Everyone defines "freedom" differently. When I spoke with the moms and dads who contributed to this article, many of them asked for clarification when they were asked the question, "When was the first time you felt freedom after having kids?"
Some parents view freedom as time to themselves where they can take a moment to breathe and decompress from the anxiety of their day. Other parents view freedom as the pride that comes along with watching their children succeed. Whether the freedom is directed towards themselves or towards their child, everyone can agree that freedom is something we want more of.
There is a strong correlation between freedom and independence, whether it is for the parents or for their children. For dads, the day they hold their baby for the first time, everything changes. He's no longer going to be a dad - he is a dad. For moms, the feelings of responsibility often begin earlier than the actual birth of her child. It could be the moment the pregnancy test turned positive or the moment she felt her child flutter inside her for the first time. No matter the exact time she felt "momhood," it changed her. A new definition of freedom would soon need to happen as her identity assumed the role of parenthood.
Freedom is something we wish for our children and we wish for ourselves. The following 12 moms and 10 dads share their experiences in parenthood and the moment they felt freedom after they had kids.
22 Mom - 1 Month Later I Could Do The Dishes
"The first time I felt freedom? Like a month after she was born. I was finally able to adjust my schedule enough that I was able to get enough sleep, and still get things done when she was napping. Being able to do the dishes was an intense amount of freedom, at first." - Maire, Age 30
Ah, the freedom to do chores. As a single woman, I never thought that I would ever dream of that kind of freedom. However, having a child can make even the most mundane tasks seem like the world is opening up to you.
There comes a time in every mom's life where doing the laundry or mopping the floors creates a sense of sweet relief to be alone with her thoughts.
In one of my mom groups, a friend opened up about her feelings of being trapped by her children. She said that the greatest moment of freedom was walking through the stairway from the daycare on the first floor to her workplace on the third floor. That stairway felt like a little vacation. It's the little moments, like being able to do the dishes, that bring us back to the people we were before we had kids.
21 Dad - Sleeping In, With The House To Myself, I Was Free
"When my wife took the baby to church for the first time, I stayed home and slept in. It was the first time I remember sleeping for longer than an hour or two since before the baby was born. I loved not having to do anything and being able to catch up on my sleep debt." - Bill, Age 29
There may be no worse feeling than having to wake up to take care of a tiny human, with little to no sleep in your body. The freedom of being able to take on the day because you had a solid four hours of sleep (in a row) truly is bliss. This dad has it right when he says passing out without fear of distractions is a true form of freedom.
Parents are forced to run on a sleep debt on a constant basis. According to Medical News Today, moms lose a full 6 months of sleep during the first 24 months of their child's life. In fact, "Over 60% of parents with babies aged less than 24 months get no more than three-and-a-quarter hours sleep each night." When Bill talks about being able to sleep in, his interpretation of freedom is truly genuine.
20 Mom - Coming Home From The Hospital I No Longer Felt Trapped
"Getting home from the hospital was huge. I has a c-section, so I spent days being slowly weaned off of all sorts of tubes and monitors - then, finally, freedom! Once I was home, the next freedom was when nursing intervals got wide enough that I could leave her with someone else for a little while without my 'girls' getting engorged or her being inconsolable. The first grocery run alone felt like a vacation." - Kat, Age 32
A c-section is major surgery and it takes a long time to recover. I have heard of some moms who were able to leave the day after they had a natural birth. For moms who undergo a c-section, there is a sense of confinement in the hospital. Most hospitals require c-section patients to stay in the hospital for a minimum of three days. Personally, I couldn't wait until I was able to go home to my familiar surroundings.
There is an intense sense of claustrophobia from being confined to a hospital bed!
Kat definitely has these freedom moments on the books: coming home and leaving home. Both situations create a sense of freedom in knowing that there are choices and places that a mom can either choose to go or not go. The key to freedom though, in this case, is that the choice of being able to leave or to stay is ready and available.
19 Dad - My Daughter Falling Asleep On Her Own Gave Me Freedom To Sleep Too
"I used to have to kneel next to the crib and have one hand on her chest so that she could fall asleep. She would grab my pinky finger with one of her hands, and then grab my thumb with her other hand. She'd fall asleep looking like a little frog the way her legs were bent. I dozed off more than enough times draped across her crib like that. When she finally was able to go to sleep on her own, that was freeing." - James, Age 40
Ah, yes, the art of trying to get the baby to sleep. Whether it's driving the baby in the car until they doze off or abandoning all the research in order to co-sleep, each new parent must navigate their new child's personal sleep personality. Most new babies need some kind of physical touch in order to feel comforted and as if they are not alone in this big world they are now a part of. James discovered his baby's secret: place a hand on her chest and she would drift into dreamland. I guess the only catch comes with the whole getting into your own bed at that point! Well, sleep is sleep, no matter if it's in your own bed or hanging over your baby's crib.
18 Mom - All The Kids Are In School And I Could Go For A Walk
"When all three of my kids were in school at the same time (two in pre-K, one in Kindergarten), I remember standing in my driveway and thinking 'I can go for a long walk! Or read a book! Or take a nap!' I took a long, quiet walk on our street, enjoying nature." - Karen, Age 40
Leisure time is one of the most anticipated forms of freedom in parenthood! There is nothing that can help a mom slow down and smell the summer roses quite like a few, uninterrupted moments to notice them. Personally, I like to binge-watch Netflix after the kids are asleep, but I'm sure taking a walk and appreciating nature is a well-overdo necessity in order to maintain my motherly sanity.
The freedom of being able to appreciate the world is truly a special gift.
When we become parents, leisure time often becomes one of the first sacrifices a mother or father makes. No longer can mom or dad simply go out after work because there is always dinner to cook, the baby to pick up from daycare, or homework to help your child with. Oftentimes, it isn't until the kids have flown the coop that many parents readopt a long-lost hobby or enjoy something as simple as a walk through nature. Taking a moment to reclaim a small drink of leisurely freedom helps all parents refocus and continue forward.
17 Dad - No More Diapers! Bliss!
"A big step was when diapers were over, because I didn't have to help my child with the bathroom so much. It was way less work not having to worry about bringing diapers everywhere. Plus, it was financially easier too." - Andre, Age 45
According to Investopedia.com, "The average child will use more than 2,700 diapers in the first year alone, which can add up to more than $550 (based on an average price of $0.20 per disposable diaper)." Diapers take up enough money in the monetary budget without having to worry about formula, clothes, or all of the gadgets which make life with a baby easier. Unless you decide to do cloth diapers - which entail their own start up cost - disposable diapers are a close acquaintance with any new set of parents.
The sheer joy that follows a milestone like potty-training can't be rivaled. This dad had it right when he said that there is true freedom in letting your child do their business without any wiping or changing needed. As a child gets older, the necessities for the child also grow exponentially more expensive; the freedom from the monetary and physical burden of diapers is enough to send any parent into a happy jig.
16 Mom - Black Friday, 2002, I Got To Do What I Wanted
"Honestly, the first time for me was Black Friday in 2002. My youngest woke and nursed around 4:30am and I was wide awake. My husband didn't have to work that day. Glory! I grabbed a coffee and trolled around Kohl’s and anywhere else I wanted to shop for a few hours. It was glorious freedom! After I finished shopping I got to go home to snuggles, naps, and Thanksgiving leftovers. It was a perfect day." - Beth, Age 43
Being able to participate in Black Friday is one of those conveniences that is often overlooked by the childless among us. Before kids, there was freedom to simply grab your wallet and car keys and leave the house, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. After kids, bedtimes and nap times rule the schedule of the day and a yearly holiday (like Black Friday) becomes only a distant memory.
Sure, moms and dads can participate in Cyber Monday, but it doesn't have the same ring of freedom, now does it?
Having the ability to grab coffee and simply putz around without having to wrangle kids who are trying to climb into the clothing racks doesn't happen very often in a mom's world. Beth had it right when she exclaimed, ah, glory!
15 Dad - 4 Years Old Was The Age Of Independence (For Both Of Us)
"I guess it was when she was about four-years-old. At that point I didn't have to sit and watch her all of the time and she could do more stuff on her own. It was great that she had that kind of independence because it gave me more independence too." - Will, Age 36
You - hopefully - don't have to worry about a four-year-old finding a quarter on the floor and eating it. Any parent of a small child looks forward to the day when their child can be told to go outside and play, and there isn't a drastic fear that they will try to eat rocks or dirt. Reaching the four-year-old milestone is a big one because it means that your child is now (mostly) potty trained, eats food that doesn't (usually) require special preparation, and can play outside without (often) doing something that would result in a trip to the emergency room.
Congratulations! Once your child is four-years-old their physical dependence on you diminishes and their socio-emotional needs peak. Depending on our personalities as parents, this stage can be a sweet relief or a new set of stresses. There is one guarantee, though: your child will continue to grow and change. So, enjoy every stage while you can!
14 Mom - When The Baby Was Weaned, I Was Free!
"It was after my son self-weaned at 14-ish months. He never took a bottle and by the time he was sippy-cup age I wasn’t interested in dealing with pumping. Although nursing didn’t make me feel trapped, I did feel new freedom at that point." - Hannah, Age 28
For mothers who choose to nurse, there is a strong correlation between the number of nursing session and the intensity of feeling like a mom-milk cafeteria.
There is a certain amount of joy that many nursing mothers feel when they feed their child, but there is also a painful knowledge that your child is helplessly tied to you. If anything were to happen and you were separated from your child by an unforeseen circumstance, then your child would go hungry until you could be reunited.
While Hannah didn't feel trapped by the responsibility of nursing, she certainly must have felt a strong relief in knowing that if she were separated from her child for longer than an anticipated amount of time, her baby wouldn't go hungry. A big shout-out to all of the nursing moms out there who still feel like their bodies aren't quite their own yet. You are true superheroes!
13 Dad - It's Always Going To Get Harder, So Let It Go
"It just keeps getting harder. You think that things are going to get easier? Just wait until they're teenagers, then it's all, 'You don't know what you're talking about, Dad.' Even when they are teenagers their problems get tougher and they have more of an attitude because they're ready to assert themselves. Not until the day I die am I going to have freedom because I'm always going to be worried about them. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but, man, it's a hard life loving them!" - Chuck, Age 55
Life as a parent doesn't get easier, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it. For parents who are looking to get to the "easy" stage of parenting - good luck. Let me know when you find it. To most parents of adult children, there is a common consensus that the job doesn't get easier, it just gets different. Some parents hate the teenage stage while others have the most difficulty when their children are newborns. The parenting role will evolve the entirety of your child's life and if you are having trouble with one stage, hang on. The role will change in a few months, anyway!
Chuck has a good perspective here: let it go. Your role as a parent is going to change, so learn to roll with the punches.
12 Mom - 1 Week Post-Birth It Hit Me That I Wasn't Carrying My Baby Anymore
"It was about six days post birth and I was headed out to run a quick errand by myself. Literally, by myself, no baby in my belly. All of a sudden I realized that it was my first time, in a long time, without my baby... and then I cried!" - Tiffany, Age 34
For women who are in the midst of the postpartum hormonal shift, anything that has to do with your new child can set off the waterworks - and it's completely normal!
I had a similar experience to Tiffany in the week after I gave birth to my daughter. The first time I got in the car to run an errand, I was away from my child for less than two hours, but it was the hardest two hours of parenthood I had yet experienced. The combination of hormones, recovery from labor, and sleep deprivation made it seem like I was abandoning my baby by going to pick up some paperwork from work. I really wasn't abandoning her, but in the moment the intensity of emotion felt so real.
It's true that the first errand a mom takes without her baby is a sense of freedom. There's the sense that the tiny human you carried with you since their conception is now a separate human being. While this is freeing, it's also incredibly overwhelming. Often, this is a step all mothers take after they give birth to their first child, so it's something to not only expect but also accept as a part of the parenthood process. You created a new human, who is free to live their life, as exciting and scary as that may be.
11 Dad - His First Interview I Felt Pride I Had Never Known Before
"He's eight years old now and he had to do a little interview for a program or something. I was there with him and I couldn't believe how well he answered the questions. Sometimes you forget that they're growing up right in front of your eyes. That made me proud because he's usually a pretty shy kid. It was like, yeah, I'm doing all right as a dad if he can do this. I guess you could call that freedom." - Mike, Age 34
Sometimes we forget that our kids are always watching and learning from us. They see how we interact with other adults and subconsciously learn how to be an adult from those interactions. Parental pride will surge at the most unexpected moments: when our child gives a firm handshake or engages well in an adult conversation. These are the small times where you can see the child you are raising flash into the adult he is becoming.
There is a certain level of freedom that comes with your child reaching life-milestones. It's amazing to see that all of the hard work you have done to teach them social norms, like wearing pants on top of underwear, is resulting in a competent little grown-up. Seeing your shy eight-year-old interview well is definitely one of those occasions of pride!
10 Mom - I Had Freedom To Do Freelance Editing
"I got a part-time job as a freelance editor when my kids were one and three-years-old. We hired a babysitter twice a week and I would go to a coffee shop with my laptop and work furiously for the 3 hours I had to get my work done. In the end, the editing job essentially paid for the babysitter, but the freedom of doing something just for me was worth it." - Laura, Age 32
I'm sure there are plenty of stay-at-home parents who have a part of their lives which they intentionally set aside simply for themselves.
It's good and healthy to balance parenthood with work and hobbies. In this interview, Laura revealed her freedom in being able to work part-time even though the cost of childcare nixed most of the income she would receive from her freelance work. The ability to maintain her identity as a career-woman was enough to give her the freedom she needed as a stay at home mom.
In fact, the joy of editing and completing freelance work keeps many moms in-touch with possible employers once their child is in school or no longer needs after-school care. Finding an area of interest to pursue as a parent, for the sheer joy of the interest and skill development, is a healthy way to balance parenthood with self-care.
9 Dad - The Baby's Done Teething So Now I Can Breathe
"When the baby was done teething it was a big step. It was a hard to go from baby food to solid food and when he did it, it was really a big deal. When the teeth are all in, you don't have spend every night with a cranky baby. It's so nice to be done with the little jars of baby food and all of the formula. Plus, my son got salmonella when he was 6 months old, so we had to boil all of the bottles to make sure everything was okay. It was great when feeding time wasn't such a big deal, because we could just eat together." - Maurice, Age 53
There is a level of stress that comes when parents go out to eat and their child is at a different "eating stage" than the adults. Whether they require a high chair, a sterilized bottle, or finger foods combined with purees, the mental space it takes to remember all of these extra steps for a meal can be exhausting. It is a welcome change once the baby can eat the same foods as the adults.
In addition to the freedom of no longer worrying about the extra work to feed a child, there is the hand-in-hand freedom of your child having all of their teeth in. No longer do you have to screen new foods to determine if your child has enough teeth to eat it! No longer does your child have to suck on teething rings or get cranky because of teething pain! The loss of the mental load of being able to give your child regular food is an incredible milestone for parents.
8 Mom - The Epidural Was A Mini-Vacation
"I had my kids 18 months apart, and when I went to have my second one at the hospital I actually felt freedom. I finally got to be alone with my husband! After I got my epidural, without my 18 month old running around trying to get into everything, it was like we were on a date." - Linda, 60
Well, that certainly is a different perspective on freedom! Speaking from experience, an epidural in the midst of the "transition" stage of labor is something I am so grateful I opted for. It allowed me to look at my husband with a goofy smile on my face and exclaim in joy, "We're having a baby!" This was definitely an improvement on the screaming, "You did this to me!" on the way to the hospital.
For those of us who opted for medication during labor, there really was a sense of calm which allowed the parents to process the magnitude of the moment before the birth.
In a few hours, they would go from being a childless married couple to parents! It's exciting! Yet, the hanging hours between the two stages where mom is lying in the hospital bed and dad is holding her hand through the contractions really is a moment of freedom which can't be recreated. It can be remembered fondly, especially if an epidural was present!
7 Dad - There's A New Kind Of Freedom With Kids
"I don't see it like I lost any freedom. There are things I did before I was a dad that I still do as a dad, so it's not like I lost myself or anything. I'm still me. Having kids was like having a new kind of freedom because I get to raise them and help them figure out the world." - James, Age 41
This dad has a great perspective on the role of parenthood and the new definition of freedom that goes with it. It's important to have an identi
ty as a parent that is separate from your identity as a bachelor. Figuring out who you are at your core and what you enjoy is an essential part of the mental self-care which is necessary to your adult life. If you enjoyed exercising before you became a parent, make sure you set time aside to continue exercising as a parent. If you enjoyed painting, then continue to paint. The key isn't to completely lose your identity as a new parent; the key is balancing this new identity with the parts of yourself you enjoyed before you had kids.
There is a certain element of freedom that comes in raising a "mini-me." You can teach them all of the hard-learned lessons that you had to experience and hope that they learn from your mistakes. You can even invite them into the hobbies you enjoy as a part of your identity. When they are old enough, take them to the gym or let them finger-paint with you. It definitely will give you a new perspective on your old identity!
6 Mom - Grocery Shopping Equaled Ecstasy
"Back when my children were kids, there weren't any cell phones. The first time I went grocery shopping I skipped down the aisles." - Jane, 62
Ah, I will never know the joy of a technology-free parenthood. For new millennial parents, there has always been a life of communication, whether it was the tail end of the beeper age or the current age of the smartphone. When parents nowadays leave the house, there is always a way for the babysitter to get in touch with a parent. As a result, parents always have the nagging sense that they should check their phones to see if the babysitter messaged them for any reason.
The digital age has created a sense of safety at the expense of a sense of freedom.
The technology-less freedom of the Baby Boomer parents will probably never be experienced again by society unless a parent intentionally engages in a break from technology. We can only image the true bliss of getting in the car and knowing that you can't be reached as you run an errand. There's always the possibility that you could leave your phone at home, but I don't think that's something I could personally do as a parent. It's the double edge-sword of living in the 21st century!
5 Dad - Once The Kids Are Adults Then You Can Breathe
"Problems were different when my kids became adults because we could talk through them. It was a good thing being able to bounce ideas around rather than me trying to figure out their problems for them when they were kids." - Brison, Age 56
Once you have kids, you will have the challenge of raising them for the rest of their lives. Though they change, the problems are still there. Oftentimes it will come down to the parent's personality as to the ease of engaging in the constant litany of problems. Do the parents prefer potty training a child or or do they prefer discussing the birds and the bees?
After your child grows up and becomes an adult, you are still their parent. You'll always worry about them and you'll always be someone they turn to when they are having difficulties. The benefit of this evolving role is that, as a parent, you can guide your adult child in their own problem-solving abilities, which frees you from the responsibility of "solving" their problems.
You'll be there to provide guidance on purchasing a home, fixing faulty plumbing, applying for a loan, or giving parenting advice for your eventual grandchildren. When you have a child, your role will change and the problems will change. It depends on the parent's personality on whether they prefer the more adult conversations or searching for monsters in the closet before bedtime. Both are good, necessary components in the life-long role of "parent."
4 Mom - He Could Sit Up On His Own, But Couldn't Crawl Yet
"When he was 6 months old, I sat him on his mat and he just started playing with his toys on his own. He was so into his new sitting ability, I went to grab a cup of coffee. Well, he leaned too far to one side and fell down, so I learned that I couldn't do that yet.
After a few weeks, he got the hang of his balance and I was able to sit him with his toys in the morning and could grab my coffee and even drink it while it was still warm! I didn't realize how trapped I had felt until I could use both of my hands at the same time while the baby played. It didn't last long because he started crawling right after that. The in-between period spoiled me with 'free' time though." - Lizzy, Age 24
The concept of a child not needing you for something as simple as sitting truly does give parents a sense of freedom.
Watching your child become more independent and capable of using his or her body makes us feel like we are doing our job. My kid can sit! They have control over their neck and most of their limbs! I am supermom!
3 Dad - Bachelorhood Is Over, So Freedom Is Too
"I haven't had any freedom since having kids because I'm pretty settled down now. I have a house, a baby, a wife, and I can't take a break from it all. I don't have freedom because there aren't any breaks." - John, Age 26
If you define freedom as the number of breaks you can take in a day, then parenthood definitely feels like a constant whirlwind of responsibility where partying and going out with friends is no longer something to actively look forward to. As a bachelor or bachelorette, Friday was a day to let loose with friends and decompress from the stresses of the workweek. As a parent, Friday is a time where you have to juggle bedtimes so that you balance being able to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning without your child being grumpy from going to bed too late.
There's no denying that parenthood is a full-time job that forces men and women alike to settle down. If freedom is defined by your ability to go wild with no responsibility, then John is right. Freedom disappears once you have a child. However, if freedom is defined in a new way once you become a parent, then there is the possibility that freedom still does exist.
2 Mom - There's No Freedom As A Single Mom
"I'm a single mom. There is no free time. I'm a mom 24-7 without any breaks." - Tracey, Age 29
Shout-out to all the single moms out there. The stress of raising children with two caregivers in the house is enough to drive the most calm parents among us to the brink of their patience. For moms (or dads) who are doing it all on their own, you are true champions.
One of the hardest parts of being a single parent is the inability to tag-team your child's constant and ever-evolving needs.
When your child isn't sleeping through the night, there's no one to roll over to and grumble "it's your turn to get the baby." Picking up and taking your kids to their appointments, daycare, sport practices, or playdates all fall into the single parent's lap.
Being a single parent is like playing football with no line changes and the expectation that you will be the quarterback, lineman, and coach all at the same time. For those among us who are doing their best as single parents, keep going. You're doing great. There might not be many breaks, but watching your child become a strong, insightful adult because of your sacrifices will give you a sense of freedom that coupledom could never offer.
1 Mom - Freedom Comes With The Get-Up-And-Go Life
"I still have my moments where I miss 'freedom' from the kids, work, and my husband! Of course I eventually realized that I enjoy a crazy life of responsibility where I have to get up and go every morning. I like my life with kids, but I've had my fair share of rebellion too!" - Paulieanne, Age 33
Some parents never experience another moment of "freedom" as they knew it before kids. It's impossible to go back to the worry-free days where all you have to think about was your own needs and expectations for the day. Having kids completely changes a person's expectations and - if your definition of freedom doesn't change with it - it's easy to feel trapped and overwhelmed by parenthood.
Paulianne has redefined her idea of freedom to include her new get-up-and-go life. Going on adventures with her children and finding joy in the little discoveries through the eyes of a child creates its own sense of freedom. The responsibility goes hand-in-hand with the joy of parenthood. Sure, it's completely normal to rebel against any form of change in your definition of freedom. The key is to not let this rebellion overshadow your new and exciting life of parenthood.