At nearly thirty years old and after 8 years of marriage, my husband and I had a daughter. Seven pounds and four ounces of pure bliss. We brought her home from the hospital... and then our lives changed. WE changed forever.
In the almost three years since my girl was born my life has been turned upside down and inside out. I've heard some young girls say they don't want to have babies because it will "ruin" their bodies. Of course we who are wiser and less self-absorbed chuckle at their youthful ignorance. And yet, here I am as a mother to an almost three year old and I can now say that I truly have been "ruined." Here are seven ways my daughter ruined me...
My Need to be Right
Some people really have this sickness. I always did. It's a strong need to be right about everything. To argue a point, even at the expense of someone else's feelings. Some live life with a strong sense of self-righteousness and seem to feel "called" to point out everyone's mistakes, shortcomings, and to educate others on the "right" way to do everything. When we behave this way we seem to feel it is somehow appropriate to make judgments about other people's lives.
"He took three weeks of paternity leave. (insert eye-roll) How ridiculous. Can't his wife figure things out?"
"She returned to working full-time when her baby was only six weeks old. I'm so sad for her. I guess her mom will be raising her baby..."
"I can't believe she started feeding her baby solids at only four months old. Doesn't she know babies should be breast fed only for at least six months?!"
"I always take pacifiers and bottles away from my kids at one year old no matter what. I can't believe some people let their toddlers continue to use pacifiers and bottles! Such lazy parenting."
"She stopped breast feeding her baby at eleven months. I guess she really wasn't 'mom enough' to stick it out to at least two years."
I'll admit that I used to really think I had life figured out. Becoming a mother wrecked that illusion. They say that the more you know the more you know that you really know nothing. So true. It may also be something that comes with age, but I am less worried about judging others lives and more focused on living my own.
The need to be right is so exhausting. I'm really no longer interested in what others think of my parenting. But more than that, I am wayyyy less interested in judging others parenting styles. I really don't have the energy. Just love your babies, love your spouse, do the best you can with what life gives you... and we're pretty much on the same page. The way we do things might look different. I might have my kid in a stroller with a pacifier and you might be wearing yours on your back with an amber teething necklace in his mouth. We're both okay. Both of our kids are okay. We can be friends and not eye roll each others unique styles.
My Need for Perfection
I have to admit, I am so much less efficient than I was before I became a mother. In my office I was a machine knocking out projects and getting a huge thrill out of crossing things off my to-do list. My transition from the work world into "working from home/stay at home mom" life was rocky. But as I slowly adjusted I became so much less type A. I now live for the days of doing nothing but painting with Crayola watercolors, baking banana bread, grocery shopping, watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, making dinner, cuddling on the couch with my family, and baking healthy cookies
with my girl. I'm really okay with a slightly messy house; we live here. I am less bothered by my frumpy clothes; they're perfect for sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor and finger painting. I'm no longer stressed about being a "success" because my daughters smile is my promotion and her hugs are my bonus.
When I was a mom working outside the home I found that perfection was my enemy. Feeding my daughter all organic, homemade baby food was not a reality. Whenever I was home with her I wanted to be with her and not just cooking for her. So I would feed her a pouch of baby food and a Mum-Mum while tossing a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner. We were fine.
I look at pictures of myself from the year before my girl was born. Wow, what a difference a few years makes! I now look a little more tired, I have grey hairs, I'm chubbier, my skin looks older...
Just as I begin to feel dismay at "letting myself go" my daughter will walk up to me and fluff my hair and say "mommy, you hair so boo-ful!" Or she will give me kisses and tell me I'm pretty.
I'm most certainly not the carefree, spontaneous person I was before becoming a mother. There are no weekly date nights at cool restaurants. My car is filled with Cheerio crumbs and empty juice boxes. My husband and I went to see Coldplay... and took a baby along. (Stop with your judgment; She wore ear protection and it was a safe venue.) We're not kids anymore. We have a kid.
There is nothing like having a baby to make you grow up. Or, it should anyhow.
Perspectives change, schedules change, priorities change... we grow up.
Oh sleep... sweet sleep...
Now I'm just so thankful for the sleep I get. Even if it means being kicked all night by a pair of adorable little feet... at least she's sleeping! I'll never take a full night of sleep for granted again.
My Blissful Ignorance About the World
It used to be that I could watch the news without being quite so affected. Now I have a sweet, innocent little person to protect and guide through her life. And it's terrifying.
I am so very aware that the world does not love my daughter the way I do. There are some terrible people sharing this planet with the rest of us. At moments I have to pull myself back from falling into a pit of fear. It's scary to be a mother. I could either live in sheer terror at the thought of everything that could go wrong, or I can work to make positive change in the world. I can make my world a better place every day by sharing, caring, smiling, loving, being generous, bringing the good out of everyone around me... this style of living empowers me to live without being bound up by fear.
(Also see And Then I Wrote a Rant...)
My Alone Time
I do enjoy being alone. I like peace and quiet. Not all of the time, but for at least a few hours a day. Being alone is something that I rarely experience anymore.
Everywhere I go I have a child with me. Strangely enough it's not a burden. She's my sidekick. My life is now completely entwined with the life of this little person. I NEED her in my life.
Clearly, a "ruined" me is a better me. I'm not a perfect mother. But I love my daughter and I do my best for her. I'm okay and "okay" is pretty awesome.