After I had my daughter, I often nostalgically thought about the old baby-free life I left behind.
I loved my new role as someone’s mom, but while I was adjusting–especially during those hard moments–I often thought about how things used to be.
At the beginning of parenthood, everything was confusing and in disarray. But five years in, we’re in our stride of what our new routine and new normal is. Now, I barely have these nostalgic glimpses at all.
After you just have a baby, I think it’s OK, and totally warranted, to be a little wistful for your previous life. The baby is so new that you freshly remember the freedom you just recently had. Just a few weeks ago, you could pop back to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient or head to see a movie on a whim. Now the thought of doing either of those things is unfathomable but the freedom is still easily remembered.
After you just have a baby, I think it’s OK, and totally warranted, to be a little wistful for your previous life. The baby is so new that you freshly remember the freedom you just recently had.
Once it’s been a few years, you don’t really remember how simple child-free life used to be and you get used to parenthood. Things become more predictable and easygoing than they were in the early baby year. The new routine of parenthood isn’t necessarily easy–I’m assuming there’s never an “easy” stage of parenthood–but it feels a lot more manageable than in the beginning because you’re so used to it. Running errands with three kids will become the new “easy” one day, so only having two of them with you sometimes will feel like a vacation!
When you are going through the adjustment stage, though, it’s important to remember that if you are having those feelings of nostalgia for your “old” life, they are completely normal. Don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby and parenthood, it just acknowledges that life used to be a lot simpler without a baby in tow.
Here are a few ways to help you along through the adjustment:
Acknowledge and accept these feelings
These feelings are normal and nothing to feel guilty about. You can still love your baby and the adventure of parenthood while simultaneously thinking that it’s really hard. There’s nothing wrong with your ability to be a mother.
Carve out a routine
Once the fog lifts and it’s been a few weeks, start to get yourself back into a semblance of a routine. I think with a new baby it’s easy to push off getting back into a schedule and just living hour by hour. And of course, you aren’t going to get yourself into a rigid routine right away. But starting to re-carve out the steps of your previous schedule once you can will help you feel a lot more like your old self.
Integrate the baby into your life
Around the time you can feel like you can carve out a routine, you can start to find ways to integrate the baby into your previously established life. Some wise words from my mother, parent of four children, is “make the baby part of your life, not the other way around.”
Of course a lot of things have to change when you have a baby. But they don’t need to become the sole focus before everything else. I’ve taken my mom’s advice to heart and I think it’s so valuable. I love being out and about, especially going out to eat. It’s a lot harder with a baby, but it’s possible with some adjustments and I don’t have to completely phase out these parts of my life that I very much enjoy.
I’ve found that it’s better to go out to eat when the baby is still small and can just nap in the carseat while you dine. I’ve also found that you can still browse a crowded flea market while babywearing or hit the trails with a jogging stoller. It just takes some adjustments.
Find small things you can do by yourself
It’s important to find ways to adjust to doing things with your baby but it’s also so refreshing to have some alone time. You can love your baby and also feel like it’s hard to do everything with a baby in tow. Use your tribe for this and don’t feel guilty about it.
You don’t understand the total rejuvenation that a short Target trip alone can bring you until you become a mom. Honestly, nothing is better than slowly browsing the store, alone, with a coffee in hand. I feel like a new person when I come home from those trips.
Define roles and responsibilities early on with your partner
Obviously, things will be much less stressful if you have a more equal balance of parenting roles. It’s extremely difficult to go from just being responsible for yourself to being responsible for yourself and most of the work for a new baby. This isn’t always possible in all family situations, but having an honest sit-down with your partner about expectations and whose schedule works best with taking on which tasks can really help to sort out confusion.
Before you know it, you’ll be years in, running errands with a carful of kids, zigzagging around for practice pickups, and making dinner amongst chaos like a total pro.
Read More: It’s OK to Not Love the Newborn Phase