Motherhood

The Unexpected Ways Motherhood Changed Me

Motherhood was going to be different for me. I’d weave my kids into my work, life, and travels, and would just continue my life with a baby in tow. And I wouldn’t be one of those moms who always worried or felt guilty when I wasn’t with my baby. My life is wildly different than I thought it would be and in the end, I couldn’t be more grateful to have been so wrong about what motherhood would look like for me. If you’re expecting or hoping to become a parent in the years to come, please don’t let those words scare you. There’s less time to worry about how life might change or about how clean the house is because there’s less time and energy, but that’s not a bad thing. I am a better, happier, more confident version of myself. 

Before becoming a mom, I did not fully understand the work, energy, and sacrifice that went into the role of a mother. I honestly thought moms who stayed at home tried to make it all sound harder than it was to feel better. I was a nanny and caring for kids wasn’t that hard, so being a mom couldn’t be that hard, right?  It sounds so terrible writing this, but that mindset shows you how we value women and mothers. 

Then I had my first baby. 

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about motherhood, especially this last year. On the role and work of mothers, and how little credit we give them. Moms who stay home with their kids often struggle with their role and financial contribution. Moms who work outside the home feel guilt for not spending enough time with their children. Success is defined by a salary and moving up in one’s career, and the role of caregiver is not one we value as we should. 

Here are the unexpected ways motherhood has changed me. 

I know what matters

Before I became a mom, I completely immersed myself in my work – it defined me. I didn’t know how to turn it off or unplug, and that’s still not the thing I’m best at, but I’m getting a lot better. I’d work out or go to dinner and get back on the computer to keep working. The success of my company and what others thought meant too much to me, and I left myself very little time to slow down. This is not to say that nothing mattered before I had kids, because that’s not true. Life can be full and meaningful whatever path you take, but becoming a mom and eventually, my daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis forced me to make some big, life-altering changes. The things that really mattered changed. The way I prioritize my happiness, wants, and needs is so different than it was my first year of motherhood because I’ve come to learn that taking care of myself makes me a much better mom to my girls.

 

My priorities shifted

Before Margot got sick, I worked nonstop, our nanny was with her 40+ hours a week. I wasn’t happy but didn’t think change was possible. When Margot was diagnosed, I was forced to stop everything and completely focus on her every hour of the day. Once we got through that, I made some big changes, stepping down from my company, and now, three years into motherhood, am in the best place I’ve been in a long time. Would I undo her diagnosis? Of course I would. Since I can’t, I’m going to take these silver linings and run with them. I know how lucky I am that I don’t have to work full-time – it is a privilege that I do not take for granted. I’m slowing down, enjoying moments with my girls, husband, and friends. What we went through was horrible, but I also know what a gift life is. 

 

I started working on myself and my anxiety

Anxiety is something I’ve always struggled with, but as a mom, I was forced to get it in check because constant worry comes with the territory, and it’s no way to live. I’m taking better care of myself and making mental health a priority again (as we all should). I started seeing my therapist again and after an especially difficult year, went on medication to get my anxiety under control. As a parent, I’ll always worry, but I’m learning to better cope through therapy and with medication.

 

I’m more confident

I used to second guess every decision and spent too much time worried about what others might think of me. When you become a mom, something shifts as you become more confident in your role as a mom. There isn’t time to worry about what other people might think about the way you parent. There’s a ripple effect, and for me, I started to feel more confident to the decisions I make, relationships with others, and even my style – decorating my home, what I wear, etc. Confidence in myself took time. It wasn’t until almost three years into motherhood that I posted this photo. For the first time, I see myself so differently. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

I learned that perfectionism isn’t a thing

Pre-kids, my home always had to look perfect. Chairs pushed in, nothing on the counters, made beds, laundry was always done – it was perfect. Both girls’ rooms weren’t ready when they were born. Our basement was a disaster most of the last three years, and there’s always stuff everywhere. Our house is still clean, but the stuff piles up, beds are often unmade, and the laundry is another level – and that’s ok. One day, I’ll miss how small they were, but it isn’t possible for things to always look perfect and to prioritize the things that matter more. 

 

I know the importance of asking for help and having friends

This one is pretty straightforward, but there is no way to do this alone. Friends, mom-friends, and family are so needed. It really does take a village. Ask for help and show up for your mom friends. Motherhood can be so lonely. We need each other.

 

I think more about others

When Margot was a baby, I made the change to clean beauty – I wanted more sustainable options that were safer around my baby. I can’t help but think about the planet, other mothers, their babies, and the struggles so many families go through. Childhood cancer was a cause I donated to before it impacted my family, but after Margot was diagnosed, I knew I needed to do more for families in treatment. We’ve raised over $105,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Lurie’s Oncology Department, and I’m not done. 

 

I’m more kind to myself

Being a mom to girls made me change the way I treat myself and how I talk about my body. In my 20s, I pushed myself to the point of getting shingles – working late, going to CrossFit 4-5x a week, and rarely experiencing down time. Do I like how soft my stomach is right now? No. But do I obsess over it? No. I treat myself the way I hope my girls will treat themselves. For the first time ever, I am a lot less hard on myself, and I have my beautiful girls to thank for that. 

 

How has motherhood changed you? 

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  • Motherhood is an alternate reality. Ten years into this wild, messy, hard, sweet, wonderfully chaotic role, I can’t even remember what life was like pre-kid! Did I actually sleep in on Saturday mornings and eat hot food and wear white clothes?

    I really appreciate you highlighting how society so often overlooks the role of women and mothers in their position as primary caregivers. We are literally raising the next generation and can influence the world for good by empowering our children to be loving and empathetic, hard workers while focused on self-care, independent and yet reliant team-players, headstrong and open to feedback – full of curiosity and life. But this is all so hard in a culture where we’re made to feel constant pressure to be more, do more, accomplish more, produce more. So gold star for being such a vocal proponent of the importance of our role as mothers!

    http://elisabeth-frost.com

  • I just had my third baby 10 weeks ago. He was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in utero at 32 weeks. He required open heart surgery at 3 days old to survive and I was induced within our local children’s hospital as to give him a fighting chance. I went into this pregnancy thinking I knew everything – I have two boys (4 & 2), both the product of preeclampsia and very difficult pregnancies. I thought nothing could surprise me. His diagnosis shifted everything. Motherhood has made me strong, a baby with a life threatening condition has forced me to admit I’m fallible. Living in the ICU forced me to admit that I can’t do it all and that depending on our community to help take care of our kids and put food on our table isn’t weakness – it’s a reflection of how we value and treat our friends and family. I also used to be afraid that motherhood would force me to lose myself – instead I’m so much more confident and secure. Motherhood takes almost everything from you but somehow it gives back even more.