During pregnancy I heard, ad nauseum, “life will change” and while I knew things would never be the same, there are certainly a few things I have gained a different appreciation for since motherhood.
Time to yourself- Work does not count as time to yourself. In many ways, it’s simply another place where you juggle the needs of others against the limits of your patience and good nature. I had a friend who had her first child five months ahead of me and told me about how she would leave her daughter with her husband under the pretense of running to the store for just a few things. She’d get those things, then spend 15 or 20 minutes sitting in her car with a chocolate bar and a gossip magazine. I thought it was funny at the time, but quickly after having my child, I got it completely.
Time to yourself is precious, especially in the early years it seems. I am sure once my daughter is older that will change and maybe I will miss when I was her go-to tea party guest. However, there are times, particularly when I feel more tired and worn down, when I do miss having an afternoon to sit around and read or watch reality TV on Bravo (don’t judge!). Oh lazy weekends, I never appreciated you enough when I had you.
Relationships – From having parents to guide me, friendships that helped me figure out who I was or was not, romantic relationships that in many ways did a similar thing, professional relationships that shaped my career, I’ve relied on relationships in my life, but never quite like I do now. For me at least, the appreciation for my personal relationships, in particular, has never been greater.
My husband and I were together for many years before our daughter arrived. He has always been supportive of my career and accepting of who I am, even when it makes him crazy. Adding a child into our dynamic shifted everything. We both juggle our professional priorities with even more important personal ones. We both get tired and frustrated. At times, I’ve felt we’ve been distant or on auto-pilot and that it has taken more work to reconnect. If you and your spouse or partner figured this out, I say congratulations. It’s something I still muddle through, though it is getting easier. The infant/early toddler years were certainly the hardest for me in this way. I still need his support and sometimes I just need him to take over. I am not always the best at telling him how to help. I admit there are days I just expect him to see my weary expression and jump into action. By the way, he isn’t a mind reader and this isn’t the movies, so this doesn’t often work. I’m not perfect. I’m just figuring it out as I go. But knowing I’ve got someone in the trenches with me on good days and bad, well, that has never been more important than now.
I’ve always been close to my family, but getting that support from them, especially when I feel like I’m struggling as a mom, is a blessing beyond measure. Same thing with friends and I don’t only mean my friends with children. I have some cherished friends who don’t have kids and never will. It means a lot to know there are people in your corner who can cheer you on, pick you up, then pick up some wine when necessary. They may not always have the same life you do, but you know they love you and I am grateful for every single one of them. Writing this made me realize I think I need to tell them that more often.
The varying quality of children’s programming – Ok, so I couldn’t let this post be entirely heavy handed. Between daily TV and episodes or movies running during road trips, I have logged the hours seeing/hearing a variety of shows. As any parent who has spent their time around the “Groundhog Day”-like world of children’s TV shows, (how do Scooby and the gang still think there are actual ghosts?), you learn to have your favorite, or at least less annoying selections, and those you just hope are a quick, passing phase.
Prior to having children, I was blissfully ignorant of all of this. It’s a different game when you have to actually pay attention to what your child is watching and believe me, there is certainly a quality spectrum. Ever endured an episode of Special Agent Oso? If so, then I need not say more. If I have a second career, I think I’m going to develop a children’s cartoon series, because honestly, if some of the stuff out there can actually make it to the air, I think I’ve got a shot.
I could list other things, but really what it comes down to for me is that motherhood changed my life in about every conceivable way. Not just how I thought about myself, but how I related to other people and what was or was not important to me. Like I say, often, though it feels more like survival than anything else many days, parenthood is still one awesome adventure.