Almost a year back, I got a phone call from one of my closest friends announcing her pregnancy. A friend I have known for over a decade. A friendship that has seen a lot of ups and a few downs but has thrived through it all. And I experienced joy in two ways – joy for my friend who was pregnant after a miscarriage, after a period of uncertainty around having kids. I was also joyful (selfishly) for being able to experience this beautiful journey alongside a loved one.
A few minutes into our conversation, I was asked the unexpected – “So, do you have any advice for me?” Unexpected because I have often gone to my friend for advice and call her the wiser one. This time I had a lot to say and yet in many ways parenting is so personal, so intimate and so complex that I didn’t know what to say.
Advice didn’t seem like the right thing to offer.
Yet, I have experience – not that of a perfect mother or a flawless parenting journey but one that is rich and precious so I thought I’d document what I have learnt. Hopefully, it can be of some value to my friend and perhaps to others who are new parents or are thinking about becoming one.
And yes, hopefully on days, when I need my own sane voice to guide me, I will come and read this😊
1. Invest in your partnership (if you have one) – The internet is full of advice on going for a date night or with reminders that children will eventually leave the house but your partner stays longer. While I don’t disagree with this point of view I believe each partnership is different and what one relationship and family needs is different at various stages. At some point, you may need to spend more time alone without the kid(s) but maybe you need to express your love by giving each other more space. At this point in our lives not having a lot of time with each other feels right knowing that it’s a very small window when our kids want to spend so much time with us while still feeling connected to each other as spouses. I know my emotions and needs as a wife have changed over time. Know that your relationship is important but nurture it in ways that matter to you.
2. You are enough – There will be many, many times that you will doubt yourself. You will make mistakes and will often want to course correct. You will read, discuss, reflect and make changes. Remember to do that all from a place of abundance and respect for yourself.
3. No wrong emotion – I am a big believer in this. Yes, there is bad behavior and bad actions but our feelings are our feelings. Honor your needs through all of this. There may be a time when you want more time with your child and there may be a time when you want less. Sometimes, Monday mornings may feel like a blessing and some Mondays may bring tears. All of this is a part of the journey.
4. Continue your adventures – Yes, their manifestation will change. An adventure may mean a mile-long walk on a paved trail around the block. It may mean a painting that you will take months to complete but keep your own soul alive. You are a parent for life but you also have other identities.
5. Outsource – As much as your budget permits, outsource things that don’t add value or joy. Be intentional about the trade-offs and constantly reflect on your values. Maybe you want someone else to do your grocery or maybe that’s a precious activity that you enjoy. I have found that being able to get help for a few hours of household work while cutting down on other expenses has been a well-worth adjustment. (I do recognize that I am incredibly privileged to be saying this and am very grateful)
6. Manage overwhelm – Yes, there will be moments, sometimes days & weeks that feel overwhelming. Know that most things in life are not permanent and your overwhelm will ease. Yet, there may be some minor changes you may be able to make to simplify your life a tiny bit. Keep at it as it is often worth it.
7. Find parent mentors & friends – This one has been huge for me. Finding other mothers, I can learn from, look upon to and most importantly have honest conversations with has been one of my most precious gifts as a mother. Some are close friends, some are co-workers, others are bloggers who have inspired me. They each have a unique role to play.
8. Filter advice – There is a lot of advice out there (and I am not helping by adding to it😊) but it helps to remind yourself, not everything needs to be taken in. Put your filters to work here…
9. Keep guilt out of your dictionary – This one can be tough for so many of us. Yet, I have learned that chronic guilt benefits no one. When guilt knocks at your door, pause, reflect and see if you need to make any changes. If the status quo is joyful and aligned with your values, waive a kind goodbye to guilt.
10. Be your own kind of parent – Ultimately, be your own kind of parent. Learn from others and their experiences but ultimately trust your own instincts, make your own rules and lead from a place of authenticity. (Yes, I used that word intentionally as I strongly believe parenting is one beautiful leadership experience.)
Welcome to the club. It is indeed an incredible one that we are very privileged to be a part of.
P.S – I have been writing and reflecting about side projects and I found this very interesting interview with the former head of marketing at Nike who has had a few different side projects. Yes, she isn’t a parent so some dynamics are different but I really enjoyed this conversation and thought you’d like it too!