20 Things I Thought Mattered Before Having Kids

Society has a special way of influencing what we think matters in life. It’s easy to let pressure from the outside world paint a picture in our minds of what we think is most important. The truth is, all that goes out the window when you have kids.

I’ll be the first to admit that before becoming a mom, I let outside opinions affect my day-to-day decisions and priorities. Then my daughter came along. As tiny and innocent as she could be, she opened my eyes to the bigger picture. Perhaps, for the first time ever. Here are some of the things I thought mattered before having kids . . . and why my mindset has changed since.

20 Things I Thought Mattered Before Having Kids

1. Physical appearance, clothing size, looks . . . you get the drift.

It’s great to feel good about yourself physically, but there’s more to life than what meets the eye. In the grand scheme of life with kids, what’s superficial isn’t superior. Before giving birth, I was a regular at the gym. And the barre studio. And the local outdoor fitness classes. I kept up on my manicures, loved shopping, and updated my wardrobe far too often. Now, I’m a regular at the baby gym, the kiddy pool, and the playground. I spend my days with my toddler at my hip, updating her dresser drawers non-stop as she clings to my 23-week-pregnant belly.

Every time I get dressed, I’m met by my keloid C-section scar, wider hips, and a happier heart. A more humble, yet somehow prouder heart. This body has been through a lot yet is stronger than ever. And that’s pretty incredible! What I need to also remember, is that my daughter loves me as I am. She may not know it yet, but she happens to be an actual clone of me. I’ll never, ever let her hear me speak negatively about my untameable curls that she inherited or anything else that I appreciated less than I should have in the past.

2. Other people’s opinions.

Everyone has one on everything. Baby names for future kids? I’ve learned to be careful about who I share with. Bed-sharing vs. sleep training? We won’t go there. Staying home or going back to work? Don’t even get me started. I could argue passionately, but I don’t feel the need to do so these days. Everyone has opinions. I thought they mattered before having kids, but I’ve learned that they simply don’t anymore. I trust my own ability to make the best decisions for myself and my family as a wife and mom, and that’s all my family needs from me. Period.

3. Job titles.

I applaud those climbing their career ladders if that’s what works for them and is best for them and their families. As for me, since becoming a mom, I’ve learned I can be – and am – perfectly content in that role. For many years, I stressed out trying to be the best professional I could be. I spent my days staying up until the late hours of the night grading papers, writing lesson plans, creating engaging activities for my students, and catching up on parent correspondence. I worked hard for my degrees and wasn’t about to let down my students (or their families).

Now, as a mom of the most wonderful toddler I could ever dream of with baby #2 on the way, I’m lucky enough to stay home and dedicate mostly all of my waking moments to my children. The title of “mom” continues to go unpaid, unappreciated, and undervalued by society. Nonetheless, it’s a vital one. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and I can’t see myself caring as much about any other title.

4. Perfection in my work.

Having kids makes you realize life is about more than achieving perfection in your daily endeavors. While I no longer have a traditional job title (although being a stay-at-home mom is 100% a real, hard, around-the-clock job), I consider my work in raising my children to be the most critical kind of work I’ve ever done. That being said, if you’re a type-A mom like me, you know having kids instantly pushes you to accept imperfections in the day-to-day.

The house isn’t spotless like it used to be, but it’s full of laughter, play, and learning. My to-do lists aren’t written out in near-perfect penmanship like they once were, but I always know what pantry staples we’re running low on and keep my daughter fed and nourished. This is my work these days, and although it’s often messy and hectic and nowhere near perfect in any way, we get by. That’s what matters.

5. Keeping a full schedule in my personal life.

My daughter has taught me to enjoy the little moments. To stop and smell the roses. Literally. And the dandelions. And the painted mural of flowers we pass on our walks to the local library. Having kids teaches you to slow down just as much as it keeps you on your toes.

6. Making everyone happy.

I thought this mattered before having kids, but I’ve learned that it isn’t feasible, and it shouldn’t have to be. Of course, I try to keep my toddler content as much as humanly possible, but I can only do what I can do. The truth is, sometimes kids are unhappy. They’re human like us, after all. And then there are extended family members and in-laws with expectations that just don’t always align with yours. Many moms (especially new ones) take the brunt of this backlash. The truth is, if someone isn’t happy with you making decisions that are best for your own little family, that’s on them. Having kids quickly teaches you that.

7. Always being available.

Just as becoming a mom has taught me that I can’t possibly please everyone, it has also taught me I can’t always be available at every beck and call. My family is my priority now, and I’m totally okay with making that known.

8. Living up to the expectations of others.

This one accentuates many – if not all – of the things I thought mattered above. Self-explanatory.

9. Money.

If you’re like most modern-day parents getting by the best you can, you know this one’s a paradox. Having kids costs money, but it also makes you realize true happiness doesn’t stem from what’s in your wallet. I’ve never appreciated a sunny day picnic more than I have with my daughter sitting beside me, munching on her peanut butter and banana sandwich. Sounds simple, but these are the budget-friendly, mom-approved moments that make us rich where it counts!

10. Knowing how to cook a five-star meal.

Before settling down, I imagined myself one day serving up impressive meals for my family three times a day. Turns out, I’m no Betty Crocker. Even if I were, momming is a marathon. I do what works, and sometimes that’s what’s quick and easy, even if it means another box of spaghetti with jarred sauce and toasted wheat bread. And you know what? We never go hungry.

11. Remembering every single birthday, anniversary, and holiday for everyone and their mother.

Gift-giving has always been my love language. I’m not ashamed of the countless hours (and dollars) I’ve poured into celebrating more occasions than I can keep track of. I thought this mattered before having kids, but the mental load of motherhood is enough as it is. Learning to let go of needing to do everything for everyone is a life lesson I’ve embraced since having my first child.

12. Having lots of friends.

Friends are wonderful. We need them, especially after having kids. The village is important, especially when it’s not readily present in your familial sphere. After having kids, it’s all about quality over quantity. I feel blessed to have a handful of close friends I can turn to who truly get me – mom life and all.

13. Maintaining every friendship I’ve ever had.

Friendships change over time, and they most certainly go through some changes after kids. This isn’t a bad thing. It just means we learn to prioritize those who honor, love, and support us through our motherhood journeys. Plus, with a busy toddler, a husband who works long hours, and a baby on the way, I hardly have time to keep up with myself. Let alone my text messages, and that’s okay.

14. Never missing out on social functions.

Are there nights when I feel like I’m missing out on all the fun I used to have? To be honest, not really. This is the life I’ve dreamed of. I cherish bedtime stories, songs, and snuggles with my daughter. Our days with our children pass us by before our eyes. I’m more than happy to stay put and soak them up.

15. Never skipping a single gym session.

Going back to #1, the pressure I put on myself to be my very best before becoming a mom was intense. This definitely mattered to me before having kids. It still does, but my definition of “my very best” has changed. I’ve learned that while it’s hugely important to take care of myself as a mom, it’s also important to give myself grace. My children will learn from my example, and I want them to always show self-love. And who are we kidding? Chasing a toddler around all day, every day, is a workout itself!

16. Being in control of what’s next in life.

Becoming a mom has made me realize I’m not in control of everything. As hard as it can be, I need to get comfortable with that reality. My birth story with my daughter didn’t go to plan. Not in the slightest. I became pregnant with our first son seven months postpartum and lost him less than two months later. Motherhood comes with challenges and setbacks. Letting go of control doesn’t eliminate that, but it sure helps minimize mom guilt. Life is too short to be bogged down by that.

17. A spotless home.

Even as a stay-at-home mom, I struggle to keep up with household duties. As soon as the floor is vacuumed, I’m stepping on another handful of Goldfish. Once the toys are put away, and the books are back on the shelf, my daughter wants to take an armful of them outside. Let’s not forget the neverending piles of laundry. Yet somehow, my house is still the perfect home for my growing family. Whether perfectly tidy and pristine or completely torn apart, it’s where we chase each other around for tickle wars and giggles. It’s where milestones are met, and memories are made, right alongside the mess.

18. Stuff (aka material items).

Speaking of messes, I can’t be the only one tempted by the thought of purging everything I own to make room for more of the good stuff. Having kids makes it easy to accumulate far too many things we don’t need. It’s true, though, that children are just as happy with pots and pans. And dirt and rocks. More than anything, though, they’re happiest with the people they love. If they don’t need anything fancy to thrive in life, neither do I. If we have each other, we really do have it all.

19. Having all the answers all the time.

The teacher in me learned to point young minds elsewhere when I couldn’t explain every burning question or curiosity. The mom in me is learning to seek out what I need to give my child what she needs. Since welcoming her into our world, I’ve learned it’s okay not to always have all the answers. Lactation consultants, pediatric gastroenterologists, mom friends who’ve walked the walk before me . . . I’m grateful they exist to fill in the gaps I can’t fill on my own.

20. Validation and approval from others.

Above all else, becoming a mom has given me the wonderful opportunity to step into my power in every aspect. I hope it has done the same for you. As the keeper of your child(ren), your voice becomes even more paramount. Your heart becomes wiser, your instincts become stronger, and you inevitably become attuned to what genuinely matters in life. Validation and approval from others? They may have mattered before kids, but they aren’t needed anymore.

Having Kids Changes Everything

If becoming a mom has taught me anything (and truthfully, it never stops teaching me everything I never knew I needed to learn), it’s that life is precious and fleeting. Nothing puts life into perspective quite like having kids. Sure, we might cling to our core values. We might also adapt and change and mold into new mindsets. Regardless, there’s so much freedom and fulfillment in the fresh, new outlooks motherhood brings about. Especially on the things I thought that mattered before having kids.