Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cliche: Parenting Changes You

I found it so annoying when people would say, when I was pregnant, "Having a kid changes your whole life." I smiled politely while thinking, DUH!!!! Of course having a kid changes your whole life. I know that. I'm ready for that. You telling me that is insulting to my intelligence.

As I've been a parent over the past 20 months, this little statement has come true in ways I could have easily predicted- you have stronger emotions, less time for yourself, completely different priorities for spending money and time, and new skills relating to patience and empathy. (Hiking in the woods in the photo to the right? Something I did only because I feel like my kid needs to see more nature.)

It's the empathy thing that's interesting to me, because I didn't think people meant that- I didn't think they meant that being a parent changes how you view every other person you come into contact with.

That 20-something lady I stop my car for at the crosswalk at the busiest shopping center in town? Someone's baby.
That 50 something guy driving like an absolute idiot in the same parking lot? Someone's baby!
My student who is being absolutely stubborn about filling out the graphic organizer, who I'm getting really frustrated with because I don't have time to repeat it for the third time? Someone's baby.

That's a lot of pressure! To have to treat other people like they are a former baby? To give them the same respect you hope a stranger or teacher will give YOUR baby, whether they're 11 or 25 or 50? That's a lot of responsibility, but I'm happy to have a refreshed awareness of others. It's easy to be self-centered when you're busy and stressed out about your own life, but awareness of others can give badly needed perspective. That perspective can help you be kind to others when you'd otherwise be impatient.

Of course you can have that patience and perspective if you're NOT a parent- you can try to treat others like you wish your siblings or parents would be treated- but I find the extreme attachment and protectiveness I feel for my own kid is a more powerful motivator. It's so obvious to me how helpless he is, and that makes it easy for me to see how helpless even teenagers and adults are.

It can be a bit depressing to see how some people's babies turn out. I don't mean that in a mean way. I just mean, some of these former babies have difficult lives, and I know their parents probably hoped for something different for them.

Anyway, the cliche came true. Parenting has changed my whole life. Although I'm the same person, I spend my time really differently and I see things in my daily life differently. I do not say, though, to people who are about to have children, "Being a parent changes your whole life!" I get that out of my system by blogging. More people should blog. That way, I won't have to listen to them tell me things I already know, or will discover on my own soon enough even if they DIDN'T tell me about it.


MarathonMom said...

srsly. People should share some real advice like, after you give birth you will be afraid to poop for 17 days. THAT would have been good to know.

You obviously have more patience than me thoughts about those other peoples' babies usually involve WTF?????

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

you are absolutely right. Before I had my daughter I used to watch commercials for things like World Food Aid and be relatively unmoved - afterwards I'd be a mess of tears. Someone's baby! Suffering! And I could feel the suffering of that mama who wanted to feed her baby and couldn't. I wish everyone could feel that empathy, whether or not they had babies.