Now that I'm one year in as a mom, I'm surprised how my attitudes toward parenting have changed. Before I had a kid, I thought I would be bored with a baby. And I subconsciously judged moms who put their careers on hold more than seemed necessary, aka women who weren't obviously "leaning in" like Sheryl Sandberg suggested. After having my own child, my perspective shifted. Don't get me wrong: I still need stimulation and productivity outside of being a parent. But I'm more of a mom than I thought I would be and OK with the fact that it has taken away time from my previous priorities.
Embracing the Lack of Control
When you have a child, you give up some control of your time and emotions. Not only do I have to arrange my life around daycare drop-off and pickups, and naps and meal times, I now have someone I often desperately worry about. That cliché about your heart living outside of you is true.
While we have more resources and examples for women who balance careers and parenting, being a parent today still requires many of us to compromise personal goals. In your personal life, that can mean putting travel on hold or having less time for friends or romance. Professionally, you might have to figure out how to meet deadlines without having the option to stay late at your desk (which is totally possible, by the way). In addition, biases mean women pay a "motherhood penalty," making less money than nonmothers.
Being a parent forces you to have a life beyond your own wants and desires.
As a new mom, though, I've realized there is an upside to losing control. Being a parent forces you to have a life beyond your own wants and desires and can make you realize you have wants and desires you never knew were possible. You might not recognize your daily routine anymore, which can be destabilizing, but chances are it's expanded to include not just satisfaction from work, relationships, and hobbies, but also the warm feelings you get when your child accomplishes a new developmental milestone or gives you a kiss goodnight. It's almost like playing the emotional lottery every day — there are highs and lows, but the highs are worth it. I can only imagine that children add even more depth to your life as they get older and you can have more meaningful conversations and interactions with them.
No More Judgment
Parenting has taught me to truly leave judgment aside. Considering the fulfillment you can get from your children, I can see why some parents would want to work part-time or quit their jobs to spend time with their families, if they can afford it. I also know how hard it is to spend 12 hours straight with a child who needs your full attention, which makes me respect women who decide their time and talents are better used in their careers. I also completely understand why someone would decide not to have children at all.
I'm trying to judge myself less, too. I've spent my first year as a mom working part-time and feel grateful to have this flexibility. I now recognize that before having kids, I had an underlying attitude toward new moms who seemed to be "leaning out." Turns out, I'm one of them.