When it comes to talking about parenting, we often hear Moms and Dads recite some version of the phrase “It has completely changed me.” And it’s true, but never did I imagine that a child would be the most instrumental teacher I’ve ever had without her even knowing it. In fact, until she came along, I didn’t know I had so much more to learn about myself.
Here are 7 things I’ve learned about myself since becoming a parent:
1. Worrying creates problems that don’t exist: Before becoming a Mother, I thought a lot about what the future held. Would I find a career I like? A home? A boyfriend or husband? Would I ever write that book? Do I have time? Now, I’ve learned to live presently. If I’m constantly wondering if things will be “OK” I’m missing out on the happiness right in front of me. Knowing that children pick up on stress, I quickly ditched my fears and embraced the moment.
2. I can love unconditionally: I’d always fallen in love easily. I’ve learned that there are different degrees to which we love, all of which are wonderful in their own way. But, as much as I liked the idea of loving a partner unconditionally before, I never knew what it meant or if I were capable of such love. My daughter taught me that I am.
3. Monopoly money is better than the real thing: Don’t get me wrong, if you offer me $1000 with no strings attached, I won’t turn it down but money does not motivate me at all. As a writer, I’m not caught up in stats like page views and likes and shares. I am more concerned with producing a genuine piece that is capable of moving the reader or at least opening their mind to a new perspective. I left my full-time sales/events management job last summer to become a “starving artist” and I’ve never been happier.
4. Labels are for clothes not people: When I think about judging someone for being x, y or z, I also think: well what if my daughter grows up to be x, y or z. It really helps put things into perspective and look at everyone as if they are doing their best.
5. Home is not a map dot: Starting in my early 20s, I traveled and lived around the world. From Haiti to Hawaii; Saipan to Lake Tahoe; Maine to South Korea, I feel like I’ve only brushed the surface of what I want to see. For a while, I was insecure about my lack of desire to “plant roots.” As a single mother with a 6-year-old daughter, we’ve been in and out of apartments as well as my parents home. Seeing that my daughter was showing all signs of being happy and feeling stable, I finally came to the realization that home is not the four walls where we spend our days nor is it a geographic location, but that feeling of not wanting to leave. When I’m with my daughter, I feel this way.
6. Romance is not dead but I’m ok with it being MIA: Growing up, my parents had each other but not any friends they kept in touch with. Because of this, I thought finding a man and settling down was the priority. I went through many boyfriends, eventually eloped and divorced soon after. When I became a parent, I realized how important it is to maintain relationships of all types; especially friendship. I know romance is out there, but I no longer pursue it.
7. Big girls DO cry: Strength is not hiding your emotions nor is it being a “one (wo)man show.” I’ve had to swallow a lot of pride as a single parent. Asking for help was never my forte but in doing so, I’ve learned that real strength is being OK with revealing your vulnerabilities. Showing someone who you truly are creates a bond that is pretty special. And, I always think of this: do I want someone veiling their feelings or pain when they’re around to me? No way.
Over all, and probably the most important, I’ve learned I am enough: Wanting to do more and be more can be a healthy way to keep your dreams in tact … but it can also be detrimental to your well-being if those thoughts and desires are littered with comparison. I didn’t know at the beginning of Motherhood, that I was enough, but I knew in order to teach my daughter that she could be anything she wanted to be, I had to believe the same about myself.
You think, as an adult, you stop growing … but if you’re fortunate enough to be a parent the growth continues in ways you can sometimes only fathom in hindsight.
(This article originally appeared on TODAY Parents)