Becoming a parent changed my life in so many ways, as it does for most new parents. Some of those changes were fun and amazing and wonderful; other changes were exhausting and even frightening. It is a challenge to narrow all of the life changes faced by new parents down to the five most significant ones. To that end though, and in an attempt to help parents-to-be understand the types of changes they can expect once the new baby arrives, here is a list of the five most unexpected, but powerful, life changes that I experienced when I became a parent.
1. I immediately understood my sense of purpose in life. I know it sounds corny and made-up, but it’s true. The first moment that I heard, saw, and held my first child, I was changed profoundly. Immediately my existence was meaningful beyond expression. For a girl who had spent most of her life up to that point feeling a little lost in this huge world, this particular change brought on by becoming a new parent was a welcome one. Admittedly, it was an unexpected change in myself. But in all truth, those first few moments continue to be the most powerful of my entire life. I have never been the same.
2. My capacity for love increased immeasurably – Another of the most powerful changes I experienced when I became a parent was that my capacity to love seemed to multiply exponentially. It is fair to say that I’d had some rough years as a child and teenager. So, like many other people, I had put up emotional walls long before my first child was born. However, becoming a new parent quickly transformed my heart and mind. This change I experienced when I became a new parent expanded my ability to love, and in turn, to be loved.
3. I began to recognize my own potential in life. This was another unexpected change I experienced when I became a new parent. Very quickly, I began to learn to discern between what I perceived to be good and bad parenting choices, and the effects those choices had on innocent children everywhere. When I began to understand that I was capable of being an outstanding parent, I also began to recognize that I could be outstanding in other areas of my life. And while my best energy and attention is still focused on raising and educating my children, my successes as a Mom have given me confidence to believe that I can do well in other endeavors. As soon as I have time to pursue those endeavors, that is.
4.Over time, I began to appreciate the parenting struggles my own parents had faced over the years. As a new parent, one of the changes I began to experience was the ability to have compassion for struggles that my own parents had faced as they raised young children. I recognized that I was parenting with more emotional support, more financial resources, and more guidance than my parents had ever had available to them. What’s more, is that my parents had a lot to do with that. Of all the changes I experienced as a new parent, this was one of the most important. Whether I knew it or not, I needed life to teach me that my parents had done their best, and that their best really had benefited me to a great degree. And it continues to benefit me profoundly, nearly twenty years later.
5.I became vulnerable in a way that a person can only experience by becoming a parent. The most difficult of the unexpected and profound changes that I experienced when I became a new parent was the new vulnerability that I found I was now facing. Loving a child the way you do as a parent also makes you more vulnerable than you have likely ever been before in your life. As much as becoming a new parent can lift you up and fill you with joy, you also begin to understand quickly just how much you stand to lose. The thought of losing your child under any circumstances is not just frightening; it’s overwhelmingly unbearable. A new parent’s lifelong plight becomes to simply keep their child well and safe. In a world where that is becoming increasingly difficult, this particular aspect of becoming a new parent can be one of the most challenging to navigate.
There is no arguing that there are many changes in a new parent’s life after a baby is born. There will be many changes that new parents will know to expect, such as sleep deficiencies and extra laundry. While countless books and articles have been written on these topics, far fewer have focused on the most meaningful changes that new parents will experience. Although becoming a new parent changes your life in many ways, these are the changes that have proven most significant to me.