life!
Instagram Account: “I lost 20 lbs in just 60 days after I gave birth!”
Me: Oh, no! I have only lost five pounds. What am I doing wrong?
Instagram Account: “I made seven figures from working just 20 hours per week and spending all this time with my kids.”
Me: Oh, no! This business isn’t working!
Did I ever tell you that I am a worrier? Ha!
I decided to take myself out of “digital situations” that discouraged me instead of empowering me to find my journey. Instead, I sought out women who, like me, have challenges and struggles and are imperfectly finding their way.
As I continue to work on myself spiritually while developing the tools to avoid feeling paralyzed after comparing myself to others, I have no shame in saying it takes a lot of hard work, and sometimes, I miss the mark. In this case, the best thing to do is the most straightforward thing, which is to tap that “unfollow” friend! It is easiest for me to physically or digitally remove the negative energy from my environment, IRL or on my Instagram feed.
This post is a friendly reminder that parenting can be fun and fulfilling, ultimately making you stronger and more resilient at home and in the workplace, if you take the time to value the challenges and reflect on the learnings. So here’s to celebrating motherhood, self-reflection, and self-care because nurturing oneself is as essential as nurturing our children.