What parenthood taught me about myself

You know, you go through your life (in this case about 29 years so far) thinking that you’ve pretty much got yourself figured out.  You come to terms with some things (like the fact that you can’t sleep with socks on no matter how cold your feet are or that you can’t say no to a brownie, regardless of what you just ate) and you take pride in others (like your natural ability to organize a party with absolutely no decorations, notice, or real planning and still have a wonderful time).

And then, bam, motherhood hits you.  And all the things that you knew about yourself…or at least you thought you knew about yourself…go right out the window.  Let’s explore what I’ve learned about myself in these last 2 years, shall we?

I am a planner.  I’m not joking when I say that I did not know this about myself.  I have always taken pride in my ability to fly by the seat of my pants (another English expression I do not understand, but that doesn’t stop me from using it on a daily basis) and considered myself a go-with-the-flow kind of person.  I didn’t make specific plans for the weekend, packed up the car and took off to another state with about 5 minutes notice, and couldn’t tell you my agenda for the week unless you meant my work schedule hours.  When I married Jon, the steadiest, most routine person I know, things started to adjust slightly.  We both rubbed off on a each other and molded into a couple that had some plans, but were still relatively spontaneous.

And then Peanut came along (and by came along, I mean we planned out a pregnancy with an exact timeline).  You know what I learned about myself from having a baby?  That I need schedules and structure and dependability.  Being a type-A personality, I realized that I couldn’t control much about this new little addition to our lives so I turned to what I could control – the scheduling.  I scheduled naps, feedings, bedtimes.  I planned out our weekends, making sure all family members got time with the little Peanut.  I wrote out lists for cleaning schedules in our house.

If the 22-year old me could look at the 29-year old me, I don’t think I’d recognize myself.  But you know what?  It works for me and for my family.  It gives us control in certain situations and frees us to be easy-going (as long as our schedules allow for that, hehe).  And most importantly, it works wonders for Peanut, who craves stability.

Along the same lines, I’m also apparently a very strict parent.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to have fun, jump on beds, and run around the back yard.  But there are some things in our household that are set rules and I don’t back down.  Looking back, I guess I could have guessed this one about myself since I’ve always been rather stubborn.

We eat when we eat, we play when we play, we stay within eye sight (ok, this applied to the toddler only) when we’re out in public, and we don’t throw any crying fits.  We don’t hit people or pets, we don’t pull the dog’s hair, we don’t throw food on the floor, and when we go to bed, we go to sleep.  For now, there aren’t many other rules in our household and everything in between is fair game.  When someone (*cough* Peanut *cough*) tries to break said rules, our motto is to ignore things we don’t want repeated or the address the serious things like biting or hitting.  The thing that surprised me the most is that I’m able to stand my ground without giving in without much effort.  One could say it comes natural to me (this is where being stubborn apparently pays off).  And I think that Peanut likes the stability that goes along with set rules – she’s been pretty good about calming down from crying or not starting to cry in the first place from small disappointments (like no TV if mom said no TV) and we’re working through other things (like no throwing food on the ground, even if it is hilarious that Travis will try to fly through the air to catch it).

Another revelation about myself that I’ve had since becoming a parent is that I love sleep.  I don’t know if this is an age thing or a parent thing, but omg do I love to sleep these days.  If I could tell this to my 22 year old self, that person would laugh in my face and say things like, “you can sleep when you’re dead.”  But the thing is that I’m not so sure about that one now…being tired in the morning when you still have to get up at 7am on weekends and perform juggling acts, cook fully nutritious meals, and entertain someone that has the energy of the Energizer bunny on cupcakes is just not worth it.  I used to be able to stay up until all sorts of late hours of the night and even wake up early for work or some other plans.  But the thing is that those other plans weren’t doing circles around me, saying, “mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy,” nor did they require constant worry that the outlets aren’t covered, the chairs are too high, and our scissors are in a drawer that our tot can now reach (I think she grows about 2-5 inches each night).  And you know what?  Those things are tolling.  More tolling than being up in time to shower and go out to lunch or a movie with some friends.

Looking back, I guess I could have predicted a lot of my personality traits just based on the fact that I like control over myself and my life, regardless what form it takes.  When I was younger it was my school grades, my choice in friendships, and my path to a career.  I was a bit wild and very spontaneous, almost unreliable.  As I grew up (am I considered a grown up now?), I settled down a lot, formed habits, formed routines (I blame credit blame Jon for this one) and tighten the reigns in on a lot of aspects of my life.  I’m sure that as my kids (omg, plural) get older, I’ll loosen up more and get back to a more balanced me.  But for now I am who I am (apparently extremely controlling, planning, scheduling, sleepy clean freak) and it works for our family.

Did you surprise yourself as a parent?


Comments

  1. Not really? I mean, parenting itself surprised me some just in the never-ending-ness of it, but not me AS a parent. I suppose having worked at daycares, I had seen myself and how I’d react to the in-and-out of daily interaction with children. So, I continue to have more patience than I would have thought (I can be short tempered generally, but not as much with kids), I certainly insist on rules, but am fairly laid back otherwise. Schedules aren’t really my thing. ;)

  2. We don’t have live-human-being kids just yet, but we have both surprised ourselves as puppy parents. I am the strict one who disciplines and trained her, and my husband is a total softie – the “fun” one. We totally thought we would be opposite of that!

  3. LOVE this!!! I have completely changed too…but I’m glad I was who I was in my early 20s…I got all of the wildness out and now appreciate the comforts that routine and stability bring me:) And sleep…oh, sleep how I love thee:)

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