I can’t think of any other event in my life that’s caused me to reflect more on my own personal strengths and failings than becoming a parent.
Some people cultivate self-awareness through meditation and mindfulness. Others turn to counseling or therapy. For me, having children has without doubt helped me along the path to knowing myself a little better.
Prior to having kids, I could only naively guess at what parenthood might be like, and how it might change me as a person. But you never really know of course, and everyone’s journey is different. What I think is probably true for all of us though, is that becoming a parent changes the way you view the world and the way you view yourself.
Now that I’m four years in, I feel as though I’ve already learned a lot about myself and wanted to share some of those things with you!
#1 That it’s okay for me to be vulnerable
I’ve never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m a highly sensitive person, but habitually kept it buried. Perhaps it’s my Britishness. Or my introversion. Or maybe just my personality. Most likely it’s a combination of these factors and more. Whatever the reason, I’ve always been irrationally fearful of revealing too much.
Since having children though, I’ve more or less become a soppy, emotional wreck (in actual fact, it really started some time before then, with finding my amazing husband, but that’s a whole other story for another post!).
In any case, when children came along, the floodgates opened and there’s been no going back. These days I’ll cry at just about anything, good or bad. I’ve shed tears in public. I’ll gush about my children to anyone who’ll let me.
And in turn, it’s led me to be much less guarded in general, about a whole host of things. It’s part of the reason that I felt comfortable enough to start this blog.
While I may still feel a pinch of embarrassment or fear about opening up this way, I’ve learned that it’s actually good for me. When I’m tearing up over some silly thing, or confiding in you all, I feel authentic. This is me. Take it or leave it. My experience so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
#2 That I can and should trust in my instincts
Not always an easy one for me. I’m an over-thinker. A worrier. I feel comfortable when I have time to plan. I like to think about the long-term consequences of my decisions. And then I like to analyze them some more.
But that’s a luxury when you have children, isn’t it???
On a typical day with my kids, I’ll lose count of the number of snap decisions I have to make based on gut feeling. I’m putting out fires right, left and center. I’m trying to get us out of the door without yet ANOTHER incident. Or I’m just trying to stop someone from crying.
There are many times when I’m intellectually or philosophically opposed to the very thing I’m saying, but my intuition tells me that it’s the right move to make in that moment.
And guess what? Everyone’s just fine. As much as I value the opportunity to research any given parenting issue, I’ve learned that my maternal instincts usually serve me quite well.
#3 That I’m not as organized as I thought I was
Prior to becoming a mom, I prided myself on my aptitude for keeping everything ship shape. My closet was sorted by category and color. I’m the kind of person that has an Excel spreadsheet for most aspects of my life. I even have a bucketlist.xlsx… sad, I know!
But that’s kind of gone out of the window with the arrival of children. These days I have a perpetual to-do list that I can never keep up with. Often enough I’ll even forget to add the things to my to-do list in the first place.
Suddenly I find myself losing track of everything – birthdays, school events, plans made with friends. There are piles of paperwork all over the place, that never seem to find a home.
It feels as though I only have so much room in my brain, and there’s just far too much to remember. I’ve reached maximum capacity. And the sleep deprivation only makes things worse of course.
I see the moms that seems to keep it together so effortlessly and I feel envious, and confused. How do they manage to stay on top of things?!
Perhaps as my kids get older, I’ll regain some of my organization abilities… or perhaps I’m just destined to be a scatterbrain from this day forward!
#4 That I need to stop being so perfectionist
This is another personality trait that wasn’t super helpful before having children, and is a giant pain afterwards.
It would seem that perfectionism is almost diametrically opposed to parenting. Life with children is chaotic, messy and disorganized. Any attempt to achieve perfection is clearly just setting ourselves up for failure.
In recognizing this, I’ve been working hard to suppress my need to have everything “just so”.
To this day, it makes me anxious when the house is a mess or the chores are piling up, but I am getting somewhat better at leaving them for later and just playing with my daughters instead. I’m somewhat okay with the fact that our home is filling up with plastic junk quicker than I can get rid of it (deep breath, deep breath).
I’m also trying very hard not to dwell too much on mistakes, rather learn from them and move on. I may not be a perfect parent, but I do believe that I’m a good one, and that’s enough for my daughters.
Oh and kudos to all you parents that just seem to roll with it… I’m working on that!
#5 That I don’t function very well without some alone time
Becoming a parent more or less obliterates the possibility of “me time”. That’s certainly been my experience in any case.
Being around two little people all day long, seems to have shone a bright light on my introversion. I didn’t really notice it so much prior to having children, because there was always the chance to get some alone time and recharge, but I definitely do now!
I love spending time with my daughters, and am always happiest on the two days a week that I don’t work and just get to take care of them. But I also find that by the end of those days, I’m most drained – not only from the immense amount of work involved in taking care of two small children, but also from being overstimulated.
So in one sense, the days that I work feel like a mini-vacation. Not because my job is easy but because… it’s quiet…
Over the last four years I’d say that I’ve become a little more accustomed to the noise and tumult, but there are still certainly times when it stresses me out. I have a few tried and tested coping techniques (you can read more about that here) but I think that this is probably something that I’ll always battle with… the struggle is real!
#6 But that I have more to give than I ever realized
This has probably been the biggest revelation of all. Before becoming a parent, I would frequently describe myself as tired, or busy. Not even close. I have NEVER been as tired or busy in my life. Yet somehow, I still manage to function on next to no sleep (thank you coffee, my friend).
And no matter how long the to-do list, I can always take on a few more items. I can juggle work and housework and the school run and doctor appointments and whatever else is thrown my way. I may be freaking out about getting it all done, but it does get done. At some point. And all this while keeping the two tiny humans alive! Sometimes it feels like an absolute bloody miracle.
But more than either of these things, I’m continually amazed at my ability to love more. When my eldest daughter was born, I fell in love more or less immediately. I was besotted. But as she’s grown, and I’ve got to know her even better, I just love her more and more.
When we found out that I was pregnant with my second daughter, I wondered the same thing that I’ve heard many people ask – could I possibly love her as much?? And of course the answer has been yes! There are times when I look at the two of them and just feel as though my heart might burst.
It leads me to wonder if there’s some magic to being a parent. Suddenly, somehow, we become these incredibly efficient, sleep-eschewing, multi-tasking masters. And we develop the capacity for an infinite amount of love. It’s quite something, isn’t it??
What have you learned about yourself since becoming a parent? Any surprises? Let me know in the comments below!