No one could possibly argue that having kids isn't a lot of work. Physically, it can be brutal. Conceiving the kids, carrying them around in your uterus for nine months, birthing them, nursing them, carting them around when they're like dead weight, lifting them in and out of the crib, chasing after them when they crawl, and restocking the shelves of your local grocery store once your kids realize their arms are long enough to reach the boxes of cereal that you don't allow in your house - it's exhausting.
But before having a kid of your own, it's hard to grasp just how emotionally exhausting parenting can be, and just how much you need to let go of mentally in order to do it somewhat successfully, or at least happily. Here are 5 things you should give up to be a happy parent, or one who is at least not permanently on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Following the list to a T isn't some cure-all that will make raising children a breeze, but if you take some time to digest it, it may be easier to process (or even avoid) some of the inevitable migraines along the parenting way.
1. Personal space
Even if you have the best husband, wife, babysitter, grandparents, etc. who assures you that you'll get some "me" time every now and again, when you become a parent, it's inevitable that your personal space will be violated ad infinitum. Children are your emotional shadows. But they will also be your literal shadows. And as with your other literal shadow, you'll never be able to shake it. As long as you know and accept that, you might just be a little less frustrated each time you take a step and there's a tiny hand or foot not belonging to you that is necessarily standing in (or under) your way.
2. Being alone in the bathroom
You hear people joking about it all the time - about how parents can't even go to the bathroom alone. "Ha ha!" they say. "I can't even go to the bathroom by myself!" they say. Here's the thing: They're not kidding. When you're a parent, you cannot go to the bathroom without someone wanting to sit on your lap or have you kiss an owie or tie a shoe or brush their hair or referee a fight - or just want to inspect your poop. Just remember: You will get the bathroom back to yourself in a few years (or a dozen, whatever).
Related: 9 signs you've gone to the parenting dark side
3. Free time
Sure, you might think that having a terrific support system means you'll have regular free time to exercise, go out with your girlfriends, have date night with your husband, or read a book that doesn't rhyme. But know that just when you're looking forward to your plans the most, that's usually the exact moment when kids throw up, melt down, or need Mommy the most. Kids are what happen when you're busy making plans for your free time.
4. Caring what other people think
You might think you already don't care what people think. But once you have kids, you really need to not care what other people think. Someone will always have an opinion, and more often than not it will be about what you're doing wrong. Whether it's the total stranger behind you in the checkout line at the pharmacy, your mother-in-law, frenemy, or best childhood friend, someone will always find a way to tell you how you can be doing something better. Sometimes they might even be right, but even when they're wrong, as long as you are at peace with the fact that someone will always think what you're doing is wrong regardless, you'll lie awake a little less each night.
Related: 15 things I wish I knew before I had kids
Surely before you have kids you have the luxury of time, and therefore the option of putting at least a little effort into your personal appearance. Much (if not all) of that time disappears once you have kids - especially in the first few years of their life. Whether it's permanent spit-up stains on your shirts, the smell of a baby's vomit embedded in your jacket, or mascara on one eye and not the other - it's OK to throw in the towel. Nothing lasts forever, and when your kids are older, you'll probably remember the time(s) you wore the same sweats for 96-straight hours. Let it go now when you have little choice. You'll get it back eventually.
- By Meredith Carroll
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