by Joe Borders, MFT July 28, 2018 Masochism is defined as the act of deriving pleasure from pain, often in a sexual way. Over time the word has come to be colloquially used outside of the context of sex. This…
By Angela Borders
May 13, 2019
The 9 Good, Bad, and Surprising Ways Motherhood Has Changed Me (So Far)
In just a little over a week, Joe and I are set to become parents for a second time, and that’s got me reflecting a lot on all that’s changed since I first became a mom. With Mothers’ Day being just yesterday, and my last prenatal appointment coming up tomorrow, I’m thinking a lot about the person I am now that I don the title “Mother”.
“Becoming a parent changes you forever” is a cliche that gets tossed around a lot, but it’s a cliche for a reason: it’s true. No matter what your parenting journey may look like, we all experience a huge change in our lives the second that small human becomes our responsibility. My experience may look completely different from others’, and this post is by no means meant as some sort of “here’s how it will go for you” kind of comparison. It’s also not a place for me to give advice or tell you what to expect or that you are wrong or right if your experience is the same or wildly different.
Here I’m just seeking to share my experience, and that’s about it. I’m hoping that maybe it will be a little bit relatable for people, maybe reassuring for those going through the process of the same kind of change, maybe even helpful for those struggling to adapt to the new person they are becoming–because lets face it, the people we are as parents are not always the same people we once were before being parents. And that can be hard sometimes.
So lets start with the positive! Becoming a parent has made me so much stronger in some ways, so here are the 3 biggest positive ways parenting has changed me.
9. Recognizing and Accepting Limits
Shortly before having our 1st son, I was working a minimum of two jobs at a time, often 3 or 4 (this is not uncommon in the adjunct instructor world, and sounds worse than it is really, but it does mean a lot of crazy hours and a lot of hours period, not to mention a ton of commuting). When discussing how our careers and family life would balance out, Joe and I had plans to do everything 50/50. After all, we both had flexible jobs; we could set our own schedules, avoid ever needing help with childcare, and share all domestic responsibilities straight down the middle.
Needless to say, parenthood had other plans for us. It turned out things were way more complicated than that (see our posts on paternal postpartum depression and how parenting is like a form of masochism ), and the two of us were not exactly completely equally suited to all aspects of both career and parenting. He has certain strengths and weaknesses, and so do I. And that is not a bad thing. But it definitely meant reshaping our plans, in all sorts of ways.
8. Accepting Help
The biggest way we had to adapt our plans/lifestyle was in reaching out for help. Accepting that we had certain limitations (on our time, our energy, our ability to give of ourselves) meant asking for help, and being ok asking for help. We sought out childcare from multiple sources (if you are reading this Ms Erin, Nana, Papa, Brampa, and GiGi, THANK YOU!), and we dramatically changed our expectations on each other. I began to work less, Joe more. We began to build a community of support. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Making these changes enriched our lives and gave us the ability to parent much better. Now we have much richer, closer relationships with many more people, and our sons benefit from it. Not to mention, we benefit from building and strengthening relationships, and just getting HELP.
7. Becoming More Active
The last big, positive, way motherhood has changed me is that it has made me so much more of an active person. Before our son came along, Joe and I were both…well, lazy feels too harsh, but lets just say we didn’t get out much. Our typical routine featured a lot of TV, junk food, video games, lying around, reading, more junk food, and not really a whole lot much else. We weren’t keen on exercising, being the most socially active, or just going out much. We weren’t total hermits, but, especially in our college days, close?
Even before I got pregnant, I knew that all this was something I *wanted* to change (I knew we would need support systems of close friends, that eating better and exercising were important, and that I wanted to model better for our child), but I just didn’t have the drive or clear picture as to how to proceed.
It turned out, it was just like anything we learn: a process of trial and error. I had to fail at a lot of recipes, a few bad dieting techniques, and a whole bunch of awkward conversations with random people at a whole bunch of social settings to eventually find my groove. I still have a lot to learn, and know I will never get to the perfect image I had of what I thought I needed to achieve to be a “good mom”, but I’ve found what I need to be a healthy and sane one (at least for now).
I like to say that I’m a “get out of the house mom” because staying at home just doesn’t work for me. I have to get out, every single day, or I go stir crazy. That is SO not even remotely the person I was before having kids! I could go days without ever seeing the sun and be just fine; reading a great book, or being immersed in a great game, was all I needed. Not anymore! I feel a need to move, get out, be outside, that I never used to have, and it’s made my life way more interesting.
Now that I am so much more active (and eat better…mostly), I’m much more healthy, and social. And I’m raising my kid to be that way too, which brings me so much happiness. Our son is super social, and strikes up conversations with people everywhere we go. He also loves exercising, which is something I hated basically until I had him. I’m proud that I am passing on better, healthier traits to him, and feel better for adopting them myself.
Ok, now on to the negatives…
Oh maaaaaaaan am I so tired all the time. I am currently pregnant with our second child, and even as I write this I am feeling like I need to just go lie down and take a nap. Which is how I feel most days in the afternoon, pregnant or not, since having a kid. I love love love all the excitement and fun of being a mom, playing games, dress up, activities, all of it all, but man alive is it exhausting. Especially while also trying to semi hold down a job. Especially especially while also growing an additional small human, who I know will suck 10x even more energy out of me.
5. NO LIKE REALLY, SO SO TIRED
This point really really REALLY bears repeating. I always say the one thing no one sufficiently warned me about was how terrible sleep deprivation is. I mean it gets joked about here and there, but no one actually sits you down, holds your face in their hands and says “NO, REALLY, the sleep thing could be REALLY REALLY ROUGH”. Our son did not sleep through the night for two years. TWO. YEARS. It was hard! And the first six months or so (I honestly couldn’t give an exact time frame because that period is all so hazy due to lack of memory consolidation) was REALLY tough. He was born about a month early, and had trouble nursing, so he needed feeding basically every hour or so, if not less, for a long time. It. Sucked.
Things did gradually get better, and when we finally broke down and sleep trained him (which maybe I will blog about another time, because it was seriously horrible), things got a lot better. Now we get plenty of sleep…usually. But even when I get enough sleep I’m still so tired just because there is always always more to do or that I should be doing, somewhere. This is where I have to remember points 9 and 8 up there.
4. BUSY AF
Even with accepting limits and asking for help, and even with getting sufficient sleep, the exhaustion is just unavoidable because parenting life just involves so many more things to do than non parenting life. It just does. Suddenly there is this little person who we need to monitor, foster growth in, encourage, expose to all the things we hope to, teach, feed, wash, love, care for, watch, listen to, soothe, nurture, comfort…. and on top of that we have our own lives, selves, jobs and other relationships. It’s just a lot! It’s all wonderful and beautiful, and worth doing, but, it’s a lot.
And we haven’t even hit Kindergarten! I’m sure it will only get more and more busy as things like soccer or drama or hockey or dance or whatever all else rushes in to fill our lives even more. Never mind school and all the social dramas yet to enfold with him and his own fledgling relationships. Or the fact that we are adding a little brother to the mix soon!
This one isn’t all bad though. My life is so much more full of good because of this busy-ness, but sometimes it can feel very overwhelming.
That’s a good word for how significant the changes I’ve experienced are: overwhelming. And also surprising…
The Downright Surprising
That’s right, instead of the good, the bad, and the ugly, I think a better third category would be the “wow, I did not expect that to change”. I imagine this is a very common experience. Plenty of people say that before having kids they used to say to themselves “I’ll never let my kid….” or “I would never…” before having kids, and completely changed their minds once they had them. For me, these last 3 things are really huge ways that I’ve changed as a direct result of becoming a mom that I just couldn’t have imagined.
3. So Much More Active
I know I talked about this up in “the good”, but it really bears repeating here because it is so tremendously surprising how much this changed, pretty immediately after having my first child. Being a “homebody” or kind of lazy person, and needing that introvert, solitary quiet time was such a completely huge part of my life pretty much my entire life up until having kids. Nothing gave me more joy than just being cozy and at home doing very non physically active things every day all day.
Before having our son, exercising felt like such a chore, a punishment for poor eating choices, and a thing to be dreaded. Being social was something I was always anxious about, but forced myself to do here and there because it felt like what I was supposed to be doing. We had a few friends, but we didn’t see them regularly, and it always felt like work to do so (even though, of course we loved them and still do!). It all (and by “it” I mean doing anything outside of our cozy comfy little bubble of an apartment) just felt like work. Maybe work that we wanted, but work nonetheless.
Now being active both socially and physically, while yeah still requiring energy, feels enjoyable. I feel physically and mentally better when I get out and see people, connect, and get out and move. This may seem like common sense to a lot of people (isolation and no exercise are not good for most people!), but it just wasn’t for me until I had a child.
2. The World Matters
Another thing that was a huge change for me was my overall worldview.
“Politics? World affairs? Community? What even are those things? I’m too out of the loop to be bothered”. Besides barely catching some of the highlights of the news and maybe voting a couple times (once, twice?), my worldview and level of caring about what was going on around me was pretty minimal. Maybe it has to do with the absolutely insane political world we are currently living in, or maybe things really weren’t as scary as they are now (eh, I dunno, maybe for me…), but I was pretty good at just shutting it all out for a long time. Being cynical and detached is easy when you’re not gunna be around that much longer anyway.
But then we had kids. And yeah, also a lot of stuff changed in the world too. A lot of change. Some good some not so good. And suddenly there was something on the line: the world my kids were going to live in needed to not fall apart because they needed a safe place to live.
All of this is incredibly selfish and privileged, and just downright not fair, and I own that. I’m insanely lucky to have not been affected by the world and all its ills up until the point of becoming a parent, and I am still so lucky and privileged to only be affected in that I have concerns for my children’s futures. But that is where I am coming from, and it’s better that than just continuing to turn a blind eye.
Whatever exactly the main cause was, I am now so much more aware of so much that is going on around me in the world, and how important it is that people work together to try and improve things. Before my son was born, the idea of going to protests, rallies, or following politics at all seemed like something I would never do, but my whole world view just really did change. 2016 being the year it was, and being the year after my son was born, proooobably contributed to all this.
I have a LOT to learn, but for the first time, I am making an effort to listen and do my part. For the first time, I want to be connected to the greater community around me, because together we are stronger. And, it takes a village.
1. Probably the Biggest of the Big…
Lastly, the hugest way I’ve been changed is that I am becoming a more caring person. Or at least I think that’s the right word (it feels self congratulating to say it that way). What I mean is, my heart is so much bigger. I care more. About a lot of things. Most of all, the people in my life. The love I feel for my family is so much more deep than I ever could have imagined. It’s painful at times how much my heart reaches out to this little clan of mine. I never could have envisioned what that was like before. This is not to say I loved less before, but there is just something, at least for me, about being a mom that makes my heart reach out so much more in new ways–fearful ways, risky ways, brave ways, more fierce ways, more patient ways–than before. Life is all just so much more now and that requires a lot more of me than my heart was required to give before.
Maybe it’s because I am doing so much more, or maybe because there is so much more on the line, or maybe I’m just getting older. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I care, a lot, about this little person (and this soon-to-arrive other new little person), and everyone and everything connected to him, way more than I could have thought was possible.
I think before having kids, I cared about things and issues and people, but I didn’t feel the intense power of connection and just weight of it all. Now I do. And it’s a lot to take in! Sometimes it’s helpful for me to step back and remember just how much more we are doing and being and feeling as parents, to force ourselves to take a breather, or get rest, or remember that it’s ok if we are feeling overwhelmed.
So there it is, the 9 biggest ways I have been changed by becoming a mom. This post isn’t anything all that insightful or educational, but I thank you for letting me share it with you, and hope maybe reading it helped you. Maybe you can relate to what I’m feeling, or maybe you are wondering how you yourself will change in time. Whatever your experience might be, it’s your own, and it doesn’t need to look any particular way. But if you find yourself surprised, shocked even, by how much of a different person (or not!) you are after having kids, know that you are not at all alone.
Are you looking for a therapist who specializes in working with issues related to pregnancy, parenting, postpartum, or being new parents? Check out our listings for Sacramento area therapists at SacWellness.com