My baby girl just turned two (more on that next week!) and Rocco is already three. I can’t believe I’ve been a parent for three years already! There are times when I miss my life before kids, but most times, I can’t imagine my life without them. Parenting taught me many things, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.
It really does just seem like yesterday that I became a parent. Now that we are solidly out of the baby phase but still in the toddler tantrum phase, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned about myself as a parent. Here are the 6 things parenting taught me about myself.
I’m much more patient that I realized.
Early on as a new parent, both my sister and my parents told me what a good parent I was and how patient I was. It surprised them that I was doing a good job because they didn’t expect me to take so naturally to parenting. This could sound like an insult, but I don’t view it as one. My family has known me for a long time, and certainly I can be self-centered at times and lack patience too. Before I had kids, I wasn’t a baby person at all. Even when my good friends had kids, I wasn’t all that interested in holding their kids. Perhaps I was just uncomfortable, but mostly, I prefer older kids. What surprised all of us was that I was much more of a natural parent than any of us expected and I was quite patient with my kids from the jump.
I still lose my cool on occasion (like the other day when both kids decided to have a tantrum at the same time, screaming at the tops of their lungs, I literally screamed “SHUT UP” as I walked down the hall to take a breath!), but most of the time, I’m there to give hugs and comfort them, and remain calm and as patient as I can be.
I don’t like when people are unhappy.
I am very aware of other people’s emotions and I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for people. It really bothers me when other people are unhappy and my mood often shifts to how other people are feeling. I always considered this a good trait to have, but with kids, it can be tricky.
My heart literally hurts when my kids cry or are upset. I just hate to see them upset. Jade tells me they need to learn to deal with it, and I do understand that life is about overcoming difficulties and rising above, but I want them to be happy all the time. That is not life or helping them to learn resilience. Being OK with their discomfort is something I have to work on. I need to develop a bit thicker skin and not always cave when they are crying and upset about insignificant things (i.e. I didn’t give them fruit snacks at dinner).
I need to find curiosity again.
One of the best things about childhood is being carefree and curious about the world. Kids aren’t bogged down with life challenges, they aren’t aware of the negative aspects of our world, which gives them an ease and constant curiosity. They want to learn, they want to take in information, they ask questions, and they want to explore and discover. There is something so innocent and pure about this curiosity and we lose that as we get older. I want to rediscover some of that carefree fascination with the world. I’m going to try to see the world through their young eyes, recalling that freedom of childhood.
I need to slow down.
As a working mom, I get so wrapped up in all the chores of daily life that I often forget to slow down and just enjoy my time with my kids. On a normal work day, I only spend 2-3 hours with my kids, and the majority of that time is getting them ready for school or ready for bed. With such a condensed time frame, I need to be more present in those moments and not get so wrapped up in making dinner, doing house chores, worrying about the work I just left at the office, or prepping for the next day. I do a much better job on the weekend of enjoying the time with the kids, but I need to slow down during the work week, being in the present and enjoying the simple moments we do get to spend together.
I’m a little OCD.
I’ve always known I’m particular about certain things. I don’t like condiments, I double-check doors to make sure they are locked, when I’m nervous I pick at my cuticles. I’m not like over-the-top OCD, but I definitely have my quirks. My OCD behavior has never really been that apparent, but having kids has heightened it in some ways.
For example, I check my kids’ finger nails very often (probably too often) to make sure they are short so they can’t collect dirt under them. I also get really irritated when they make a giant mess of their toys or color on the table. I try really hard not to say anything to them about it because I believe kids should play freely without too many constraints, but sometimes the messiness really gets on my nerves.
I love my work.
It bothers me that I hardly see my kids during the work week, no question, but I do take great pride in my career. There are plenty of days when I feel intense guilt for not getting to see my kids, for not spending every waking moment with them, for entrusting a lot of their growth and development to childcare workers, but I can’t deny that I love my career.
A while back, I was chatting with a co-worker about being a working mom and he said “you’re good at being a working mom”, or something along those lines. Although I don’t think he meant it in a derogatory way, it could have been taken as “you’re not cut out to be a stay at home mom” or “you’re really good at balancing both work and motherhood”. Either way, I have to agree. I’m not meant to be a stay at home mom. I am proud of my career, I love what I do, and most days, I believe I’m positively impacting the world (in a small way) through my work. My patience has improved, but not enough that I do well being home with the kids full-time. Also, I do think I’m pretty good at juggling my work and family. There are time where I definitely just need to slow down, but overall, I think I’m making it work.
One of my good friends and I had a conversation about ‘having it all’. Can working moms truly have it all? And my friend said the smartest thing. “Yes, you can have it all, but not every day.” What she meant was there are days where I might fail, when I lose my patience with the kids, or I get behind at work because I need to stay home and nurture a sick child, but that’s ok. What I need to remember is that there are days when I’m a total rock star at work and there are days when I get an A+ as a mom, but they don’t have to be the same day, and it’s OK to have bad days too. Her point was, we can have it all if we think of the big picture.
What has parenting taught you about yourself?