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A Glimpse of What It's Like: Being a Parent

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

I’ve been a parent for three+ years now, and the number one thing I’ve learned is how to let go. This stems into so many parts of my "new life" (which is how I refer to being a parent). Nothing is the same as it was before, and that’s a good thing. That said, it took a very long time to accept, to let go of my previous life and any expectations I had of how I would be as a parent. 

At first, I was determined to cling to the life I had by my bare hands; to not be “one of those parents,” who I had seen change so much or become “not cool” anymore. This was an exhausting and unattainable goal. I wish I could go back and be more accepting of myself, and know that making changes was okay and even a positive thing. Over the years, I had watched many people change drastically after they had children. Before I experienced it myself, I couldn't relate, and saw the changes as negative because they didn't align with my life at the time. These people no longer came to parties, had to honor curfews, couldn’t be spontaneous and always had their child with them. It didn’t look fun. If you haven't yet had children, you may hold the same view - which is why I wanted to be a part of Cherish. I want to share what it's like on the other side, and help a future parent who is apprehensive or scared feel a little better.

I have gained so much as a parent, more than I could have ever imagined, but I also lost a part of myself. One of the hardest things to let go of was the ability to be spontaneous. With a child, a simple trip out the door takes twenty minutes (at least), to get everything together. Parenting is truly more than a full-time job. You can no longer do what you want when you want, as small as a notion that may be. Before leaving home, you must ask yourself, “what do I do with my child and is this right for him/her?” Every single time I have considered doing anything, this is my first question.

Unlike many jobs I’ve had in the past, you can’t half-ass parenthood. Parenting makes you step up your game. I’ve been pretty hard on myself in this new phase, setting unreachable expectations, as I am sure most parents do their first couple years. The adjustment and changes are huge and continue to happen, and I’ve questioned myself a lot. Am I working too much? Too little? Is my baby getting enough stimulation? Am I present enough? Am I focusing enough on my marriage? Am I a bad friend? The second-guessing can be endless.

Eventually, I decided to give myself a break. I let these thoughts come and go, and I'm accepting of them. I’ve also decided that I am enough. Those three simple words I repeat to myself have really changed my mindset and my overall well-being. I am enough. What I CAN do is enough. So what if the kitchen isn’t spotless? If the laundry isn’t put away? If I have a little softness around my stomach? This applies to so much. Letting go of the idea that everything has to be perfect and releasing expectations has allowed me to enjoy my daughter, and life in general, much more. 

I’ve also stopped trying to be at every social event, now carefully selecting things that I want to do without feeling guilty about it. Truthfully, I would rather be with my child and do things that make her little face light up and create memories for her that she will in turn cherish. You can’t put a price on the feeling you get when you see your child’s smile when she first discovers that a rose smells so sweet, falls in love with a giraffe at the zoo, or experiences the wind on her face for the first time. I’ve had to sacrifice things I used to love, but it’s worth it. 

I know this phase of my life won’t be forever, and eventually I'll have time for more social gatherings, girl-time, and travel. I miss those things, but I also know that I have to accept the time of life that I am in, trust it and fully embrace it before it passes me by. I finally feel more at peace, and by letting go of my pre-parenthood expectations, I'm able to be a better parent and person.