It Will Change Your Life
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC
JULY 13, 2017
It often comes up in the moms groups I lead…about how much becoming a parent changes you, often in ways that you could not fully comprehend no matter how many books you read, or how much experience with babies you might have had before you had one of your own.
A while ago I was listening to an NPR story pertaining to a research study on individuals’ perception on how much they will change in the next decade. The results of that particularly study were that most people believed they would change very little in regards to beliefs, morals, world view, and so forth. I didn’t catch the full story, but it occurred to me as I listened, that had I been part of the study before I became a mom, I too would have been part of the majority group. While I feel that my basic beliefs and morals have held fast, since becoming a parent, I’ve experienced tremendous growth and change.
Becoming a parent has changed me and continues to change me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. In one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, there is a piece titled, On Motherhood, written by Dale Hanson Bourke and Submitted by Karen Wheeler. It beautifully captures how becoming a parent changes your life.
“Time is running out for my friend. We are sitting at lunch when she casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of “starting a family.” What she means is that her biological clock has begun its countdown, and she is being forced to consider the prospect of motherhood”
“We’re taking a survey, she says, half joking, “Do you think I should have a baby?”
“It will change your life”, I say carefully, keeping my tone neutral.
“I know”, she says, “No more sleeping in on Saturdays, no more spontaneous vacations…”
But that is not what I mean at all. I look at my friend, trying to decide what to tell her.
I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of childbearing heal, but that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever vulnerable...... Looking at my attractive friend, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself….”
I haven’t posted the entire piece, but it is a poignant description of how becoming a parent changes and continues to change you. In the groups I lead, moms will often laugh about what strong opinions/judgements they held about parenting before they became parents and how those opinions changed considerably once they became a mom. This pertains not just to opinions that impact us on a personal level, such as discipline techniques for example, but reverberate onto a wider scale to political and global as these issues sometimes become more personal when we think about the impact to our children or grandchildren. Moms will often discuss for example, issues of violence against children become almost intolerable to watch on the evening news once they’ve had a child of their own.
For me, the most important lesson I’ve learned is to recognize that change is ongoing, and to embrace that as my children grow and change, so do I as their mom. That’s a good…actually, that’s a necessary thing. It’s OK, that I don’t have it all figured out or don’t really know exactly what I’m doing, at every moment. If you talk to enough parents, the ones who are brave enough to be completely honest with you, you’ll learn that they don’t have it all figured out either.
I’ll often ask the moms I work with, what advice they might give to another new mom just starting out, and the message is often the same. Be flexible. Don’t worry about bad habits. Enjoy the moment. Recognize and accept that becoming a parent is an ongoing work in progress. Same days you are on your game, and some days you crash and burn. Hopefully the good days outnumber the bad, but just so you know, nothing is static.
Keep your sense of humor, talk to other parents, try not to judge yourself or your partner too harshly and most of all try to maintain a forgiving heart. You are doing the best that you can, and so is your child. Your 8 week old isn’t trying to keep you up all night, he’s just an 8 week old, that’s what they do….