When women ask me what the biggest shock of becoming a mother was, my answer often surprises them: adjusting to a new lifestyle. Becoming a mother is one of the most empowering changes I’ve experienced. I didn’t realize, though, how much my daily life would change. Yeah, I knew my son would require a lot of attention and care, but I didn’t realize that I would have to wait until my son woke up from a nap to go to Target. Or that I might feel too exhausted to hang out with friends even if I had a babysitter. Or that having a old rear-wheel drive Caprice Classic set up for cruising with music blasting (it’s a Detroit thing) probably wasn’t the best baby transportation for Michigan winters. Some days I would look in the mirror and ask, “Who are you?” In other words, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the ways my life would change when I became a mother. So I encourage would-be and will-be moms to get ready.
So how do you that? Here are 10 ideas!
1. Take a “babymoon”. Take some time to travel to a new place or even an old favorite before the baby comes. While I was pregnant with my son, I went to New Orleans with a girlfriend and had a great time. If you don’t have the money or time to travel, take a stay-cation, relax and rest. You’ll need it.
2. Do something silly. Having a kid tends to make people feel more responsible. I’m not saying you don’t have silly moments, but after your child comes, you start seeing yourself through his or her eyes. That might stop you dead in your tracks when you want to dance barefoot in the rain, for example, because you want to set a ‘good example’. So go ahead, dance in the rain now while no one’s watching.
3. Enjoy some child-free sex. You know those hours-long sessions that resulted in you getting pregnant? It won’t be the same when a kid’s around. Trust me.
4. Get used to all the “stuff” that comes with a child. When you have a baby, you don’t just have the baby. You have the diaper bag, the changes of clothes, the stroller, the pack and play, the toys. Carrying all this “stuff” smoothly takes practice, so enjoy not being a bag lady before the baby comes.
5. Baby sit. Maybe some of you spend a lot of time with babies and already know what to expect. Me? I was living the free and easy single life. The first day I brought my son home from the hospital, I spent at least a half-hour staring at him and asking him, “How am I gonna take care of you!?” So if you think that might be you, find a mama-baby pair and spend some time with them. Then try taking the jump into babysitting for a few hours to see how it feels.
6. Move your body. It’s tempting to spend your pregnancy sitting in front of the TV and eating. But it doesn’t pay off after the pregnancy when you could use a healthy body when dealing with the work of mothering a newborn. So move your body while you’re pregnant if you can. Go for walks, take a pregnancy fitness class—there are multiple ways you can move your body and stay healthy.
7. Clean house. Not that nesting-type cleaning. Purge! Nothing is going to annoy you more than having a lot of junk you don’t need in the midst of all the stuff that comes with raising a baby (see #4). You likely won’t have the energy to deal with it for a while either. If you can get rid of some things beforehand, you may feel more at peace afterwards.
8. Save some money. One place I really felt the shock was in my wallet. Babies are expensive! Again, having not had much time with babies before my own, I didn’t realize this. I spent way too much money at Target while pregnant and had little to show for it than junk (see #7). Save your money for the baby.
9. Start a journal if you don’t have one. You’ll want to record your journey through motherhood, but if you aren’t in the habit of doing it, you may not pick it up when you’re in the midst of wiping drool and changing diapers. It also helps you make sense of all the changes and transitions in your life. And speaking of developing habits…
10. Make a commitment to follow a dream by moving forward on one major step. After having a baby, if you’re not careful, you may leave your dreams behind. Do something to put your dreams into action now, so you can know you got started. Even if your goals change over time, at least you made the commitment to follow through on something that is important to you.
But what if you’ve already had your baby and you’re asking yourself, “How do I get myself back?” Don’t worry. The feeling of being someone else is temporary. Eventually, you’ll learn how pre-mama you and mama-you fit together. Your energy is better spent bonding with your beautiful child. But while that precious baby is asleep, go ahead and sneak in a barefoot dance in the rain. I won’t tell.
Dr. Ebony Reddock’s mission is to support mothers in living healthier, more balanced lives. She is a writer, researcher and workshop facilitator on mothers’ health and wellness. She’s also an advocate for the conditions that help mothers take care of themselves and their families. You can find more information about her work, including her blog and other resources, at ecreddock.com