By Jane Valentine
Becoming a parent is the biggest change most of us will go through in our lives. It changes how we see ourselves, our partners, our friends, our own parents. It changes our priorities, outlooks, life-plans and ideals. It makes us question very nearly everything we think we know – often leaving us answer-less and even more confused than before.
So what is it that turns our world on its head? For most of us, it’s the fact that we are no longer only responsible for ourselves. Suddenly, everything we do needs to be assessed for risk, and most of us drive ourselves a little bit crazy worrying over every little thing, wondering if it will inadvertently harm that tiny little jelly-bean we’ve already become so attached to.
It’s the knowledge that from this moment on we are the protectors, the providers, the role models, we create the whole world as our child knows it. What we do, the choices we make, what we say, how we act – be that good or bad – will impact upon this tiny little person for the rest of their lives.
Let’s be honest here. This knowledge is absolutely terrifying. Even the most laid back of us tend to go a little overboard on bubble-wrapping the world to make it a good place for our kids, and usually we start with ourselves and those closest to us. For the most part, this is a good thing. By being forced to take a fresh look at ourselves and the lives we’re leading, to question ourselves – even if we don’t come up with a lot of answers – we often weed out a lot of self-harming behaviours and detrimental pursuits. We grow with our children.
But even in a time of such change, self-doubt and turmoil, it’s rare that you ever hear of someone seriously regretting the life-changes and choices made during pregnancy and, subsequently, parenthood. Having a child can be the inspiration we need to finally kick some bad habits and pick up some new good ones, be it giving up smoking, starting some light exercise, changing life long eating-habits, removing some less-than-desirable contacts in your phone book, helping you to commit, reconnecting with previously alienated family members, getting out of a dead-end job or relationship and moving forward to follow your dreams… The list is endless, but all of the changes made seem to be for the better.
There is just something about your child, with those big beautiful eyes, the cute little smiles, the big hugs from tiny arms and the way they look when they’re sleeping that makes everything worth it, and it gives you the strength to change your world to suit the life you have now that they’re in it. Sometimes making the necessary changes in your life can be difficult, and many people struggle, feeling like they should be able to do it on their own. A good thing to remember is that there IS help out there and readily available, and asking for help doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means that you’ve been strong enough to swallow your personal pride and do what you need to do for yourself and your family.
Eventually, you learn to take this parenting thing (and life in general) one day at a time. You realise that no matter what’s happened through the day, so long as the sun rises in the morning it means that you’ve got another opportunity to be the best parent that you can be. From seemingly out of thin air, you find the strength to keep on keeping on day after day – and you find that not only are you enjoying it, you wouldn’t change it for the world. You learn that most mistakes can be fixed, and those that can’t can be learned from.
After what feels like a million sleepless nights, not having time to shower for three days, realising that you haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon, finding a couch covered in nappy-cream or baby powder, the endless hours of research into parenting, the tears, the tantrums, the near constant fear – you come to truly understand the meaning of unconditional love, and you feel it returned. And what about all of those big changes you’ve made? They feel like nothing, because no matter what you thought you were losing at the time, the gain is always so much more than worth it.
Jane Valentine is a young, twice-over single, stay-at-home mum to two amazing little people, a chocoholic, a cheap-wine philosopher, a geek, a gamer, tattooed and pierced, pro-body love and body-acceptance, a certified professional makeup artist, an honest believer in love, a perpetual student, and a lover of all things 5o’s. A strong, independent, intelligent, capable woman who is utterly baffled, lost and insignificant in this great big world, and loving every minute of it. To see all of Jane’s articles, click here.