Orangutan cuddling baby orangutan with blanket thrown over adult's head

5 Ways Parenting Changed Me

Becoming a parent is the best and worst thing to happen to me. It pummeled me into becoming a better person.

1. I grew up

We think parenting is all about the kids, but parents mature and reframe as a result of raising another human. My decision-making became long-term, big picture, and anticipatory (after recovering from the first three years of new mommy brain). My life wasn’t just about me anymore, and for a while, that sucked.

2. Farewell, Type A

A British Library image on Flickr, taken from page 72 of ‘Pen and Pencil Pictures from the Poets. [With illustrations.]’

An uptight personality like myself was in for a shock to discover that babies need EVERYTHING from you when they first pop out: time, attention, your arms, your boobs, your emotions, and your sanity. If you fight it, it’s only harder. Feeding, changing, crying, carrying, soothing, cleaning up—the entire existence of a new mom and dad is service you have little control over.

3. I learned to love learning

hand holding small starfish partially submerged in water, pier in background
Photo by Ralph Sadaka on Unsplash

Formal education taught me straight lines of uninspiring facts. Raising kids taught the joy of discovery, flexibility, focus, learning by doing, and talking to people about their jobs (like firemen!) and interests. This kind of learning is lifelong and dynamic.

And just when I think I’m in charge, they teach me something. We left a knowledgeable, award-winning coach because the kids said they didn’t like how she sometimes talked trash about other moms. I trusted their judgment and we agreed that how you treat others is more important than winning awards.

4. I appreciate people more

one turbaned man helping another man with a cane cross the street by holding the crook of his arm
Leica Q Street Shot by David Guyler on Flickr

I used to think being nice was a superficial attribute used when you had nothing else to say about a person. After kids, a YMCA employee showed me that interpersonal relationships are all that matter. Were he to suddenly drop dead, thousands of people would mourn his passing—not because he was important, or rich, or successful, but because he was kind, sincere, and treated people like they mattered. I talked to my kids about this man whom we all knew, so they would see and appreciate him too.

Before, I never would have dwelled on his niceness. Trying to raise a decent human being who will contribute to the world refocused my values and choices.

5. I’m enough

painting of mother cradling toddler and leaning down to kiss
Mother’s Kiss illustration by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). Original from Library of Congress. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

I’m not very smart, skilled, personable, or talented. But if I focus on being the best mom and the best me I can be, I’m enough for my kids. They remember experiences, not things. Kids need and want our love, time, and attention. I can do that. YOU can do that.

It is a privilege to be a parent, bumbling along as we do at the beginning of a being’s life. Although it seems children need us, it’s really the parents who are gifted with this miraculous opportunity to learn, grow, and give.

Act

Write a brief note thanking your kid for something you’ve learned or gained as a result of being her parent.


Featured image by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash.

1 thought on “5 Ways Parenting Changed Me”

  1. I am thankful every day, especially for my family. Every morning, my ritual involves looking at some old pictures. It is not so much to reminisce even though that is part of it, but more importantly to just be thankful for the best parts of my life… my family.

    Like

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