What it’s really like, here on the other side of maybe

My friend* Randi Buckley is a coach who has been doing some amazing work with a program she calls Maybe Baby, for women who aren't sure they want to become mothers but are afraid they might regret it if they don't. Her program is designed to help you sort out your conflicting feelings and come to peace with whatever decision you make. She wrote a piece last Friday that just knocked me out, called "Afraid of whom you might become–in motherhood."

In that piece (which you should click through and read) Randi talks about how many of the women she's worked with in Maybe Baby have been afraid of who they'd become when they were mothers. And how all the platitudes of "It's a love like you can't imagine" just didn't help.

I was so struck reading her piece, because we've spent almost seven years here (seven, people!) talking about revisioning ourselves/picking up the pieces/crying through it/becoming more badass after becoming parents. I honestly haven't thought about pre-baby fears about who I'd be since before I had a baby, 10+ years ago, because I've been too busy playing–and helping you all play–the hand we're dealt.

But reading her piece, I got this vivid picture of what it could look like here on this side for people on the other side.Tired, worn out, cranky. No energy for anything creative. Endless posts about potty training and T ball, pictures of first days of school and Halloween costumes. Not sexy, not confident. Not doing anything but react to whatever bodily-fluid-covered problem you step in right then. Bored. Settling.

Keeping your hair dry and styled instead of diving under and swimming to the other side of the pool.

That's not even remotely how I feel about who I am now that I'm a mother, though, and I think it might be useful to think about how this whole truly strange experience can affect you by separating out the experience from who you are. I think of it in terms of 1) the conditions you experience, 2) the state you're in at any given time, and 3) who you are.

The conditions you experience range from fantastically wonderful to brutally disgusting. You will have a sweet little baby sleeping on your chest. You will be the first person to see another human being smile. You will be pooped on and puked on. You will be sleep-deprived for months or years. You will doubt yourself to your very core. You will experience soul-crushing weakness and euphoric strength. All that crap about "a love you've never imagined" and "your heart walking around outside your body" is about the conditions you experience.

While you're going through those conditions you'll be in a state of being. Everything from serene beauty to terror to exhaustion to resentment to adoration. You''ll be the woman pumping on the couch at 3 am feeling like nothing but a milk-making machine. You'll be the flabby unhappy person who wonders what you do with your days. You'll be the strong ecstatic person who helps her kid ride a bicycle.

In other words, becoming and being a parent is like any other intense experience. There are extreme highs and extreme lows and those are going to shape who you are.

The experiences themselves are not who you are. Your state of being while you have the experiences are not who you are. They form who you are, but they aren't you.

So I'd suggest the following questions to think about:

Are you ok with having the experiences of parenting in the first place? (And I don't mean do you WANT to have the experiences of parenting, because who wants a poopsplosion, really.) Because if you aren't even willing to have those experiences in the first place, that is very important to know (and completely valid) and you don't have to go any further.

When you have had intense experiences in the past, have you been happy with the ways you've changed as a result of going through those experiences?

Do you feel like going through something intense has made you stronger, or has weakened you?

Is there anything about the experience of parenting that is different from other intense experiences you'd had that you think could make you change in a different way through parenting?

Are you willing to play the long con? Because the changes in who you are don't always show themselves for what they really are until your children are out of toddlerhood, at least.

 

And now I'm going to ask for some data points. I'll start: I am stronger, more resiliant, more confident, better at making decisions, more patient, more compassionate, more empathic, more focused, more light-hearted, more loving, and I have released fear in a way I never thought I'd be able to. I've been a parent for 10 years, so I've had time to see these changes. (If you'd asked me 8 years ago the list would have been shorter.)

Readers? What do you have to say about who you've become as a result of becoming a parent?

 

 

* We met at summer camp in 1987! Seriously. The same summer camp my older son went to this summer. And then ran into each other again a few years ago on FB, and got to hug each other in person at that camp again this summer. Crazy, no?

73 thoughts on “What it’s really like, here on the other side of maybe”

  1. I’m not in a place in my life right now to answer the big questions – I turn 40 a week from today, I don’t have a job for the first time since my kids were born, and I’m not sure that I want to do when I grow up right now. But I will say that the metaphor I came up with when my kids were little was that becoming a parent was kind of like joining the army. “The toughest job you’ll ever love,” and it certainly changes you deeply, and it’s really hard for anyone who hasn’t done it to see the other side.

  2. I’ve been at this for fourteen years. I am smarter because of what I’ve learned from my kids. I’m more relaxed. I know how to prioritize. I’m less judgmental. I’m kinder. I’m funnier and more fun to be around. I never worry about what I could be missing out on because this is where I’m supposed to be.

  3. I taught special ed preschool for ten years before becoming a parent (11 years ago). I was very confident in my teaching. The tough cases were put in my class and I helped many teachers get started. I knew I could teach any child of any ability. I figured there wasn’t anything about parenting that would throw me. Fast forward…. Being a teacher did make me a better parent (one class in behavior management should be taken by all parents!) I still believe I can teach any child (except either of my own who listen to nothing from me). I know I am a different/better teacher now that I am a parent.What did I not expect? The really truly permanence of it– they don’t go home at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, sick or have to pee, they come first and it gets expensive to hire a “sub” for more than a couple of hours!
    I have more patience for the parents of the kids I teach. I see both sides of the desk now. I am more flexible and more accepting of different styles of parenting and teaching. For me, both my roles have improved me in the other role.

  4. I’ve only been at it for going on four years now, so I’m still new to the game. Still, I’ve learned so much. I’d say it has changed me for the better. I am less judgmental and have a lot more confidence in myself now. I know that I can function on little sleep if need be, and I learned about myself that I really lack patience, something I work on daily.Like Jesse said, I now prioritize really well. I have always been a worrier, but having kids has actually helped me to worry less and focus on the important stuff, the big picture stuff.

  5. I never imagined NOT being a mother, but before I had kids, I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be one. My oldest will be 6 in a couple of months, and I’ve definitely learned a lot. I’m more grown up, stronger, feel like I can handle it when challenges are thrown my way. I’m more confident in myself. Seeing my children blossom reflects back on me. There’s nothing like the pride you feel when your son is proud of himself.I’m far less judgmental about some things and far more judgmental about others. My kids force me to reevaluate my own personality and habits because, of course, when we see reflections of ourselves, we see the things we don’t like more than the things we do, and who is a better reflection of yourself than your kids?
    But I would never have found my passion in life, may calling if you will, if I hadn’t had kids. I had no interest in childbirth, breastfeeding, etc., until I went through it, but now it’s a defining part of my life, including “what I want to be when I grow up” (far from the religion major I started out with!). I’ve ACCOMPLISHED more because I know WHAT I want to accomplish.
    Yes, there’s the poosplosions and the vomit and the potty training and the endless “why” questions and the worry (oh God, the worry), but those aren’t important in the way that those other parts of parenting are important. Those are passing problems, nuisances. It’s like, yes, if you own your home, you have to deal with getting your carpets cleaned and replacing a bad toilet and fixing a garage door, but you have the pride of ownership and the joy of something that is YOURS, and something to pass along.
    Not that having kids is like buying a house (well, in some ways it is? haha), but it’s the day-to-day versus the big picture, and the big picture is… well… I can’t think of anything more profound to say, but people have kids for a reason, no? It’s the perpetuation of who we are and what we want this world to be.

  6. Nobody is going to say anything negative? Fine, I will.My body is bigger and softer than it used to be. I don’t exercise as much and overall I have a lot less time for myself. I am often surprised at my own lack of patience – I am not as willing to sit and play and follow my kid’s lead as I had thought/hoped I’d be. Babyhood was hard but as the kid gets older and is able to do things on their own once in a while it gets easier. Also, even when I think I’m doing things right I’m getting judged by others for doing things very very wrong.

  7. I am 8 years in. I’m more competent and confident, MUCH more efficient at work, better at prioritizing and more compassionate. I’m also far from the physical shape I’d like to be in, my personal style is professional in a techie way but hardly glamorous, and I’m much less likely to be available to run out for a couple drinks tonight. I have less time for non-kid, non-work interests than I used to, especially contemplative ones like reading; I have a lot less patience with childish behavior in adults (my 8 year old can do better! is a hard one to get past), and I am protective of my time and very frustrated with anyone who wastes it. Also, dare I say it, my sex life, while lovely, involves less frequency than I’d like or would have thought I’d settle for. Would I have another? Hell no. Is this one one of my favorite things I’ve ever done? Hell yes.

  8. I suspect my perspective may be a little different. I finally came to parenthood after a decade of infertility. I had a pretty decent sense of self coming into motherhood. (Of course, that was shattered by the birth of my child.)I was actually at the point where I was resigned to living child free, when we got the chance to do IVF. I very keenly felt what I was missing, and it really hurt. I will not ever forget that pain.
    The opportunity to do IVF was a gift, and we are very grateful that our 2.5 yo child was the outcome. We love him dearly. (Which only goes to show that I am still in the thick of things, so my perspective may be off…)
    But…it definitely messes with who you are and how you do things. It sent me into depression, which I did not catch until child was about 2 yo. I am in counseling and feeling pretty good, but I am not off the meds yet…I find I have to really make an effort to keep that sense of self and who I am
    There are good things, and bad things about parenting. I find myself bitching about the same things all parents do. I also find myself annoyed at things parents do. (Changing your profile pic to a photo of your child/ren? Your child is not who you are!) I still do not feel comfortable around pregnant women, and anything which glorifies motherhood simply rubs me the wrong way. Motherhood is not the be-all end-all for who I am.
    Things will not be the same as they were before, and you have to be willing to take the chance that they will be good (if different) with a child in the picture. That can be hard in a society where everyone wants a guarantee.
    Sorry a little long, and a little rambly.

  9. I’m 6 years in.I never imagined doing anything different with my life (no career aspirations: Let me stay home and be a mama!).
    But what I *also* never imagined was how intense and demanding and time-consuming it is.
    ________Parenting is NOT just a new job description.__________
    It is a totally life-changing, identity-changing, earth-shattering *new reality*.
    Keeping hold of your old sense of self is not optional; you get rocked. You may be an improved version when all is said and done, but the transformation process can be pretty brutal.
    I miss certain freedoms of my old life. Most of all, I MISS BEING SELFISH WITH MY TIME!!! (I really miss playing WoW with my husband!) I miss having the option of self-centeredness. Even if I have brief respite from the full onslaught of parenting these children, they are still a part of me and being their mama affects all my decisions; there is no escape from the awareness of your identity as parent.
    I can’t think of another role that you could choose that you seriously can *never, ever* take off again.
    As for my data points: Of course I’m an improved version of myself. But I would expect to improve upon myself regardless of what vocation I choose in life.
    I am not always in love with the kind of mama I am (quality varies in direct proportion to the sleep I’ve gotten), but I am deeply satisfied with my own personal growth and development over the years. When I catch glimpses of the Me that I am when I’m not just being Mommy in kid-world, I get excited for the future when I’m not quite so in the thick of child-rearing!

  10. I am 6 years in with two active boys, and am hopefully still in the midst of “becoming”. Although I am very confident in my parenting skills, I’m not so sure that being a mother has made me a better person at this point. Aside from poor health and general exhaustion, I’m just not a very fun person right now. I look back at the person I was before I had kids and don’t even recognize myself. I joke with my husband that in the 17 years we’ve been together he has hardly changed at all, and yet I am a completely different person. I sincerely miss the old me, and don’t know that she is ever coming back. I wish I could imagine a me that I was happy with and plot a path to get there. But I’m too tired ;)The good things I can say about myself: I am strong from carrying around a 37 pound toddler. I still have a wicked sense of humor. I know a little about a lot of things. I can accept that I have changed, and look forward to further evolution.

  11. Kids are a refiner’s fire. They have burned out (or are int he process of burning out) a lot of my imperfections as a person. I am so much stronger. I am much more patient although I am still learning even more patience. I loved before I had kids but the depth of my love for my kids surprised me. They have also taught me that love is not a finite thing. I was always a bit worried that having another kid would tap out my love supply but that has so not been the case. I have learned to be more tolerant of other’s flaws.

  12. I didn’t feel like I comletely became ‘myself’ until I became a mother. Like, I was pretty self-aware and self-contained after being a single career woman for many years, but once I (got married and) had children, I felt like I was where I’m supposed to be / doing what I’m supposed to do in a very profound way for the first time ever. My kids brought me to myself. I am far more confident, secure, and grounded now, because my decisions have so much more impact – not just on me any more. Therefore, my victories are sweeter and my failures are heavier. Also, I feel like I understand other people better, being able to look at Them as someone’s baby or someone’s mama. I am a far, far better version of myself as a mother than I was before.

  13. 7 months in.I never planned or wanted to be a mother. I got to make that decision, as many people do, in the weeks after realizing I’d missed a period and somehow gotten pregnant with an IUD (fun times!). I would not think myself less of a person if I hadn’t chosen this path, but I cannot now imagine it.
    I am fatter but prettier. I am more tired but have more reserves than I ever thought possible. I am just as funny as I ever was. Sometimes I look around at the, well, baby crap lying around and looking all bright and plasticky and tacky around my wood floors and bookshelves and old carpets and wonder how the hell I got here (my cousin said, upon seeing the place, “well, this looks like the house of a single mother”). The my baby wakes up and I curse the fact that I’ve spent my fleeting free moments pondering how the hell I got here instead of, like, reading, and then I go get him, and then we take care of whatever tragedies have ensued (diapers, hunger), and then he wants to go go go and I am exhausted but he grins his big grin and I find myself grinning, too. Then I wonder if he might possibly like to go back to sleep or, I don’t know, read a book or something. I hear eventually they sometimes do this on their own. 🙂
    I don’t go out much, but then, I haven’t gone out much since I started working full time some years back. I am better friends with my friends who have kids and not as good friends with my friends who don’t. I don’t drive a minivan. I am friends with people I would otherwise never have gotten to know.
    I have always been a worrier, but now I worry less about the idiocy of the government in conducting world affairs and more about my baby’s ear infections. I think this may actually be an improvement.
    I’m smarter and more self-protective. I still love to read and write, and I still do both, albeit in fits and starts.
    I still stay up later than I should.

  14. 6.5 years in, with older boy and 4 year old girl. Far less patient than I used to be, and directly affected by sleep deprivation. Always stressed, anxious and worried, when I never used to be. 18 for my son seems really, really far away. I have to remind myself constantly to enjoy the few good moments with him and the many good moments with my daughter, and not let the really bad, no good, awful, terrible, scary, humiliating moments that are almost constant with him take over the rest of our life.I didn’t plan on having a child like this, and I’m afraid it’s going to break my spirit permanently.

  15. I’ve been doing this for 7 years, and I’m at a really low point right now. I don’t feel like parenting has made me a better person. Instead, it is a huge mirror that reflects all my flaws back to me in a harsh, unforgiving light. I love my children but I don’t always love being a mother. I resent the constant demands on my time. I need time alone like I need air and when I don’t get it, I’m awful to everyone around me. My children are not turning out to be the people I hoped they’d be and I feel like that’s mostly my fault.I guess I’m surprised that so many people find motherhood so empowering, because for me it’s been anything but.

  16. Anonforthisone, I just want to say that you’re not alone. So much of what you wrote I could say also. I love my daughter dearly, but I’ve had long stretches of not really loving being a mother. Like you, I feel like parenthood draws on strengths I don’t have, exposes my weaknesses, and leaves me dragged out and raw.And yet — my daughter is amazing. But that feels so often like it’s in spite of me, rather than because of me.

  17. I’m with Dr. Confused, carmiem and Anonforthisone: lack of patience, worrying, enhancing my flaws. My world feels smaller. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, but I don’t like the person I’ve become.

  18. I’m only 7 months in. And this has tested me like I never anticipated and I could never have guessed the toll that our particular arrangement would take on me. I’m efficient, I’m in control, I always have a plan….and this kid has cut me off at the knees. Not him, personally. Just motherhood in general. We had baby because we wanted a child, and because (see ”have a plan”’ above) it seemed to be the right time. My husband is two classes from finishing a degree that will dramatically increase his career options. I have a great job that meant he could essentially be little man’s full-time caregiver last summer and this semester, meaning that for my son’s first year, we knew we had a solution for child are that isn’t an option for many. But….while I’m so grateful that my husband is the father he is, and has the bond that he does with our son, I’m shocked at how irrelevant I feel, as a mother. Yeah, I pay the bills. Yeah, I do much of the housework and laundry. Yeah, I work full-time. But it hurts that I don’t have the same relationship with my son, and I’ve struggled with feeling like ”a mother.” It’s broken me in ways I never anticipated. I do have hope for what the next few years will bring. But right now? I feel like a weaker version of myself…

  19. I’m more tired, but do well on far less sleep. I’m more practical, and also more likely to see the wonder in a small object, or throw aside all plans focus on hunting tigers and elephants for an unspecified while. I’m about as patient but better at pretending I’m patient when I’m not feeling it. I’m more forgiving of myself, and more angry at people who are careless and selfish (though still more willing to forgive). I never was short on empathy, but I have vastly more empathy now, especially for children.I’m more politically active, because small decisions will impact my children, and larger ones will not just impact my children, they impact all children and the generations to follow. I feel more deeply – injustice hurts more, bigotry hurts more, love and beauty sing louder, I can be overcome by emotion in ways that I could not have imagined before.
    My body was reborn with each child. Hips broadened, joints shifted, sexual responses changed, immune responses changed (allergy symptoms are entirely different now). I had to relearn me, as well as learning my child. Some of that has been fun, some annoying, some confounding (my mom at least warned me that part was coming).
    I understand my parents better, and understand people who freak out on their kids better, and understand PPD better (joy). I understand *less* the people who won’t fight for their kids. That confounds me also.
    I rediscovered some of my humor (of which I have little). I’m still learning (relearning) how to play. I’m more open to structure (which I was never fond of), and more in awe of passion, and am slowly learning how to value people who like clear hierarchies, propriety, rules, and social order (because I have a child who does).
    At work, I am more aware of human dynamics. I am more open to my coworkers needs as parents – AND as single people with family responsibilities of their own. I am not easily shaken, because really? Nobody is bleeding, or at risk of dying here (my heart goes out to healthcare workers with kids, separating that must take some effort!). My level-set for emergency is driving my 18-month old child to the ER, not sure if he is losing consciousness in the carseat. Stress max for me is spending a year and a half going through specialists and visiting the children’s hospital twice a week trying to find out why the hell my child is not growing. Lost a half-million-dollar project bid? Still not on a par for stress or crisis. And I have finally settled in to the idea that I am the primary income source for my family, and yes losing my job would be a catastrophe, but we’d find a way through.
    Over time, my kids have also refined away my need for perfection, because they’re doing a really good job growing up with my imperfect parenting. I’ve been working on that separately for a long time, but they’re kind of hammering it home.
    The way the landscape is different ‘here’ is like someone who was hearing impaired (not profoundly deaf, but ‘fuzzy’) and visually impaired, getting hearing aids and glasses at the same time. I remember when I got glasses as a child, being surprised that you could actually SEE the individual leaves on trees. Clouds weren’t vague fluffy things, they had clarity and edges and shape. Parenting was like that, making the world come out in detail, powerful and clear and a bit overwhelming. Eventually I integrated the additional inputs and stopped feeling like I was constantly drinking from an emotional and experiential fire-hose. It settles in.
    I will say that the single/childfree people I know make the same transitions in life, overall. They just do so more gently, over a longer span. They become stewards of the earth, animals, community, they engage in passions that differ from mine but have the same kind of deep feedback. It is just not a 2×4 to the head approach to the change. My older/more mature childfree friends are mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in the same place I am now. Some of the younger ones are definitely not there yet, but having seen it in the others, I expect it will follow. And some maybe won’t get to the same place I am, but will end up somewhere else that is of value to them and the world, and is therefore something I can relate to.

  20. @hmmmmm, Dr. Confused, and others who don’t like the narrowness of their world or the way they are in it right now or the too-clear picture of all their own weaknesses (yeah, HATE sitting and playing games with my kids, HATE DESPISE CANNOT BEAR! Check out Mother Styles, it’s myers-briggs for moms, bet you will see your strengths and skills and areas to develop right smack on your type, like me… me: hate to sit and play games, love to lecture… plus some good stuff, too!)… anyway, I would say that is partly that we are all different kinds of parents with different kinds of kids and each age brings out different things – and it could be a stage of the process. Ask me six years ago, and I’d have said I lived with blinders on, only handling the next moment, unable to think or feel in the overwhelm, more snappish, more needy, more angry, more disappointed, and always ALWAYS lacking the skills my kid needed when my kid needed them. They grow ahead of me, and I’m always catching up. That’s still true, actually, but I’m more okay with the fact that there is no way on earth for me to grow the skill they need before I know they will need it. Not even for children 3 and 4, because they need different things than the others did! GAH! Acceptance of that fact helped a lot.Some of the rest of the raw and scrambly and narrowness of life is a feature of being tired all the time. It takes a bit to recover from once the sleeping returns, too. Not to mention just plain old logistics hell. Running from one place to another. I have to schedule time to have a conversation with ep that isn’t about who is picking up whom and when I have to be home from work and whether that form has been filled out and who has a homework project due. But. It’s shifting. I have more brain (parenthood increases your brain power, but you don’t notice because it is being USED constantly), so now when there’s a gap in the constantness of life, there’s chance for WOW moments and insight. We also had to intentionally NOT go after everything the kids wanted (activities-wise), because we don’t think the value is enough to merit the crisis level of logistics. But we’re now at an age where that is a choice, and it isn’t a matter of basic parental responsibilities. Mr G can actually go home on the train if I can’t get him at school. The kids solve their own problems much of the time. I have nowhere near enough time in my life but the cause of that is not the kids, it is my job, and it is a choice, not a mandate. And I’m really okay (now) with rarely being the parent my kids need me to be in the moment the need me to be that, but instead working to get there, and sometimes getting lucky on the intersections of need and skill. They’d rather I was perfect, sure. But they seem okay with this being a conversation, a back-and-forth, a negotiation toward resolution, ongoing collaboration, and a constant miss-and-fix cycle. Hey, at least they’re all comfortable with the idea of making mistakes, because they live with people who mess up, recover, mess up, recover, mess up, recover, mess up, recover, endlessly.
    Add in that with no sleep and too much to do, it is very hard to articulate any kind of goal other than ‘get through to bedtime by any means necessary’ and life kinda sucks. We do best when we manage to articulate common goals. FINDING a common goal on any given day is… er. well, notsoeasy.
    It does get easier to see the good results AFTER about age 10. At 7, er, flickers. I have two over 10, now, and two 7, and if it was just the 7 I would be going: um, I did okayish with one, but what in me created this little power-control-consumerist-manipulating mean-girl-I-hated-in-school??? I am not like that, we are not like that, how did we get that?
    But … not fail, opportunity. Chance to do it again, new season, new opening for growth and pruning, new time to move things around, ALL the time. It’s all gardening and tending, and the results are still very very far away – the garden never looks right in the middle of setting it up and pruning and figuring out what works where. Neither do kids. And neither do we, for that matter. Hang in there, and I hope you find that another phase of the process brings out things you like in you.

  21. I don’t really feel like motherhood has changed me much at all. I’m a little more patient with children, I guess, and a little better at managing time out of sheer necessity. I did get counseling after the birth of my first, though, and that helped me give myself permission not to change, not to give in to the pressures of what other people think a mother should be.But I’ve only been parenting for 7.5 years, and I’m currently back in the middle of the deranged sleep-deprived baby stuff with our 2 month old and trying not to let our 27 month old drive me too crazy. My perspective is going to be skewed for a while yet.

  22. I want to say I’m calmer, but that’s the wrong word. I have a longer perspective, and a different understanding of the passing of time. I see the bigger picture in ways I did not or could not before I had children. My opinions of others tends to be gentler, as I understand now that everyone was once a baby, even politicians or individuals that I might otherwise wish could be blasted to some far-off galaxy. I often feel more frustrated, more strangled, by my obligations. I am keenly aware of any lack of options, for myself or my daughters. I feel fear that is sharper and more desperate. A whole world of ways to fail has opened to me.I am always hesitant to categorize mothering (parenting) as an experience that provides something *more* than the experience of not having a child. Certainly people without children are experiencing lifes pains and pleasures as acutely as me. Kierkegaard talked about either/or: “Oh, if you marry, you will suffer. If you do not marry, you will suffer.” He was, I think, I hope, being wry. The type of pains and pleasures we feel as parents are different, in some ways, from those that do not have children, but we all are walking though life, being and becoming… human.

  23. Mother for the last 7 years. I had no plans of becoming a mother until I met my (now) husband and he brought me into his realm of balance, calm and confidence. After 5 years of that great life, I was ready to see myself as a potential mother. My most important change was that I accept my feelings, good or bad, instead of swallowing them and burying them far far down so I don’t feel any of it and they are not real anymore. Pretty big change. I cry at the end-of-school show the kids throw, imagine that, someone who did not even cry when she was sad. What a earth-shattering difference. I am a different person basically.

  24. @rudyinparis: “The type of pains and pleasures we feel as parents are different, in some ways, from those that do not have children, but we all are walking though life, being and becoming… human.”Amen.
    I’ve seen mothers and I’ve seen childess/childfree people grow through their respective experiences. Having a child might make you see things differently but so can caring for adult loved ones in need, joining the Peace Corps or simply engaging with the world outside your window.
    I resent people who think that you aren’t truly an “adult” until you become a parent – heck I was recently frightened by a single father at a party who told me he wasn’t truly an adult until he got divorced!
    Sure, there are emotionally stunted people without children, but there are plenty of emotionally stunted people with children! Eavesdropping on conversations at the playground/soccer field/PTA coffee social will prove it.
    I don’t believe the old adage that “parenting makes you a better person”; I believe that facing any set of challenges is going to force you to grow- maybe not at the same speed or in the same direction, but we will all ultimately grow.

  25. Having a bad day so I don’t think I should answer except to say that Carmie’s posts rang true for me. Less patience, sleep deprivation and my own flaws coming back at me x100. Read something in Bitch magazine last night that summed it up nicely. In brief, other cultures offer women child care help, health care, extended family, a different set of expectations for motherhood. They get alot and expect less from women in return. American culture demands everything and offers up absolutely nothing in the way of support for women so is it any wonder we might be brittle and exhausted? Yay for Moxie for filling the void.

  26. Here’s a quote from an old Ask Moxie question: http://www.askmoxie.org/2009/09/28/“If I’d gotten married to someone who was good for me and who I really had that connection, I’d probably be a happy mother of three living in a place that wasn’t a crappy NYC walk-up apartment with no dishwasher or laundry on premises. But I’d also probably be the judgmental asshole I was back before I admitted that I’d made some massive mistakes, confronted why I’d made them and how to free myself from the crap that led up to it, and let myself experience the failure fully.”
    I think that experiencing failure is probably the best path to growth, regardless of whether or not you decide to have children.

  27. I can’t say becoming a mother has made me any more confident at all. It’s just made me more aware that when I hesitate or don’t speak up or agree to things maybe I don’t want to, I’m often doing all of that on behalf of another person, too. Sure I’m fiercely protective of my child and but that doesn’t really come up in everyday ordinary situations.I never wanted to have kids. My own parents weren’t stellar. Then I lived with someone who had a preschooler and my heart’s desire became to have someone light up at the sight of me. I have that now and it IS as amazing as I thought it would be but it was a very short term goal for such a long term commitment. lol

  28. @MeInTx: You wrote, “while I’m so grateful that my husband is the father he is, and has the bond that he does with our son, I’m shocked at how irrelevant I feel, as a mother. Yeah, I pay the bills. Yeah, I do much of the housework and laundry. Yeah, I work full-time. But it hurts that I don’t have the same relationship with my son, and I’ve struggled with feeling like ”a mother.””This really resonated for me – it’s how my husband felt when our son was your age. He’s now six, and in the last few years we’ve traded parenting roles due to some pretty rough necessity (injury/disability/garden-variety financial hellishness) – but the upside is that it’s allowed my husband, as primary caregiver, to have that relationship flower, and to feel the deep involvement as a parent he wanted before. It’s been wonderful for our son, too. In my new role, I don’t feel irrelevant – that original bond endures – but I do often feel jealous of the time they have together. I guess I just wanted to say that you have plenty of time to build that relationship in a variety of ways, that it can change over time, and that your family can be stronger for it. Right now, i remind myself that life is long and that we can make it work in many different configurations, as needed at each time.
    Much more to say on the original question… but in short, I am stronger, fiercer, deeper, more ruthless. I am sillier and less ambitious. I am deeply fulfilled and often dissatisfied. I am still rebuilding.

  29. 22 months in, here. I said to my aunt the other day that “I want to become the person I was meant to be.” Wacky, philosophical, I know. Hard to explain. As it has happened, and I believe in everything happens for a reason, I was meant to be a mother and wife. What I want to be, is a good mother and a good wife. I think it’s up and down, so many posters already said it better here. Some days I feel like an awful mother, that I’ve really screwed up, and some days I feel like today went great, I’m awesome. It’s a learning process. Learning to trust myself. Learning to trust my husband. Learning to trust my child that he knows what he needs. I like that Moxie wrote that the experiences do not define who you are. I find that comforting.

  30. @Lisa: Thank you….really and truly, thank you. I do need to remember that there’s never one right way for each family. Ours is what it is right now, and it will ebb and flow through the years.

  31. More tired. Less judgmental in many ways. Floored by how much I love her and what I’d do for her. Frustrated by what I can’t accomplish because of her, but happier when I am with her and can focus on her. A beautiful high every day when I pick her up from school. Less fearful about many life choices, except I don’t want to screw up too much because of her.

  32. I am more aware of having to be a positive model around my kids (5.5 and 7.5). Sometimes this is easy, other times less so. Stupid things like recycling ( when It would be easier to throw everything in the can) or lining up ( when my natural instict would be to jump queue) or seeing if my backside is too big for a certain piece of clothing, take on enormous importance now that I have my 2 apprentices observing and emulating me.

  33. I have more understanding of others now. Having children has given me a better perspective on how tough life can be, how my mom worked so hard just to keep us fed and clothed. I appreciate my mom so much more.I personally am not more, but less. I think this is because of my husband and his unwillingness to take on more of the household work. If it’s boring and time-consuming, it’s mine. So that means pretty much everything is mine to do. When the boys were babies, he was better because we were in crisis mode. I still had to do all the housework, but at least he took care of the boys while I did it. Now he does nothing unless he feels like playing with them or I will not be home.
    I used to have career goals and a performing career that I was working toward. Having children killed that and I’m too old now to go back to it. It took lots of time and money and those are in very short supply. That makes me incredibly sad. It’s a tradeoff. I could have had my children plus no career or the possibility of the career with no children. I was in my early forties and it was now or never. So I leaped to having children and while I adore them and they are the love of my lives, having them killed my career ambitions and has pretty much ruined my marriage. My husband is so incredibly angry that I would “rather” do the laundry than spend time with him. He just is too selfish in many ways to be a good partner in a marriage with children. He doesn’t understand that he needed to do half the work in order for me still to have energy for him. I keep telling him and every once in a while he does the dishes then tells me that he tried helping and I STILL did chores instead of spending time with him. He doesn’t get it. There is a huge backlog of chores all the time and if we work through them together, we get some free time.
    So all in all–with a different partner this could have turned out quite differently. Had I had the option (denied me by my husband) of having children when I was younger, it might have been a different experience. But this is what I have, and I am grateful to have my beautiful children because I very well could have wound up with no career, no children, and no husband.

  34. Now that I am a mother (coming up on year six of this gig) I wish I could say I was more confident but no, I’m not. What I am, however, is more lighthearted, caring and more able to put things in perspective.before I had kids everything was a tragedy and freaked me out. Since having children I’ve realized that the most important thing is taking care of my kids, that they are healthy, happy, loved, all that good stuff.
    Where I was very judgemental of others before, I am now more accepting and understanding of others and their flaws as I am slowly begining to accept my own.
    I still feel like I’m not the best mother I could be and it’s something I work on every single day and frustrates me to no end that I have not acheived that perfection of motherhood that I hold in my mind. I suppose part of motherig though, is realizing that I will never attain that perfect image I have in my mind’s eye and just do my best to strive for it.
    Lately my conundrum has been do we try for a third. We always wanted four kids but now that we have two I’m afraid I can’t handle any more which reinforces the “I’m not mom enough” negative voice in my head.
    Motherhood definitely is a roller coaster of highs and lows.

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  36. 1. Becoming a Mom was the catalyst to me dealing with a lot of my own issues. I didn’t want to be the parent my Mom was and I knew I lacked skills and lacked an example. So, I came to this site, went to therapy, read parenting books, and learned from my compassionate and nurturing husband. I feel I’ve not only learned a lot about parenting, I’ve learned a lot about how to just be a functional human being and have functional relationships with others.2. I don’t care about being naked in front of people anymore (e.g. in the gym locker room). I bought my first string bikini at age 36 after two kids. For me, once I’d moaned and shit and pushed a baby out of my vagina buck naked in front of my husband and various medical personnel, I just really couldn’t get too embarrassed about my thighs anymore. Then I did it again and really got over it.
    3. I know how to set boundaries with all kinds of people now because I practice setting limits with my kids every day.
    4. I’ve learned how to say “No” and not feel bad about it. Well, at least not too bad.
    5. Working to re-equilibriate my relationship with my husband after children made me realize all good relationships take enormous amounts of care and feeding. Now, when I start feeling resentful or distant or somehow disconnected in the relationship, I know the answer is more dates, more hugs, more talking, more love-as-a-verb.
    6. I’m learning to forgive myself more. It used to be that when I realized I was wrong or being an asshole, I spiraled down into self-loathing and self-pity. Now I realize, it’s all about how you recover from bad moments: acknowledge, apologize, try to figure out what happened and learn from it. The refrain in our house with our kids is “Try again.” And now that’s what I tell myself, too.
    7. I have un-freaking-believable arm strength.
    8. I’ve learned that I’m a great friend. I’ve connected with so many amazing women through motherhood. I know so many “super moms”, women who humble and inspire me and make me laugh. I feel like I got initiated into a sisterhood by becoming a mom. Sure, sometimes your sister can be a bitch or make you feel like the ugly duckling, but when the chips are down, no one understands you like someone who has experienced what you have experienced and it feels wonderful to be able to return the favor.
    9. I’ve discovered my parenting forte: I love projects. Cooking, baking, science experiments, robot building, crafting, research, purposeful outings, reading, making– all a thousand times yes. Playing a wandering game of pretend or desultory legos or making the animals talk to eachoth…zzzzzzzzzz. Luckily, my husband is awesome at pretend and other unstructured activities, so we can tag team.
    10. I am emotionally strong enough to handle my kids negative emotions. Toddler rage, disappointment, annoyance, anger, sadness, worry, saying they love Dad more or think I’m mean or whatever…I can handle it. It’s not always easy, sometimes it hurts like hell, but I can and must and do give my kids the emotional space to feel whatever they feel. That I could and would do this is a revelation to me.

  37. @MeinTXI really hope you are still reading. We were in a very similar situation, in that I had a (rather stressful) job and my husband was a SAHD for the first year of our first kid’s life. Now he is three and both of us have a great relationship with him. One thing that we did was that I hardly did any housework, but whenever I was at home I had the baby. Since I had flexible hours I could get home in time to bring him to bed and I would take him on the weekend, while my husband did a lot of the household. This helped so that both of us could have a good relationship with the baby. Is this maybe something you can try to do?

  38. Another vote for Dr. Confused and hmmmmmm. Not sure I’m a better person as a parent, no matter how madly I love my son. Positive I’m a one-and-done parent because of this.

  39. I am the mother of two grown daughters, and the grandmother of three small children. These five people have taught me what total exhaustion is, what frustration to the point of insanity is, what miserable feelings of inadequacy are. They have also taught me what REAL love is. Has it all been worth it? You bet. I wish I could do it all again. Every poopy, pukey moment. Every moment of liquids dribbling from every orifice. Every moment of looking into the eyes of these little human beings and knowing that their existence is the most valuable part of me.

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