Having a child will change your life. I know, everybody says that, but until you actually have a child you don't fully understand what that means. Whether you have a child in your 20's or 30's doesn't matter, because they will bring you such joy. However, there are things that are definitely easier to do when you don't have kids and there are things that you will benefit from, if you do them early enough. Here's my top list of things to do, most of which I did and some I wish I had done like #9.
1. Travel the World, Especially to Remote Places
16 hour flight? No problem when you don't have kids. You have the freedom to go to remote places, off the grid (me in the Icelandic countryside), all in the name of fun, discovering yourself, or as a couple. Once you have kids it's not that you can't travel, you just start to think twice about where you CAN go. My husband and I have gone on anniversary trips after we had our daughter but we wouldn't dream of going anywhere without a Wifi or cellphone connection, or so far away we'd have to travel over a day. God forbid an emergency happens, you want to be accessible.
2. Travel Alone & Face Your Fears
Enjoy your solitude, empower and connect with yourself and with others, and face your fears. Traveling alone means that you build confidence in yourself, you discover things about yourself that maybe you didn't even know, and you are open to new experiences. Skydiving? Scuba Diving? Bunjee Jumping? (I did, off a bridge in Colombia!) Once you have a child, you may see traveling by yourself pointless or selfish (far from the truth) and thrill seeking (um, I want to be alive for my child!) Now that I have my daughter, I either want to travel with my family, with my husband, or with a friend to catch up. I used to travel alone all the time, now mostly due to limited time off, unless it's for business, I don't have the need to travel alone anymore and neither do I have the need to jump off a bridge, but I'm so happy I did!
3. Enjoy Your Friends
Girlfriends getaway to Vegas? Yeah baby! I mean, Yeah before the Baby! A night out dancing and drinking? Heck yeah! After you have a baby, first of all, you'll just want to sleep if you have the chance. Then, you become this responsible parent (hopefully) that will set a mental drinking limit, because you just never know what can happen and you have to be sober just in case. Then unfortunately, unless your friends have kids too, you will find that your relationships will change. Suddenly their single life drama will seem like no drama to your no sleep, breastfeeding, teething issues filled life.
4. Go to School
Thinking about getting that master's degree? Go for it! Have a degree already but are thinking about going to school for something else? Go for it. Study abroad (I did it), don't wait. Once you have a child your priorities will change. There are many moms out there going to school and to those moms we should all clap and bow. When you have a child your focus and your brain (literally) will change and you will have a lot of unexpected, unplanned sicknesses, ailments, and just everyday occurrences like mommy brain, no seriously, that will get in the way of your time in school or time studying. It will become 10 times harder so do yourself a favor, don't wait.
5. Establish Your Career
If there is any career advice that I can give to anyone in their early 20's it's to stick with a job long enough to know whether it's fulfilling. If it is, work hard to establish your name in your industry not just your followers. How do you establish a good reputation that will follow you even after you have a baby? Go above and beyond what's expected. Speak up and stand up for yourself and your worth. Show respect and value your team. Help others along the way. Show that you don't know it all and are open to learning. Find opportunities to shine. It's no secret that I have been in the Halloween and design business (justjanny.com) for almost 20 years and I still get calls for job opportunities or referrals. Once you have a baby you don't know whether you'll want to go back to work or not. If your good reputation precedes you, they will wait for your return, or they will find opportunities to work with your new baby situation.
6. Save More Money, Invest Wisely, and Reduce your Debt
Kids cost money and if you plan on not going back to work, that money has to come from somewhere. The best thing that I did in my 20's was invest 12% of my check into my 401K, open a Roth IRA account, and invest in stock. The worst thing I did? Rack up my credit card debt. After I had my daughter I lost my job and what I was surprised to find out was that I had no desire to go back to work until my daughter was at least 2 years old. My husband and I had to bootstrap our budget and if it wasn't for savings I couldn't have done it. Now, thanks to investments and my Roth IRA we're on our way to buying our first home, because once you have a child you will find yourself wanting to settle.
7. Love your body
Your body will change, embrace it before you have a baby so you can marvel at what your body can do after you have your baby. As women, we can be so critical of our own bodies, but these bodies can create life! That is amazing! I remember telling my husband that I wanted to do a sexy shoot with him after we got engaged, "so we can see how hot we were when we're old and wrinkly!" Now our daughter can see how hot her parents were, I can hear it now, "Ewww, mom that's gross!" My one regret? Not taking a semi nude picture while I was pregnant (like the couple below). We have to embrace our bodies, stretch marks, cellulite, rolls, no rolls, muscles or flab. Our bodies create humans and there is nothing more amazing than that!
8. Worry Less About What other People think
You will drive yourself crazy and get sidetracked from what's important. In my 20's I got too caught in my head worrying about what others thought...how I looked, what I wore, was I cool enough. After you have a child you will worry about what impression you leave on your child. Now I worry about being a good mom, being a good role model for my daughter, and I try not to worry about what other parents think, because let's face it, parents are super judgy. Allow yourself the space to be you, to be unique, to be different, stand out and be happy. It will rub off on your kids and that's a good thing!
9. Have the "How are we going to raise our kids conversation?"
You'd be surprised that what you may think is a no brainer, like raising your child Catholic (in my case), becomes a serious issue with your partner or spouse. Talk to your spouse about where you both stand on important issues like religion, discipline, education, even politics before you have a child. I never thought that raising my daughter to go to church and teaching her prayers would create tension between my husband and I, but it did. We have now come to an understanding but issues like this come up. Talk about it before hand. If you have differences decide how the approach will be with your child. Don't get caught off guard.
10. Write to your child
Even if it's just 1 single letter, write to your child from the heart. Maybe it's something you can gift them on their 18th birthday or on their way to college. You can write their birth story, what you were thinking, feeling, your situation, your struggles, and your wishes for them. Maybe it's an inspiration letter after you graduate and get your master's degree? Maybe it's a letter of finding love when you get married? I created an email account for my daughter and have been writing to her since I was pregnant. I have also added to her "Mi Familia/My Family Memory Book." We all have pictures and Facebook and Instagram and in 10 years it'll be something else. You know what is real and what you're truly feeling in a moment. Share that moment with your child. Can you imagine reading what your mom was thinking when she gave birth to you? What a great family heirloom!
What about you? Do you have kids? Was there something you did or wish you had done before you had kids? Tell us, we'd love to know!
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