From the moment you get pregnant…scratch that – from the moment you get married it seems as though all people ever want to tell you is how different life is going to be once children come along. Some of us even hear it long before that point depending on what kind of family and friends we have. In my case, I wasn’t especially young when I started a family and therefore I heard a lot of “just you wait…” as if I lived with my head planted firmly up my ass and had no understanding of how children could cause a priority shift.
Oh, you woke up at 10 am and went to brunch? Just wait until the kids come along, you’ll see how different those Sunday mornings are…
You spent how much on those shoes? You’re in for one hell of a wake up call once kids arrive on the scene…
A spur of the moment weekend getaway? Well, that’s how I know you have no kids. Once you do there is just no time or money for that kind of stuff…
The list goes on but you get the point. First off, I would like to address the belief that having children means mom should give up everything she enjoys doing and throw every second and penny she has into being mom. That is not healthy or realistic for anyone involved (more on that in another post). Let’s just cut the mom guilt out all together, please. Second, just because someone doesn’t have children yet does not mean they lack the mental capacity to understand budgetary and schedule changes that occur when one does come along. Nobody is sitting around under the impression that having another mouth to feed and a human to raise will just fit into their current lifestyle. Nobody.
So, yes, everyone is aware that life changes on many levels when you become a parent. However, what I want to talk about is not how my life has changed, but how I have changed as a person. Becoming a mother was, by far, the most pivotal moment in my life in about a million ways. What I am realizing, though, is that the me that existed before my pregnancy is not the same me that sits here typing these words. Sure, I’ve kept the core components of my personality – strong-willed, snarky, intellectual, verbose, hard-working, free spirited, honest, reasonable, yada yada yada – but there are undeniably aspects that have grown, faded, or changed completely. Here are the biggest changes I have noticed in myself since Nikki showed up a little over a year ago.
- I have a much stronger desire to see & create positive changes in the world
This really encompasses so much that it is almost cheating to use it as one bullet point, but it is so important. I have always cared about things like human rights, feminism, social acceptance, individual freedoms, cultural awareness, and the like, but having a child has added a serious layer of depth and complexity to those beliefs. I find myself engaging with people who I may have once ignored on sensitive topics. I am ever aware of the subculture that society will be shoving down my daughters throat and I take an active chance to fight back against it whenever an opportunity presents itself. I want to have open and informative discussions regarding body shaming, slut shaming, gay bashing, reproductive rights, mental health awareness, and so many other area where large portions of society remain ignorant. I want my daughter to grow up in a world that is better than the one I grew up in. I want her to look at all people are full of worth and beauty – and I want the world to look at her in the same way.
- I am far more blunt than I have ever been
Never ask a momma to spare your feelings, because when a tough thing needs to be said, it is generally mom who is going to say it. I have always been the brutally honest type, but since becoming a mom I am REALLY pulling no punches. I have no time to beat around the bush and have a 4 day back and forth conversation to spare your emotions. I am not saying that I lack empathy or want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the end of the day if you want to seek my advice expect that it will be delivered with a well measured dose of reality. If your current situation is in any way related to your behavior, I will tell you so in the nicest but most direct way possible. This comes into play for my next point as well.
- I am more selfish
I am sure you are confused a bit by this one, so let me explain. Mom is a full time job from the moment you are handed that swaddled, swollen precious life until you take your final breath. Sure, it gets a big easier (usually) once they grow into (hopefully) well functioning adults, but you ask any mother and she will tell you how she worries and cares for her child, regardless of their age. Whether you are 5 or 55, when something shitty or wonderful or downright horrifying happens in your life who is the first person you turn to? Damn right, it’s mom! While in a million ways you become more selfless as a mom, it is so incredibly important to remember that you are an individual woman as well. I have needs and interests, dammit, and I will be as blunt as hell to express to the world that occasionally I need to put myself in that number 1 spot for a little bit. Demanding me time once in a while makes me a better mom, and keeps me grounded. It reminds me that my identity is so much more than just mommy, and that is so damned important that I already have a whole post planned to tackle it.
- I “stop and smell the flowers” with more frequency and intention
As a fast talking, always moving New Yorker with a family, a career, my own small business, a steady schedule of volunteer responsibilities, a plethora of social obligations, and a never-ending list of dreams and goals to accomplish it can be incredibly hard to press pause. Having my daughter forced me to slow the hell down. Life is such a beautiful thing and having a child truly reminds you of how fast your life is moving. You bring home this tiny, sweet smelling bundle and when you blink for just a moment she learns to roll, sit, crawl, stand, run, and talk. You find yourself at that first birthday completely bewildered as to how a year could pass so quickly. I find myself looking up from my work and away from my phone so often, now, just to live in the same moment Nikki does. I stop and watch her learn, play, and discover and those are the very best parts of each day. Exploring the world through the eyes of a child, to whom everything is new and exciting, is such a gratifying and humbling experience. I want to live in the little slow moving moments that become snapshots in our memory archives.
- I am more empathetic
Motherhood has flipped a switch inside me that changed how I viewed every other parent, and human in general, and the intricate way in which we are so connected by our similarities. Any remaining sliver of youthful pride and arrogance is washed away in the flash flood that is becoming a mom. You become every mother and her personal struggle, every grandmother and her wistful desire to stop time, every woman fighting to find a way to have it all and make it work. Every child could be my child, and each distressing news story yanks my heart into my throat. We often say “I can’t even imagine…” but, as a mother, that is a lie, because we do imagine and we fight against the sadness that just doing that generates. Becoming a mom did not just cause me to feel empathy more acutely, it taught me that empathy is so much more than being vulnerable. It is also being strong, so unbelievably strong.
So there you have it. The biggest changes I perceive in myself since I began my journey down the well traveled path of motherhood. What would you say the biggest changes have been for you since becoming a parent?