a baby on my hip

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?

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