How Having a Baby Made Me the Best Version of Myself

Spoiler: Having a kid didn’t make me perfect.

Shocking, I know – but having a baby has made me the best version of me, to date. Is there still room for improvement?

Oh, yeah. But baby, oh baby, did having a kid change me for the better.

It helped me cut the crap

I suppose, given the amount of literal crap you have to deal with as a mother, this entry sounds ridiculous. Really, though, nothing helps you sort out what is and isn’t important like having a baby.

After years of being a chronic procrastinator, nothing got my productivity and time management on track like being on a baby’s schedule. Psychic Mommy Forecast predicts this nap won’t last longer than half an hour? You can bet I skipped my usual Tumblr scroll and jumped right to the task at hand.

Having a kid helped me tell that whiny voice crying “I just don’t feel like it” or “I’m bored” to shove off. What needs done has to get done. As for that free time? Oh, you bet I’ve got a list of indulgences just waiting for the moment the little goober is peacefully napping and all my other work is done. I still get my Netflix on, but it’s a carefully guarded treat, not a black hole of half-hearted binge watching.

It helped me see beyond me

There’s nothing quite as humbling as having a tiny, precious human that you carried through vomitus morning sickness and delivered through a combination of blood, sweat and tears. There’s nothing quite as nerve-wracking as having that tiny human out in the world and dependent on you for everything.

Hey, that’s parenting. Whether you’re a new mom or a new dad, your whole world has fundamentally shifted. You’re no longer the axis of your own world and, honestly? That’s a healthy, necessary bit of ego bruising.

Not to mention, having a kid gives you a whole lot of empathy for and insight into those harried parents you used to sneer at at the grocery store or mall. Now instead of an “I wish they’d just leave” eye roll, you find yourself wondering what part of the parenting-in-public gauntlet they’re currently running.

It helped me take better care of me

Having limited time and a little pair of eyes watching your every move certainly changes a lot of your habits.

Taking eating well, for example. Sure, a 1-month old doesn’t notice if I’m eating all my veggies, but a 10-month old definitely does. Not to mention, if I’m not eating well, I’m not functioning well. If I’m not functioning well, those normal baby mishaps – spit-ups and blowouts and tantrums, oh my! – transform from molehills into mountains.

The same goes for sleep. You sure do lose a lot of it when baby first arrives. That’s when you learn to prioritize your own sleep. Another episode of TV or an extra half hour of sleep? Sleep. The answer is always sleep. As a bonus, it’s totally acceptable to take your own nap while your little peanut is taking theirs.

As for a bit of recharging me time, it may be a bit harder to come by as a parent – but it’s doable when you humble yourself and accept help. Having a kid made me realize how often I used to try and do everything by myself, even when I didn’t need to. Now when a friend or family member gives an open-ended babysitting offer, I immediately turn that offer into an agreed-upon, calendared event.

It helped me improve my life’s bibliography

For all my high school teachers and college professors who tried to instill a love for reliable sources and questioning the narrator, nothing really drove that home like having a kid.

Well, actually, I owe a lot of thanks to my cousin. When I announced I was pregnant, her only piece of advice was to pick one pregnancy resource, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” or a similarly well-reviewed book, and stick to it.

In true me fashion, I didn’t listen to her. During both pregnancy and early motherhood, I flipped through countless books and surfed endless websites, mommy blogs and comment sections.

Oh, the comment sections.

I was overwhelmed with contradictory information that left me drained, confused and constantly labeling myself as a failure. Months and months after I received my cousin’s advice, I finally took it. I donated all but one go-to resource book. I picked one reputable website and left the blogs and Google searches behind. I realized that if one out of four parents don’t use car seats correctly, I was better off checking the manual instead of seeking bad advice in comment sections. More importantly, I made my goober’s pediatrician my first stop for advice and information.

That change was so refreshing that I started applying it to my whole life. I became more skeptical of Facebook-sourced news stories. I researched and committed to a few reputable news sources instead of mindlessly absorbing whatever floated my way on social media.

Committing to quality over quantity when it comes to information has been life-changing.

It helped me take no crap

Babies are no angels, and strangers love to comment on your life choices. True facts. Luckily, the first really helps you deal with the second.

Kids are going to be, well, doo-doo heads. They’re going to be naughty – on purpose, or through sheer luck – and they’re going to push your buttons. After seemingly endless trial and error, I finally learned to be Zen about it. That doesn’t mean I don’t parent or correct bad behavior when necessary, but when it’s just a ploy for attention or kids being kids? That’s the time to keep a straight face and move on with life.

That straight-face-it-and-move-on attitude really helps with those unhelpfully nosy strangers. Being rude back or trying to change their behavior didn’t work. Keeping cool and using time-honored tricks to handle nosy questions? That’s what works.

Sure, I have a lot to learn. I know parenting a school-age kid or a teenager will put me through some uniquely refining fires. So far, though, having a baby has helped me be the best me I can be.

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