House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

a baby on my hip

by Meagan Francis on April 28, 2014

I wrote this post a few years ago, but  I was reminded of it today…and think it’s especially apropos as I prepare for the launch of Beyond Baby, which is all about taking the time to think about how you want your life to look as you emerge from the intense stage of caring for babies. I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Recently I was reading one of my favorite home blogs, Young House Love, and saw a photo that made my heart give a little skip: a woman in a gorgeous white kitchen, getting a dish out of a cupboard, a chubby baby of about eight or nine months on her hip.

The photo, of course, was taken to show off the kitchen. And yet, though it was a beautiful kitchen, it was the mother and baby pair that caught my eye most. There is something about the sight of a mother with a baby on her hip that fills me with a wistful nostalgia, even though my youngest is still very much a baby and does often sit on my hip. The imagery feels so good and right and familiar to me, so quintessentially Mother. And while I’m still in the “baby on the hip” phase myself, looking at the scene with the mother-baby pair frozen in time forever, I was reminded that my life is not frozen in time at all. Whether or not Clara is really my last baby (and at this point, the consensus is that she is), at some point, all too soon, I will no longer have that baby on my hip.

It’s hard to imagine, honestly. It’s been part of my identity for so long, that newborn, or roly-poly monkey baby, or toddler taking lurching steps through the house. The longest I’ve gone between babies was four years between #2 and #3, and that felt like a long time.

Even as somebody who loves being a mom and feels very fulfilled by certain aspects of motherhood and homemaking, I still believe we need something else in our lives because these days, they are fleeting, and eighteen years from now when my nest is more or less empty, I’d still like to be a fully-formed human with goals and dreams and ambitions, not an empty shell wondering what happened to my purpose in life.

Not only am I quickly approaching a time when I no longer have a baby on my hip, sooner than I think I won’t have little hands to clutch while crossing the street, or a willing audience for picture-book reading, or a row of small mouths waiting for my killer PBJs. Thinking about what lies beyond is a little scary and a little sad, but it’s essential, because after my kids have grown, there will still always be me…and I’d better be interesting enough to keep myself entertained.

Whether it’s financial goal-setting, career ambitions or what our lives will look like when our kids are older, I believe all moms need to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, rigid, or permanent: just a general idea of the path we’re on, and the steps we’ll need to take to get where we want to go. We need and deserve the security of it, but also, the knowledge that life holds infinite possibilities for us outside of motherhood, even though our day-to-day lives are–for the moment–pretty wrapped up in it.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a plan for your life, now and in the future? What does it look like?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Unplanned Cooking June 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I definitely have a plan. Having kids hasn’t changed my ambition; it’s just made me okay with really (I mean really) stretching out my milestones.

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Kristin T. (@kt_writes) June 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

This is great: “Thinking about what lies beyond is a little scary and a little sad, but it’s essential, because after my kids have grown, there will still always be me…and I’d better be interesting enough to keep myself entertained.”

I think a balance is required, depending on which end of the spectrum you tend to fall. If you’re someone who gets really wrapped up in parenting, and finds a lot of identity there, then it’s important to look ahead and at least have a positive vision for later. But if you’re someone who can’t stop thinking about the goals and plans you’ve put on hold while your kids are little, then you need to let go of *that* identity a bit, and immerse yourself in the joy of mothering young children.

I guess what I’m saying is that, in my experience, it all falls into place when the time is right. The most important thing is taking joy in the moment while seeing yourself as someone who exists beyond the moment.

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suburbancorrespondent June 15, 2010 at 3:02 pm

It is still so disorienting to me to no longer have that baby on my hip. As if I’m missing a limb…

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suburbancorrespondent June 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Kristin T is wise – you don’t want to go to the other extreme and plan so much for the future that you neglect the joys of the present.

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Christine LaRocque June 16, 2010 at 5:15 am

What an interesting post. It goes along with so much that I write these days as I engage in project finding me. When I started having children (and yes, my youngest is still very much still on my hip at 16 months), I lost a part of myself. It seems absurd to say, but it was real and I’ve only just realized it. Before kids I knew who I was, or at least I thought I did. I was secure in the knowledge. When I had kids my world was understandbly turned upside down, and I lost focus and direction. I floundered. Still do. And so this year I’ve launched project finding me on my blog in a effort to rediscover who I am as a mother but also as myself. To be able to reconcile the two together. So I’m eager to read more Meagan. I could discuss this stuff with you for hours!

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Christine LaRocque June 16, 2010 at 5:15 am

P.S. I’m going to feature this post later today as my Single Shot on the Coffees & Commutes Facebook page.

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Meagan Francis June 16, 2010 at 9:02 am

Kristin, very good point. I think you’re right that it depends what kind of person you are. Personally, I find goal-setting very important, not because I don’t want to live in the moment, but because I could very easily get lost in the moment and stay there if not for some kind of external vision helping me find momentum. On the other hand, I do agree that one of the biggest parts of happy motherhood is learning to go with the flow…and I’ll be working on THAT part of the book next :)

Here’s another question, though: even if you don’t have Big Plans for the future, what about the more mundane aspects of planning that we sometimes put off because it’s uncomfortable or un-fun? Things like making sure we’re taken care of financially, or keeping our skills current so that when we re-enter the workforce or ramp up our careers we won’t be starting over from scratch, or even things like life insurance, wills, and guardianship for our kids. Those are the kinds of plans I avoid making because they are uncomfortable, but I know they are so essential to peace of mind, which is essential to happiness. Thoughts?

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Meagan Francis June 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

Christine, thank you! I’ll check it out. I love talking about this stuff too, and find the journey to find “me” post-motherhood so fascinating.

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Shannon June 16, 2010 at 9:55 am

Meagan, I’ve thought about this, struggled with this for years. I’ve come to realize how lucky I am to be a stay-at-home mom. I stressed for years about keeping some sort of “career” alive so I’d have something to do when my nest was empty. And I missed a lot of the joy that was right in front of me. I don’t *have to* work for financial reasons and I’m confident that when my kids are on their own, I’ll be able to find plenty of things to keep myself busy, whether that involves going back to work or not. I do have a plan – maybe it’s more like a dream – but if it doesn’t work out, I can finally say that I’m OK considering my life’s work to be raising and educating my kids. If I’m lucky enough to not have to work, somehow I think keeping up a home, volunteering, babysitting grandchildren, and having a couple hobbies will make for a very happy post-mom life.

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Maman A Droit June 16, 2010 at 10:22 am

Personally, I think we have to be careful about falling into the prevalent mentality that being “just a mom” isn’t enough. I think it’s good to have other interests and hobbies (I love baking and gardening and politics-my day’s not complete without a glance at the Drudge report and the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal!) so, like you were saying, you’re still a “fully formed human” when your nest is empty, but I guess I disagree that it’s important or necessary to have any “plans” for then! My hope is by the time my nest is empty, I’ll be able to relax and hang out with grandkids and volunteer if I feel like it or garden and bake if I don’t! Anyway, if I can look back and feel like I was a good mom who raised happy, healthy, smart and kind kids as much as it was in my power to do so, I will consider myself to have had an extremely successful life thus far and figure I’ve earned time to just enjoy it.

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Meagan Francis June 16, 2010 at 10:37 am

I’m really glad you chimed in, Shannon and Maman. There are a lot of similarities between your responses.

Shannon, you said “Keeping up a home, volunteering, babysitting grandchildren and having a couple hobbies will make for a very happy post-mom life.”

And Maman, you said “I’ll be able to relax and hang out with grandkids and volunteer if I feel like it or garden and bake if I don’t!”

I think you just made my point for me :) It sounds to me like you both DO have a plan…you plan on doing the activities that make you happy, and for you two, those activities fall within the domestic/homemaking realm, so it’s a natural continuation of what you’re doing now (only with more time and fewer interruptions, I’ll wager).

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fulfilled by homemaking. In fact, I think it’s a very necessary use of our grown-up skills and talents. But if you’d said you planned on following your kids to college to make sure they remembered to wipe their noses correctly, I’d be worried :). Our homes will still need caring for in 18 years, but our relationships with our kids will rightfully have changed dramatically in that time. And then, of course, there are a lot of moms who are home with their kids not because they particularly love homemaking but because it works right now. In 5 or 10 or 15 years their lives will also change dramatically and they may not be very satisfied with those changes.

When I visualize my post-kids life it’s actually pretty similar to the two of you. I don’t ever see myself working in an office. I’ll putter around the house, garden, cook, travel, visit with grandchildren. My career goals are simply to keep writing enough to pay the bills, maybe try my hand at fiction.

BUT living that life doesn’t happen by accident, does it? We need to have financial security in order to be continue to stay home, and that requires planning to create and protect.

That’s what I mean by planning. It doesn’t have to mean thinking of your post-kids life as looking all that different from your life with kids. But even continuing your life more or less the way it is now indefinitely requires some thought.

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Jennifer Fink June 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Ah, the baby on the hip. Not only do I love that stage, but seeing other moms at that stage of life, for me, is a total visual reminder of how powerful mothers are. Just look at all we can do and accomplish WITH (not in spite of) our children!

As for a plan…I think that’s why I’m feeling a little disoriented right now. I had a plan, I was happy with my plan, and then my life feel apart. Not quite sure where the path will lead from here, but it will def. include writing and mothering.

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Villagepig June 17, 2010 at 2:04 am

The plan that I thought I would have has drastically changed since having children. It is no secret that I found pregnancy and the early years of parenting very hard and for me the key to happiness was to rediscover who I was which meant going back to work and finding a purpose over and above that of being a wife and mother. The upside to this choice is that one of my greatest childhood anxieties, that of not being able to provide for myself and my children, has started to diminish as I become more adept at juggling finances and preparing for the future.

For me the plan continues to develop. 2 years ago I had never saved a penny, now my husband and I have our own savings account and we have a joint one which is for our family. Our children have investment accounts set up which get topped up monthly and on special occasions. it isn’t always by much but the way I see it, if we’re putting a little bit away it will eventually become something substantial. By preparing for the future, I am freeing myself up to enjoy today with my famly, without the anxiety that plagued me before.

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Yvonne June 18, 2010 at 1:01 am

Thanks for sharing,you could say its all about the journey as you quite rightly point out nothing stands still..

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TheKitchenWitch June 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Hey, congrats on your book! You must be so proud!

I agree that we mothers need that “something else.” Something ours. It’s been a slow and painful struggle for me to figure that out. I felt so guilty that motherhood didn’t complete me.

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Annie @ PhD in Parenting June 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

So I guess I shouldn’t admit that I just ordered a new Mei Tai (my “baby” is 3.5 years old). :)

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Amber June 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I would say that I do have a plan for my life. And it very much involves an identity outside of parenting. I would love to have another baby. But even if I do (and it’s a fair bet I won’t, as my husband’s much less enthusiastic) it’s only a temporary thing. Soon enough I won’t have a baby, or a toddler, or even a preschool-aged child. Soon enough I won’t have any children at home at all. And I have a picture of what my life will look like while I live through these parenting years, and what I would like it to look like after.

While my kids are at home, I want a lifestyle that allows me to make some money, ‘enough’ to help my family maintain a basically comfortable lifestyle. But I want to do this in a way that doesn’t require me to work full-time outside the house. I imagine it growing in scope as my children get older and need me less. And when they don’t need me at all, it will hopefully be mature enough that I can pursue it full-time, or together with other interests and hobbies I may have.

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Amy @ Frugal Mama June 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Totally agree on the plan idea. I didn’t have one when I had my third child, and when he was approaching one, I started to freak out: what was I going to do with the rest of my life? Kind of a midlife crisis type feeling. It was scary and unsettling. If one has a plan, or a hobby that can be nurtured during childrearing, the time when your children don’t need you as much anymore does not loom threateningly.

A plan — or an interest or percolating career — can keep you going too, during the intense parenting years, when you are giving so much of yourself. It can add conflict too — do I spend time with my kids, or on my blog? — but I think it’s reassuring partly because it’s part of your plan, as you say.

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Brenda March 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

My baby is now three and I am sad when I realize I will never have another baby on my hip (until I have a grand-child there, I guess). My mother tells me I will grow out of this “phase” and move on to another where I won’t long for more babies. I hope she is right.

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Carrie Willard April 28, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Meagan I love this post and I’m so glad you linked to it again today. And I’m really looking forward to promoting Beyond Baby, as I love its message.

I had a sort of awakening a couple of years ago. I’m 39 on my bday this year, and my oldest will be 16. I still have a tot on my hip, but I can so obviously see the end of those days because of my oldest. There are several inbetween those as well.

One of the reasons I changed the direction of my blogging is because I wanted to start writing about things that have nothing to do with mothering. I wanted to remember all the things I loved to write, read and talk about before kids. And what I’ll write, read and talk about afterwards. At this point, I’ll likely have a kid at home when I’m 60! So mothering is definitely a huge part of who I am. But there are other parts of me that need to be expressed. And I am not going to be an empty nester. I have goals and dreams to pursue with my husband that have been impossible or difficult to do with this brood. It’s a second marriage for both of us, and we never even had a honeymoon. :-)

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Krista April 30, 2014 at 9:45 am

This is a great post and really hits home for me. My oldest is going to be 3 and my youngest is 1year so I have my hands full. I am one where I never saw myself as a stay at home mom until I became one. My original goal was to go to grad school while my kids were still young. Now I struggle with letting go of my old goals and recognizing new ones as I can no longer see myself as anything but a stay at home mom, which I love. But I still feel guilty for letting go of my previous dreams as if I failed. But this has helped uncover more dormant dreams of mine that are closer to my heart. I’ve been working on little writing projects now that I am excited about and hope that this hobby of mine will develop as my kids grow. I feel more fulfilled now and now see this as my new plan for the future. I am still able to give my children all that I can but not loose myself in the process. Thanks again for reposting this!

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