With a new baby in the picture, knowing where to place your time and energy outside of motherhood can be overwhelming. Learn a three-step process to help you gain clarity.
For many, before the baby came along, your primary focus was probably your career. You would spend long days at work and have everything lined up when you came home.
You did everything “right” and took time to think about what you wanted in life.
And then the baby came along…
And while you prepared endlessly for what car seat and stroller you wanted, you probably didn’t stop to think about how your values or sense of self-worth would shift after having a baby.
What happens to your values and priorities when a baby comes along?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Most new moms talk about the endless nights of feeding and the stress that comes with it, but there’s more to it than that. Your baby is forming a bond with you, their primary caregiver, essential for their well-being and development.
It’s called secure attachment, which according to the American Psychological Association, is a “Positive parent-child relationship, in which the child displays confidence when the parent is present, shows mild distress when the parent leaves, and quickly reestablishes contact when the parent returns.”
As your baby attaches to you, your head might spin with thoughts about what you want from life. You might question your career choices, living situation, and even how healthy your relationships with family and friends are.
But don’t worry; it’s all normal.
The first year after having a baby is full of ups and downs, and it’s natural to have mixed feelings about returning to work after maternity leave or staying home. But instead of feeling lost and confused, let’s identify your new priorities and give you peace of mind.
Assessing your new priorities after having a baby
By following the steps below, you can proactively shape the life you want for yourself and your family rather than just reacting to the changes that come with being a new mom.
So, let’s get started on this journey toward the “zen of parenting” together.
Step 1: get grounded
No matter where you want to go, it’s essential to understand where you are currently to see how much work is ahead of you. The best way to do this is to start with a clean slate.
Take a moment to grab a pen and paper to jot down some thoughts that come to mind. Looking at this from your perspective rather than what you may have wanted is essential.
Things change, and it’s okay to be in a different place in life right now. This period won’t last forever, but the memories will.
So instead of looking back and feeling guilty (trust me, almost every mom I know feels guilty about something!), let’s focus on finding a level of life that’s enjoyable most of the time.
Take a look at the list below, and rate your level of satisfaction (1-10) with each one:
- Being a parent
- Being a partner (if applicable)
- Taking care of your health and wellness
- Your life at home
- Your social life
- Family (outside of your immediate partner/baby)
- The environment you live in
Step 2: clear the fog
Now that you better understand where you stand, it’s time to prioritize the items on your list based on what matters most. Look at this list with fresh eyes and be honest with yourself about what truly matters.
It may be tempting to say everything is necessary, but we only have so much time in a day. The goal is to understand better where you stand, accept what you want to focus on, and what you are willing to let go of (for now).
Remember, this list is not set in stone and can be changed as your life evolves.
Once you have a clear picture, you can move from reactive to proactive and feel more in control of your decisions. Instead of feeling like “life happens to you,” you will be able to think that “you are creating the life you want.”
If you’re still feeling a bit lost, it might be helpful to think about whose life you admire right now. We all have someone we think is “doing it right,” but focusing on what specifically attracts you to their life is essential.
It’s often more practical to think of someone you know rather than a celebrity who may have access and financial freedom that most of us don’t have.
Another question is how do you want your children to remember you in 20 years?
Do you want them to remember that you were at every soccer game, helped save the world, had an active social life, had a prominent role in the community, etc.?
Finding that level of life satisfaction can be challenging, especially after having a baby. That’s why it’s important to understand what things are essential for you to make the most of your limited free time.
Step 3: set sail
Now that you know where you’re headed, let’s ensure you have all the tools you need to stay on course. You currently have a map of what you value and what to prioritize, so let’s keep it with you at all times.
Remember, things may not always go as planned, so as you encounter unexpected opportunities, I encourage you to evaluate whether they will bring you closer to what you value.
Read next: How to Set Boundaries With Family After Baby is Born
I also encourage you to review your schedule once a week, preferably on a Sunday, as you start to think about how the week will play out. This habit will ensure that you are working towards making proactive decisions instead of reactive spur-of-the-moment crisis resolutions.
Knowing where you’re headed makes life less stressful and more enjoyable.
A weekly meeting with yourself lets you see things ahead and make better decisions about your time and commitments.
If you have a partner, I recommend doing this exercise together. Make separate lists of what’s important to you, and then come together to see where your interests align.
This can lead to great conversations and a deeper understanding of each other’s priorities. In my house, our family values are written out and pinned to the fridge as a daily reminder to stay on track.
While this process may be challenging, it will also be rewarding. Knowing where you’re headed makes life less stressful and more enjoyable.
Final thoughts on your priorities as a new mother
So there you have it, a roadmap for finding your new values after having a baby.
Remember, it’s normal to feel lost and have mixed emotions, but you can find peace and fulfillment by understanding where you stand, prioritizing what matters most, and setting yourself up for success.
And isn’t that what we all want as new moms? To feel grounded, in control of our decisions, and to have happy memories to look back on.
Embrace this new journey, and trust that you can create the life you want for yourself and your little one. Cheers to a happy and fulfilling life!