We can’t ever know how things will turn out or what, in other words, will be the result of our actions. I used the word “regret” in the title, but it isn’t accurate because when we take action based on our heart’s calling, regret is not the right feeling, even if it didn’t turn out as we hoped.
And yet, looking back at my parenting journey, I would have done quite a few things differently if I could give birth to my first child again, having the tools and knowledge I have today.
When it was Just Us
I’m writing this post because parenting is a whole new ball game compared to being single, in a relationship, or even married.
When it’s just you or you and a partner, you have complete autonomy over your life. You make the decisions, the calls, wearing the figurative pants, even when you’re wearing a skirt.
You think you know who you are; you make plans for how you’ll parent. When I was pregnant with our first, Jon and I promised we’d never co-sleep with our children; we also thought he’d be the good cop and I’d be the bad cop. That was then when I still thought parenting was about policing the kids.
When we Became the Four of Us
Since then, I’ve entirely parted with the concepts of good and bad as we know them, and my oldest still comes into bed with us now and then. As for my youngest, I sometimes beg her to sleep with us, but she’s just not into it. This means that our children are NOT the product of our parenting. At least not entirely.
I’ve been a mother for 2250 days.
I woke up each night for 2250 nights.
I held little hands and hugged them to sleep for 2250 evenings.
It’s been 2250 days since I’ve spent a night alone; with my husband.
It’s been 2250 days since I could be ME, how I wanted to be ME, and when I wanted to be ME.
10 Regrets in 2250 Days of Parenting
I wouldn’t change most of my parenting journey because every day is a true blessing, but I would have done some things differently if there was a restart button to the parenting experience. Here they are:
- I wouldn’t listen to parenting advice that doesn’t go hand in hand with what my heart tells me.
- I wouldn’t allow the judgments of others to mar my experience.
- I wouldn’t dismiss my boundaries in the name of attachment parenting.
- I wouldn’t make decisions from a place of guilt.
- I wouldn’t fear saying NO when the YES doesn’t suit me.
- I wouldn’t think that I knew anything.
- I wouldn’t make plans for the future based on the present.
- I wouldn’t think that my children are a reflection of me.
- I wouldn’t apologize for my children’s behavior or emotions.
- I wouldn’t deprioritize my relationship with my husband.
This list was the story of my first year as a mother when the love for a little, helpless human being who came out of my body blinded me to everything else; but didn’t blind me enough.
How I Got Lost
I remember changing my clothes when my 2-year-old didn’t like them.
I remember I stopped singing when my one-year-old didn’t like the sound of my voice.
I remember the feeling of hurt and mistrust in myself when I heard critiques against my parenting.
I remember making more than one decision aiming to please others.
I remember pushing aside things that mattered to me to honor the role of “mother.”
I remember I started only preparing the food they liked.
I remember trying to figure out why parenting didn’t live up to its promise, and then I got it.
How We Get Lost
Like most of us, I didn’t grow up knowing I had needs and feelings that matter, even if I did celebrate them unknowingly in my younger years. And so, after giving birth, the first thing that gets lost is you – your identity, your autonomy, your freedom, and we tend to think it’s okay because we’re mothers now. And it is okay, but only to the extent it suits us.
Working with mothers and parents for over five years now, I learned how hard it is to draw the line separating “giving” from “feeling taken from.” Endless giving, which we believe to be noble, is sowing the seeds of a life without boundaries, and building a house without walls is impossible.
Today, I am a certified positive parenting coach and a children’s books author, and if there’s one thing I want you to take from this article, it’s that you matter.
Having a baby does not mean losing you; on the contrary – raising children is an opportunity to celebrate who you are, your boundaries, your needs, and your feelings and allow this celebration of self to become the mutual celebration of all.
We can only treat our children as well as we treat ourselves.
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