My hair is a little crazy (most likely unwashed) and I haven’t got a bit of makeup on. Who knows if I’ve even washed my face yet. My child is on my hip. She’s looking off into the distance thinking about what she’ll crawl after next. I’m examining this photo and thinking about how this could definitely be looked at as a less than perfect selfie. If I would have taken this photo a couple of years ago, without the baby in it, it definitely would have been deleted. Actually, I probably would have known better than to even take it because who actually takes a selfie, knowing that they’ve just woken up and haven’t even put on makeup yet? Oh yeah, that’s right, a mom would take a selfie like that when her child, who usually hates bows, has got a bow on her head and she doesn’t seem to mind it. For whatever reason, you keep buying new bows and each day testing out whether she’ll tolerate them, only to pull it off immediately when she gets fussy. But not today. So now you’re looking at your front screen with a proud smirk on your face thinking, “look at how beautiful she is.”
Since becoming a mom, my priorities have changed drastically. My tolerance for certain things has increased (the imperfect selfie, a cluttered home), while my tolerance for other things has decreased (unfulfilling friendships, boundaries being overstepped). Some people associate becoming a parent with making sacrifices and settling. In my experience, I have definitely made sacrifices but I’ve also taken some really positive actions.
The first example I’ll use can definitely coincide with the term “settling”.I have always been extremely resistant to the idea of buying a house in my hometown. I’ve had the fear that if I buy a house here, I’ll never leave, and I’ll never step out of my comfort zone to see what else the world has to offer. I’ve realized a couple of things. First of all, buying a house here does not necessarily mean I’ll never leave. Rent is crazy expensive so we could always rent it out while we live elsewhere. It’s actually a really good investment that could give us the means to move in the future (think about that!). Next realization, family = home. Since my child has been on this earth, I’ve realized that she is my world. Anywhere that I am with my family, is home. So, I’m okay with the idea of moving across the country together but I’m also okay with staying where we are. I’m no longer worried only about what is in my best interest but also, my daughter’s and my family as a whole.
When I think about the term “settling” the idea of making excuses comes to mind. I often guilt trip myself for not being more involved in current events and failing to be aware of what’s going on in the world. I tend to make excuses such as, being too emotionally exhausted from being a mom to think about all the bad things going on in the world. Or, I don’t want to hear about child sex trafficking because that hurts me too much now that I have my own child. I’d rather not discuss politics and upset people because I’m too busy focusing on my child to have an in-depth debate with someone I barely know.
Some might argue that these are valid excuses, but I think it’s an area where I need to step up and take more action. I’m realizing the importance of being involved, now more than ever. Certain current events are hard to think and talk about, especially when you have a baby, but it is so important to stay involved so that we can educate our children. As parents, we are given the power to impact the next generation and we need to use that power wisely. We need to raise more change makers and more advocates so that our society can continue on the positive trajectory that it’s so recently started on. I’m proud of where our society is headed, but we’ve still got a long way to go. In order to teach our children to form their own opinions, question everything, think critically, and never be afraid to speak up about what they believe in, we’ve got to do those things too!
In the same way that some expectations have decreased, other expectations have increased. Ever since becoming pregnant, I started to question every relationship in my life. I was so emotional throughout pregnancy that I no longer had the energy to handle people who were emotionally draining and didn’t reciprocate the support that I offered them. I started to analyze whether people were true to me or whether we had just stuck together since we had known each other for a long time. Luckily, I’ve found that most of the people in my life still have a place there but I’m constantly on the lookout for any type of violation of my personal boundaries. I’m constantly defining those boundaries to myself and always speaking up if someone oversteps, even if that means hurting someone’s feelings (you have got to advocate for yourself, because no one will do it for you!) I also keep my guard way up when I make new friends. As much as I don’t like to make the excuse “I don’t have time,” a fake friendship really is something that nobody has time for.
My next example also began during pregnancy and can be summed up in two words: emotional awareness. Becoming a mom might cause some to think about their own childhood and upbringing. This process can lead to uncovering some unresolved trauma. I’ve realized how important it is to discuss the thoughts that you try to push away from the surface, in order to find peace with those thoughts. If you never process your emotions then you will just pass those scars on to your children in some way, who may continue to pass them down for generations. By practicing emotional awareness, I am hoping I can promote a culture of openness in my family. I want to discuss things and face them directly, and always be open and honest with each other.
It is pretty common knowledge that women are emotional following childbirth. A shift in hormones along with adjusting to a major life change can cause a lot of feelings to come to the surface. Processing these emotions can be tough. When I noticed that I wasn’t only out of the “fourth trimester” but I was 7 months into being a mom, yet I was still experiencing heavy emotions and drastic mood swings, I realized that there was still trauma there that needed to be addressed.
I took action in the form of journaling, meditation, exercise, and discussing these feelings with those around me. Often, these practices brought my pain closer to the surface, making them feel counterproductive. I would come back from a run crying, thinking to myself, “why do I feel worse?” I kept pushing forward, staying aware of my feelings and talking about the things that came up as they did. Finally, I feel somewhat healed, but I’m realizing that some of this trauma has rooted itself in me as a scar that I will live with forever, and that is OK.
I want to set an example for my daughter. I think that if I practiced emotional awareness from a younger age, I could have avoided a lot of painful mistakes in my life. But that’s okay because those mistakes have made me who I am and led me to exactly where I am right now. I also want to teach my daughter that she will still make some mistakes too, because she is a human being and we can’t be perfect. I just want to make an example of myself, in the hopes that she can do better.
So, what does settling mean to you? Are you making sacrifices? And is that a bad thing?
To me, settling means finding a place of comfort and staying there. So, by that definition, I don’t feel like I’ve “settled”. I do feel like my priorities have changed and that I’ve made some sacrifices. I’m striving to act in the way that best interests my family. I’m noticing the areas in my life where more action is needed and I’m giving myself recognition for the actions that I have taken since day 1 of being a mom. Also, I’m working hard at finding a balance (I may not be reading the New Yorker cover to cover in one sitting but when I get free time, looking into what’s happening in the world might be more beneficial than scrolling Instagram). And finally, no, sacrifice is not a bad thing. Sacrifice is an honor, just like being a mom is.