People are always talking about how much work it takes to raise a child. Between the sleepless nights, endless washing, and supermarket-aisle tantrums, the uninitiated might think it’s a one-way relationship. But babies and children give back in more ways than just sweet smiles and cuddles. Here are just some of the ways having a baby has improved me:
Like most pregnant women, I tried to cut out unhealthy foods. I ate more of those ‘power’ foods like salmon, spinach and nuts, and even eliminated caffeine for nine long months (with the help of rooibos, the delicious South African caffeine-free tea). Now that I’m breastfeeding, I try to keep up my good eating habits, knowing that my diet is fuelling my little girl through my milk. Not only do I eat better foods, but, rather than just scoffing a toasted sandwich in front of the computer, we sit down together to enjoy our food, chat and relax. Here’s hoping we maintain this when work and day care kick in.
2. I’M A BETTER SINGER
I’ve always been a pretty ordinary singer – I mostly hit the right notes, but that’s about it. It doesn’t faze my little one, who loves any sound that comes out of my mouth, from a cockatoo screech, to a comical belch (I know, it’s not a good lesson to teach!). What more inspiration could I need than the unconditional adoration of my fan!? At first, my nursery rhymes were feeble, self-conscious warblings that took place when there were no other adults around. Gradually, I abandoned sung louder, spurred on by tiny smiles of appreciation. Now, I sing so loud I know the neighbours can hear. I’ve even sung in the supermarket aisles. All the practice and added confidence has improved my tone and pitch, and, I’m learning that singing is fun, not embarrassing.
3. On that point, I’m less self-conscious
I have absolutely no interest in what strangers think of me these days, and that has been a radical shift. In my younger years, I was so self-conscious I hardly ever came ‘out of my shell’. But there’s nothing like giving birth to change that – a room full of people have seen you at your most vulnerable: half naked, screaming and leaking bodily fluids from at least one orifice. Attempts at ‘modestly’ breastfeeding in public would invariably result in my cover-all shawl being whipped away by the wind, a tiny hand, or gravity. It was much easier to not care who saw what. ‘So what if that old guy sees my boob?’ I asked myself once, and still carry that mentality. I rarely use a modesty shawl now, and it feels great to feed in confidence, not caring what the world thinks – or sees!
4. I appreciate family more
How great are grandparents!? My baby is lucky to have good ones, who are always happy to see her. It’s lovely to watch my baby and her family get to know one another. I also appreciate my parents more, now knowing first-hand the hard work they put into raising me. I hope my daughter will still want to visit me when she’s grown.
5. I’ve stopped swearing (mostly)
This is still a work in progress; but shit, I’m getting better!
6. I go out of my way to befriend new people
Pregnancy and childbirth has proved to be one of those times in life, much like starting a new school, when you have abundant opportunities to meet new people and make new friends. Those times are few and far between in life. Heaps of others have been thrust into this new world of parenthood and they’re keen to make new friends in the same boat. I’ve found new joy in socialising, and take any opportunity to meet other parents. I’ve even met up with strangers via Facebook: other mums seeking adult company and a listening ear. As a result, I am more outgoing, and hope I’m showing my daughter that she needn’t be the shy child I was. The friends I’ve made through parenthood will be around for the long haul.
7. I’m a safer driver
I was always a pretty good driver, but now I’m really good! There’s something about strapping your tiny fragile infant into a metal box, then speeding down a freeway at 100 kilometres per hour that makes you want to take things easy!
8. I am learning to ask for and accept help
This is still a work in progress, as I’ve always been pretty bad at this, but I’ve come to realise that people actually don’t mind helping. When I broke my wrist, it was pretty impossible to dress, bathe and feed my baby, let alone change her nappy. I was forced to ask for and accept help, and I discovered that family and friends were really very happy to be involved, and make things easier for me. I once read some heart-warming research on the topic: when someone helps a friend, their appreciation of that relationship increases more than that of the person receiving help.
9. I appreciate my partner more
This happens when I see him working hard for us, helping with housework, and not shying away from a dirty nappy. But mostly it happens every night – at bath time, when I hear baby splashes and squeals of delight, and watching him read bedtime stories with enjoyment.
Have you been improved by your kids? Tell us how…