10 May, 2017

Not Just Mum: Staying You When You Become a Parent

Becoming a parent changes your life. There’s no getting around that, and you’re not going to be exactly the same person again. A lot of people will pledge to never change or to be cool parents, but they soon discover it doesn’t turn out that way. However, just because being a parent changes you, it doesn’t mean you have to become someone else entirely. And you certainly don’t have to be just a parent. Many mums worry about losing themselves when they have their first child and becoming nothing but a mum. Even though being a mum is part of your identity, you don’t want it to be your entire identity. A new baby (or an adopted older child) can be all consuming, but you can still hold onto who you are.

Keeping Up Your Social Life

One of the things that are immediately at risk when you become a parent is your social life. And it’s one of the worst times to lose it. Being a new mum can be lonely, especially when leaving the house can be a struggle. When you become a parent, keeping up with friends who aren’t parents can be difficult too. There are places you can’t go to anymore, and they might not enjoy spending time with your child all the time. A large challenge of maintaining your social life is simply finding the time to see people.

So what can you do about these things? How do you stay in touch with your friends and spend time with them now you’re a parent? One thing to keep in mind is that it’s a good time to find out who your real friends are. While you should make an effort to continue being a good friend, your friends also need to be understanding of your new situation. You might find yourself getting closer to fellow parents. Another thing to think about is getting time with just your friends – no baby in tow. It gives you time for yourself, and your friends get to see you without everything being about kids.

From Public Domain Pictures (Petr Kratochvil)

Making New Friends

Becoming a parent can mean that you lose friends, or that the dynamics of your friendships change. It’s a good idea to consider finding new friends, not just who are parents but who share your interests too. Your new friends won’t necessarily even be parents, but they’re friends you make when you’re a parent, which can make a difference. It’s sad when you lose touch with your pre-kids friends, but if you’re at different stages in your life, it’s perfectly natural. New friends could fit into your life much better because you’re not trying to change existing relationships to fit.

Continuing Your Career

Continuing to build your career becomes tough when you’re a parent. If you take time out of work, it can take years to get back to the same point in your career you were at pre-children. Having kids can affect how easy it is to grow your salary and reach more senior positions, and unfortunately, it affects women much more than men. If you have hopes of continuing your career on the same path, there are lots of things you’ll need to do.

One essential thing is to know your rights at work when it comes to parental leave. If you look at http://www.elliswhittam.com/anatomy-of-a-maternity-leave-policy you can see what sort of things need to be in a maternity leave policy. You also need to think about how to balance parenting and work. One thing to consider is whether it’s you doing all the “balancing”, or if your partner has to compromise too. Who leaves work and picks the kids up from school if they’re ill, for example?

From Flickr (Batle Group)

Have Time to Yourself

Getting time to yourself is important if you want to keep your identity as an individual. It gives you time to enjoy hobbies, or just to relax and get some peace. To get some time to yourself, however, you need someone to look after your child. If you’re sharing parenting duties, you’ve got someone who can help right away. If not, you might have family members or friends who can help out. If you want time to yourself, it does sometimes mean having to face anxiety about leaving your child with another person. It can be hard, but it’s also healthy. Time on your own could be at home or out of the house.

Becoming a mum doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself. It does change you, but you can still be an individual, as well as a parent.

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