Almost exactly five months ago to the day, I gave birth to my daughter Louise and became a mother. Some people feel that they become mothers as soon as they know they are pregnant, but it didn’t happen that way for me. All throughout pregnancy, I was incredibly excited, but more than anything, I was curious – Who would my baby be? What would he or she be like? And also, who would I be as a mom? How would I change?
To some extent, I could imagine the answers to these questions, but deep down I didn’t really know. There are countless books, blogs, podcasts, Instagram accounts, and apps that attempt to tell us what we can expect when we have our babies, but none of them prepared me for the moment that my daughter was born. In that moment, I got the answers to all of my questions and more.
The answer that surprised me the most was to the question “How would I change when I became a mother?” The fact is, I didn’t change. I have stayed exactly the same. I am the same woman I was before meeting my daughter, with all of the same insecurities and strengths and everything in between. I expected a huge inner transformation the moment I met Louise, but it didn’t happen.
I didn’t change when I became a mom, but the way I viewed the world around me changed drastically and instantaneously. I began to see everything through the lens of motherhood.
Through the Lens of Motherhood: Work
It is important to me to share that my relationship with work since having Louise has been complicated and difficult. As someone whose company focuses on elevating the issues that are unique to women in the workplace, and as someone who truly loves what I do, I thought that I knew what to expect when returning to work: a bumpy transition, extra tiredness, and a few tears the first day I dropped her off. The ins and outs of the emotions I experienced when coming back to work are enough for an entirely different post, but I will just acknowledge here that it was hard, caused me to question myself a lot, and also that I am very happy to be past the transition period.
Because now, when I look through the lens of motherhood at my work, I am beyond grateful to do what I do. I am the mother of a daughter, yes, but more important, I am the mother of someone who is going to be entering the workforce themselves in twenty or so years. I want that workforce to be one of transparent parity. I want her playing field to be equal.
So now, even if it is still difficult at times for me to drop her off for the day, or especially when I have an engagement that calls for me to leave before she wakes up in the morning and/or stay out until after she is in bed, I am excited to be doing what I do. Through the lens of motherhood, I can clearly remember the impact it had on me to see my mother working hard and passionately about something she cared about, and I can be grateful to show that to my daughter as well.
Oh, and also, through the lens of motherhood, I am better able to determine which tasks are actually urgent and which tasks can wait until morning. Or at least until after bedtime.
Through the Lens of Motherhood: Friendships
Before having a baby, I worried a lot about if my relationships would suffer. I worried that I would always be too tired, or too anxious about leaving Louise to spend quality time with the (other) people I love. I worried that my “new mom schedule” would take over my personal life and frustrate my friends, especially those that don’t have kids. Honestly, I worried that I would not want to prioritize my friends in the same way I had before, or that I would simply let relationships fizzle out.
Again, it is important for me to be honest here that it has not been completely easy. It has not been the exact opposite of all of the scenarios I worried about, but it has been much, much easier than I expected to remain in rich relationships with my friends, for a few key reasons.
The first reason is that my husband Reid often knows me better than I know myself (especially when I am tired.) He has been adamant from the very beginning of our parenthood journey to encourage me to spend time with my friends. He makes it incredibly easy for me to make and keep plans. It is amazing, and something that I am so, so thankful for.
The second reason is that I now see my relationships through the motherhood lens. I look at my friends and am grateful for them and the way that they love my daughter. I see my friends and think about how lucky I am, and more than anything, I see them and think about how excited that I am for Louise to find her friends, too.
Through the Lens of Motherhood: Self
Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, the way that I view myself has changed since becoming a mom. I am much kinder and much more forgiving with myself than I was before. This manifests in several ways – in the way I view my postpartum body, in the way that I allow myself to rest when I need to, and in the way that I allow myself to feel the feelings that I have without (too much) judgment.
Of course I am not perfect at any of these things all of the time. There have been many instances where I want to cry when trying on clothes, or pushed myself to do something instead of sleeping or having quiet relaxation time because I thought I should. There have been times that I have questioned whether or not my anxiety about motherhood is "normal," or been ashamed when I hear another mother talk about how she "couldn't wait to get back to work."
But now, through the lens of motherhood, when I struggle with these types of moments, I am able to see the other side much quicker than I would have been before. I am quick to challenge the concept of "should" – I should have lost the baby weight by now, I shouldn't relax when there is work to do or laundry to fold, I should be more excited to go back to work. When I start shoulding, I am able to understand where it comes from and dismiss it before it becomes too deeply engrained in my mind.
I wanted to have a baby and am so thankful that I can now see my life through this lens. However, I wish that I had not waited until becoming a mom to start viewing the world this way. I encourage anyone, with or without kids, whether you do or do not want them, to construct your own "lens" through which you try to see the world and your place in it. Ask yourself – How can you see yourself in a kinder light? How can you appreciate your ability to do the work that you do? How can you appreciate your time with friends more?
Whatever lens you see the world through, I encourage you to try to make it one that encourages you to see it this way. It's pretty great so far!