Bye Bye Baby Stage

My youngest is three. She is potty trained, and she tells me when she is hungry or thirsty. I have given away the highchair, playpen, and changing table. I do not miss tiny onesies or booties. I do not secretly hope to get pregnant or for a stork to leave a baby on my doorstep. I am beyond the baby stage, and I am thrilled.

Part of me still gets mushy when I see a new mom with a newborn or a glowingly cute pregnant couple. It is amazing having a baby in the home, and I loved my time with my babies — the warm cuddles, the fresh baby smell, the tiny coos, and the ability to stare at your new baby for hours and be completely fulfilled.

I grew a lot through becoming a mother. I would not be the person I am today or have the relationships, confidence, or even job I have without the growth motherhood has provided. However, motherhood — specifically motherhood to a newborn — came with a lot of anxiety, sleep deprivation, tears, and a whole lot of sacrifice. Mounds of self-doubt, books left unread, stress of balancing a career and a baby, trips not taken, opportunities held off until a later date, all hung over me while I was caring for this tiny, precious life I created. With the baby stage in my past, I feel as if I can catch my breath again. I am beginning to have a taste of what life is like outside the realms of the baby stage, and I gotta say it is not bad. 
Exercise Stretch

Getting to Know Myself Again

Any parent will tell you having a baby is a full-time gig. It is a fantastic, challenging season of life — and the payoff is wonderful — but you can find yourself deep into parenting groups, diapers, potty training, bottles, and breast pumps. You might end up asking what you once did with yourself before you had kids. 

Once your tiny ones aren’t so tiny and you slowly crawl out of the babyhood vortex, you get a bit of your autonomy back. You find your arms a bit more free and a you have some of that “you time” you forgot all about.

In the midst of raising three children, I lost track of my love for music and concerts, writing, volunteering, and cooking non-kid-approved food for my husband. I was even surprised that I still enjoy hiking (which is hard to do when you are carrying a newborn in front and a toddler on your back). The best part of reconnecting with these things is that you now see them through the new view of parenthood. You realize how precious and valuable your time is.

I signed up for a homeschool conference, yoga class, and volunteer for a advocacy group. These are all things I could have done during those baby years, but they would have been a hard to pull off easily with nursing schedules, finding sitters, and just being a dual career household. I would have been too mentally torn to enjoy or truly focus on these things. I love my children, but I also love having a bit of myself back and sharing these parts of my life with them. 

Hey There, Stranger: Spouses

Just as a bit of yourself can get put on the back burner while in the midst of parenthood, your relationship maybe in that boat too. I have never been more in love with my spouse than when I see him being a great parent. But we missed each other in the almost nine years we have had a small baby in the home. We missed having each other’s full attention or the ability to go on a date that is not scheduled to accommodate baby’s schedule.

Having a newborn requires that part of your mind be forever thinking of the next feeding or diaper change, or if we have all the accessories for the breast pump or enough bottles. We would not have the family we love so dearly without each other, and having children means naturally much focus is pulled away from the relationship and to the children. It is nice to have a bit of stress (i.e., diapers and sleep training) removed from our lives so we can refocus on each other and get reacquainted on the other side of “new parenthood.”

Family with Dog and no dadBig Kids Are Fun Too

I will fully admit I was one of those who believed once my kids were past the age of three, I would no longer be needed and I would do nothing but cry over their coming-home-from-the-hospital outfits. I expected this stage to be sad and empty and that I would miss the piles of baby toys and diapers, but I don’t.

I love hearing what my nine year old is into and which board games or fashions my six year old currently loves. I love talking to my kids and asking them about their friends, thoughts, and ideas on the world. I love that they can get their own breakfast and sometimes make some for me.

The baby stage is magical and a lot of hard work, but the older your children become, the more you see how all that hard work was worth it. Also, going to the zoo sans stroller or sitting through an entire movie with my kids is awesome! 

Valerie was raised in a small town in south Texas and met her husband in Aggieland. They moved to Fort Worth in 2007 and are now happily raising three wild-hearted children. She is a part-time homeschooling mama and spends most days in parks, libraries, or a grocery store. She loves coffee, music, road-trips, any new health fad, and well-written children's books. Valerie is also a portrait photographer and has photographed the journey of motherhood from pregnancy and birth to breastfeeding and beyond for DFW families for more than 10 years.


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