Having a baby changes everything. Four parents tell us how becoming a mother or father has changed their outlook on life.
I remember my first week back at work after maternity leave – once the initial anxiety and tears were out of the way – there was a lightness that I hadn’t expected. It wasn’t just about the hot tea, or regaining identity. It was the realisation that little things didn’t matter anymore.
I have the clearest recollection of a sunny April afternoon, walking back to my office after visiting my baby daughter in crèche during my lunch-break. I remember thinking about an impatient, snappy email that I’d received that morning, and realising that it really didn’t matter. It was the kind of email that in days gone by would have halted me in my tracks on my return to the office that afternoon – burst the bubble I was in after seeing my daughter. But not anymore. It just didn’t matter.
I had finally learned the truth of ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ – taught to me by a babbling six-month-old. In terms of freedom and ability to go places, my world was smaller than ever, but inside my head, my world was indescribably bigger. I had managed to get my daughter up and out that morning before going to the office. I’d ploughed through a mountain of work. I’d seen her smile at lunchtime. And I’d had a very tasty coffee on the way back.
And that’s the flip side – while I no longer worried about small issues that had seemed so big before, conversely, I also now appreciated the small things that were good. Like coffee at lunchtime, like a glass of wine on a Friday night, or a family trip to the park on a Saturday afternoon. I think I’d call it perspective – I’d finally got some perspective.
Find more from Andrea at Office Mum
It’s terrible to admit but I’m probably a bit more irritable at times since becoming a dad. Kids can do things that no-one else will ever do, they know how to play you and you can’t ignore them as you can others. This is especially acute since I became a stay-at-home dad as you never really get a break. So when my wife is home I make sure I get time for myself, a run or going to Toastmasters and I meet with other parents weekly.
Growing up I adopted some of my parent’s bad habits, like taking sugar on my cereal and tea. But when my first was born I thought that I should lead by example so I cut out sugar so that my kids wouldn’t follow in my example. I’ve always been interested in gaining other people’s opinions on child rearing, but I believe that I’ve been more understanding of those whose parenting style is different to my own.
I might not always agree, but each to their own. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I am convinced that I’m turning into my dad. I’ve also found that I am quite ambitious, keen to set good example for kids by eating healthily and exercising, but also to encourage them to the best they can be academically, socially and to be self confident and happy.
Becoming a mother has changed me in ways that I never could have imagined. I was never someone who went out every weekend, so that side of things was never going to be a big deal. Now when we go out, it’s usually with the baby.
We go to restaurants, have days out, and we even went to Fuerteventura when Billy was just four months old. I suppose I didn’t realise just how much you can actually do with a baby. In that regard becoming a parent gave me a whole new lease of life.
Every day is now an opportunity to have a great day with my little family. Even the days where I’m at home all day with Billy, I try to make it a great day in any way that I can. The simplest things such as popping him in to the sling to go for a walk gives the day great meaning. It’s a whole new level of contentment and I find that I am living in the moment a lot more. I am also someone who has always suffered from anxiety, and becoming a parent has really helped with that.
Suddenly I am not the most important person in my universe any more. I worry less because parenthood means I actually do more. I have a perfect little human being to look after now, and for that I am eternally grateful. I try to not waste time worrying so much as life is for the living. Children have a great way of reminding you of that on a daily basis.
Find more from Tracy at Love of Living
Oh stop it. Stop it. Sorry. It’s just that I can’t stop laughing. Because every time I think of the question ‘How did parenting change me?’ I just burst out laughing. Because there is no ‘me’ after having a child. It’s beyond change. And having three children, which I have, it’s beyond grammar’s ability to express. And, yes, you drop the old you, and the old you’s habits immediately.
Drinking is the first thing that goes. Why bother? Who wants to be hungover at 5am, or repeatedly at intervals throughout the night, with a tiny vulnerable life-form dependant on your rational abilities.
Conversation is happily obliterated, either by the physical reality of a screaming baby, or by the not-unconscious replacement of discussions about politics, culture or social issues, with observational chatter about offspring.
You eat better food, but less of it (the good food is for them, you make do with the off-cuts). Your work becomes more stressful (Must work harder! Must provide! And yet must be at home too! Arrghhh!). Your holidays become educational. You suddenly acquire a new posse of baby-related friends, just as you lose old childless buddies.
You move house, to somewhere bigger, but further away from the hub. You go grey, you look knackered, you’re always tired. And yet, all these things are somehow trivial. Because you, who you thought you were, don’t exist anymore. You are this organism, sharing space, breath and soul with another who lives through you, and who you love more than life. There is no change because there is no you. Only ‘you lot’. And that’s where the fun begins.
Kevin is the author of Last Night On Earth – (Little Brown).
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