When I was thinking about having children, there were things I knew full well I would be giving up, at least in part.  Activities I knew I would probably miss.  Like sleeping in on weekends, late dinners out at foodie restaurants, quiet alone time, unscheduled weekends, and world travel.  (Did I mention uninterrupted sleep??)  And upon becoming a parent, I did find I had less time for these things, especially when my boys were tiny.

It turns out, though, that some of the things working parenthood forces you to give up are pretty darn awesome to let go of.  Yes, I was expecting there to be amazing benefits to becoming a mom: adorable baby cuddles, giggles, excitement about baby firsts, unprecedented love and attachment.  Why else would we turn our lives and bodies upside down if not for these bigger-than-life benefits?  But I never expected that some of the most wonderful aspects of parenthood would also be things I would ultimately be delighted to “give up.”

Here are a few things that have gone out the window since I became a parent, that have truly been pleasant surprises:

  • Bandwidth for Drama: Whether related to the office or to life outside of work, being a working mom has left me with no bandwidth for drama anymore.  And I love it!  Office gossip?  Sorry, don’t have time.  Must leave by 4:30pm to get to daycare before it closes.  And I’ve got a mountain of work to get through before then.  Interactions with people who are less-than-supportive of me or my family?  Nope, no time for that, either.  There is nothing like focusing on survival to make any “he said this, she did that, why didn’t you do this??” line of thinking completely irrelevant. 
  • Presentation Nerves: My husband likes the saying about how everyone is either nervous before public speaking or lying about not being nervous.  Sure, I still get a few pre-talk jitters, but I found that I simply don’t have the time or energy anymore either to over-prepare for a talk or to dwell in any pre-presentation nerves that I might previously have allowed to consume me.  Same goes for that terror that often accompanies a critical, potentially adversarial conversation.  Sure, I still get worked up.  But the nerves are compressed into a much shorter (and more manageable!) period of time.  I don’t have energy to let them consume me longer.
  • Overanalyzing Situations to Death: The Type A, perfectionist in me had a tendency to take over and delay action, before I had kids.  Have I thought of all possible outcomes here?  What if I approached a problem this way?  Or that way?  What about looking at this issue from yet a third angle?  Maybe I should read that fifth book on baby sleep to see what I might be missing.  With two little kids and a full-time job, I simply stopped having time or energy for this thinking-something-to-death activity, too.  I’ve had to trust my own instincts more and just run with things.  I truly believe that becoming a working parent, and giving up some amount of over-analysis, has made me braver.  I now just take action (e.g., writing a book!), because I know I don’t have time to deliberate about it.  “JUST MOVE!” and “better done than perfect” are two mantras that come in handy these days. 

What I DO have and make time for, though, are deep connections.  True, meaningful relationships that make it possible to do this working parent thing without feeling so alone.  I also have and make time for thoughtful planning and strategy-setting.  Carving out time, not to overanalyze, but to map out projects, processes, and goals is so important to working-mama sanity.

And all those things I was sad to give up when my boys arrived?  Well, I’ve gotten them back in my life little by little as they’ve gotten older.  At 4 and 6 they’re now (mostly) sleeping through the night, which means I do too.  My husband and I do monthly date nights to get our foodie fix.  And we’ve even managed some international travel as a family.  Big picture, it’s a good deal: temporary abandonment of some joys, accompanied by permanent abandonment of some things that, in retrospect, were holding me back.

Are there things you gave up in parenthood that you were glad to see go?  Share here in comments!

Need help with the transition back to work after maternity leave?  Join other returning mamas in the next session of the Mindful Return course.

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