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There’s a lot about motherhood that has changed me in ways I both expected and didn’t. I can’t lie: It isn’t all good. I don’t love that I can’t get through a single meal without ending up covered in food, it makes me sad that my hair never looks as good as it used to, and I do miss spending a lot of time with just my husband. But you know what? A lot about this journey has changed me in the best ways possible, and I wasn’t really prepared for any of that to happen.

My life was complex and beautiful before I had a child, and I know that it would have still been a worthy and wonderful life without her. But in addition to the endless compromises and things that have slipped from my reality since having her, becoming her mom has made me a better and happier person in so many ways. And it goes beyond love. I’ve learned so much about life and how to be a better wife, neighbor, and friend just from being her mother. 

1. I’m more generous now. Putting my daughter first has made me feel more satisfied with life in general than I was before.  I’ll say it, I used to be pretty selfish. I loved caring for and doing for my friends and always dedicated myself to work and family, but bottom line? If I was tired, I was going to bed. If I really wanted a pair of shoes I couldn’t afford, I figured out a way to pay for them. Now that I have a child, I have learned the extreme satisfaction and beauty in truly giving to others, even when it takes away from my desires.

2. I have so much patience. I always babysat and adored kids, but I was crying on the inside at the onset of a meltdown, whereas now, I feel differently in these moments. Of course, no one likes a tantrum, but I dig deep, I look at my toddler, and I try really, really hard to understand what’s happening inside. I worried sometimes before I had her if I would be able to find that patience I knew I would need, but it kicked in once she came. And even cooler? The new approach extends past her into the annoying drivers on the road and (pretty much) everyone else who bugs me in a given day.

3. I am kinder to myself now. After spending the years up to having a child constantly beating myself up over body image woes and general self-doubt, I’ve finally embraced myself. Do I love my still-squishy midsection and its adjacent, angry C-section scar? Well, no, I would prefer my old abs. But not only do I not fixate on my post-baby flaws that much, I also cut myself some slack at the end of a hard day. Now that I am someone’s mom, it feels more natural for me to take care of myself better than I did before. I drink more water, walk away from toxic friendships, and forgive myself for the tiny, stupid things we all mess up every day (like forgetting a neighbor’s name or getting a stain on a new piece of expensive clothing), whereas before I would beat myself up over these mistakes for weeks. 

4. I have a newfound respect for my partner. I guess I really didn’t understand what an amazing person he was until my husband became my daughter’s dad. It goes beyond the things he does to support our family on every level; it’s in the way he holds her hand and remembers, just like I would, to grab pacifiers and warm socks when we head upstairs to prep for bed. It’s in the little and the big things: seeing him love her and respect her just like I do, and watching them build their own relationship at the same time. I feel like I have a front-row seat to his best role ever, and it’s an honor to be doing it with him. 

5. I take time to stop and look around. Historically, I was such a rusher. I was in the middle of doing one thing and my mind was already on the next. From career choices to picking up around the house, I felt like I was always running through everything. It kept up a bit after I had my daughter, but once she started moving around I realized I was going way too fast. Now that she walks, at the cute little pace that her toddler-legs will take her, it’s forced me to stop more, to look at rocks and smile at neighbors. And simply her existence has taught me that time already flies by too fast, we don’t need to force it. Now, I put my phone down as often as possible and have learned how fun and special even the in-between moments can be. 

6. I have more compassion toward other kids, and strangers in general. Being yelled at often by a tiny person who is growing at a rapid rate and cannot communicate everything she feels with me has taught me a lot. Children need compassion, they need you to care. I used to see a kid throwing a tantrum in public (even worse, on a plane!) and do an inner eye-roll. So annoying. Now I get it; it all means something. The tantrums are indicative of all sorts of different things going on in there and as a mom, I need to be there to help. As an onlooker, I don’t need to add my eye-roll as it’s completely useless. It’s not just kids — we all have our moments, and my daughter has taught me to be less judgmental and more open, to give people the benefit of the doubt because I never really know what’s going on inside.

7. I’ve given up on wanting my life to be perfect. My inner perfectionist still loves things to look great, but I’ve learned a lot about real life since becoming a mom. It was so much easier to try and make everything around me “perfect” before I had a baby. She’s messy, unpredictable, and not interested in carrying out my vision at all. And now that I have her, I realize how silly all of that was. Sure, I get stressed out when I’m on a work deadline and a babysitter cancels, or when my toddler pulls all the clean, folded laundry out and litters it across the floor. But I get over it and move on. I know now that life will never look “perfect” again — but it’s an amazing, freeing feeling. I’ve also learned that I don’t care so much about that anymore, and now the pressure is off, so I can just focus on being the best mom and person I can be. 

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