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What I gave up for motherhood

Parenthood is not easy. And yes, you give things up you wish you didn't have to. But for me, that was only half the story.

What I gave up for motherhood

Recently, my husband and I were visiting with a few friends who had come to meet our daughter, then 2 months old. After sharing a few requisite stories about getting intimate with our daughter's poop, the conversation inevitably turned to a more sobering discussion on parenthood. One of them half-jokingly referred to having children as giving up.

A thoughtless thing to say in front of new parents? Maybe. But I wasn't offended. I understood exactly how he felt.

For much of my adulthood, fear permeated my thoughts around motherhood. As a self-proclaimed creative, I worried that I wouldn't have achieved everything I had dreamed for myself before becoming a mother. I knew (in my heart, if not my mind) that I wanted children. But this fear surrounding my own freedom overwhelmed me–-and persisted well into my pregnancy.

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After becoming a mother, many of the things I had been told would happen, have, invariably, happened: my life has been turned upside down. I've given up countless personal freedoms. I've lost sleep. I've spent more money on one tiny person than I ever have on myself. I've given up a world in which I am the center. Lazy days don't exist anymore (or at least, not in the way I once knew them). Dropping everything and just going doesn't happen anymore.

And it's true what they say: There is no right time to have a child. Even when it's planned, doubts persist: Do we make enough money? Will I know how to be a mother? Are we ready for this?

Parenthood is not easy. And yes, you give things up you wish you didn't have to. But for me, that was only half the story.

I gave up questioning my value to the world.

This is not to say that I didn't value myself before having my daughter. It's to say I now value myself in a new way—one that is utterly intrinsic. I stopped feeling like I needed to prove something. In an instant, everything I had been striving for was validated.

For my fellow empowered females out there, I hesitate even writing this (let alone, listing it first), for fear that it sounds like I'm suggesting that a woman's only purpose is to have children. No.

Here's my point: I realize now that everything I've been working for in my adult life—independence, freedom, self-sufficiency, self-worth—was a form of preparation. I had been practicing so that I could teach her these same things and could pass on to the next generation this radical idea of the unmitigated power of a woman.

The idea that yes, as a female, my daughter can do whatever she wants and that her value is inherent. And that, as a mother, I will lead by example. My value as a woman has existed since the day I was born, and for the past 32 years, the world has done its best to try to rob me of it. Now, as far as I'm concerned, the world can stop trying, because it doesn't have a chance.

I gave up feeling insecure about my body.

As someone who spent almost 10 years of her life in the throes of a serious eating disorder, this is another one I write with both relief and trepidation. But I remind myself that it's just one way the world has tried to steal my self-worth—along with the billions of other women who are told daily that the path to success and happiness is through a number on the scale or a reflection in a mirror.

So who would have thought that having a child would lead to feeling the strongest, sexiest, most beautiful and most productive that I ever felt in my life? Because I do. I love my fleshy curves. I've earned every one of them. The extra 15 pounds I'm carrying around is a plush layer of confidence. I eat to nourish myself and to produce nourishment for my child. It's a revolutionary feeling—but it shouldn't be. I'm elated that I finally feel pleasure living in my own skin, but I'm sad that it's taken 32 years to feel it.

I gave up drama.

Friends not being able to get their you-know-what together; colleagues bringing me down with bad habits; overly needy clients. The Real Housewives (yeah, I know). Drama, in its many forms, has no place in my life anymore. More important (and enjoyable) things occupy my time these days.

I gave up self-destructive behaviors.

In your 30s, self-preservation becomes paramount. For me, the visible signs of aging began. When I got pregnant, I had to take a deeper look into my habits and ask, "What can I do better?". I was bringing life to the world and I needed to take care of myself, so I could take care of her. It's not to say that things like eating better and exercising got easier—they haven't. And I'm far from perfect. But, what goes into me, goes into her. And that is a very persuasive motivator.

I gave up self-destructive thoughts.

Another work in progress, but like behaviors, the thoughts we have about ourselves do not begin and end with oneself. The thoughts that pass through me, pass through her too—and in some cases, they stick there. I'd like for positive ones to mark their territory in that spongy little brain of hers with the tightest grip they've got.

I gave up urgent for important.

That hundred item to-do list that just had to get done? In the trash. Suddenly, I adopted a slow-living lifestyle. One catering to the natural cycle of things, rather than the rat's nest of 'gotta-dos' in my head.

There's nothing like having an infant that forces you to live moment by moment. Want to know a phenomenal form of meditation? Lie down beside your 5-month-old and just watch her play and coo, happily comforted by your presence and perfectly content in that single moment. Soak it in. Submerge yourself in its purity. For me, the world begins and ends at that moment.

I gave up the need for control.

If there's anything having a baby teaches you, it's that you aren't in control. And for a self-proclaimed control freak, this was actually the break I needed. I've always struggled to delegate. In business and in life, I used to try to do it all myself and the only thing that's ever given me is bitterness and burn out. Becoming a mother has taught me how to ask for help. I can't do it all and, finally, that's okay.

I gave up doing stuff I didn't really want to do in the first place.

Having a baby gives you a great excuse to bow out of things you feel peer pressured into doing. I waffled on this one, in an attempt not to offend anyone in my life, but my friends know I love each of them and support their dreams. That said… if I don't really feel like going to my friend's up-and-coming band's show tonight? No problem. Can't make that destination wedding in Tahiti this month…oops.

The truth is, I do not feel bad about using my child as an excuse to stay home and cuddle with her over going to your poetry reading. To my friends and loved ones: I miss you dearly, and I adore and treasure each of you. But, at least for a while, time with my daughter will take precedence over time with you.

So…what does all of this giving up mean?

It means I've created a lot of space in my life. Enough space for catering to a new little person and for achieving my dreams. Yes, that's right: achieving my dreams.

Since having a child, I have gained focus for the work I truly want and love to do. I don't have time to fuss with the stuff that isn't pushing my ultimate vision forward. That little smile has ignited in me a purpose and drive I never would have experienced had she not existed. I want to be an example to her. I want her to be proud of me and to learn to be proud of herself.

I've gained creative inspiration. I see the world countless new ways every day, right alongside her. I wonder, like a child, with my child.

I've gained a very deep understanding of my own parents' love. I thank them every day for everything they have given me.

I've gained a new appreciation and insight into what my body was made for and is capable of. It's astounding.

I've gained copious amounts of laughter and delight. Try not being excited about every squeal and giggle emanating from a tiny little body. It's intoxicating.

I'm attracted to my husband in ways I never expected. Seeing him cuddle with our daughter is an unbelievable turn on.

I've gained perspective. I have a much greater tolerance for other parents and families. I feel deep empathy for those who want children but can't have them. I've been humbled and grounded by motherhood.

And finally, I've gained an indescribable amount of love. The kind that squeezes your heart until you're breathless. The kind that pushes your stomach into your throat and the kind that lies down dead, just to give someone else a chance to live. And if that kind of love doesn't inspire you to go after what you want in life, I'm not sure what would.

Even if motherhood had meant giving up a dream or two, not doing so would have left me blind to an infinite number of new possibilities. Dreams that never would have had a chance to be realized. The day I became a mother is the day I realized that these dreams of mine–-the ones I was so afraid of giving up (but not really going after like I should have been)–-are now a must, not a maybe. I'm committed to proving to myself and her, that it can be done.

And if I don't succeed? Well, I'm not worried about that–-it takes up too much space in my life. Space I need to conserve for other things.


This article was previously published here.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

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In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

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We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

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