Everyone’s life moves at a different pace. We’re all in different places regardless of our ages, and we all want different things out of our lives. We might not be able to plan every single event, but most of us have our reasons for wanting certain things to happen at certain times. Whether that’s getting married, going to grad school, or traveling the world — our plans, goals, and timelines are all different. There have always been things I’ve wanted to do in my life before I had a baby.
I’ve always had it in my head that I would have my first child when I was 28. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s just what felt right for me. I started writing this post when my son was two months old. He’s now almost 18 months and I’ve learned quite a bit about myself since he was born. I’ve also learned a lot about what I’m glad I did before I had my son.
Of course there are things I also wish I had done (maybe a topic for another post?), but in retrospect, I feel that these things have made me more confident when becoming a parent.
8 Things I’m Glad I Did In My 20s Before I Had A Baby
1. I’m glad I traveled before I had a baby.
This is an obvious one, of course. But I’m glad I did it anyway even if it’s a bit cliché. I didn’t grow up with the opportunity to travel — the farthest I went before turning 18 was a 12-hour drive from home to visit cousins. Even this wasn’t just because, it was a final trip with my dad before he passed away from cancer.
I knew I wanted to see the world. And that’s still true, even now, after having a child. I am so, so grateful my husband and I got to experience places like Iceland, New Zealand, and Japan together before he was born.
Ultimately I want my son to be comfortable traveling. I want him to gain new perspectives from going places other than school. I know they matter because I’ve had them myself. And now that I have, I can help him have them too.
So far, we have taken him from the west coast to the east coast and also to Maui. We have several other trips planned before the year is up but I feel more confident taking him traveling because I’ve traveled before and have been in sticky situations abroad.
2. Surrounded myself with loving, positive, and supportive people.
Relationships easily fall to the wayside as we get older. It’s extremely common as we all get busier with conflicting schedules and commitments. In my experience, it takes intentionality and effort on behalf of both parties to make friendships work.
My closest friends are spread all across the country. Some live near and some live far but they are all dear to my heart. Some of my friends have children, some are married, many are single, and none of them are just like me. Yet, all of them were supportive and thoughtful throughout my pregnancy. Will we always be friends? I don’t know. But I do know that I feel very loved during this time in my life.
On the flip side, I’m also glad I ended some toxic relationships. As a parent, my time is even more limited now and I don’t want to spend it worry about unhealthy relationships in my life.
3. Lived “small”and decluttered my space.
The KonMari method is extremely popular right now thanks to the Netflix series. My husband and I have always been adamant about passing along things we no longer need or have a use for. I believe in an abundance mindset — there will always be more and I will have what I need. There’s no sense in holding onto things that no longer serve a purpose in my life when they could be serving someone else.
Now that our kid is home, our space is more in flux than ever. Babies outgrow clothes quickly, their developmental needs change, and they somehow accumulate a lot of things. It gets messy, but I’m okay with the mess. And I’m also okay with giving things away and sharing what I no longer need.
Additionally, I’ve also written before about how we paid off our student loans quickly. One of these ways was by living with roommates for a time as a married couple. After that experience, we decided to move into a studio instead of a one bedroom for the foreseeable future. Not only did this save us a ton on rent but it also helped us do productive things with that money, like invest it and save it.
4. Learned to ask for help.
Asking for help and accepting help for others wasn’t something I was always able to do easily. While I was pregnant, though, I realized I had to ask for help when I needed it. I couldn’t do everything myself then. I didn’t know it at the time, but those small acts of asking for what I needed were setting me up to be able to ask for what I needed when my child arrived.
5. Created passive income streams and systems (or “minimal effort” income streams).
I am self-employed and have been for quite some time. As any business owner knows, your income isn’t always consistent, and it isn’t always guaranteed. For the first several years of being self-employed, if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t making money.
This past year I began to think about money differently. The idea of passive income and diversifying your income streams is both a desirable idea and a confusing one. How exactly do you do it?
I took a deep dive into my business systems and structures and identified a few ways I could strengthen my business and also bring in money. I had to self-fund my own maternity leave, so it was important to me to be able to still bring in some income while stepping away. It wasn’t easy and some interesting decisions were made in the process but ultimately, I’m now able to bring in a few thousand dollars a month with minimal upkeep.
Because I already had the structure of my business in place, it was more a matter of building out new sustainable structures. If your situation is different you would have to think differently about diversifying your income streams.
6. Budgeted for healthcare expenses.
Having a baby is expensive. Even with great insurance, we still paid several thousand out of pocket by the end of my pregnancy. Our healthcare expenses added up quickly. Luckily we we knew our out of pocket maximums ahead of time and were able to budget for them appropriately.
Pregnancy (and life, let’s face it) are not predictable. You can hope for the best but even “normal” pregnancies have their challenges and scares. Knowing we had the money set aside for these instances (which was a blessing as my pregnancy became high risk during my second trimester for several reasons) gave me peace of mind. I could focus on enjoying my pregnancy, staying focused, and being healthy without having the added stress of the financial aspect.
7. Communicated openly with my partner about parenthood.
We have no illusions of being “perfect” parents. We do, however, want to be able to speak to each other openly about what is best for our child, how we will make decisions, and our needs as individuals, as a couple, and as a family unit.
My husband and I have always made it a priority to be open and honest with each other. We’ve been a couple for over 13 years now (and married for almost seven and a half), so we’ve had a bit of time to learn what the other person needs.
Becoming parents, however, meant we needed to learn to communicate in completely new ways. That’s probably a topic for another post, but I am glad we had a strong foundation in place and that we discussed the topic of parenting ahead of time.
8. Learned to take things slow.
I’m a very “let’s get it done right now” kind of person. I have surprised myself in motherhood with how patient I can be. I didn’t really know I had that in me.
During my pregnancy, I allowed myself to slow down and focus on being in the moment. Pregnancy, no matter how long it can feel, actually goes by pretty quickly. Learning to hit pause and rest was a lesson I need to learn before my child came into the world. There’s a fundamental shift in your lifestyle and being when you have a baby, and I am personally very glad that I learned how to take things more slowly before I became a mom.
These are just eight things I’m glad I did in my 20s before I had a baby.
Learning to communicate, building a community of supportive people, and adjusting my mindset were probably three of the top things I did, if I had to choose. There’s no way to fully prepare for being a parent or even just brining a newborn home, but I don’t think that means we can’t appreciate what actions have helped put us in the right direction.
If you’re a parent, what are you most glad you did before you had a baby?
This post originally appeared on GenTwenty.