How Your Life Changes Once Baby Becomes a Toddler
Something strange happens right around the time your last child gets out of diapers, or at least it happened to me and the majority of my fellow mom friends. After having spent so much time focusing on everyone else’s needs and accepting sleep deprivation as fact for so long, you rub your eyes and take a look around and realize that maybe -just maybe- you now have the ability to take some time to yourself. You can start pursuing goals again. You can make plans with your friends and be relatively sure that you won’t show up with spit-up on your shoulder. It can be a glorious revelation, but if you aren’t careful, you’ll wind up even more overloaded with responsibilities than you were the day you brought your firstborn home from the hospital.
Just Say No
When you have an infant (or two, or three) you have an excuse to say no. Neighbors asks you to water their plants while they’re on vacation and you reply with, “I would, but with Junior it’s hard to get anything done,” and everyone nods their heads in agreement and you’re off the hook. When the kids are a little older, however, people start to expect you to say no a little less often.
Here is what happened to me: I started volunteering more. I then started dabbling in writing, never dreaming that it would turn into a full-scale career. For good measure, I also went back to school to pursue my graduate degree. Why? I guess the only real reason I did all this is because I could. I was getting full nights of sleep and even had time to myself a couple days a week while my kids attended preschool. Going from zero time to myself to a few hours a week to myself seemed like a dramatic difference.
Other moms I know took different paths but wound up just as overloaded as me. One friend started a clothing line. Another friend bought a home that needed a lot of work. These were things that these moms were itching to do because they had dreamed of doing them when they couldn’t. They were busy changing diapers and getting thrown up on.
Find a Balance
The trick is to manage to find a balance. I overdid it, and not just slightly. At one point I was enrolled in graduate school, simultaneously working on two books that a publisher was anxiously awaiting, handling all of my various freelance writing contracts, serving on the leadership board for my church, teaching classes part-time, and working out with a personal trainer. This is in addition to my Mommy and Wife duties.
I was still sleep deprived, but this time it wasn’t babies keeping me awake; it was the huge list of responsibilities I had piled on myself to celebrate my new-found freedom as MWADIB (Mom Without Any Diapers In Bag).
Avoid the Overload Syndrome. As you slowly gain some of your independence back (and believe me, it can be a painfully slow process), carefully choose your activities and don’t try to conquer the world just yet. Make time for yourself and your family, and remember that you don’t always have to be a busy mom to be an effective mom.